Today's competitive environment is becoming more consolidated. Smaller distributors, seeking to differentiate themselves in the eyes of suppliers and retailers, must look beyond traditional customer research and marketing to maintain sustainable competitive advantage. An effective and "objective" education program locks a brand(s) into the wine synapse of the consumer, evoking the product's name whenever that knowledge is called upon. This capability allows distributors to create differentiation when trying to close prospective suppliers and retailers. This is especially true for distributors with a highly percent of "old-world" wines in their portfolio. OenoStyle also builds grounded market research by extracting both qualitative and quantitative data covertly from event attendees. Covert data collection is statistically more valid, and it illustrates both a micro and macro model of consumer habits and sentiment. We even have an archetect on staff to provide display consulting, design and build-out.
The OenoStyle team knows wine inside and out. We've worked as event producers, senior sales and management professionals, and supplier-side consultants. We have tackled the full range of challenges producers and distributors face as they strive to be more profitable and innovative. OenoStyle’s tools and techniques are based on our extensive research on best practices in corporate profitability and innovation and leverage best practices in market research. They are ideally suited to market and product projects; innovation process initiatives; and Six Sigma and other quality improvement initiatives.
OenoStyle’s Guide to Wine and the Fine Dining Experience
A Great Wine List
The Sommelier's Role in Wine
The Sommelier's Tools of the Trade
The Procedures of Serving Wine
Washington Wine: A History & Forecast
Thomas Jefferson: Advocate for an American Wine Industry
Wine is an essential component of a great meal, and its placement on the dinner table enjoys a long tradition. Wine drinking is often equated with the finer things of life. Not only does wine’s romance enhance the dining ambiance, but the right wine actually can supplement and compliment the flavor of food. The wine list and the treatment of wine in general are major factors in my overall rating of a dining establishment. Wine experience components that I notice/expect are:
- An accurate wine list containing country, varietal, region, house, and vintage.
- A balance of requisite offerings with both a concentration and some unique variety.
- A weekly or monthly wine special at a set price.
- A lunch wine list and a dessert wine list.
- A reasonable corkage policy, where legal.
- The correct stemware.
- The use of a chiller or napkin for white wine, a decanter for red wine, and an ice bucket for champagne.
The consumption of premium wines is growing in popularity. The global marketplace and better educated consumers now make placing premium wines from around the world on the wine list a financial opportunity for the restaurateur. While consumer preferences at the liquor store are often driven by habit and word-of-mouth, restaurant patrons are usually more adventurous in their wine selections. Yet, national attitudes about wine are less pronounced than they once were, and changes in life style, work habits, diet, and communications in the industrialized world have led to a more homogenous pattern of wine consumption.
A restaurant wine list serves as your patron’s first encounter with your wine offerings, and its main purpose is catalogue the contents of the cellar. While there are different approaches to creating a wine list, which depend on the size and importance of the cellar and on the style of the establishment, the wine lists should be a printed pamphlet or bound volume.
However simple or ambitious their design, all good wine lists have some points in common. They should be logically arranged, informative, easy to comprehend, and free of errors in names, locations, vintages, and prices. Every piece of information on the list should be exactly what is on the bottle. Some lists follow a numbering code for wines - a method that is efficient and negates the necessity to correctly pronounce the choice, which can makes the experience less intimidating and less romantic. Beware creating a list that has the appearance of a Chinese restaurant menu.
A good wine list and its corresponding inventory must also be regularly monitored and updated. Lists managed by computer can be changed regularly, and potentially even reprinted daily. Whatever the system, changes in the stock of wines need to be recorded faithfully. Few restaurant experiences are more annoying to an oenophile than to discover that a well thought out choice on the list is no longer available. Actually, the only more annoying experience is to order a 2002 Oregon Pinot or 2000 Bordeaux and being presented with a 2001 or 2003 vintageand the accompanied attitude of, “what’s the difference?”
The list can be organized in various ways, though a logical order to follow is the normal sequence that the wines will be enjoyed through the courses of a meal by categories:
- Sparkling wines
- White wines
- Rosés wines
- Red wines
- Dessert wines
Then, depending on the size of the list, further breakdowns should be given in each category. I prefer organizing it by grape varietal, country, region or specific zone, and by vintage. Some might find it gouche to order by price, by I think value is an important consideration in selecting a wine. Restaurants that specialize in a regional gastronomy often begin with local wines before proceeding to others. In fact, regional wines can be served exclusively to enhance the theme and provide new exposures for consumer. I would, however, try to relate the wines to ones more well-known.
