Ask Sid: US Supreme Court Recent Decision on Alcohol Regulation?

July 3rd, 2019
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supreme court tennessee liquor wine decision

Question: What is the latest SCOTUS decision on wine that people are talking about?

Answer: On June 26 the United States Supreme Court by a majority decision 7-2 delivered by Justice Alito decided Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association vs. Russell F. Thomas against two year residency requirements for liquor retailers in Tennessee. Reference was made to the US Constitution “Commerce Clause” and the extent of the protection for producers but also for retailers seeking to do out-of-state shipments There was also clarification (or confusion depending on your point of view) on the continuing important issues for individual states (and hopefully some dicta guidance for provinces in Canada) on their restrictive liquor regulations. Particularly retailers trying to do more out-of-state direct shipping. The US has a three-tier distribution system that further complicates the issues. Interesting dissent comments by Justice Gorsuch. Obviously more litigation to come. Good brief overview of the case in Wine Spectator here.


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Fine Wine Increasing As An Estate Asset Resulting In Administration Complications

July 1st, 2019

Over the past 20 years there has been more buying of fine wine as a distinct asset investment. Some investors have done very well indeed as the limited supply rarity of top mature wines often just continues to increase in value. For most of us though the wine (& food) boom has meant not an asset portfolio but acquiring some special bottles here and there for expected later drinking but resulting in more of a “wine cellar” than we perhaps intially anticipated. The unwitting result is that more and more “collectors” are having a fair amount of valuable wine left on their death as an asset to be dealt with by their estate. Fewer problems if your spouse, children or other relations have an interest in keeping them. However this is becoming a less unanimous choice and the Estate usually wants to turn those wine assets into cash for distribution. What to do?
In many jurisdictions with a less restrictive liquor policy you can usually contact an auction house or wine store and get an appraisal and eventually deal with the matter on a simpler sale – though value can be very difficult to determine. However for instance in Canada it is becoming a much bigger problem with this increasing asset value. Your scribe was invited as an after dinner speaker at The Law Courts Inn on this topic for a large turnout of the June meeting of The Estate Planning Council of Vancouver. The Executive led by wine lover Vince Cardella of the Promerita Group organized this event very well. Our head table enjoyed a delicious still young loaded with balanced complex fruit 2005 Chateau Canon-La-Gaffeleire St Emilion from his personal cellar which matched perfectly with the main course duck confit. In a good mood. The talk tried to be light and uplifting but was burdened down by the monopoly reality of the BC Liquor Control & Licensing Act (and BC Liquor Distribution Act). Section 39 refers to the unlawful purchase of liquor providing “Except as provided in this Act, the Liquor Distribution Act or the regulations made under these Acts, a person MUST NOT, personally or by his or her clerk, employeee or agent, PURCHASE or, in consideration of the sale or transfer or any property or other consideration, take liquor (which includes wine) from another person”. Section 35 refers to Offence & Penalty under the Offence Act where section 4 has a fine of not more than $2000 or imprisonment of not more than 6 months or both. The Liquor Distribution Act section 2 (2) provides that the LDB has “sole right to purchase both in & out of BC, liquor for resale in BC in accordance with the provisons of the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act of Canada. Section 4 provides you must not even possess + 4(1)(e) unless purchased from an authorized vendor (ie. LDB). Of course you can sell the wine Estate asset to the BCLDB (with added sales taxes) but not really a practical solution because presently they have no store to take it for resale but expecting you to come up with your own purchaser. You may want to check with a lawyer on the legality of sending it out of province to one of the helpful Auction Houses (Acker, Christie’s, Hart Davis Hart, Sothebey’s, Zachy’s etc). Ontario now has their own authorized auction company Waddingtons but can’t ship wine in BC to them. Hugh Bulmer of BC local Auction House Maynards would like to help but states he is not legally allowed. They do deal with a long list of other interesting non alcoholic trendy older collectibles such as comic books that are also being increasingly found in Estate assets. Everyone seems to agree that fine wine as an increasing Estate asset is becoming a bigger and bigger problem for executors to administer. They have a high duty of care to locate and review any original will, protect the assets, obligations to beneficiaries & creditors, and so on. What are their duties and best procedures in dealing with Estate wine? Looks like a lot more work coming for the lawyers! Any comments or suggested solutions most welcomed.


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Ask Sid: Choosing the correct wine glass?

June 26th, 2019
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what wine glass should I use?

Question: I have some difficulty choosing the correct wine glass for my wine. Your thoughts?

Answer: Nice dilemma to have – you must have a good  wine glass collection. Yes too many shapes and sizes out there. Credit to Riedel and the other glass manufacturers for all these fun choices. I prefer high quality thinner rim glass to enhance the appreciation of the wine being served. Bigger size is often better though those Sommelier Burgundy Grand Cru at 37 ounces are almost too large, thin & fragile. Very old wines can actually be served to their disadvantage in a very large format wine glass. Generally don’t like narrow flutes for sparkling (though show the bubbles best) or too small a glass normally used for fortified wines like Madeira & Port. Always like to choose those wider bowl glasses for both pinot noir & nebbiolo grape variety wines. A smaller glass for whites than reds is not always required. Otherwise my thoughts are that generally any glass including even a tumbler could work. Actually IMHO there is some benefit to using the same all-purpose glass you like and are familiar with so you concentrate all your attention only on the contents rather than the glass itself. Experiment. Don’t follow any strict rules. Be flexible. Discover what glass you prefer using for the wine you are serving!


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Pecorino Toscano

June 24th, 2019

Pecorino Toscano

Followers of this Blog will know that your scribe adores the quality and versatility of aged Parmigiano Reggiano from cow’s milk. After attending an insightful seminar this past week you can add Pecorino Toscano from sheep’s milk to that cheese list. This Masterclass took place in Vancouver on June 17 at Les Amis de Fromage delivered by Stefano Sarti of Cooperativa Agricola Il Forteto and their distributor Jan K. Overweel Limited. There are 4 Pecorino (Sheep in Italian is “pecora”) cheeses with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) the most well known one being Romano (named for Rome but main production area is in Sardinia), Sardo (Sardinia), Siciliano (Sicily), and Toscano (Tuscany since 1996). Sampled Fresh (young semi-soft) tasty with truffle, Fresco, and Stagionato (aged minimum 120 days,semi-hard). Impressed by the QPR (quality-to-price-ratio) and especially the lower salt content of Toscano compared to Romano. Also has a variety of interesting uses as shown on their Power Point presentation attached with various foods (fresh fava beans, fresh & preserved fruits like pear, walnuts & almonds, olives), wines (Chianti & Vernaccia di San Gimignano) and recipes (arugula salad, prosciutto & salami, grated on pizza – even suggest cannabis!). Recommend you check out these Pecorino Toscano cheeses.


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Ask Sid: Recommend a Cremant?

June 19th, 2019
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cremant sparkling wine recommendations

Question: Would you recommend a Cremant for me to try?

Answer: Cremant is very much in vogue as a sparkling wine using the Champagne secondary fermentation methods. Some well-made reasonably priced ones are currently on the market from some 8 regions of France (Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Die, Jura, Limoux, Loire, and Savoie). Cremant d’Alsace is the largest producer. Recommend trying several regions to check the styles but include the delicious Cremant d’Alsace Rose (always 100% pinot noir grapes) from the Paul Zinck winery in the lovely village of Eguisheim. They also produce a white cremant using chardonnay, pinot blanc, and pinot noir.


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