Will Robots Soon Be the Best Winemakers?

Automation can be both a blessing and a curse.

On the curse side, robotics claimed countless jobs in America’s automotive industry and caused as mass exodus from one of our largest cities.

On the blessing side, robotics has been introduced at a growing number of hospitals, enabling doctors to increase success rates in the most difficult operations.

The trend has not been lost on the wine world. According to the website Growing Produce, there’s now an automated robotic grapevine pruner under development. Researchers from Purdue University and Penn State are working on the project, in concert with Vision Robotics Corporation of San Diego, Calif.

There already are mechanical harvesters for grapes, but pruning is a bit more challenging. Early results are positive, however, as the first robotic pruner developed “does bilateral spur pruning for winegrapes and the settings can be customized based on the number of spurs a grower wishes to leave,” Growing Produce reports. “The pruner makes one cut every 2.5 seconds.”

Interest in the robotic pruner has increased this year, and not because growers and wineries are trying to save on labor costs. Rather, given the current policies on immigration, they’re concerned that the workforce may not be large enough come harvest time. Since wine quality is directly related to grape ripeness, every method of bringing the fruit in “on time” needs to be considered.

If the robotic pruner catches on, could a robotic winemaker be next? After all, a great deal of science and chemistry is involved in the winemaking process.

While that’s true, winemaking also remains a craft — one in which the vintner can allow his or her individual style preferences to influence or even define the finished product.

For now, at least, those very human qualities remain out of the realm of robotics.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Wine Buzz

France’s 4 Best Wine Regions

Listing or naming the “best” anything can be a daunting exercise in subjectivity, and that’s particularly true when it comes to types of wine, wine-producing countries and wine regions.

That said, lists are fun, so I’ve decided to go out on a long subjectivity limb and share what I believe are the four best wine regions in France — where the regions are known as appellations.

I’m guessing my first three picks won’t cause much controversy, although it would be easy to argue with the order. My fourth pick may be surprising, but I think I can make a compelling case for it.

Ready for the list? Here we go…

  1. Bordeaux

This is arguably the most famous of France’s appellations, the place where the country’s most “collectible” wines are crafted. It’s a region where some white wines are made, but red wines rule.

Most of the reds, like the 2015 Les Charmes du Roy, are blends, with either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot most often accounting for the majority of the cuvee. In this case, the wine is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and it’s absolutely delicious.

The 2015 Les Charmes du Roy is part of a Vinesse collection of wines called Flawless French Reds, which also includes a Cabernet and a Pinot Noir.

  1. Burgundy

Wine from this appellation also can be collectible, particularly Pinot Noir (often referred to simply as “red Burgundy”) from long-established estates. Burgundy also is the source of some of France’s finest Chardonnay (a.k.a. “white Burgundy”).

  1. Champagne

This is another hotbed of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but because it’s a cool-climate area, the grapes grown there are ideal for making sparkling wine. We like to enjoy bubbly year-round, but there’s no denying that Champagne is the go-to beverage for celebrations.

  1. Cotes du Rhone

While the Rhone region of France may be off the vinous radar of many people, it produces some of my favorite wines, including engaging blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

It also makes some of my favorite whites, including the 2015 Tete du Rhone Blanc, a sublime blend of White Grenache, Viognier, Roussanne, Clairette and Bourboulenc. It’s floral, fruitful and refreshing — everything I look for in a white Cotes du Rhone.

The 2015 Tete du Rhone Blanc is part of the Spellbinding French Whites collection, which also includes a light and lovely rosé and floral, full-bodied and spicy Viognier.

As a long-time fan of Rhone wines, I was heartened many years ago when a group of American winemakers formed a group called the “Rhone Rangers.” They focus on making wines from Rhone varieties, and that’s proof enough for me that the Cotes du Rhone is deserving of the No. 4 spot on my list.

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Wine Region Profiles

Wine City: An Amusement Park for Adults

It may seem incongruous to place the word “Chateau” before the words “Changyu Baron Balboa Xinjiang,” but this European-inspired winery in China’s resort city of Yantai is poised to become much more than just a wine estate.

It’s being transformed by Changyu — the country’s mega-wine company, with estates in operation from Xinjiang to Xi’An — into an attraction called Wine City.

There’s already one chateau in operation on the property, other buildings are under construction, and still more are planned. Ultimately, Wine City is intended to provide a “total immersion” experience for wine lovers and those seeking to learn more about wine.