Beyond basic information, some lists give details about estates or vineyards and descriptions of the wines. Some are artistically designed, including illustrations such as labels, maps, photos and drawings. The more attractive the list, the more likely that customers will ask for a copy as a souvenir. Making extra or “travel” copies is worth the expense, for there are few better means of publicizing a restaurant and its wines.
I appreciate a good cross-section of choices on a wine list and love to “discover” some unique and new wines at a restaurant. Revenue dictates that most sections of the list have some reason and a “safe” selection or two, but an interesting wine(s), or section, or even theme always make the dining experience more memorable. Every category should also have a few economical wines to promote sales and introducing more customers to the joy of wine at a restaurant. I also suggest having a lunch wine list that would contain far fewer selections and be dominated by splits (375ml) and by whites. It can actually be printed right of the lunch menu. I suggest the same idea for the dessert menu. I usually only like a reserve list if you have a wine cellar with seating or other room that is wine themed.
I usually don’t mind if a restaurant does not offer a does not have an Oregon Pinot or a Tempranillo. A local restaurant, at which I have never had either good service or a great meal, has a fairly extensive and somewhat pretentious list. While it featured maybe 12 Burgundies, there were only 2 Bordeauxs. Not only do just two Bordeauxs illustrate the naiveté of the sommelier about the Bordeaux region, but one was priced a $90 and one was priced at $600. Barely one Bordeaux. Needless to say the $600 bottle is still gathering dust.
The above example illustrates that if a restaurant is going to have French wines on the list, it should offer at least two wines from each the left bank and the right bank for at or under $50. After that a $600 wine is fine if you can afford the inventory. My thought on inventory is a restaurant should always have a case on hand for every selection they offer. This does increase carrying costs, but as stated above, “few restaurant experiences are more annoying to an oenophile than to discover that a well thought out choice on the list is no longer available.”
One way to ensure that the wine list does not get musty or ubiquitous is to ensure a variety of suppliers. Wine distribution is becoming more consolidated. Therefore, wine buyers need to be even more vigilant to avoid being lulled into the offerings of a single “one-stop” distributor, which are also being offered by competing restaurants. A restaurant should monthly meet with every distributor that services the area, even if they are not buying from them currently. Using the set wine special is a good way to evaluate the wine and service of the distributors that you have not worked with.
Where allowable I recommend buying directly from the producer. The service is guaranteed to be superior, and by using the set wine special you can evaluate their wine and service and also host a “wine makers” event. Many restaurateurs overhaul the entire list in the spring, when wines from the latest vintage begin to arrive, and the fall, when wines for cellaring are most often acquired.
Wine specials can really increase the wine experience and the bottom line. In Europe, the tradition of offering special local and regional wines served in carafes still enjoys prominence alongside imported bottles on a restaurants’ list. In nations where wine drinking is a rather recent phenomenon, there is less tradition and therefore less consumer loyalty to local or even national wines. This creates a great opportunity to fill that void with a wine special or a “featured” wine if some Draconian liquor law in your jurisdiction doesn’t allow specials.
I suggest having a wine special that changes either weekly or monthly, but remains at a set price. This alleviates the need to update the wine list wine to accommodate the changing specials. A white and red wine special casts a wider net. Wine specials allow the server to draw attention to the wine list either when taking a cocktail order or when discussing the menu specials. The chef may also wish to create a menu special to pare with the wine. Distributors also appreciate the opportunity to try new wines in the restaurant channel, but as stated above, don’t limit the specials to just one supply channel. Finally, wine specials can translate into a special event on a slow night.
There are also seasonal considerations. White wines of light body and zesty acidity are most in demand in the summer, though they are also popular through the year as pre-dinner drinks. Fall and spring provide the climates for medium-weight, well balanced wines, both red and white, that pare well with a wide array of foods. Winter favors aged red wines whose warm, hearty flavors go well with the more robust foods served in the cold months. The demand for sparkling wines reaches a peak during the Christmas season. Sweet and fortified wines also find most favor during the winter.
Liquor laws throughout the country mostly allow a restaurant to set a corkage policy, and I suggest you take advantage of the opportunity. First, you show respect for the wine consumer and allow them an opportunity to feature their “OenoStyle” to their guests. Second, if you set the fee at slightly above your average margin on a bottle of wine, you don’t cut into revenue while reducing your exposure to inventory costs. Sound policies can include a reasonable fee, ($10-$20), no wines can be brought in that are available at the establishment, and maybe no wines under 7 years old, which would probably rule out most of the wines on your list as well. The person in charge of wine should also get a taste. In return for this courtesy, patrons should buy cocktails, another wine, or a digestif from the house.
