American wine has just gotten a dubious distinction: it features on a list of 128 items that may be subject to new Chinese tariffs. (spelling tip: tariffs ends in “FFS”!)
Saber rattling in trade between the US and China is escalating. The Trump administration announced $50 billion in tariffs on Wednesday and China responded yesterday with a more modest $3 billion. Of course, the two sides could be posturing and may come to an agreement before the tariffs hit the fan.
At any rate, wine featured on the list of items that would be hit with a 15% tariff into China. The US exports $79 million of wine to China, which seems like a drop in the Slavonian oak barrel of world trade. (Pretty small beer…) So even though it might sting in California, it is something of a backhanded compliment to US wine that it is seen as symbolically significant.
The US wine market is large and thirsty: by far the majority of wine produced in America gets consumed in America. California wine sold at retail fetched $35 billion in 2016. Beyond that, about a third of the wines consumed in the US are imported into what is a $60 billion market.
China is also a large and growing market for wine. As small as the US exports are to China, they were up a very healthy 47%. Australia, by contrast, with its small domestic market, has aggressively provided wine...
About five years ago, Dustin Wilson became the wine director at Eleven Madison Park and Thomas Pastuszak became the wine director at NoMad. At a similar point in their careers at restaurants in the same group, the two bonded over their many shared interests, one of which was a love of the wines of the Northern Rhone.
Last year, when they were visiting cellars in the region together, they hatched the idea to have a weekend celebration of Northern Rhone wines in New York City. Thus Reboule du Rhone was born with the first weekend of events slated for November 17-19. Pastuszak says that some of the dozen producers invited have never been to New York before. Part of their motivation was to give “the sommelier community a chance to get in front of these heralded producers,” he says.
“We get really excited to serve these wines and drink these wines. But the region is somewhat under the radar. So it is exciting to give them wider exposure,” Wilson says.
With other weekend fetes on the New York City calendar of Burgundy, Champagne, and others, there was an opening for a Northern Rhone event. “For us, we felt it was only a matter of time until somebody jumped on this. We’ve hit a point in our career where we are very well positioned and the timing was right for us to...
The wine country fires caused a lot of damage, that we know. But as the fires come under control and some residents return to their greatly altered lives after mandatory evacuations, we are starting to get a handle on the extent of what happened. Here is a sad list of 22 wineries damaged by the fires in both Sonoma and Napa. And there’s speculation that undocumented immigrant workers, vital to the system of wine making, may not return since they do not qualify for disaster aid and much of the low-cost housing was damaged.
Clearly, the regions need a lot of help. As wine consumers, the most obvious thing we can do is to buy wine from the affected areas. There are a variety of local charities to contribute too as well. And in the past few days, sommeliers and winemakers have organized a charity tastings to raise funds to aid the wildfire recovery effort. The first will be locally in Healdsburg, also in SF and NYC. I expect these will be very well attended.
DOMAINE DE LA COTE
On Sunday night, a fire got out of control somewhere north of the Bay. Seasonally dry conditions had left the area like a tinderbox. So when whipping winds of up to 70 mph hit the initial flames, they spread, well, like wildfire. Tragically, the blaze has now prompted the evacuation of 20,000 people, burned over 1,500 homes, incinerated 73,000 acres and left 11 people dead.
Santa Rosa in Sonoma has been hit particularly hard. The flames have also jumped to Napa and Mendocino counties.
The NYT has some shocking photos from before and after. SFgate has coverage too–the video with the homes crackling as they burn really pulls on the heart strings. And this video driving down a street after the Tubbs fire is haunting. And these photos…Esther Mobley of the SF Chronicle has been tweeting tons of updates.
The vintage 2017 may be tough in many parts of the wine world, but this is by far the worst.
Climate change is a bitch. Severe weather events have roiled wine growing areas with depressing regularity in recent years. Burgundy seems to be on the forefront of this plagued by floods, hail storms, late frosts and other events that have reduced (or in some places even eliminated) the crop.
Jeremy Seysses, owner and winemaker at Domaine Dujac, posted the above photo to instagram along with this description.
Yesterday night, 10th July, brought heartbreak in the form of hail. Of our vineyards, the top of the hill of Morey was hit hardest, Monts Luisants worst, probably 30-40% damage; Clos St Denis and Clos de la Roche next, then Combottes. Bonnes Mares had minor damage. The rest of the domaine seems ok. The leaves like they were put through a shredder. The fruit is pummeled. The shoots battered. We’ll still make some wine, though!