That will be accomplished through an array of educational opportunities to be housed inside the various buildings. There will be a tour of the production facilities, numerous interactive wine displays, an opportunity to test one’s “sniffing skills” — identifying the grape variety by the smell of the wine — and, of course, wine tasting.

It’s a massive undertaking with a price tag of $870 million that Changyu is confident will be worthwhile because of two statistics that may surprise the rest of the wine world:

  1. In 2016, China became the largest wine-grape producer in the world, in terms of acreage devoted to vineyards. The country that gave us “Chateau” — France — dropped to the No. 2 spot.
  2. In 2013, China became the world’s largest consumer of red wine — not necessarily a surprise, considering its population of 1.37 billion.

Wine City is being referred to as an “amusement park for adults,” and while it may be lacking the thrill rides of a Universal Studios park, it promises to offer several hours of fun, primarily for adults.

We say “primarily” because, interestingly, China is one of 19 countries with no minimum legal drinking age. That said, getting there may be a challenge for younger adults, since the legal driving age in China is 18.

Wine City or bust!

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Our Wine Travel Log

Italy’s Most Beloved White Wines

Okay, let’s play “fill in the blank.” Ready? Here goes…

Real Italians ________________________________________.

I know quite a few “real Italians,” so I have a bevy of potential “blank fillers.” But this is a wine blog, so I’m thinking specifically of wine.

My answer: “Real Italians don’t worry about drinking wine from fancy stemmed glasses. A simple tumbler will suffice.”

That’s especially true of white wines, like those found in the Vinesse collection known as Italy’s Greatest Whites.

In Italy… or among “real Italians” anywhere in the world… drinking wine is not about making an impression. It’s not even about letting the wine “breathe” via swirling in a traditional stemmed glass.

It’s primarily about conviviality — sharing conversation and catching up with the latest news with family and friends. Often, it’s also one “ingredient” in a hearty meal that was prepared using family recipes that have been passed down for generations.

For these occasions, “Italy’s Greatest Whites” make excellent choices.

I like to call Pinot Grigio “the Chardonnay of Italy,” based on its popularity. This collection includes an excellent rendition from Viaggiatore that pairs beautifully with fresh shellfish or oysters mignonette.

There’s also a crisp and bright bottle of a variety that dates back centuries: Falanghina. Scoperta’s rendition has an alluring floral aroma and an array of citrus and tropical fruit flavors.

And you don’t necessarily need a food-pairing partner for the third wine in this collection, a fresh and frothy Prosecco — Italy’s version of Champagne — from Il Cortile Sereno. Personally, I like to drink it with prosciutto and melon slices, but it also makes a delicious aperitif.

I know, I know: Italy is more commonly associated with red wines. So if you’d prefer to “drink red,” Vinesse also has a wonderful collection called Essential Italian Reds.

Yes, it’s okay to drink those wines from tumblers, too.

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Wine Buzz, Wine in the Glass

7 Reasons Why Australia’s Wines Are Must-Tries Right Now

I could list about 59 reasons why now is a great time to discover the outstanding wines of Australia. Really… I could.

But your time is limited and my fingers are already tired from a long day of typing, so let’s keep the list to seven…

  1. It’s hot, and Australia produces some of the most refreshing white wines in the world, as demonstrated by the Breathtaking Aussie Whites Collection.

Summer runs from December to February in Australia, which means Down Under wine lovers already have taste-tested and approved the medium-bodied and delicious Chardonnay, the crisp and fruitful Sauvignon Blanc, and the aromatic and alluring Verdelho in the collection.

Now, it’s your turn — ready to enjoy throughout the sizzling North American summer. These are refreshing wines with unique (and palate-pleasing) flavors that will keep you coming back for more all summer long… and well beyond.

  1. Australia’s red wines are packed with personality — as you’ll discover in the Massive Aussie Reds Collection.

Riverina, Big Rivers and the Barossa Valley may not be as famous as Bordeaux, Burgundy and Chateauneuf du Pape, but just like their French counterparts, these Aussie growing regions are producing exciting red wines.