Sommelier is used to describe a professional wine steward or waiter. It is a French adaptation of the old Italian term somigliere. The 18th century Edicts of the Dukes of Savoy in Piedmont declared the "Somigliere di Bocca e di Corte" as a public official in charge of selecting the duchy's finest wines for the court. His duties included research and evaluation of the wines and determining the correct manner of serving them.
In the mid-19th century the term sommelier came into use in France. But the occupation of selecting, bottling and serving wine was recognized long before the somigliere was appointed by the Dukes of Savoy. The Greek symposium, an ancient version of a wine-drinking society, was directed by the "symposiarch." Wines were selected and served to the Roman emperors by the "rex bibendi". In Renaissance times, the "coppiere" (literally cupbearer) held an important position in Italy's royal-courts, with a well-defined set of rituals to follow in selecting and serving wine.
Today, many restaurant personal are involved with wine in a professional way. The courses they follow provide practical points on buying, storing. and serving wine, as summed up in this lesson. The information should prove useful not only to professional sommeliers, but to anyone interested in wine.
Stocking a cellar for a restaurant or shop can be a challenging endeavor; however it can greatly influence both your reputation and bottom line. The first consideration in acquiring wine is to have a realistic idea of the establishment's potential supply and demand. Bear in mind that customers at any level expect a wine's price to reflect its quality.
Before buying any wine, taste it several times; preferably after acquiring samples in different places. Control not only its class, but also the quality of bottles, labels, capsules, cartons or crates, and, above all, the condition of corks. Prestigious and expensive wines require more care in tasting and more attention to the potential of each vintage. When stocking wines for aging from great vintages, follow the “Norwegian Model.” Buy early and in adequate supply to meet demands for years to come, thus avoiding future price increases. However, beware of special discounts for quantities. Acquiring a large stock of a certain wine may tempt you to push that and neglect other types that make up a well-rounded selection.
For wines that need to be drunk within a relatively short time span, order quantities annually but arrange for delivery every three to six months to avoid overloading the cellar. Follow the advice of wine experts, but don't be unduly influenced by opinions or ratings. Rely on your own palate in searching out unpublicized or rare wines and offering your discoveries to customers. Wine drinkers like to be pleasantly surprised. You might even make a wine event for some of your best customers, thus giving them a real stake in the endeavor.
Serving wine is a pleasurable occupation but it is no light task. After the grape grower, the winemaker, the taster, bottler, shipper, importer, wholesaler, and retailer, the sommelier represents the final link in the chain between the wine and the consumer. He must provide information, offer advice, and answer questions which will require a thorough knowledge of the subject.
Presenting wine in its most favorable light requires the proper tools. The following is a short list of the accessories needed for top-flight restaurant service of wine:
Bottle openers normally used by sommeliers are in the form of a jackknife with a corkscrew and lever at one end and a blade for cutting the capsule or foil at the other. The corkscrew should consist of a slender spiral open at the center with a sharp point to penetrate the cork without drilling a hole through it and depositing scraps in the bottle - as a solid, screw-shaped type often does. Also, the lever which is placed against the lip, of the bottle should be long enough to permit the cork to be pried out easily in a gradual, uninterrupted motion. Among numerous alternative openers, some lever models are larger than the jackknife type and permit stronger leverage and quicker maneuvering, though they can't always be carried in a pocket.
Carafes or pitchers of fine glass or crystal for decanting wines. This both removes sediment and allows the wine to aerate, or breathe, before being served.
Buckets half filled with ice and water for quick cooling of sparkling wines and certain dry whites and dessert wines - or for maintaining temperatures if they are already chilled. Insulated containers may also be available for maintaining temperatures of certain wines.
Small wine service tables on rollers so that they can be shifted from place to place.
Special pincers that resemble a nutcracker for freeing corks on sparkling wines if they are too stubborn to be removed by hand.
Serving baskets or cradles used for holding bottles of certain aged red wines as close to horizontal as possible, so that they can be poured with a minimum of motion to avoid stirring up sediment.
Candles to provide light behind a bottle being decanted to check that the sediment remains in the shoulder without being poured. Such candles should be made of odorless wax.
Tastevins, the shallow silver saucer that sommeliers often carry on a neck chain, may be used to check the color, odor and flavor of a small amount of wine poured into it before serving. Some wine waiters consider the tastevin more symbolic or showy than practical.
