Archive for November, 2014

The birth of Château Cardboard

November 28th, 2014

Birth of Chateau Cardboard wine

By Joseph Temple

Boxed wine.

It is a product that elicits a strong reaction from both supporters and detractors since it first hit the shelves almost fifty years ago.  Advocates are quick to point out its eco-friendly and cost effective packaging along with the ability to minimize oxidation far longer than any bottle after it is opened.  But for oenophiles, its what’s inside the box that matters with many of them ranking wine stored in plastic bladders on par with the high-alcohol jug wines of the 1950s and 1960s.   And although a debate ensues between the two sides over whether the quality is improving, there is no doubt that with box wine accounting for half of all wine sales in Australia, Sweden and Norway and approaching nearly 20% in the United States, this corrugated concoction has left an enormous mark on the industry.

Makes you wonder who the first person was to think outside the box – or inside the box!

To know the story behind this invention, you have to cross the Pacific Ocean to the Commonwealth of Australia where it is known today as cask wine or “bag-in-box.”  The year was 1965 and vintner Thomas Angove had watched a fellow countryman figure out how to safely transport battery acid by placing it in a durable plastic bladder and enclosing it in corrugated fiberboard.  Taking this template and applying it to the sale of bulk wine, Angove stumbled upon a monumental breakthrough in the history of winemaking.

“This is ridiculous.  Nobody is going to buy wine out of a cardboard box and plastic bag,” declared Angove’s son after seeing it for the first time.  And indeed, the original concept that debuted in the mid-1960s was very different from the boxed wines that we enjoy today.  With the first design, consumers had to take the one-gallon bag out of the box, cut it themselves and then reseal the bag with a peg.   It was two years later that another winery revolutionized these boxes by connecting a dispenser tap to the bag, ending the labor-intensive task of pouring yourself a glass.
But unfortunately for the advocates of boxed wine, the original intent of its sellers was to unload as much of their cheap undesirable product as possible.  This resulted in a reputation that the industry still fights against to this day  – that cask wine is the bottom of the barrel in terms of quality – a reputation that is most prevalent in the United States where old habits are particularly hard to break.

However, the tide may be turning in favor of this packaging for several reasons.  For starters, casual wine drinkers who aren’t collectors will appreciate the low cost, which is desirable in this sluggish economy.  And as companies evolve with more chic designs while advocates educate the public about the many myths surrounding boxed wines in various blog postings, a gradual demystification is starting to gain a foothold in America, especially amongst environmentally aware Millennials who will be the majority of wine consumers within the next few decades.  Much like the screw top, which also suffered from a reputation for being cheap but is now mainstream, perhaps boxed wine is ready to enter its own renaissance period?


Taber, George. A Toast to Bargain Wines: How Innovators, Iconoclasts, and Winemaking Revolutionaries Are Changing the Way the World Drinks. New York: Scribner, 2011.

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Ask Sid: Arborio or Carnaroli Rice Best for Risotto?

November 26th, 2014

Ask Sid Cross
By Steven Jackson from USA (Arborio RiceUploaded by Schwäbin) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By jlastras [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Question: I have an ongoing argument with a fellow chef whether arborio or carnaroli rice makes the best risotto.  Would you please settle this for us Sid?

Answer: Flattering of you to ask but not sure I can. Arborio is a shorter grain rice most widely available in North America. Carnaroli is a longer grain newer strain which is becoming ever more popular. Some of the keys to a successful risotto include starting with a good broth and the skill in crafting your desired rich creamy texture by the release of starches through long patient stirring. You need skill because you want the finished risotto to flow perfectly cooked so the rice grains and the liquid are not too separate yet not overcooked so that it becomes thick, soft and too dry. You don’t want oatmeal. With arborio you have to be extra careful not to overcook it while carnoroli seems “starchier” and is easier to work with to get that firm right texture. Vialone nano is another alternative for a shorter grain less starchy lighter style rice. At home we usually prefer and use carnoroli but both are capable of producing an outstanding risotto dish. On our visits to Alba we still find arguments among chefs there as to their preference though there is a growing trend for carnaroli!

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What do pinot noir clones have to do with it?

November 24th, 2014

What do pinot noir clones have to do with it?
By Badener (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Informative wine tasting of Hahn Family Wines with winemaker Paul Clifton and Vice President, International Sales Evelyn Pool. Tried 3 different Hahn pinot noirs: their softer 2013 California, the more elegant Santa Lucia Highlands 2012 SLH Estate vineyard blend, and the single vineyard complex 2011 Lucienne “Lone Oak”. Clones of pinot noir are a hot topic today and their influence on the “layers of aromas, flavors and textures.” of the wine. I raised a discussion at the tasting about the influence of the different clones of pinot noir in their vineyards on their resulting wines. Evelyn immediately produced an excellent circular chart listing different pinot noir Dijon & Heritage clones (“slight genetic variations”) stating “The Hahn SLH Pinot Noir in part owes its seductive character to clonal selection.”  The chart is a brilliant attempt – the first I have seen -to describe the characteristics of 16 pinot noir clones indicating “each of these clones can contribute a desired color, flavor, texture or structural element” to the final wine.

