No Arsenic In Wine?

  By Charles Olken I may wind up with a lot of egg on my face and die an early death from all the arsenic I have consumed in my lifetime and continue to consume, but I am going to come right out and say it— The recent lawsuit against a long list of wineries suggesting that there are dangerous levels of arsenic in wine are founded on junk science—and intentionally deceptive claims...

I Love A Good Yarn But I Drink The Sweater

  By Stephen Eliot The new, millennial generation of wine consumers, upon which I hear the future of fine wine so precariously depends, does not care one bit about scores or critical ratings. What they want is a good story. That at least, that is what I am being continuously told, especially by those writers and winery public relation folks who respectively do not “score” wines...

Wine Wisdom vs. Wine Stupidity

  By Charles Olken In the last day or so, we have witnessed examples of incredible wine wisdom and crass wine stupidity in wine writing. How can you tell the difference, a cynic might ask. It’s quite simple, really. Wine wisdom is advice so smart on its face that one is stunned in rapt admiration at its expression. Wine stupidity, of which there are so many more examples than wine wisdom,...

Barbera Rises From The Ashes

  By Charles Olken A funny thing happened on the way to the ash heap of vinous history. Barbera, a grape that had a respected standing in California back some forty years ago or so, when wineries like Martini and Sebastiani featured it as one of their important varietal bottlings, has recently made a bit of a comeback. We tend to say things like “you can never go back”, and there...

Behold—The Whiny Call of the Wine Wholesaler

whining (verb) 1. give or make a long, high-pitched complaining cry or sound. 2. To complain or protest in a childish or annoying fashion The Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America (WSWA), that national organization representing the best box carriers in the country, never gets any media coverage for its press releases. You might think that’s odd given this organization’s political clout...

The How Ripe is Right Battle Heats Up Again

  By Stephen Eliot The debate, or should I say argument, about ripeness, what constitutes balance and the “right” way to make wines has become a fixture whenever and wherever wine is discussed these days, and usually it all boils down to equally intransigent thinking that one extreme or the other is the one and only true path. “Thin and characterless” cries one faction...

Where Are The Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc Blends?

  By Charles Olken A few years ago, Mrs. Olken and I took a busman’s holiday during which we leisurely worked our ways around the Australian wine country. We had been to Australia on organized wine visits and decided to go back to travel around, enjoying both city and bush country at our own pace. I can highly recommend such a visit. Everything about Australia is different, and yet is...

Pinot Noir: Very Good and Still Getting Better

  By Stephen Eliot It is easy enough to argue that, over the last generation or so, no California wine has shown as much improvement as Pinot Noir. It was not a player in the great awakening of the 1970s hereabouts. It won no acclaim in the storied Judgment of Paris, and, even among the most sanctimonious champions of “balance” who fancifully see California as having lost its...

All The News That’s Fit To Spit

  By Charles Olken I will admit it. I am news junkie. I love political news and sports news, world news and local news. I have even been known from time to time to read the local police news in the free weekly rag. And, of course, I am a wine news junkie of the first order. Every day, I get three summaries of wine news in my email inbox, and while I do not click through to each and every story,...

The Red Blend Phenomenon—Is It Real or Is It Memorex

  By Charles Olken Old friend Steve Heimoff wrote an intriguing essay the other day entitled “Trying To Comprehend The Red Blend Trend”. I often find Steve’s writing to be thought provoking, and certainly this topic was as well—as witnessed by the mostly intelligent conversation that took place in its stead. But part of the way that Steve and others have approached...

The Greying of The Wine Taster—Better With Age

  By Stephen Eliot Starting way back at the beginning, in the earliest days of my fascination with wine, days in which I could drink those benchmark bottlings that I can no longer afford, I learned and accepted without question the idea that great wines were not half so great in their youths as they were when properly aged. Old wine was better. It did not take all that long to realize that...

NY Liquor Regulators Slapped Down For Shady Enforcement Tactic

New York State Representative Phil Steck of Schnectady has introduced a bill in Albany that the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) and its allies in the wholesaler community aren’t going to like. If passed into law, his bill would prohibit the NYSLA from trying to destroy a local wine retailer and put all its employees out on the street. Rep. Steck’s proposed bill, A5920, would prohibit...

Enough With The Numbers Already—Give Me Taste, Balance, Range

  By Stephen Eliot For the past several years, the “numbers” of wine from acidity to pH and especially alcohol have been central to a great deal of the conversation about fine wine and sometimes a catalyst to vitriolic contention. I have lately begun to wonder, however, if rather than leading to a deeper appreciation of things vinous, the fixation with numbers routinely serves...

Jumping the Shark in the Wine World

Baseball’s spring training is upon us and every respectable baseball geek knows what that means: Preparing for the draft of your fantasy baseball team. It’s a simple game. You draft a team with other geeks also drafting their team and you gain points throughout the season as the players you drafted perform well. It got me thinking. Is there any reason there couldn’t be a Wine Fantasy...

Rating The Wall Street Journal Wine Column Redux

  By Charles Olken Welcome back. Halftime is over. Let’s take a look at the highlights of the first half. The WSJ wine column, not exactly my favorite over the years for a certain smug, holier-than-thou attitude, recently outdid itself in an article by Lettie Teague. Ms. Teague identified ten bits of common wisdom” and put them to the test of reason. Her views surprised me more...

Booze Wholesalers and The Stupidity of My Species

“UNDER SIEGE: DON’T LET A GOOD SYSTEM SINK” No, really, let’s let that system sink…all the way to the bottom of the archaic well from which it first emerged. That system in question is the “Three Tier System” and as you might imagine it’s wholesalers/distributors who are pleading for its continuation. In the case of the headline above, the plea comes...

Wine Too Old To Drink? Too Young To Drink?

  By Stephen Eliot It is the very rare wine that lives for thirty or forty years, and even rarer is the one that is genuinely improved by it. And, the storied few that do, at least in great part, have sadly become so ridiculously expensive that they have become untouchable to most wine lovers and are more often than not trophies collected by those for whom price is no object. Lately there...

Jon Bonne Blows Town

  By Charles Olken It is true that I have no great love for Mr. Bonne. He came here and proceeded to denigrate much of California wine even though he claims he was saving it. He called the prevalent style of Chardonnay that millions of people love “silly”, he described the delicious Pinot Noirs of Kosta Browne as “wines for novices”, he once turned down a story described...

Top 5 Predictions for Wine in 2015

I am notoriously average when it comes to making successful predictions. All that means is that I have to keep trying. So, here are my top five predictions fort what’s coming in the world of wine in 2015. Note that there are, as there have been in the past, no predictions concerning the three-tier system or wine blogs. Read into that what you like. 1. Winery Turnover Is Coming Full Force Wine...

Something Sneaky Happened On the Way to Direct Wine Shipping in Massachusetts

Something interesting happened on the way to direct shipping in Massachusetts. And no one knows who is responsible for it…..Riiiiiiight!!! Here’s what happened. The new direct shipping law in Massachusetts that lets consumers have American (but not French, Italian or any other foreign wines) shipped to them from out-of-state was put into the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, which passed. Shipping...