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Winemakers Must Come Clean

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Interesting, refreshing article about "post modern" wine making:

"Almost everybody uses [modern] technology, but they want to be seen as on the artisanal side," Smith says. "That's why we all 'do the minimum,' whatever the hell that is. It's an illusion, and we've worked very hard to create it. I'm offering an alternative that we just be straight with people."

Smith's new book, "Postmodern Winemaking," is an occasionally dense text studded with moments of poetry. He can go deeply into the molecular changes in wine and the methods that cause them. And his embrace of wines is inclusive; on the phone, he bristles at the idea that wines with less oak flavor could be considered "better."


We're back!

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We're back in Florence from an extended trip to the U.S. and eager to talk about wine!

Firstly, FWM will be changing our focus and mission. Due to the persistent global economic slowdown, the absolute glut of wine in the U.S. market, and the need to focus on other existing business, our own efforts to import and sell wine on the Internet are now on hold. We were very close and I believe the model could work with just a little tweaking and investment, but for us at this time it is best put on hold.

That means that the focus of FWM will now be on news, events, tastings, and blogging about Italian Wine, with a focus on the Tuscan region.

I am also available to consult with producers on Direct To Consumer marketing, and to assist in online branding, e-commerce initiatives, and social networking. If you want to sell direct from your vineyard in Italy, send me a message. Even if you already have a website, I can provide a review and consulting to improve your efforts.

This weekend was the annual wine tasting in Greve, and next weekend is our favorite intimate event of September, Vino al Vino in Panzano.

And coming near the end of the month is the Florence Wine Town event - hope to see you there!

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Gambero Rosso 2011 for iPhone

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gambero-rosso-2011.pngGambero Rosso Italian Wines 2011 has been completely revised to make it more attractive and easier to use and includes over 20,000 wines and 2,350 wineries. Find all the descriptions of prize-winning three glasses wines for the last ten years, with a special section dedicated to ones that sell for under twenty dollars.

Features:
  • Search for wine by name, producer, type, region, price, variety and score
  • Wine reviews including variety, appellation, price, Gambero Rosso score, with the possibility of adding your own photo, commenting, or sharing the information on the principal social networks
  • The unique section devoted to all the wines receiving awards from Gambero Rosso: new this year, all the three glasses wines of the last decade and a special section for the three glasses winners costing under fifteen euros.
  • Develop your own wine cellar, using the time-tested evaluation forms developed by Gambero Rosso
  • 2,200 reviews of wineries by zone, complete with production information, list of wines, services offered and all contacts necessary to organize your visits.
  • Extra content to help you understand how the three glasses method of evaluation was developed and works today, and a mini-guide on pairing food and wine.


Italian Wines 2011 Gambero Rosso - Gambero Rosso

Update, first wines announced

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It is taking a while, but paperwork is being filed, labels are being approved, and in general things are going forward. Just wanted to post a quick update that we are fairly certain our first two wines will be Fattoria Rignana Chianti Classico, and Stefano Amerighi's Syrah from Cortona.

Both of these wines fit our criteria of small, handcrafted production, with super high quality fruit and hands on, traditional, winemaking techniques. They are also both from "organic" farms - meaning no pesticides, herbicides, etc. except for the approved naturally occurring compounds of copper and sulfur (I will be posting complete details when the product pages are created - there are various levels of organic and/or biodynamic farming in Italy and I want to make sure we get that all right and customers have complete information).

But most importantly, they are wines that make you say "WOW" when you try them. In fact the Rignana Chianti Classico was the first wine I really "found" here in Florence - I had got a bottle at a small shop somewhere in town (I claim it was at Le volpi e l'uva but they don't seem to remember ever stocking it), and after drinking it with a dinner one Friday night just got up and drove down to Panzano the next morning to see where exactly it came from - the wine was that good. Luckily the owner showed up to meet me eventually (he was in Florence too) and I have been drinking their wine ever since. I am incredibly excited to be able to bring these wines to America and hope that some of you will be too!

What Alder said

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Please read the whole post on Vinography:

Are You A Wine Lover? Then Call Your House Representative. Now.

