Tasteology Explores How We Taste; Organic IPA Takes Off; Exploring California’s Wine Country & National Parks

Also, when it rains it hails, increasingly odd ways to consume vodka, and a crowdsourced Cabernet. This week in your world of wine.

Tasteology, four new documentaries on the food industry, strives to find out what it takes to create the ultimate taste experience. As wine drinkers know, 95% of what we think we taste is actually what we smell. How this impacts everything from eating utensils to cooking techniques is part of the discussion in the first documentary, titled Source. The other upcoming films are titled Heat, Chill and Experience. If you love food you’ll find watching them time well spent. For a preview, visit here.

New IPA From Smart Beer, New York’s First Organic Beer Company

callingitsheaSmart Beer, New York’s first organic beer company, has introduced a bold and refreshing new brew called, simply, Organic IPA. Crafted with certified organic ingredients, the new beer joins the brand’s Organic Golden Ale which has become a fast favorite among consumers. It has prompted a rapid expansion from the brand’s New Paltz headquarters in the Hudson Valley to stores and bars in New York City and beyond, including Mets’ Citi Field [Editor’s Note: Forever Shea Stadium to some] and Whole Foods. Smart Beer founder Gabriel Heymann devised the brand as a means to bridge the gap between his health-conscious lifestyle and his social world. “We shouldn’t have to sacrifice well-being in order to celebrate life’s moments,” he says, “and that’s what Smart Beer is about.”

California Wine Country meets the National Park Service

Many travelers to California’s numerous national parks pass through or near major wine regions. To help you combine the two experiences, Wine Institute has put together a list of great wine regions near national parks, just in time for the National Park Services centennial.

If you plan to visit Redwood National Parks in June, check out the Centennial Festival (June 26) before exploring Mendocino wine country and taking in the numerous sustainable, organic and biodynamic vineyards. Another great time to visit is during the Anderson Valley/Yorkville Highlands Barrel Tasting Weekend (July 23-24).

If rock climbing is your passion, Yosemite National Park is hosting special events all summer long. Madera County vineyards are on the way, with attractions such as the Madera Wine Trail, featuring port-style and late-harvest wines among others. And further south, Joshua Tree National Park puts you just a short drive away from Temecula wine country, known for its Italian and Rhône varieties.

Drinking Bugs

Vodka is the chameleon of spirits, made in a bewildering array of flavors. Maybe you think you’ve tried them all—buttered popcorn, tobacco, cannabis, dill pickle, smoked salmon, glazed donut, and so on. If so, maybe it’s time to move into the truly strange vodkas: those infused with poisonous insects.

Bizarre Food is a website self-described as “dedicated to sourcing innovative, bizarre and inspirational food and drink products from around the world.” They proudly note that they “also stock a large range of edible insects and products made with cricket flour and other insect flours.” Yum!

Among a plethora of bug-infused booze you’ll find an Armor Tail Scorpion Vodka, Bamboo Worm Vodka, Black Scorpion Vodka, Centipede Vodka, Longhorn Asian Beetle Vodka, Spider Vodka and Tarantula Vodka. And for a nightcap, how about a glass of Giant Hornet Shouchuu, a potent Japanese spirit fermented with live (but deadly) Japanese hornets? Their venom, the story goes, is what gives the drink its purported health benefits.

Sideways Falls Flat On London Stage

The popular 2004 semi-autobiographical novel by Rex Pickett made its way to the stage in London last month, but reviews over the production have been less than stellar. Reviews have noted that although the adaptation has stayed faithful to Pickett’s original manuscript, the performances don’t accurately capture the despair and essence of the tragicomedy. On the plus side, the London Evening Standard gave it four stars (out of five). The play is due to run at London’s St. James Theatre through July 9.

Meanwhile, In the Trade

Counterfeit Wine of Up To $100 Million Is In Circulation

The wine and drinks industry is under attack from fraudsters selling counterfeit alcohol with fake packaging, and thanks to new technology the problem is only going to worsen. Research from NetNames, which specializes in online brand protection, suggests that retailers are losing between $300 million and $400 million annually to copycats and counterfeiters. Wine counterfeit experts estimate that there is $100 million of counterfeit wine currently in circulation.

However, all is not doom and gloom. NetNames offers this advice. Brands should appoint a dedicated brand protection manager to raise awareness of counterfeiting both internally and externally. Retailers must take centralized control over their domain names to respond to cyber squatters, typo squatters, and rogue e-tailers. Wine producers must proactively educate customers so that they can identify and avoid fakes. New anti-counterfeiting technologies, including product identification and tracking, can also be shared as part of a multi-layered approach.

Hail and Not So Well 

Violent hailstorms on May 27 and 28 have wreaked havoc in Chablis, Cognac and Beaujolais. In Cognac up to 8 percent of the vineyards have been badly damaged, with one producer describing the situation as “apocalyptic”.

“These hail bursts ravaged many vineyards, making future harvests uncertain or impossible,” FNSEA, France’s largest farm union, said in a statement. Cognac producers report that 5,000 to 6,000 hectares (12,400 to 14,800 acres) were badly damaged. “There are places where they have been 100 percent destroyed,” a spokeswoman for Cognac producers’ group BNIC said.

In Burgundy, hailstorms and rainfall damaged about 600 hectares, mainly in the Chablis communes of Chichée, Courgis and Préhy, and in Auxerrois. A spokeswoman for Burgundy wine group BIVB says that “for Chablis it is most difficult because it is the third blow this year after frosts late April, a hailstorm on April 13th and now this one.”

In the Beaujolais region about 1,000 hectares or 6 percent of the vineyard land has been hit by the storms. The damage was concentrated in the north of the region, and some plots in the Beaujolais Cru village of Chiroubles were completely destroyed.

SevenFifty Modernizes How Retailers Buy Booze 

The somewhat archaic three-tier system of alcohol distribution—producers sell to distributors, who sell to retailers, who sell to consumers—is being rethought out by a New York startup called SevenFifty.

CEO Aaron Sherman explains how retailers currently make their orders after browsing thick, phone book-style catalogs or talking to salespeople, making it difficult to see what all of the options are.

SevenFifty replaces that system with a searchable database of inventory across distributors. Product listings are standardized across those distributors, and the results shown to a retailer are tailored to what’s available and who’s selling in their location.

Founded in 2012, SevenFifty currently works with over 700 distributors and more than 30,000 retailers in 30 states. John Ragan, the director of wine and restaurant operations for Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, has said that using the platform has allowed the company to “operate more efficiently when building wine and cocktail programs, and bring a more comprehensive selection to our diners.”

Columbia Crest Releases 2014 Crowdsourced Cabernet

Columbia Crest’s 2014 Crowdsourced Cabernet is the first wine to be crowdsourced all the way from the vineyard to the bottle. The winery invited the public to vote on key winemaking decisions that impacted the creation of the wine. Everything from bud break, harvest, fermentation, the final blend and label design was voted on by consumers. About 1,000 cases of the 2014 Crowdsourced Cabernet have been released and are sold online at ColumbiaCrest.com/shop and in the Columbia Crest tasting room. It retails for $30.

Published on June 7, 2016
Topics: Wine Trends + News
About the Author
Paul Gregutt
Contributing Editor

Reviews wines from Oregon and Canada.

Paul Gregutt is a Contributing Editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine, a founding member of the magazine’s Tasting Panel, and reviews the wines of Oregon and Canada. The author of the critically-acclaimed Washington Wines & Wineries—The Essential Guide, he consulted on the Pacific Northwest entries in current versions of The World Atlas of Wine and The Oxford Companion to Wine.

Email: paulgwine@me.com.




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