2009年2月19日 星期四

Buying Wine On a Dime

A year ago, Rick Jelovsek regularly paid $20 or more for a bottle of wine at retailers near his Johnson City, Tenn., home. But after stock-market declines shaved 20% off the value of his retirement accounts, he began choosing bottles in the $12 range.

[Discount Wine] Reuters

A variety of wines are available in the $10-to-$20 range, but thrifty consumers must be selective.

"I'm making sure I'm going down in price, and I'm double-checking that it's either [rated] a good wine or I've gotten a recommendation," says the 64-year-old retired physician, who recently enjoyed a bottle of Spanish wine, Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha, for less than $12.

In Denver, customers "are drinking a little bit less, a little less quality, a little less expensive," says Clif Louis, owner of the Vineyard Wine Shop, which mostly sells boutique wines. His sales have been down about 9% in the past seven months.

As recession grips the country, drinkers are discovering fine wines on a beer budget. The wine industry is less vulnerable to the downturn than other sectors, but total U.S. wine sales rose less than 1% by volume last year, the slowest rate this decade, according to Jon Fredrikson, an industry consultant with Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates in Woodside, Calif. The downturn is most acute in restaurants, where total wine sales fell 10% to 12% last year as Americans dined out less, Mr. Fredrikson says. "Consumers have reined in their spending and are looking for value," he says.

Moderately priced wines are drawing healthy sales. According to market-research firm Information Resources Inc., which tracks wine sales in food, drug and mass-merchandise outlets, sales of wines in the $11-to-$20 range increased 8% in dollar terms in the 52 weeks through Jan. 25. By contrast, sales of wines costing more than $20 rose a mere 1.6%, compared with 11% and 26% in the two previous periods, respectively.

The ample supply of quality wines for $10 to $20 has left some upscale wines, such as expensive Cabernet Sauvignon from California, collecting dust on store shelves. Still, thrifty consumers must be selective. "There are great values in the $10 to $15 range," says Lisette Sehlhorst, co-owner of the Wine Merchant, a Cincinnati retailer. "I also think there are a lot of junk wines in that range."

Howard Silverman, owner of Howard's Wine Cellar in Chicago, says his best-selling wine is the 2007 Monte Oton from Spain, a Grenache that he sells for $7.29. His top-selling white wine is 2007 Las Brisas Blanc, a Spanish blend, which he sells for $9.99.

The prices mark a trend toward less-expensive varietals, such as Malbec wines from Argentina and the red wines from the Rioja region of Spain, and away from more expensive wines from other regions, such as high-end French wines, according to wine merchants and industry analysts.

There are bargains for high-end wines as well. Richard Rey, 45, an insurance-industry employee in Franklin, Mass., recently bought some Cabernet Sauvignon from California at a local wine store for $80 that was normally priced at $100. The owner indicated the wines weren't selling much, so "he was giving me these great buys," he said.

Some drinkers are cutting back altogether. Jane Vawter, a 45-year-old wine drinker in Trenton, N.J., has slashed her spending on wine since a lucrative contract for her information-technology consulting business ended. In good times, she said, she orders wine futures -- wines that are sold several years before their release -- from Bordeaux. "At this point, I'm not purchasing much of anything," says Ms. Vawter, who is now working on a less-profitable contract. "I've stopped the mail order; I'm not ordering cases. I've also quit my wine clubs." The good news: She has a collection of about 100 wines in her home to tap into.

The shift in consumer demand is creating concern among high-end winemakers and prompting some to revisit their strategies. Cameron Hughes, chief executive of San Francisco's Cameron Hughes Wine, which buys surplus wine from high-end producers and sells it inexpensively under its own labels, says he knows of several winemakers looking at retooling their business model to offer wines in the $9-to-$12 range. "A sea change" is under way, he says.

At Jackson Family Wines, the closely held wine giant in California's Sonoma Valley, sales of the Kendall-Jackson roster of wines, including its best-selling Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay, priced at about $14, remain strong, according to Lenny Stein, president of Jackson Family Enterprises. But some of its higher-end wines are seeing softer sales.

Ilan Brat / The Wall Street Journal

As a result, the company recently cut its work force. "We need to be aggressively managing our costs, because the future is less predictable," Mr. Stein says.

The economic tumult has been a boon for large winemakers offering many bottles in the range of $8 to $15. For instance, wines made by E. & J. Gallo Winery posted 15 of the top 25 increases in sales volume for U.S. wines sold in food outlets last year, according to Mr. Fredrikson. Gallo, a closely held company based in Modesto, Calif., declined to comment.