There was also severe weather in Beaujolais for the second year in a row…gah! I feel sorry for the vignerons who try to make a living in this increasingly unpredictable endeavor.
The Golden State Warriors won their second NBA title in three seasons last night. As a hoops fan, the most impressive stat for me was 147 assists on 216 made baskets–teamwork! But as a wine geek, we here at the Dr. Vino World Headquarters had to wonder…what would the team pop to celebrate in the locker room?
Would the owners cheap out as so many MLB owners do and use bubbly that could be picked up at any 7-11 on the way to the stadium?
We asked a Russian to hack the feed from the locker room to see what they sprayed. (Okay, our source was actually ESPN’s Darren Rovell.) This Warriors team did not hold back! To celebrate this title the doused each other with magnums (natch) of Moët Impérial “Golden Luminous”–a limited edition of the Moet nonvintage that Rovell says are valued at $1,200 each. (Search for this wine) Given the size of the ice bucket, that could have set the owners back about $200k, if the bubbly wasn’t donated by LVMH.
If you want to celebrate in a similar style, the “regular” Moet Imperial is about $40. Or get a more singular wine with a grower Champagne for the same price. (Or even a new wave sparkler from the Golden State!) And throw in a Warriors Champions locker room towel for $17.99 and you...
Wine drip stains on white tablecloths have a new nemesis and his name is Daniel Perlman. The biophysicist at Brandeis University discovered that all it took to eliminate the bane of (red) wine pourers everywhere is to etch a small groove at the top of the bottle under the lip. We can but hope this catches on widely.
Professor Perlman studied slo-mo videos of wine being poured from a bottle. He found that drips cling to side of a bottle because bottles are hydrophilic! Now if that sounds more than PG-13, don’t worry: it just means that the glass of the bottle attracts the drops of water (or wine) that then annoyingly cling to the side and make a big mess. He found that cutting a 2mm groove in the bottle with a diamond-studded cutting tool just below the lip was sufficient to break up the attachment issues between the glass and the wine. Behold the drip-free wine bottle! No wonder Perlman has 100 patents.
If this is effective and can be widely commercialized, then Perlman would have earned our enduring admiration–as well as a hallowed place at the eternal (stain-free) table aside Bacchus.
The French presidential election is heating up. Polls show Emmanuel Macron defeating Marine Le Pen in the decisive second round on May 7 by 62-38 (yes, polls have been deceiving ahead of recent elections but this is a big margin).
We are single-issue voters around here and that issue is wine! Actually, that’s not true but we will roll with it. Recent French presidents have hovered at or near zero when it comes to passion for wine. Jacques Chirac’s tipple of choice was reportedly Corona. Nicolas Sarkozy famously didn’t even like wine. Current president Francois Hollande sell off a chunk of the presidential wine cellar–but he also canceled a lunch with the Iranian president after the guest insisted no wine be served.
Macron, a former minister of Finance who is a mere 39 years old, exhibits some wine savvy. Although he was raised in Picardy, not a region known for wine growing, he says that his grandparents told him that red wine was “guilt-free” since it is an antioxidant.
The journalists from Terre de Vins and Sud-Ouest conducted a wide-ranging interview about wine. Among other things, Macron admitted that a meal without wine would be “a little bit sad because wine is a part of the French table…our civilization.” He even talks about the pleasure of food-wine pairings! It may not seem like it since you’d expect all French presidents to support wine. But these are kind of...
I’ve been doing a series of wine classes at Schoolhouse at Cannondale, a new American restaurant in Wilton, CT. Chef/owner Tim LaBant–friend of the blog–has been running some cooking classes and I’ve been doing some wine classes on select Tuesdays. Two of my classes are in the bag but two more are coming up in the next two weeks. On 2/28, we’ve got Pinot Envy in which we will taste and talk through seven pinot noirs. And on 3/7, we will Drink Like a Hipster with tasting and discussing seven natural wines. It will be fun!
Reservations required. Timing is 7:00 – 8:30. Tickets are $75. Please email Francesca firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations.
Economic policy has about as much clarity as a tank of Puligny after batonnage right now. There’s some reasonable certainty about various reforms (ahem, tax cuts) but one area that is shrouded in mystery: how imports will be taxed.