I've been known to spout an opinion now and again about the Three Tier alcohol distribution system in this country, and the maddening array of ridiculous regulations that govern our ability to purchase alcohol. Mostly, however, I stay out of the fray because I'd rather write about, and I'm sure you'd rather read about, fantastic wines.

But something happened yesterday that sent chills down my spine, and made it imperative that I broadcast to as many of you as possible the urgent need to call your Congressional Representative immediately. When you get one of their aides on the phone here's what you need to say:

Under no circumstances should they vote for a house bill HR 5034: The Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2010.

While this would be bad for us personally and what we are trying to do here, it is nothing compared to what it would mean for millions of consumers and entrepreneurs in the U.S.

Some Press for us - Palate Press

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howard-arianna.jpgLate last fall I got an email from Howard Hewitt (that is Howard with Arianna Gelpke from Corzano e Paterno in the photo) - he was going to be in Tuscany and was looking for an alternative wine tour. He had found Florence Wine Merchants somewhere on the web, and we started an email dialogue that ended up with us taking a trip to the wineries/agriturismos of Corzano e Paterno and Fattoria Rignana, with a stop for lunch in Greve in Chianti for good measure.

Howard was kind enough to write up some of our experiences that day (New Year's Eve day 2009!) and also explain what I am trying to do here with Florence Wine Merchants in a new article that just went live on the Palate Press: "Small Italian Wineries Struggle to Crack U.S. Market"

I can't thank him enough for his help in spreading the word. Check out his blog Grape Sense - A Glass Half Full when you get a chance.

Amazon giving up on wine sales

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amazon.pngPicked this up from Vinography, the story was originally from the Wall Street Journal:

Amazon.com has ended a trial program to sell wine online, the company confirmed.

The wine sales pilot, which the e-commerce giant launched last year, was intended to sell wine from California's Napa Valley and other U.S. regions.

An Amazon spokesman declined to give details about why the company ended the program.

The end of the program may have been related to financial troubles at partner New Vine Logistics, which had been tapped to handle shipments for Amazon. Over the summer, that company suspended operations amid financial problems, but then later got new investment from Inertia Beverage Group.

I had met a guy here (Florence) in June who said his company was the logistics partner for Amazon and that they were already selling wine online - I had told me I didn't think that was the case yet - I think I was right :)

Anyway - is this news good, bad, etc? I think it is a little bit of the sign of the times - if there was strong demand, I think Amazon would have found a way forward, with or without New Vine (especially since Inertia has now assumed New Vine's operation). But the facts are that we are in a wine glut, demand on the top end is weak, and due to expansion and technology there is jut a ton of wine in the world. It is great news for most consumers, but weak news overall for the wine economy.

The Challenge

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Well cinderellawine.com - the newest venture from Gary Vaynerchuk and the Wine Library - went live last night, and their first wine just had to be from Tuscany!

47563.gifThe offering is the 2003 "Solengo" IGT from Argiano - at the unheard of price of $23.33 a bottle - with free shipping on orders of 3 bottles or more. It is interesting to me for a lot of reasons, but first and foremost it has to send a shiver down the spines of Tuscan winemakers. We are seeing some true price (and perhaps brand) destruction. Once wines like this start selling at these prices, others are sure to follow. And what do makers of Chianti Classico do? Plenty Classicos are in this price range, with most Riservas beyond this price point. I am not saying this is categorically "bad" news for the industry, but it could be a harbinger of new parameters of price that will force many people to rethink what they are doing - and I mean everyone in the business.

To those of you who are going to buy some - enjoy!

Just a little more dire industry news...

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From the NY Times:

The reason is simple. Wine is a cash-flow business, and all along the pipeline, from farm to production to sales, cash is not flowing. Growers are behind on sales of grapes, which are fetching much lower prices than last year. Sales are sluggish for wines retailing at $15 a bottle and higher. Meanwhile, distributors, restaurants and retail shops are reluctant to buy more wine, preferring to sell through what they already have.

The whole thing is worth a read.

Really good article up on the "Fermentation" wine blog discussing the horror of the antiquated three-tier system that strangles many states, "The Three-Tier System and Consumer Access To Wine".

This is just another in a long list of reasons that large, commercial wineries not only thrive but dominate the market. If it was easier to get small producers into markets and everyone wasn't focussed on the economies of scale, we'd all be drinking much better wine.

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