In the end, retailers are recognizing they can get some good deals for customers. At Woodland Hills Wine Co., a wine merchant in Woodland Hills, Calif., the store's wine buyers cut back on inventory last year and are now buying wines selectively. Recently, for example, they negotiated with a distributor "sitting on a boatload" of a well-regarded Argentine wine, Achaval-Ferrer Quimera 2006, and offered it to customers for $29 a bottle, down from $40 previously, says wine buyer Kaj Stromer. "We probably sold two pallets worth of wine in a week," he says, "so people are responding as long as they know they are getting a bargain."

Write to David Kesmodel at david.kesmodel@wsj.com

2009年2月14日 星期六


Pommery's Winning Wintertime Champagne

Despite what seems like a marketing gimmick, Pommery's Wintertime champagne is a winner

I am constantly amazed at the extraordinarily expensive lengths the large champagne houses go to in order to promote their product. Hugely extravagant parties for the launch of the most dreary new cuveé, and deep-pocketed sponsorship of upmarket cultural and sporting events are par for the course in the make-believe world of Champagne.

The trouble is we drink so little of the stuff compared to still wine that we really don't remember what the different brands taste like. Consequently our purchasing decisions are based as much on image as what's in the bottle, hence the multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns. (Pommery, founded in 1858, is now owned by Vranken Pommery Monopole Group (VRKP.PA), which is based in Epernay, near Reims in France.)

A Splendid Season

So it was with this cynical eye well-primed for derisive dismissal that I approached the latest offering from the excellent house of Pommery: four different cuveés, each corresponding to one of the seasons. Just another marketing gimmick, thought I, and boy, was I proved wrong.

Pleasantly wrong. Because the Wintertime edition—in a bottle with a ghastly pink label—is an absolutely delicious Blanc de Noir, an extremely unusual champagne made entirely from dark grapes, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, but no Chardonnay.

Bright gold in color, it has more weight and body than Pommery's traditional light and delicate nonvintage champagne, with a rich toastiness and subtle earthy elements that make it the perfect celebratory holiday fizz during this chilly season. It also boasts the added benefit of working extremely well with rich, festive foods.

So pop the cork on Pommery's Wintertime bubbly because for once the contents of the bottle more than justify the hype.

WOW Rating: Star Rating
When to Drink: Now
Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary
Food Pairing: Almost anything but the richest, heartiest dishes
Grapes: 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier
Appellation: Champagne
Region: Champagne
Country: France
Price: $55
Availability: Good
Web Site: www.vranken.net

See more wines at www.nickonwine.com.

Nick Passmore is an independent wine writer and consultant based in New York. For five years he contributed a widely read monthly wine column to Forbes.com, in addition to which his work has appeared in such publications as Forbes, Discover, Town & Country, the Robb Report, the Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Sky, and Golf Connoisseur. He is currently Artisanal Editor for Four Seasons magazine and contributes a twice monthly column to BusinessWeek.com. He is also a judge at the widely respected annual Critics' Challenge wine competition.

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length (TIME) Show phonetics
1 [C] the amount of time something takes:
the length of a film/speech/play
He is unable to concentrate on his work for any length of time (= for anything more than a short time).

2 [C or U] the amount of writing in a book or document:
He's written books of various lengths on the subject.
All of your essays will be about the same length.

-length Show phonetics
of the stated amount of time:
a full-length movie (= one which has not been shortened)

adj., -ri·er, -ri·est.
  1. Dismal; bleak.
  2. Boring; dull: dreary tasks.

[Middle English dreri, bloody, frightened, sad, from Old English drēorig, bloody, sad, from drēor, gore.]

drearily drea'ri·ly adv.
dreariness drea'ri·ness n.

[koo-VAY] From the French cuve ("vat"), and referring to the "contents of a vat." In the champagne region of France, the word refers to a blended batch of wines. There, the large houses create their traditional house cuvées by blending several wines before the final sparkler is produced via méthode champenoise. A deluxe version is often referred to as cuvée speciale; a vin de cuvée is the wine from the first pressing. Outside Champagne, the term cuvée is also used for still wines (see wine), and may designate wines blended from different vineyards, or even different varieties.

still wine

A descriptor for wine that contains no carbon dioxide which would make it sparkling or effervescent.