Trump made trade a big issue in the campaign and has continued in the same vein, doing industrial policy via Twitter since the election. Some policy wonks think that a huge change in the tax on imports may be forthcoming. A House bill from last year sought to impose punitive tariffs on imports to shame big box retailers such as Walmart, Home Depot and Target in their purchases from abroad.
Neil Irwin, writing in Sunday’s NYT sums up a relevant part of the destination-cased cash flow system:
A company that spent $80 making something that it sold overseas for $100 would pay no tax on its earnings. A company that imported goods worth $80 from abroad and them sold them domestically for $100 would pay tax on the full $100.
Perhaps there would be a carve-out for wine and gourmet items from abroad? Who knows. It’s not clear if this bill was targeting the retailers as importers or retailers, a key distinction in the wine world since the two “tiers” are (mostly) legally separated. Either way, about one out of every three bottles of wine consumed in America comes from overseas and could be subject...
Apparently there’s a real rivalry among airlines for first class wine service–although you’d never guess it in the back of the bus where the wine selections are generally bad enough to drive a wine to beer.
A piece in Bloomberg details how Emirates has splashed out over $40 million a year on wine for the last twelve years. No comparative metric is given in the story (how much do other leading airlines spend on wine?) but it sounds like a big number to me.
Joost Heymeijer, who runs in-flight catering at the airline, details their buying strategy, which, interestingly, involves buying and then storing wines in a “Fort Knox-style” facility in Burgundy: The Emirates stash currently has almost 4 million bottles slumbering, some of which have escalated in value.
Sadly, that seems to be the point as Heymeijer said in the story: “It’s an investment. We look at it like a commodity.” Ugh. When they buy, they buy in 10,000 bottle lots, often from Champagne and Bordeaux. But they have even snapped up Burgundy, buying 2,000 cases of Corton-Charlemagne, cited as a tenth of the total production of the appellation.
They do pull some corks though, serving 9 million glasses of champagne last year, among other things. Check out the story for more details.
One amusing item appeared in the kicker. Asked about the Bordeaux 2015 vintage, Heymeijer replied...
Located in Saumur, Clos Rougeard is the Bentley of the Loire. The wines, almost all red, are expensive, rare and of exceptional quality–the kind of wines that can turn haters of cabernet franc into ambassadors. (search for Clos Rougeard at retail)
The 27-acre estate was owned by the Foucault brothers Bernard (a.k.a. Nady) and Jean-Louis (known as Charly). They were the eighth generation to run the estate and made it a pioneer of organic viticulture in the area as well as hands-off winemaking.
After Charly’s death in 2015, La Revue de Vin de France reports, the family resolved to sell the domaine. The buyer is Martin Bouygues, French telecom billionaire and 481st richest person in the world.
In a way it is kind of surprising that a billionaire is attracted to the Loire, which is generally a region that favors low-key wines and hasn’t attracted big fortunes to be tossed around since the day of Francois I. Perhaps that is changing? Doubtful. Clos Rougeard is arguably the pearl of the Loire, now snatched up as bauble for a billionaire. But at least he is discerning! And the estate doubtless cost less than one in Musigny. Bouygues owns Chateau Montrose in...
Sour Grapes recently went live on Netflix. Has Netflix recommended it to you yet? If not, you’re clearly not watching the right shows!
After speaking with one of the directors and seeing the trailer, I was ready to fire up the documentary when I saw it was available.
Sour Grapes tells the story of Rudy Kurniawan, the convicted (spoiler alert!) wine counterfeiter. We in the wine world know the story of how he came from nowhere in the early 2000s, ingratiated himself with some of the biggest collectors in the land, poured tens of millions of dollars into fine wine at auction, and then reversed and sold tens of millions of dollars of wine wine, including many fakes passed off as the world’s top wines.
But what is particularly compelling here is a trove of video of Kurniawan in action. Not only does he actually speak as opposed to the many court drawings we have seen of him, they actually have him utter the priceless line–in jest!–“I refill and put the cork back”! This old footage alone is reason for wine enthusiasts to see it. It’s fun to see some cameos for people in the wine world. (Though I still would like to see a movie version of this story told as fiction, with actors.)
It works as a movie too. I had a non-wine friend check out the film...
Coravin, the company formerly known as Wine Mosquito, has raised another $22 million in private equity funding. That brings the total equity sold to $40 million (plus another $3 million in debt). The lead investor of this round, closed on November 8, was not publicly disclosed. Neither were company revenues. Nor was the valuation.