With many thanks for this brilliant informative marketing initiative by Hahn in helping us better understand pinot noir here they are:

113:          Very elegant with lighter structure & deep color

114:          Adds classic flavors of dark stone fruits and spice

115:          Adds aromas of black cherry, anise, leather & rose

667:         Softly tannic; adds raspberry, strawberry, spice

777:          Intense; adds black fruit, leather, tobacco, earth

828:         Fruit forward; adds blackberry & plum

943:         Adds intense strawberry aromas

2A:          Fruity with rose petal aromatics; adds berry & cherry

Calera:    Adds juicy minerality & acidic verve

Jackson 16:  Bright & fruity with moderate richness

Jackson 9:   Beautiful aromatics; moderate weight

Jardini:        Earthy with truffle & ripe plum

Mount Eden: Very dark & rich, adds deep tones

Pommard 4:   Meaty & gamey with bright cherry fruit

Pommard 5:   Vibrant, adds ripe plum & velvety finish

Swan:               Beautiful bright fruit; adds balanced richness

Is it easier for you to differentiate the clonal selection used or the specific terroir site where the grapes are grown? What characteristics of pinot noir wines do you most enjoy?

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5 ways Millennials are changing (or have changed) the way we buy and drink wine

November 21st, 2014

millennials wine

By Joseph Temple

Rarely does a week go by without a news story or opinion piece discussing the growing impact of Millennials.  While still loosely defined, this generation roughly encompasses those born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s.  And with eighty-six million of these up and comers in the United States alone, they are now 7% larger in terms of population than their baby boomer parents – making them a powerful economic force that advertisers are eager to target.

But what impact is this group having on the wine industry as 10,000 Millennials turn 21 every single day?  The changing demographics ensure that this generation will be the largest consumers of wine within the next couple of decades.  So with this seismic shift taking place, here are five ways that Millennials are changing (or have changed) the way we buy and drink wine.

Millennial wine drinking habits

As the most diverse generation in American history, Millennials have shown that they are willing to try out all sorts of different foods – and different wines! Based on a study done by the Wine Market Council, 85% of Millennials either “frequently” or “occasionally” purchase unfamiliar brands in comparison to just 61% of baby boomers.  That means a greater opportunity for lesser-known vintners in non-traditional wine regions to compete with the famous names of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Loire Valley.

pricing wine for millennials

A frustration shared by many Millennials are their earnings, which are far lower than their parents when they were the same age.  It’s no surprise then that when it comes to buying wine, this generation is consistently looking for value.  According to certified sommelier and wine educator Stephanie Miskew, the ideal price point for Millennials is between $10-$12 with few spending more than $20 on a bottle.  So while there is a greater opportunity for smaller wineries in the marketplace, be warned that this group is just as willing to walk away if they feel that they’re being gouged.

Millennial wine consumers

If you’re a talented graphic designer that likes to think outside the box, here’s some great news!  In the Journal of Product & Brand Management, Professors Joe Barth and Statia Elliot found that Millennials are far more likely to purchase wine based on its label.  Bottles with flashy colors, hip fonts and clever names that are dripping with sexual innuendo like “4 Play” or “Make Me Blush” are more likely to fly off the shelves with this group of consumers.  Gone are the days of castles printed on beige labels as more wineries invest in youthful brand marketers that strive in getting as many eyeballs looking at their product as possible.

The decline of wine critics

With this generation feeling that it has gotten the shaft from employers, creditors and politicians, anti-establishment feelings runs deep with many Millennials.  And when it comes to what wine they’ll purchase, these young people are far less likely to be influenced by the Robert Parker’s or the Wine Spectator’s of the world.  In an article published on, Naked Wines (again with the racy names) CEO Rowan Gormley states that “in the same way they don’t trust the banks, insurance companies or the government, they [Millennials] don’t care what critics say about a wine or how many medals a bottle has won.”  Consider it Generation Gap 2.0.

importance of social media and online marketing for wine to millennials

What are Millennials looking for in a wine?  One vital aspect is a great story illustrated through the power of websites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter – instant information at their fingertips, anytime, anywhere.  With this generation’s insatiable appetite for knowledge, wineries now have a tremendous opportunity to speak directly to them online with information about the region, their history and what products they have for sale.  And with Millennials far more likely to share this info with their friends via social media, creating YouTube videos and other visual-centric content that’s mobile friendly is a surefire way to immediately reach this vital demographic.

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Ask Sid: Best wine publications?

November 19th, 2014

What are the best wine publications magazines to read
By kerinin [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Question: I am into the detailed study of fine wine the last few years but I am not yet an expert. Would appreciate your recommendations on subscribing to the best current wine publications to expand my knowledge.

Answer: Congratulations. A fascinating lifetime pursuit where you will discover the more you learn about wine the more you realize that there is so much you still don’t know. In the old days publications were quite limited including Andre Simon, Harry Waugh, Alexis Lichine, and Robert Finigan’s Private Guide to Wines. Along came the icons of Wine Spectator, Decanter and Robert M. Parker’s Wine Advocate all still influential and informative. Check out Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits and James Suckling too. Don’t forget the many excellent general reference books out there from Hugh Johnson to Jancis Robinson. You undoubtedly will focus on many different wine regions and now there seems to be an authoritative new book for every specific wine region. John Schreiner has some thoroughly researched books on the emerging BC Canada wine scene. For example, my latest book purchase is focused only on Barolo and Barbaresco by Kerin O’Keefe. There are many specialty guides out there including many on the internet – free and by subscription. Recommend The World of Fine Wine published 4 times a year, Allan Meadow’s Burghound on Burgundy and knowledgeable John Tilson’s free Your question is very topical because this week brought the announcement that Vinous Media (Antonio Galloni) has just acquired the wine journal of Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (including critics Tanzer, Josh Raynolds, Ian D’Agata and Joel Payne). Check out the newest hottest publication out there:

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