Packed with fruit-forward, lip-smacking flavors, the Massive Reds collection includes a jammy and spicy Shiraz, a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon, and a palate-pleasing three-variety cuvee… which leads us to the third reason now is a great time to give Australian wines a try…

  1. The country is home to some of the most creative winemakers in the world — men and women who are not afraid to experiment with cutting-edge cellar techniques or unusual blends.
  2. It’s a place where “Old World” and “New World” converge. While the winemakers embrace modernity, in many cases, they’re working with grapes grown on some of the oldest vines in the world.
  3. There are 60-plus wine regions in Australia, which means there is an amazing array of diverse climates.
  4. There are 150-plus unique grape varieties grown in Australia — giving those creative winemakers a vast number of choices for both varietal wines and cuvees.
  5. They taste great. And that may be the most important reason of all.
Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Wine in the Glass, Wine Region Profiles

Top Wine Regions Around the Globe

Wine can be made pretty much anywhere.

Decent wine requires a decent climate.

But if you want GREAT wine, you need to look toward one of the world’s great winegrowing countries — nations most often blessed by a Mediterranean climate.

Those are the countries spotlighted in The World of Wine Club, which brings members a wide array of taste-tempting wines throughout the year.

Here’s a look at some of the countries that have been featured in The World of Wine Club… and what we love about them…

FRANCE — When it comes to impressive history, no country beats France, which is responsible for some of the world’s most coveted wines from some of the world’s most famous wine regions: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, et al.

ITALY — Another historically important wine country, Italy also makes a wide array of wines, and reflecting its family-oriented society, almost all of them are extremely food-friendly. Many families continue a centuries-old tradition of weekly family meals, and no authentic Italian meal is complete without wine.

SPAIN — Like in Italy, food-and-wine pairing is important in Spain, which explains why the country’s tapas bars are so popular. For a wonderful social experience, it’s hard to beat sharing small plates of taste-tempting dishes, washed down by glasses of delicious Spanish wine.

AUSTRALIA — Home to some of the world’s most creative winemakers, the land Down Under produces not only fruit-forward varietal wines, but also amazing multi-varietal blends.

The World of Wine Club also features specially curated collections from Argentina, Chile and New Zealand.

In other words, wherever great wine is made, The World of Wine Club will take you there. Best of all, there’s no need for a passport.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Wine Buzz, Wine Region Profiles

How to Host the Perfect Summer Barbecue

Don’t let anyone tell you differently: You can’t host a classy barbecue for neighbors, co-workers, family and/or friends without wine.

Yes, BBQ-and-beer have been “a thing” for eons. But if you really want to impress your peeps with your grilling skills, you also need wine.

Here’s a 10-step guide to hosting a barbecue that will blow your guests’ minds — especially those who were expecting hamburgers and hot dogs.

 

  1. Procure these two wine samplers from Vinesse:
  1. Visit your favorite supermarket or independent butcher and purchase a number of medium-sized steaks — the number to match your guest list.
  2. Purchase a number of veggies and lettuce types from the produce department so you can create a self-serve salad bar. (Any vegetarians on your guest list get to “pass the line.”)
  3. Stop by your local cheese shop and pick up nine types of cheese — three mild, three medium and three strong. You want to have something for everyone.
  4. Next stop: the bakery. Buy some “crusty” bread to go with the cheese.
  5. On barbecue day, set up three “stations” inside the house — salad bar, cheese trays, and wine bar. Pre-cut the bread and cheese into small pieces, and have plenty of toothpicks on hand so guests don’t have to pick up the cheese with their fingers.
  6. Open all six different types of wine from the “Rich, Rockin’ BBQ Wines” and “Incredible Blends Meant for Cheese” collections, and place lots of wine glasses next to them. You may even want to place a placard by the bottles and glasses reading, “Please Serve Yourself.”
  7. Also have plenty of bottled water and juices on hand for those not drinking. (It’s also a good idea for those who are drinking to also consume water.)
  8. Have guests order steaks to their desired doneness at the grill outside.
  9. Set up most of the folding chairs and other seating outside. That way, should anyone spill, your carpet will emerge from the party non-stained.

 

By serving steaks, salad, a selection of cheeses and six different wines, your guests will never think the same way about a barbecue again.

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Wine Buzz

The Past, Present and Future of White Wine

Everything goes in cycles, and so it is with white wine.

In ancient times, much of the most coveted wine was white — typically sweet, and often fortified so it could be transported from the place of origin to faraway locales without spoiling. That was an important consideration during the centuries before refrigeration and air travel.

We’re in another Golden Age for white wine now, as demonstrated by the Summer Refreshment Collection from Vinesse.

With just three types of white wine, we can savor the crisp, bright zestiness of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; the assorted fruit flavors and toasty lees of a perfectly made California Pinot Blanc; and the rich, viscous mouthfeel of a California white-wine cuvee.

