When the weather turns warm many of us feel inclined to pursue decidedly spring-like activities. Our short list of favorites includes spending time outdoors, foraging for fresh produce at farmer's markets and seeking out new wines to pair with the season's exuberant flavors and favorable forecast. Read on for some of our favorite selections for spring, along with - naturally - advice on food pairings and occasions for sipping. Santé!
Wine: March 2008 Archives
By Courtney Cochran
In news that may come as surprising to some - and perhaps not so much to others - market research firm ACNielsen recently revealed that almost one in five of the table wine brands to hit the market in the last three years features an animal on its label. This leap in popularity of so-called critter wines is remarkable not just because the wines represent a break from traditional wine labeling, but also because the animals featured on the labels often have little or nothing to do with what's inside the bottle.
Dubbed non sequitur labels due to this disconnect between the label and what's inside the bottle, critter wines benefit from customers' association of the animals with themselves (e.g. pet owners often have an affinity for canine-themed labels). This flies in the face of traditional branding rationale, which argues that images should be strongly associated with the product - whether it be wine or anything else for that matter - being sold. But rather than perplexing, I find that this news confirms a suspicion I've long had that wine - made from a puzzlingly large number of grapes grown in regions all over the world and frequently marketed with labels in obscure languages - can sometimes seem about as relatable to American consumers as quantum physics. If at times it takes a critter label to break through all this clutter and strike a chord with the consumer, so be it.
Fresh back from Miami, I have to say that the sunny spot is without a doubt a city that knows how to party. And so I wasn't surprised to learn today that charismatic designer Christian Audigier - who shot to fame in the '90s as the man behind the eponymous Von Dutch brand, a favorite among celebrities and musicians, and who now oversees Ed Hardy clothing - chose Miami as the spot to debut his new wine brand, The Cool Wine (http://myspace.com/thecoolwine), at a star-studded affair late last year.
With juice coming from vineyards in Audigier's native France and distribution taken care of by Southern Wine & Spirits, The Cool Wine seems to have all the pieces in place for success as a traditional wine brand. But with packaging comprised of screw cap-topped bottles and boxes covered with colorful tattoo-inspired artwork, The Cool Wine is as much eye candy as beverage, as much fashion statement as libation - hardly traditional attributes in this long-staid industry. Watch for versions of the trendsetting stuff made from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay and also a Rosé on store shelves and (naturally) bottle lists in nightclubs soon.
You've read in this space about my efforts to espouse the benefits of living "green" whenever possible. And when that can include drinking green, all the better. The wine industry has noisily been getting into the act, cleaning up their vineyards to reduce environmental impact, and putting wine in bottles that are being called "organic" or otherwise good for the environment.
In Ukiah, Parducci Winery is not just talking the talk; they are walking the walk - in a big way, apparently. The winery, which has long been a leader in biodiversity and organic grape farming, announced recently that they have become "carbon neutral" in their wine production process--the first U.S. winery to achieve the status. That's very impressive, in my view, and not easy to do, from what I know of it. To get "neutral," Parducci worked closely with the California Climate Action Registry, which enabled the winery to calculate greenhouse gas emission helped them take step to offset or mitigate that harmful output. It took three years to accomplish and included such arduous steps as increased use of solar power, use of bio-diesel in farm equipment, and simple steps like switching to compact fluorescent lights in the winery.
But the results have been impressive and I commend Parducci on the effort to set higher standards for the wine industry. Perhaps I'll toast to the effort with a biodegradable paper cup full of their always-zippy Signature zinfandel--one of my personal favorites.
Okay first things first. In light of recent news about books being published by authors who simply make things up and claim them as real, I'll admit: I've never been wine tasting in Georgia. But I'll also admit, the Wine Highway Weekend they've got scheduled for March 29 and 30 sounds like something I need to do. Yes, wine tasting in Georgia. And what better way to discover the wines of the Peach State than during an official event designed to garner awareness for the region's burgeoning wine industry?
Like California's, Georgia's wine industry has its roots in the 1800s, before being crushed by Prohibition. But its favorable grape-growing climate, with steep, well-drained hillsides, excellent soil qualities, and warm summers, remained. It wasn't long before grape growers returned and got vines in the ground and by the 1980s, the industry began to blossom again. Today, the Winegrowers Association of Georgia counts ten member wineries, located along the Wine Highway, north and west of Atlanta. During the special event weekend, member wineries and affiliate members will each feature open houses, including barrel tastings, food pairings, and live music.
It may be time to start thinking about heading south for Spring. For information, visit www.georgiawine.com.
As further evidence of wine's inexorable march to the fore of America's pop culture consciousness, Estancia today announced its official sponsorship of the new LeAnn Rimes video, Good Friends and a Glass of Wine. The video - which features the famed country chanteuse and a bevy of her real-life friends relaxing while sipping Estancia Pinot Noir and Chardonnay - celebrates the role of wine in creating an atmosphere of reflection and rejuvenation after a hard day's work.
The announcement marks another high note for wine as it continues to grow in popularity among Americans of all (legally appropriate) ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. It also comes across as a well-timed strategic move by Estancia - a long-established brand seeking to update its image by way of a staring role in a chart-topping song by one of today's most popular young musicians. Sounds right on key to me.