In many restaurants the sommelier's duties include selecting, storing and cataloguing wines. But perhaps the greatest test of knowledge, skill, experience and tact comes in dealing with customers. The sommelier's introduction is the wine list, presented along with the menu or at a strategic interval after guests have had a chance to consider the dishes. An astute waiter can often size up a customer's familiarity with wine by weighing the response to a calculated question. In the best of circumstances, a rapport will be struck that will lead to ready acceptance of the suggested wine or wines to be served. If the choice is difficult, patience may be required, but the solution must bear out the axiom that, in the end, the customer is always right
With orders in hand, the sommelier should quickly check that all bottles to be served are at proper temperatures or will be by the time they are opened. If any bottles are still in the cellar, sparkling or white wines will need to be cooled slightly and mature reds will need to be gradually warmed a few degrees. Then the serving procedure begins.
First, the bottle should be brought to the table so that the person who ordered can confirm that the label shows the right wine and vintage. Then a serving table should be placed nearby and any cellar dust or mold on the bottle should be removed with a dry towel. Place the bottle on the serving table with the label facing the guests. With a knife blade or foil cutter, remove the top of the capsule neatly so that it won't come in contact with the wine being poured. Wipe away any mold or residue that was left between the capsule and cork. Then insert the corkscrew, set the lever against the lip and slowly pry the cork upward, making sure that it doesn't begin to break or crumble. If it does, extreme caution will be needed to remove it without getting scraps inside the bottle. The cork should come away easily and cleanly, but don't pull it so forcefully that it makes a loud pop.
Use the moist lower end of the cork to clean away any residue around the top of the bottle and sniff it to make sure there are no obvious off odors. If there is any sign of cork scraps in the bottle, remove them by quickly pouring a tiny amount of wine into a glass. Remove the cork from the corkscrew and set it aside within view so that the customer can check it on request.
Pour a small amount of the wine into a glass and quickly and decisively sniff and taste it. If there is any sign of a problem, tell the customer that you are getting another bottle and why - but don't seek permission, since that would reveal doubt
If the wine is right, grasp the bottle so that the label is evident and pour a small amount into the glass of the person who ordered - unless he indicates that someone else present should taste it. If not approved, for whatever reason, don't contest the decision but offer to get another bottle of the same wine or, if you are certain that the taster is at fault, suggest another wine.
If approved, after a sniff or a taste, begin serving, following the usual etiquette of ladies first. Serve from the right of each guest, filling glasses to prescribed levels and keeping the label in view. End each pour with a gentle half twist of the bottle to remove any drips from the lip. A clean white napkin should be held in the left hand to avoid any drips on the tablecloth. Conclude the first pouring by filling the taster's glass to the right level. During the meal, check the level of wine in the glasses frequently and provide refills before any is empty. Before the bottle is empty, ask the person who ordered if he would like another of the same or another wine. If there is a change of wine, place clean and appropriate glasses around and repeat the serving procedure. Remove the preceding glass only with each guest's consent.
The somalier is also in charge on making sure that the waitstaff is competaent in suggesting and serving wine and should make sure that everyone is comfortable and skillful at opening a bottle. I have kept a few hundred corks behind the bar and recorked empty bottles so that every waiter could open at least 25 bottles before sending them out on the floor with a bottle. I would usually run through the wine list at pre-shift meetings, with each server pronouncing the next wine on the list to insure that the waitstaff could acurately pronounce each selection. They should also be able to match wines with appetizers, entrees, and desserts. When possible I would also let the service staff taste the wines you offer. Since wine is most often consumed with food, I would try to have them taste wine with menu items. For example, try a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay with the salmon special and note how different the food tastes with each wine. Educate your staff so that they can educate your guests. The easiest way to encourage suggestions is just to have servers recommend their two favorite whites or their two favorite reds - but first they must find out what their favorites are?
Glasses, in a sense, are the ultimate tools of the sommelier's trade. They should be carefully chosen, first of all for function but also for effect, to fit the setting or the occasion. To say that a fine wine loses something if served in a tumbler or plastic cup isn't just an example of snobbery. Those vessels lack the form, size and visual and tactile qualities that allow wine to express its sensorial best. On the other hand, a common wine will still taste common, or worse, if served in crystal stemware or a silver chalice.
