Archive - August, 2007

Systembolaget to the rescue

Interesting update on my previous thoughts about state monopolies on the sale of alcohol.

There was a report commissioned in Sweden on relaxing these laws whose results were reported in just-drinks recently, entitled; “End Systembolaget control, more drinkers will die – study” (here is the link, but I think it may be subscriber only)

“A report by the country’s National Institute of Public Health warned yesterday (28 August) that alcohol consumption would rise by 14% if sales were allowed only in privately licensed speciality stores, and by 29% if sales were permitted across the country’s grocery channel.

The institute warned in the report that “With grocery stores, the estimated additional annual toll would be 1,580 deaths, 14,200 assaults and 16.1m days of sick leave, a 40% increase”

Not scaremongering then!

It just so happens that it makes loads of money for the state and, as with any bureaucracy, would resist the change.

Posting in Vayne

OK, my turn to add to Gary Vaynerchuk‘s celebrity.

If you are reading this post I am guessing you will have come across this name on numerous other wine and internet sites (as well as TV and magazines), particularly in the last few weeks.

If you haven’t, read this then watch one of the episodes of winelibrary.tv.

I watched episode 303 on Sherry yesterday as suggested by Ryan at catavino.net and I don’t think it was one of his best. However, it did demonstrate something quite interesting. There was a definite disparity between how he described and reacted to the sherries (and, as it happens, some Montilla-Moriles) and what his ratings were.

What was funny was that my wife walked into the room as I was watching the episode and after hearing some of his desciptions, her reaction was: “he sounds like an American Jilly Goolden“.

Ha!

THAT is a “celebrity deathmatch” I’d like to see: “Gary Vaynerchuck vs. Jilly Goolden”. MTV, if you are listening, PLEASE make this.

(for European readers, there is some sort of block on the videos on the official MTV site but you can see a sample episode here instead [Warning - there are not for the faint-hearted])

What is a wine blogger?

I have been well and truly bitten by the facebook bug, and there are lots of things I still need to explore there. However, one of the groups I came across recently was brand new and it was specifically set up to gather together wine bloggers from around the world.

[If you are wine blogger, I encourage you to join us in the Wine Bloggers group as the more we gather, the greater expertise we access and the more we can do to build the profile of wine in the blogosphere.]

“Wine bloggers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your isolation.”
[hat-tip to Karl Marx]

One interesting result was that I have made contact with some very interesting bloggers I had not explored before. One of these is Ryan Opaz whose wine blog is catavino.net and focuses on Spanish and Portuguese wines. Ryan is also a budding community builder though and one of his sites is trying to define what we mean by a “wine blogger“.

Most wineries are, quite rightly, primarily focused on making great wines, so posting on the web does not feature highly in their daily routine. However, this is changing (I think of Pinotblogger for example), and trying to explain what it is we do and how we might be useful, and more importantly how it might help them, is not an easy thing.

Most wine bloggers are not trying to replace ‘proper’ journalists, but do we have an influence over what people buy or drink? I’d like to think so, but maybe others have a different view. Are we really only talking to ourselves?

Hand over your corks, no questions asked

When gun crime, or knife crime more recently apt, gets out of hand, the media and police often concentrate on creating “amnesties” where repentant gun & knife owners can hand over their abominable weapons with no questions asked. Better to get them off the street they say.

I’ve never been totally convinced about this, but anyway it looks good on television and sometimes gets unexpected results (one less rocket launcher on the streets of Devon!) such as this.

So I was intrigued by a neck tag on a bottle of wine promising a “cork amnesty”. As a proud owner of quite a few corks, mainly because I collect them for a mysterious project my sister is working on, I wondered if I might have to visit a local police station to assuage my conscience. Alas, the truth was more prosaic.

[I bought the RH Phillips 2003 Zinfandel, but I believe there are/were other wines out there too]

RH Phillips, a Californian producer from Esparto, CA, USA (erm, time for the Wine Atlas I think), HAD created a site at www.corkamnesty.com that gave ideas of all the many things one could do with corks EXCEPT put them in the neck of a bottle of wine. This is a slightly aggressive form of evangelism for screwcaps, and it certainly got my attention.

Their neck tag as well as their back label are all about how cork is associated with TCA (cork taint, musty cardboard and walnut smells in wine) and should therefore be avoided.

Now, there is a big debate about corks, screwcaps, TCA, reductive wines, etc. that I will probably have to write about at some stage, but is probably FAR too dull for most people out there. I applaud RH Phillips for making a virtue of their packaging, but like with my politics, I prefer a positive message rather than a negative one. I happen to think that cork has a very important role to play, but screwcaps do too, and any radical position is unnecessary.

Unfortunately I delayed writing this post for some weeks and in that time, RH Phillips’ new owners (Constellation having acquired Vincor International) have closed down the site and redirected it to their corporate page.

Not only is this dull, it is silly as they lose any valuable traffic them might have got. It also means I cannot post any clever suggestions they may have had.

I’d like to think that unlike automatic weapons and Rambo-style hunting knives, there is no need to be concerned about corks. In the right hands they do serve a purpose and can benefit humanity. However, if you feel at all ashamed of your collection and you have not yet created your own cork trivet, notice board or wreath, then maybe you could decide to turn them in to the authorities and hope they ask no questions about how long it took you to accumulate such a collection.

Origins of UK Wine Culture

Hurry!

While it is still available, check out the recent BBC Archive Hour with Jancis Robinson. She (or rather the BBC Producer) has dug out all sorts of audio clips showing how our view of wine has changed in the UK over almost a century.

I need to listen to it again in detail, but there are great insights into the emergence of supermarkets, the role of women as decision makers, scandals and frauds, and much more.

Well worth a listen – I hope they keep it up for a while.

(and some of the accents need to be heard to be believed – and I don’t mean JR’s)

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