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January 25, 2023

The Words of Wine: Quotables from The Past Year

One of the pleasures of writing about wine is having the opportunity to regularly have discussions with people who make wine, sell wine, buy wine and have opinions about wine.  In the course of a normal week, I usually talk with six to 10 different people in person, by phone, by Zoom, even by email (some people think better at a keyboard).  Now that a new year is underway and shaping up, I recently spent an hour or two looking through some articles published during 2022 and the things people told me which helped to flesh out my stories.

Here are a few quotes that stood out:

“In Bordeaux, they played everything close to the chest, keeping secrets to themselves.  Here, you would go to a meeting with Robert Mondavi, André Tchelistcheff, Chuck Harvey and they would share everything!  I was surprised when Ric Foreman came back from a trip to St-Émilion.  He got out his notebook and read us everything he learned during the trip.  It was a very friendly attitude.”

Bordeaux native Bernard Portet on his first days as head of Clos du Val winery during the 1970s in Napa Valley – “The Frenchification of Napa Valley” in World of Fine Wine.

*     *     *

“We really got closer to other French owners in Napa once we bought the estate, but not before, as we had to keep the secrecy.” So, have potential investors from France sought your counsel? “I think every Bordeaux potential investor in Napa is trying to move discreetly, so we would not know about it before a deal is done and published in the media.  For example, we are really close with Pierre Lurton, but I’ve learned about [Joseph] Phelps just as the deal was signed with LVMH.”

Florence Cathiard, owner with husband Daniel of Château Smith-Haut-Laffite in Bordeaux and Cathiard Estate in Napa Valley – “The Frenchification of Napa Valley” in World of Fine Wine.

*     *     *

“For some reason, the French and I don’t communicate well.  I tried to consult with them, but it never worked out, except at Newton.”

French native turned Napa Valley resident Philippe Melka on being a wine consultant with everybody… except the French – “The Frenchification of Napa Valley” in World of Fine Wine.

*     *     *

“Since [the winery name] Robert Pepi was already taken, I did the next best thing.  I called my new winery ‘Eponymous Wines.”

Robert Pepi on starting a new winery after his father, also named Robert Pepi, sold Robert Pepi winery and the name – “Eponymous to Anonymous” in VinePair.

*     *     *

“Everyone focused on the warming, but it’s really changing weather patterns which are becoming challenging.  Our summers aren’t hotter, but the winters aren’t as cold, and there’s drought.  The two result in warmer, drier soils which cause earlier budbreak [resulting in] increased risk of April frost, especially in Europe.”

Sonoma winegrower David Ramey on the threat of severe weather – “Desert Storm” in Drinks Business.

*     *     *

“More moisture in the air is causing more severe thunderstorms and we are also seeing more instances of hail and larger areas of a hailstorm, sometimes half a mile wide and three to four miles long.”

Dale Mohler, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather – “Desert Storm” in Drinks Business.

*     *     *

“Over the past 10-15 years, the Etna region has gotten broader attention from the industry for producing wines of minerality, depth and elegance, particularly from the Nerello Mascalese grape.”

Ian Downey, EVP of Winebow Imports – “U.S.  Importers are Betting on These Up-and-Coming Wine Regions” in SevenFifty.

*     *     *

“I call 2019 the ‘Goldilocks’ vintage.  Not too cold, not too hot, but just right.”

Bouchaine winemaker Chris Kajani – “Kajani & the Clones” in Wine Review Online.

*     *     *

“As a young winemaker, I was tutored by some very talented and exceptional people in the trade.  They impressed on me that great wines have five basic principles in common: balance, structure, concentration, power and breeding.  Breeding is the small steps we take every year in an effort to make a better wine.”

Australian winemaker Dean Hewitson – “On Aging Wine” in American Wine Society Journal.

*     *     *

“Many of the families that started wineries in Napa Valley in the 1970s and ‘80s were professionals – dentists, lawyers, entrepreneurs – who were looking for tax shelters.”

Rob McMillan, founder and head of Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division, on why some family wineries lack a passion to continue farming – “Family Wineries in Turmoil” in Meininger’s Wine Business International.

*     *     *

“I didn’t have a choice.  I was 20 years old when my father took ill, and the place was getting ready to be sold.  But I think [my] kids need to have a first life before they take over after me.”

Seventh-generation French winegrower Véronique Barthe, whose three grown children – a son and two daughters – are making wine or interning in Bordeaux, Paso Robles and Canada – “Family Wineries in Turmoil” in Meininger’s Wine Business International.

*     *     *

“Over the longer period, we may have to have a new selection for Ugni Blanc.  We started working 12-15 years ago with a cross between Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche called Folignan [which is still in aging trials].  It’s good to have a new tool, but we have to wait for many, many years.”

Frapin Cognac cellar master Patrice Piveteau on combating global warming – “A Conversation with Patrice Piveteau” in Santé.
*     *     *

“Simply, filtering strips the flavors and complexity out of wines.  I’ve tasted the same wine before and after filtering, and it’s easy to tell the difference.”

Samra Morris, winemaker at Alma Rosa – “The Debate over Wine Filtration” in The Drop.

*     *     *

“Wealthy people tend to do well in a recession, and online shoppers tend to be much wealthier and with higher education than average.” And young shoppers are particularly important to brand loyalty: “Win them now, and they’ll be loyal for the next 20 years.”

Bourcard Nesin, RaboResearch beverage analyst – “US online retail seen as drinks growth engine, but will it last?” in Global Drinks Intel.

Posted by Roger Morris at 2:45 PM