Glasses vary to extremes in design, reflecting the endless theories and ongoing debates over which is right for each type of wine. Most table wines can be served in glasses of the familiar chalice or tulip type, slightly closed at the top. Their rounded forms maintain aromas and their stems allow them to be held so that the hand neither impedes vision of the wine nor warms it. Such glasses may vary dramatically in size and shape as well as in quality. But whether they are made of ordinary glass or the finest crystal, experts tend to prefer perfectly transparent glasses - untinted and with a minimum of etching or design. Drinking vessels made of metals, crockery or other materials have been largely dismissed as folkloric.
Wine glasses should be selected according to needs and tastes. The first consideration is function, being sure the form and size are compatible with the character and class of the wine to be served. But almost as important are the aesthetic and psychological effects. An artistically designed glass of thin crystal has not only the look but also the sound and feels to exalt a wine, to show it at its best.
A normal restaurant setting includes glasses for red and white wines and water. There should also be a reserve of special glasses for sparkling and dessert wines and liqueurs. Some deluxe restaurants may have two or more types of glasses for each category of wine. Following are the main categories and the most suitable type of glass for each:
Dry sparkling wine:
An elongated chalice or "flute" allows for a lively, uninterrupted display of bubbles to demonstrate the wine's perlage.
Sweet sparkling wine:
A broad, shallow chalice sometimes known as a "cup" or coppa allows the wine to immediately express its full aroma.
Young white wine:
A rather small, slim chalice best expresses the fresh flavors and delicate aromas. A slight flare at the rim channels the wine to the sides of the tongue where it senses the bracing acidity.
Aromatic white wine:
A chalice of medium size, round and slightly closed at the rim, captures the essence of aromas.
Young rosé wine:
A small chalice somewhat wider at the bowl than the rim favors the fresh fragrance of the wine first and then its delicate flavor.
Young red wine:
A medium-sized chalice with an egg-shaped bowl and a slight narrowing at the rim favors the expression of youthful freshness in aroma and flavor.
Mature red wine:
A fairly large chalice with a well-rounded bowl and an inward taper at the rim lets the bouquet develop gradually as the wine is sipped.
Well-aged red wine:
A large, bowl-shaped chalice, sometimes called a "ballon," provides ample space for the bouquet to show its depth and complexity while favoring a gradual evolution in flavor as the wine breathes.
A tall, slender, cylindrical chalice is designed to express the immediate aromas and sweet flavors of most types of dessert wine.
There are, of course, options for special types of glasses for wines within each category. But with a full set available along the suggested lines, most serving problems will be solved. Sometimes a table setting includes the full array of glasses at large banquets, for example, where many wines are being served in rapid succession. In such cases, glasses should be arranged from right to left in the order that the wines are served. But as wines are ordered in normal restaurant situations, the correct glasses should be placed on the table just before pouring.
Glasses for most types of wines should be only partly filled. For example, some ballon glasses could hold an entire bottle, but the wine poured should merely fill the lower part of the bowl to perhaps a tenth of capacity. A sparkling wine flute or dessert wine glass may be filled halfway, but never to more than three-fifths of capacity.
The decanting of wine into a carafe or pitcher is necessary only if there is sediment in the bottle or if it needs, aeration. Decanting for aeration, or oxygenation, is used mainly for young or medium-aged wines that seem to have a temporary problem. The procedure consists of pouring the wine into a large carafe or pitcher, provoking a rapid exchange of oxygen. It may be useful for the following types of wine:
• Young whites that seem to have an excess of free sulfur dioxide detectable by the nose. The odor should disappear almost immediately after decanting.
• Mature whites or reds that have been bottled for years and have a slightly closed or musty odor that may be the effect of oxygen reduction. The odor should subside within minutes, though in some wines it takes longer and in others it may not go away at all.
• Sparkling wines that seem to be aggressively effervescent. Decanting should reduce the intensity of carbon dioxide. In some parts of Italy, bubbly wines are habitually served in a pitcher or carafe.
• Wines of any type or color with a slightly disagreeable odor that an experienced taster believes will disappear with aeration. Decanting to separate the wine from the sediment is a more delicate operation. It is done with well-aged red wines that have a natural deposit of residue due mainly to the gradual precipitation of tannins and coloring substances. The carafe should be of fine glass or crystal with a rounded base and a long, straight neck.
If the bottle to be served has been standing upright at room temperature for several hours, the sediment should have collected at the base. But if it is brought directly from the cellar, where it has been stored horizontally in cool conditions, the procedure requires more time and attention. The bottle must be carried with extreme care and kept in an almost horizontal position to avoid stirring the sediment after being shown to guests, it should be placed in a basket or cradle and left for at least 15 minutes before decanting so that particles will resettle.
