Category Archives: Industry News

The Zinfandel Grape

With #ZinFest by #ZAP fast approaching, I thought it appropriate to define the grape that we shall all celebrate this weekend: Zinfandel.

Zinfandel is known as the”California” grape, but is it? Eh, not really. When it comes to the US and to the New World of winemaking in general, Zinfandel is definitely a California grape. However, DNA testing (yes, they do this on grapes) has traced the origin of Zinfandel back to the Croatian variety, Crljenak Kaštelanski (I can’t pronounce it either). It is also the genetically identical to Primitivo, a grape variety grown in Southern Italy.

Zinfandel first found its way to California in the mid-1800s, and since then, has made a name for itself making big, fruit-forward wines, ranging in flavors and structure depending on where it is grown. It can be super intense and fruit forward, like blueberry jam rolling off the tongue, or it can be structured and spicy, like brambly raspberries off the vine. It is, in fact, a red grape, though in the 1980s you found it much more often in the pink form, known as “White Zinfandel.” The grape increases in flavor and intensity as the vines age and old-vine Zinfandels are quite unique and sought after.

Need more Zinfandel education? Get yourself to the Saturday Grand Tasting at the ZAP festival. We promise your head will be filled with more Zin knowledge, and your teeth will be stained purple.

Cheers!

What’s “Trendy” in Wine – the Wine.com 100

Today we release our 5th annual Wine.com 100. It’s our list of the Top 100 (or top 1%) wines sold on Wine.com for the first 11 months of 2011. It’s the only 100 list compiled based on customer activity rather than critics ratings. That said, since we do use a number of 3rd party scores, many of our customers DO buy based on ratings and reviews. Here are some trends (some old, some new) we noticed in 2011.

- People still love a good value! Our number 1 wine, the Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon, is a great red, under $10. Our number 1 wine last year was also a red wine under $10.

- California & Cabernet still top the lists. Though other regions and varietals have grown, almost half of our list is from California, about a third of it is Cabernet. There are 80 reds on the list, 25 of which are Cabernet.

- Nothing like a good value bubbly… Cristalino is #2 on our list for the 2nd year in a row. This $8 Cava has been in the top 10 in EVERY list we’ve done. And Veuve Clicquot is number 6 – people also still love Champagne!

- Generation counts! For the first time, we broke down some numbers by age, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation (GG). Some cool stats? The Tilia was across the board #1 for all age ranges. The Veuve Clicquot, which came in at #6 overall, was #3 for Gen X & Millennials, while it was #19 for Boomers and #70 for GG!!! Meanwhile, in the big California Cabernet area (think Cakebread and Caymus), it ranked super high with Boomers and Gen X (top 10), but was way down there (in the 50s!) with Millennials and GG. To sum up, Millennials care about name brand Champagne, but not so much on high end California Cabernet. Boomers and Gen X, however, dig the Cali Cabs and rank those higher than other values more popular among Millennials. Not a hard science, but fun numbers.

Check out our entire list at www.wine.com/100.

What are your favorite wines of 2011?

Takeaways from the Wine Spectator Wine Experience

I just returned from 4 days in New York, where I had the privilege of attending the Wine Spectator Wine Experience. The event includes four long days of wine tasting, drinking and education, with renowned winemakers from around the world travelling in to hold seminars, pour wines and generally schmooze with the wine drinking public and trade. While I tasted some great wines, going into specifics on each would be terribly boring. Here are a few general takeaways I got from the event:

  1. I should drink more Burgundy. Let me clarify that – I should drink more Burgundy… if I could afford it. Sadly, prices are still high on wine from this magnificent region, but if I could sip on Puligny-Montrachet and Volnay every evening, I probably would. I tried to run up and down the aisles tasting the Harlans and the Chateau Margaux, but found the most pleasure in the not-too-crowded Burgundy booths, where the wines were delicate and elegant, refined and wonderfully balanced, showing a true sense of place.
  2. A lot of California Cabernet is overrated. There are plenty that are not, but quite a few that are. And some that tasted like they should have been pouring at the Port tables. I enjoy Caymus and Quintessa as much as the next person, but a few “cult” Cabernets I tried did not taste nearly as exciting as their price tag said they should be.
  3. I need to try more Super Tuscans! And Italian wines in general. I spent too much time trying to get to the big names, but exploring some of the Italian wines with which I was unfamiliar was a real treat. It made me realize I need to wait 20 years before drinking any Brunellos, that Sangiovese is a wonderful food wine, and that Italian winemakers are simply charming.
  4. Bordeaux has brett.  Even the first growths. Perhaps I’ve become too sensitive to the spoilage yeast, but some of the higher end Bordeaux I tasted, including first growths, were tainted with notes of brett, otherwise known as brettanomyces, a spoilage yeast that often lives in the barrels of wineries, adding notes of leather in small amounts, aromas of “barnyard” in larger amounts. The potency of it ran the spectrum, overtaking the wine in some cases. Oddly I didn’t find it in any of the Rhone wines I tasted…
  5. Dry Portuguese reds are the next big thing. Tasted quite a few, including one that ranked number 9 in the Wine Spectator top wines of 2010. It was fantastic. Structured, with great fruit and lots of layers of complexity and just a true sense of place – it was different, not trying to be something it’s not, but embracing its terroir and coming out on top. Delicious stuff.

California Wine Month

It’s California Wine Month! This marks the seventh consecutive year that the state has recognized September as the month to celebrate California wine. According to Governor Jerry Brown’s statement, “Our state’s wineries create jobs for 330,000 Californians and revenue from retail sales of $18.4 billion, including $1.14 billion in exports sales to 122 countries.”

That’s a hefty dose for the California economy!

A few other fun facts about the California wine industry:
– California is the fourth largest wine producer in the world
– The state grows grapes in 48 out of 58 counties, and has 112 declared American Viticultural Areas (AVAs)
– More than 90% of all wine produced in the U.S. comes from California

So raise a glass of California wine and toast the state that put American winemaking on the map.

Celebrating Cabernet Day!

Today is Cabernet Day, the day you are supposed to enjoy and celebrate with a glass of – you guessed it! – Cabernet!

Primarily a Twitter event, using the hashtag #cabernetday, this is the second year for the event, which spans the globe, starting in Australia and ending in California (or maybe Hawaii…). It’s pretty informal – all you have to do is drink some Cabernet and tweet about it using the hashtag. Doesn’t matter where it comes from, how old it is or who produces it – just drink some Cab!

It’s a fun opportunity to maybe open something you’ve been saving or wanted to try for a while. So drink up and share! And let us know if you have any great finds or good deals -we’re always looking to find something new.

Cheers!