Situated in a former barrel hall, the Museum of Wine in Art contains exceptionally rare items of 17th century German gold- and silverware, jugs, cups and goblets from the fabulous treasure of the kings of Naples, mediaeval tapestries, paintings, ivories, glassware, Chinese, Japanese and Persian porcelain and much more. It is a magical place where so many artists and art forms, cultures and religions bear resounding witness to the eternal and fruitful dialogue between art and wine.

That’s the Musee du vin, from Chateau Mouton Rothschild. By appointment only. (Yes, I want to go.)

Tasting Note: Petite Petit

This is a Petite Petit, a 2016 Petite Sirah from Lodi. It’s clear deep purple, with a clean medium intense aroma. Smells of black ripe plum, jam mines, fig. Incredibly soft tannins, almost medium light in nature. Dry, medium acid medium body. Similar aspects on the palate - maybe a bit of bell pepper. This comes from Lodi a hot climate in Northern California. I suspect the producer was not premium and therefore didn’t use things like egg albumen for fining. Petite Sirah is a strange choice as it’s usually a blending grape. I guess with the label and the circus that the producer sought something fun and different. He used a cork - possibly to denote tradition vis a vis the circus? Overall an acceptable wine: lacks complexity, intensity, and length.


Hot take: Willamette Valley


I just came back from a wine trip with friends to the Willamette Valley. We visited 6 wineries mainly focused on Pinot. There was a lot of great learnings, and overall I found it to be a reminder the importance of going to a viticultural area to understand its complexity. By complexity I not only refer to the complexity in wine itself but in the way a community ebbs and flows around the wine trade. The stark differences between e.g. Domaine Serene (corporate, grandiose) and White Rose (familial, back-to-earth).

While the Willamette is known for its Burgundian climate and similar Old style wines, the subregions and soil variation itself indicate there is ripe opportunity to experiment beyond the classics. 

I was surprised to learn about the number of Pinot clones (Dijon 666, etc.) and the way that clonal differences impact taste (e.g. a slow clone planted in a fast ripening climate will develop funk). 

Perhaps the best part of our trip was a random stop off at the Dundee Hills Wine Library, an emerging tasting room and production house run by a sole proprietor whose partnering with up-and-coming winemaker Jesus Guillen (of White Rose). Lots of promise between these two, especially in terms of cultivating an experience tailored to a certain clientele.


Jancis on entertaining

We often serve Riesling instead of something fizzy before a meal because with its relatively high acidity it is particularly refreshing and low enough in alcohol to drink without anything more than a few mixed salted nuts.

That’s Jancis Robinson on how to entertain guests with wide-ranging cellars, in “A host of ideas for entertaining” (Financial Times, 2018)

Going deep on esters tonight

“A winemaker may wish to create a young wine that is similar to Beaujolais Nouveau or a fresh white wine that is meant for immediate sale. In these cases, the formation and retention of esters during fermentation will be critical to wine style. Another vigneron may wish to make a Pinotage table wine that has deep flavours of smoke, earth and a varied assortment of berries. In this case, the winemaker might view isoamyl acetate (an ester) as a fault and attempt to minimise its impact on their wine by controlling viticultural and winemaking practices which will influence this compound.”

That’s from Russell Moss over on, which looks to be a promising place to learn from. 

Looking at the basket press vs horizontal press

Video from “ask a winemaker” detailing basket presses (aka vertical screw press) Thousand year old design still in use by many major wineries (eg Chateau Petrus). It uses pressure on a mass of skins by screwing down a lid. This causes cells to rupture and further releases grape contents. The only problem is that it’s quite labor intensive, requiring clearing out with a shovel.

In contrast, a look from a winery on the horizontal screw press. This is the more modern variation typified by the Vaslin press. It’s basically a basket on its side and uses pistons and cylinders to rotate around and release juice.


Why chemical analysis is not enough

“It is the concentration of (complex flavor compounds alongside sugars, acids, and polyphrnols) that creates fine wines. The complexity of these components makes it almost impossible to define the quality of wine in terms of chemical analysis. The simple analysis of Chateau Latour of a good vintage, for example, would be identical to that of a basic vin de table. The difference lies neither in the alcohol, nor total acidity, not any of the other basic components, but in the myriad constituents that make up the flavor of the wine.”


That’s charted chemist David Bird on the complexity of wine. Just digging into his legendary book: “Understanding Wine Technology”. So far so good. What I liked about this quote is that it underlines how wine is, in essence, a beautiful combination of art and science, and that it’s evaluation therefore must always be looked at through such lens. To me this resonates true for much of life, or at least when attempting to understand any complex human production.

On wine containers

Given the historical precedent for change in wine containers, the bottle shouldn’t be heralded as a classic as it is a relatively modern concept.  Although seen as an inelegant solution, the bag-in-box cask should not be dismissed.  Since Louis Pasteur’s famous discovery concerning oxygen’s harmful effects on wine, the industry should be compelled to embrace the progression towards a new container that provides non-cellar worthy wine with better protection from oxygenation.

That’s Emily Kate back in 2014 over on Academic Wino, on the history of wine containers. Just came across her interesting YouTube channel as well.