The ritual begins by preparing the carafe. If the wine has come directly from the cellar, the base of the carafe should be held briefly in a basin of hot water so that the wine's temperature will be raised a few degrees during decanting. If it is already at room temperature, this step isn't necessary. Pour a little of the wine into the carafe and swish it around, depositing the rinse in a service glass. This step, known as avvinare in Italian, is designed to remove any odors - such as chlorinated water or cleaning agents - from the carafe.
Light the candle and hold the bottle - whether in a basket or not - in a pouring position so that the neck is illuminated by the flame. Pour slowly and with a steady hand, holding the carafe at an angle so that the wine runs down its neck into the base. Stop pouring when the first signs of sediment appear at the bottle neck.
Check the wine's transparency by holding the carafe against the candle. Then pour a little into taster's glass for approval. Some connoisseurs prefer to let the wine rest in carafe for a while to compose bouquet and flavor before being served, though that isn't always necessary. Some very old wines lose vitality if they remain too long in carafe, so it is best to taste them and decide immediately after decanting.
Serving sparkling wines
Place the proper glasses - flutes for dry sparkling wines, rounded chalices for sweet spumante - around for guests and put a bucket filled with one-third ice and one-third water on the service table. If the wine has been refrigerated, the ice bucket will maintain a temperature of about 45 -50 F. If brought from the cellar, the wine will need about ten minutes in the ice bucket to reach the right temperature.
When ready to serve, dry the bottle with a towel if it has been in the bucket and place it upright on the serving table. Using a corkscrew blade (or the tab inserted on some bottles), remove the upper part of the capsule or foil so that the wire baling over the cork is exposed. Unwind the spiral stay with one hand held firmly over the cork to be sure it doesn't pop out when the baling is removed.
Grasp the bottles in one hand and with the thumb and two fingers of the other twist the cork gently but with a firm grip to avoid a quick release. If it doesn't yield to this pressure, use a pincer to begin removal. Tilt the bottle and ease the cork out in a spiral motion that must be braked to assure a subdued puff of carbon dioxide rather than an explosion. A towel or napkin held over the cork during removal subdues the sound and can be used to catch any foam that issues.
Hold the bottle at an angle for a few seconds to let the CO fumes escape before pouring a small amount into a tasting glass to check aroma, color, clarity and perlage. Serve the wine by holding the bottle with the thumb inserted in the "punt" (the conical indentation underneath), while grasping the base with the fingers and part of the palm. Pour a small amount into the glass of the person who ordered. If approved, serve the other guests. Pour slowly to avoid having the foam rise above the rim and let it subside before filling the glass sufficiently to show perlage. Place the wine in the ice bucket with a towel draped across the top to dry the bottle before each serving.
It's important to have a cellar or storage space large enough to hold a long-term stock of wine, but only if conditions are right. The room should be constantly cool (50-60 F) and with a source of light ventilation to avoid excess humidity. Nothing odorous should be stored in the room, which should be isolated from traffic or kitchen vibrations and excessive noise. Lighting should be dim and direct sunlight should be rigidly avoided. Creating a nice cellar not only illustrates your commitment to wine, but might even provide an extra and special table in your establishment.
Even if the wine cellar is primarily for storage, it's wise to keep it neat and attractive. Customers like to visit even the most primitive of wine cellars. Shelves should be built of wood, tiles or cement, which resist temperature changes better than metal. Bottles should be stacked horizontally with their labels facing up and grouped by type and then estate or zone of origin. Horizontal stacking is important because it keeps the cork in contact with the wine, thus damp and elastic. Also because when the bottles are massed together the temperatures of their contents tend to remain stable. If the room is subject to temperature fluctuations, it is best to keep sparkling wines, dry whites and rosés close to the floor, where it's cooler. Aged reds and strong dessert wines may be kept higher, since their alcohol helps preserve them.
Wines should be recorded by type and vintage with a note of original cost. In some large cellars, wines are catalogued under a numbered code that is kept in a computer keyed to register any changes in the wine list.
Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of America, Inc.
June 7, 2005
The Washington State wine industry has had a very slow start when compared to the other wine producing regions of the world, but its future looks very bright indeed. Considering that the first commercial vines were only planted on a small scale in the 1960’s, and that the first recognized American Viticultural Area (AVA) was not established until 1983, the state has had remarkable growth during the past two decades. The state currently has over 30,000 acres planted to vinifera grapes, and over 300 wineries, making it the second largest wine producing state in the nation.