The privately held company, based in Burlington, MA, sells a wine preservation/extraction device that uses a hollow needle to penetrate the cork of a wine bottle not unlike a mosquito if Bacchus designed mosquitoes. Over about 30 seconds, it injects argon gas to pressurize the bottle and then extracts a glass of wine without removing the cork. The device lists for about $300 retail and replacement argon canisters list at $18 a pair. That’s enough argon for about 30 glasses of wine.
While this price is low for restaurants compared to many by-the-glass systems, it does seem steep for consumers. Nonetheless, the company continues to raise capital at an astonishing clip. Sales were briefly halted in 2014 after complaints of exploding wine bottles. The company now recommends using a “wine bottle sleeve” when opening bottles.
The parody Twitter account @shitmysommsays recently tweeted “If you need a Coravin at home, you need more friends.”
The last company in the wine space to raise this much private equity was Lot 18, which raised $33 million in 2011.
UPDATE: Vivino, a wine app developer, raised $25,099,884 in private...
Daniel Johnnes may be the closest thing the American wine world has to Burgundy royalty. Yesterday he announced that he has joined Grand Cru Selections, an importer and wholesaler based in New York City, as a partner. It’s a big move, if somewhat “inside baseball.”
“This is an opportunity to be a partner in a young and dynamic company that I didn’t want to pass up,” he said by phone.
Johnnes, 60, helped pique America’s interest in Burgundy wines When he was a sommelier at the erstwhile restaurant Montrachet in the early 1990s, he hosted winemaker dinners with the likes of Christophe Roumier and Dominique Lafon that encouraged American collectors to add Burgundy to their cellars. In 2000, he tapped his connections in Burgundy to hold the first “La Paulée de New York.” This bacchanal now alternates annually between NYC and SF and is marked in red on the calendar of collectors. It also functions as a sort of “Burgundy university” for the sommeliers who work the event. Johnnes brokers a number of wines including Roumier and Lafon that he will be bringing to Grand Cru. He was #4 on our NYC wine power list a few years back. He currently is spending a year in Lyons.
Grand Cru Selections was started in 2010. Ned Benedict, a founding partner, said of their strategy: “we’re trying to build a really well-conceived...
Sour Grapes, a new documentary about wine fraud, is being released on Netflix next month.
The movie centers on the case of convicted wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan. In fact, the film’s two directors, Jerry Rothwell and Reuben Atlas, met at Kurniawan’s trial in Manhattan where they had ventured separately, each with an eye to making a documentary. In a phone interview, Rothwell said they quickly decided to join forces after speaking with witnesses who had testified in the trial.
One of those was Laurent Ponsot who welcomed them and the camera crew to his Burgundy domaine. Rothwell says that the film “a bit like a detective story.” Ponsot is positioned in the film as one of the detectives, trying to solve the mystery of fake bottles and the perona of Rudy Kurniawan. Others include the investigative team of Bill Koch as well as Maureen Downey and Don Cornwell.
One of the things about the film that is apparent from the trailer (above in case you get this via email and the youtube clip doesn’t render) is that they have real clips of Kurniawan walking and talking as opposed to those courtroom drawings that made him look like an alien life form (but courtroom sketches don’t do anybody favors, just ask Tom Brady). At one point he even jokes “I refill and put the cork back”!...
Charles Banks, a former owner of Screaming Eagle whose current wine and hospitality holdings have been pegged at $200 million, was indicted in federal court today on two counts of fraud. Banks, 48, is accused of defrauding Tim Duncan, the NBA legend, of $20 million in investments.
Yahoo sports has the story:
The indictment was unsealed Friday in a San Antonio courtroom, where Banks surrendered himself and was led into the courtroom in handcuffs. Banks surrendered his passport and a $1 million bond was issued for his release pending trial. He is facing a potential maximum sentence of 25 years in federal detainment.
The FBI has been investigating Banks for a year. The SEC later filed suit against Banks in Atlanta where he resides accusing the financial adviser of defrauding investors.
Banks has amassed a global portfolio of wines under his Terroir Capital that includes Mayacamas of Napa Valley, Qupé of Santa Barbara and Wind Gap of Sonoma. The company was a founding partner in Sandhi, though that stake was sold earlier this year.
Banks had previously denied wrongdoing, telling Forbes in January, “We are proceeding aggressively to have [Duncan’s] claims litigated.” Banks was released after posting $50,000, five percent of the $1 million bail set in his case.
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