品質-木桶塑造美酒個性 烘托酒質讓好酒變名酒

如果我不喝葡萄酒,恐怕一輩子也不會關注這些橡木疙瘩,什麼Tronais、Allier、Nevers……一旦酒標上印了“Oak Aged”就好像臭豆腐瓶上有“王致和”幾個字一樣。不過,橡木桶的名聲也有狼藉的時候。比如某些釀酒師經常自豪地宣稱:“我的葡萄酒來自葡萄園,而不是 橡木桶。”好像他釀酒只要摘果子就夠了。還有的品酒師強調:“這酒里橡木不是太多。”陰陽怪氣地將這話當成了褒獎。



  加州的著名釀酒師Dave Ramey深諳此道。他曾經作了個實驗,是將5種霞多麗和設拉子葡萄酒放到Demptos制桶公司的橡木桶里熟成,而另外5種則使用Taransaud公 司的產品,橡木桶的原料來自法國和美國。經過同樣時間的陳年,Ramey發現法國桶中的酒區別不大,只是Taransaud桶里的酒更具結構感。而法國桶 和美國桶的區別就顯而易見了。美國桶里的酒要甜得多。盡管如此,Taransaud公司甚至都未在桶上標注木桶的產地。那為什麼釀酒師們一提到 Tronais或是Allier就眼睛發亮呢?是被賣桶的忽悠了?還是真的能讓酒出彩?

  我到勃艮第參觀了Franois Freres的制桶廠,他家客戶遍布世界上種葡萄的地方,不乏Domaine Leroy 和Domaine de la Romanee-Conti這樣的大牌兒,所以每年都有各地的釀酒師來拜訪。Franois Freres自然不是浪得虛名。我在Tronais森林里遇到Fabien Henrion,他是公司唯三負責選材的人之一,這可以說是一個決定橡木桶命運的工作,木料紋理緊致通順,無疤癤,無瑕疵只是基本要求。從中再按比例選取 紋理最緊密的部分,因為這樣的木材能讓酒充分與氧氣接觸,這也是Tronais橡木桶賴以成名的不二法門。Fabien一做就是十多年,每天都要來森林, 現在閉著眼就能選中最好的木料。他的足跡遍布法國所有的森林,熟悉每一片林木的特點。這家伙“詭計多端”,他在相中的樹幹上留下記號,這樣在法國每年三次 的木材拍賣會上總能滿載而歸。

  Age木頭也毫不含糊,Franois Freres比普通的公司多用了一年時間,3年,訂制桶的酒園還可以享受多Age1年的優惠。來到制桶車間更讓我吃驚,才早上9點,工人們已經幹了兩個多 小時了。因為勃艮第今年要提前收成,所以不能斷貨,即使如此,酒廠也保持每天150個桶的產量。“烤桶”是Franois Freres的另一絕技。不過這樣滿足不了各色的釀酒師,他們經常主動提要求,訂制烤成不同程度的桶。看來好的橡木桶和上品葡萄酒有很多相似的地方,比如 都需要精心選材、降低產量,還有就是手工的精雕細琢。那些不喜歡橡木味又盼著釀出好酒的釀酒師不知道遇到這樣的橡木桶會不會又動心了?

  走出廠房,我看到了一座足有三層樓高的園木堆,有些是酒園送來加工成桶的,比如納帕的Pine Ridge,其中還發現了Domaine de la Romanee-Conti的貨。這讓我聯想到和Domaine de la Romanee-Conti的莊主Aubert de Villaine的見面。我問他橡木桶對葡萄酒的影響到底有多大。他的回答是:“酒在葡萄園里已經有了定數,橡木桶能使好酒成為名酒,而不能使壞酒變為好 酒。”


2009年2月6日 星期五

酒之風月─100種雞尾酒調法 :鍾秀敏


類別: 飲食‧休閒‧娛樂>各式飲品
定價: 300 元  售價: 255元

近來興起的雞尾酒,在國內亦引起一股流行的風潮,而調酒技術也在校園內傳開,因此有必要為酒增添一些藝術性、社交性與浪漫氣氛。本書即針對品酒藝術及調酒 方式,將帶有西方色彩的雞尾酒,溶入台灣的本土文化,作者精心構思每一杯雞尾酒的情境故事,透過印刷精美的彩色圖片,將100種雞尾酒調法以DIY方式輕 鬆呈現,你將體會不同於以往的另類享受!

2009年2月4日 星期三


mulled wine

稅率擬分級 米酒可望降價