What is surprising is that this prodigious, high quality wine producing region is still somewhat “undiscovered”, particularly by Washingtonians. Only 10% of Washington’s wine consumption is derived from Washington State wines. This is a remarkable figure that puts in some doubt how effective the Washington Wine Commission has been since its inception in 1987, and whose mission it is to promote the State’s wine industry. It is inevitable that the Washington Wine Industry will continue to grow and become more recognized for its outstanding quality achievements. However, there are a number of things that need to occur first, which will really accelerate and drive this trend into the future.
Washington’s grape growing history dates back to 1825, when grapes were first planted at Fort Vancouver. European immigrants continued to plant grapes for personal and communal consumption as far east as Walla Walla, up to the 1920’s when Prohibition was enacted. The law of unintended consequences, however, seemed to accelerate grape cultivation as churches and personal vineyard plots increased during Prohibition.
The predecessor to Chateau Ste. Michelle, Associated Vintners, began the first commercial plantings in Washington State under the guidance of wine luminary Andre Tchelistcheff in the 1960’s. Much of his time was spent convincing farmers to replant their fields with grapes, but it worked, and the industry has been steadily expanding ever since.
The growth that the state has experienced has been exceptional, with what seems like a new winery opening up every other week, and it is very likely that this trend will continue.
Eastern Washington has nearly ideal grape growing conditions, since it gets only about 8 inches of rain a year, while grapevines need about 14-16 inches a year to thrive. Therefore, the grower can control exactly how much water the vine gets to produce consistent high quality fruit. The number of grape producers has grown just as fast as the wineries, to reach more than 300 today, but of the five AVAs (Yakima, Columbia, Puget Sound, Walla Walla and Red Mountain) only a small fraction has been planted. Not even 1% of Columbia Valley is planted with grapes. Thus there is vast acreage available to expand production.
The new Washington State Wine Commissioner who is currently being hired will step into a very important and dynamic time for the state’s wine industry. The prior Commissioner had much success marketing and promoting WA wines outside of the region, but has done little to promote local consumption or to attract wine tourism to the Washington. It is odd, strange and increasingly uneconomical that Washingtonians drink more Italian and French wine than their own. With a weakening dollar, particularly vis a vis the Euro, foreign wines are becoming more expensive. Moreover, with Asia’s recovering economy, and China’s booming economy, the demand for European wines from this region will again be on the rise. These macroeconomic events present a great opportunity for Washington wineries to promote their product as a great value domestically versus foreign wines. The Commission can and should help this campaign. Eastern Washington is a beautiful place that should be promoted as a wine tourism destination, much like Napa Valley. The problem is that the vineyards and tasting rooms are very spread out and there is no real center for the region. Walla Walla is probably best situated to become the destination wine spot, but it needs to be built up and refined in order to achieve this. The area needs consolidated tasting rooms, larger, more resort style properties, better restaurants, and wineries that are located in close proximity to one another. This the Washington Wine Commission and help bring about; Napa is a perfect example of how wine tourism can not only promote a region’s wines, but also improve the economy of the whole region.
Finally, the industry itself will look much different in the future. The five AVAs that currently exist will increase exponentially, particularly at the expense of the ridiculously large Columbia Valley appellation, which will be carved up into smaller and smaller AVAs that represent distinct terroirs. The ratio of different wine grapes grown in Washington will also change dramatically at the expense of Chardonnay and Cabernet. Already grapes like Sangiovese and Nebbiolo are thriving, and this trend will continue, as wine makers experiment and have success with different varieties. The evolution of the Washington State wine industry will be a fascinating one to watch and a delicious one to partake of in the coming years.
By: Peter Richardsson and Jorg Steyskal
Free The Grape.com
October 28, 2006
Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, and primary author of the Declaration of Independence, was also an experimental farmer and viticulturist, as well as America’s first wine connoisseur. He envisioned our fledging nation as primarily an agricultural one, tended to by gentleman farmers of the thirteen colonies, of which he was one. Jefferson wanted grape cultivation and wine making to play an integral role in the new nation and he worked hard to try to make this a reality. “We could in the United States make a great variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.” Unfortunately, however, his attempts in viticulture and viniculture were unsuccessful, as were most of the nation’s attempts at that time, stemming mostly from a lack of science and technology. Nevertheless, Thomas Jefferson was influential in heightening the nation’s appreciation for wine, increasing the awareness of its health benefits, and planting the seeds of potential future domestic wine production in the Atlantic Northeast.