Talk about diversity. And this comes on the heels of an era when a different white wine — Chardonnay — was all the rage at wine bars and Michelin-starred restaurants.

I’m pretty certain there’s yet another white variety presently sitting in the on-deck circle, to borrow a baseball term, just waiting for its moment in the spotlight. What will it be?

If it’s ever produced in sufficient quantity, without sacrificing quality, to reach more thirsty people around the world, my bet would be on Torrontes from Argentina. It’s everything I love in a white wine: bright, refreshing and fruitful.

Another big possibility is that so-called “un-oaked” Chardonnay could catch on, especially versions that come from cooler climates.

The future will reveal itself soon enough. Right now, there are plenty of white-wine reasons to be perfectly content living in the present.

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Editor's Journal

What the Start of Summer Means for Your Wine Plans

There is no part of the year that is unimportant in the vineyard. That said, some seasons are more important than others, and summer is when the grapes on the vines receive most of the nourishing sunshine they need to attain full ripeness.

I can’t help but think about that every time I open a bottle from the Exemplary Spanish Whites & Lights Collection from Vinesse. These are highly individualistic wines, but all benefited from a problem-free, sunshine-filled growing season in their appellations of origin.

By the way, this is a great collection to have on hand for those hot summer days ahead. Summer temps seem to have arrived early in some locales this year, and these wines are perfect for quenching your thirst — or the thirsts of guests who may stop by (expected or otherwise) in the weeks ahead.

I hope you’re planning at least one excursion to “wine country” this summer, whether it’s to a famous region of California or someplace closer to home. Wine is now made in all 50 states, and literally hundreds of wineries offer extended summer hours, and dozens schedule music performances to enhance the ambience.

A handful of wineries schedule summer-long concert series with big-name entertainment. I’ve had some great experiences at The Mountain Winery, Thornton Winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle and various wineries along New York’s Cayuga Wine Trail.

Other estates invite local musicians to play on a deck or a veranda or a patio for a few hours.

Either way, a winery visit is enhanced when there is music in the air, and summer is the season of music at wineries.

Depending on how you like your weather, the summer of 2017 is shaping up as either ultra-long or not long enough. You can make it a summer to remember — in a good way — with the Spanish Whites & Lights Collection for home enjoyment, and a weekend (or longer) getaway to wine country.

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Editor's Journal, Our Wine Travel Log

Don’t Let Summer Slip By Without Sangria

I first touched sangria to my lips on my 21st birthday. It was a weekend brunch at a Mexican restaurant, and about all I can remember about the drink is that it was red and served on ice.

I did not drink Sangria again until two years ago while on a trip to Europe. We found a tapas bar in the middle of Barcelona, and drank both white (blanco) and red (tinto) renditions. While not poured over ice, they were served in ice-cold glasses.

And this time, I remember one more thing about them: They were delicious.

Not only did they refresh our palates following a long walk through the narrow streets of the city, but they paired beautifully with the array of tapas we had an opportunity to sample.

Now, as the weather morphs from warm to hot to sizzling, I am beyond thankful for the Toréo Premium Sangria Collection from Vinesse.

Why? Well, not only does it quench the thirst on a hot day; it saves me a lot of work.

Making sangria at home can be challenging, to say the least. It’s not simply a matter of mixing together wine, fruit juice and sugar; it’s getting those ingredients mixed in the proper proportions.

After returning from Spain, I tried in vain to replicate the wonderful sangrias we’d guzzled at that tapas bar, and I couldn’t even come close.

But thanks to Christian Gomez, the owner of Wet Stone Wine Bar & Café in San Diego, Calif., I no longer have to worry. Gomez created a line of Sangrias called Toréo — a blanco, a tinto and a Rosado (rosé) — that remove all the guesswork.

All you have to do is chill them down… or pour them over ice, if you wish… and enjoy. If you’re feeling creative, go ahead and add a fresh fruit garnish.

Then adjourn to your poolside lounge chair, your deck, your porch or even your front yard, and hit back at the heat with a delicious glass of Toréo Sangria. The hue is up to you.

Or invite your friends over for sangria and tapas — anchego cheese, marcona almonds, marinated olives and, of course, some Spanish ham.

I’m getting thirsty… and hungry… just thinking about it.

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Wine in the Glass
Members-only Wine sampler specials delivered straight to your inbox via our Cyber Circle newsletter.