Thomas Jefferson was like many other well-to-do landowners in the British colonies of North America in the mid-1700s; he inherited large tracts of land from his father. On these grounds in Virginia, in his mid-twenties, he started to construct his estate, Monticello, which included a good sized wine cellar. His early cellar collection included very little traditional table wine, but rather large quantities of Madeira and Port.1 This was typical of cellar compositions at this time, because fortified and oxidized wines not only traveled better, but kept longer than table wines, and mass refrigeration technology was not yet available.
When Jefferson met Italian immigrant and wine maker Filippo Mazzei in 1773 he was so delighted that he gave him 2,000 acres of land next to his Monticello estate for vineyard cultivation and wine making. They formed a joint venture around the proposed Colle vineyard and Jefferson raised money for the project. George Washington, among other prominent members of society were investors.
Mazzei was amazed at the amount of wild native grapes that grew in the woods, as were the Viking explorers centuries earlier. (They called North America Vinland). He produced 2 barrels from these wild grapes; none of them were the classic European Vinifera variety.2 Wine had been made from these domestic Labrusca varieties for nearly a century on Long Island,3 but apparently those wines did not have much appeal to Jefferson who preferred the wines he had tried from Europe. Therefore, Jefferson also encouraged Mazzei to plant Vinifera varieties. This approach was consistent with Jefferson’s agricultural philosophy – he was first and foremost an experimenter. He grew, among other things, more than 250 varieties of vegetables from around the world at Monticello. Many of the early American farmers used this approach, since the land use was so new they needed to figure out what plants grew best in the different soils and microclimates of the Atlantic Northeast. Unfortunately, Mazzei was never able to get Colle fully up and running, since he was sent to Europe as a U.S. liaison.
Jefferson’s first attempt to start a vineyard and winery had failed, but he soon got a golden opportunity to explore the viticultural regions he so wanted to reproduce at home – he was sent to France. From 1784 – 1789 Jefferson was the U.S. trade commissioner and then Ambassador to France. During that time he immersed himself in the French culture. Jefferson was impressed by how prevalent a role wine played, and how well the French handled its consumption. In the U.S. whiskey was by far the most common alcoholic beverage and according to Jefferson, “whiskey kills one third of our citizens and devastates their families”. These observations, encapsulated in the following sentence shaped much of Jefferson’s belief in the health benefits of wine, “No nation is drunken where wine cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage."
Upon his return to the U.S., where he was eventually elected to two terms as President, Jefferson often spoke out on the health benefits of wine over whiskey. He also fought against import tariffs on wine, proclaiming “… it is a tax on the health of our citizens”. He also supported an increase in beer production and consumption over whiskey, including hiring a British sea captain to help him brew beer for his Monticello estate. Although mass media outlets were not yet available for Jefferson to get his ideas across, and he had no scientific evidence to support his claims to the health benefits of wine, he did influenced many in the social elite, including starting, and stocking the wine cellar at The White House for Presidents both before and after him.
Although Filippo Mazzei never returned from Europe to cultivate vineyards, Jefferson’s efforts continued. He wanted the U.S. to be able to produce high quality wines like in Europe, but he was torn on how to do it; either use the domestic non-Vinifera grapes and improve viniculture techniques, or import Vinifera grapes. He struggled with this for years, as is evidence by his continual replanting of the vineyard with European vines,4 while encouraging others to work with domestic varieties. “I think it would be well to push the culture of that grape (domestic), without losing time and effort in searching of foreign vines, which will take centuries to adapt to our soil”. Jefferson’s efforts, and really all other European vine cultivation efforts in the new nation failed, (California was not yet part of the U.S.), most likely due to Phyloxera.5
Thomas Jefferson was truly a viticultural pioneer and an advocate for a high quality domestic wine industry, and although his efforts failed to produce the European style wine he desired, he laid the foundation for the future. If Jefferson had had the benefit of science and technology to employ pesticides, rootstock grafting, etc., he would have eventually produced Vinifera wines as are produced on his original Monticello property today by Jefferson Vineyards.
1). Passions: The Wines & Travels of Thomas Jefferson. James M. Gabler. Bacchus Press 1995. Pg. 3.
2). Jefferson Vineyards web site.
3). The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. Tom Stevenson. DK Publishing Inc. 1997. Pg. 487.
4). Monticello.org web site.
5). General Viticulture. A.J. Winkler. University California Press. 1965.
- American History. Si. Edu web site.
- Thomas Jefferson: The First French Connection. Jeremy Josephs.
- Wines & Wines, July 2002.
- Virginia Wines.org web site
- Whitehouse.gov web site.