Last month, Frances Dinkelspiel's new book, Tangled Vines, cracked the New York Times' Best Seller list. It's a great read, since it mostly follows the events leading up to an arson-caused wine-warehouse fire in 2005, in which 4.5 million bottles of wine worth at least a quarter-billion dollars were lost.
Dinkelspiel's account of that inferno, as well as the man who sits in jail for causing it, is riveting, but I found myself even more interested in the author's numerous references to an organization called the California Wine Association, which controlled as much as 84 percent of the state's wine business from 1894 until 1920. That means the C.W.A., as it was called, was in charge of millions of gallons of California wine that were stored in almost two dozen San Francisco warehouses, most of which were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and the fires that followed.
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Another two million [gallons of wine] were salvaged from the C.W.A.’s main headquarters, at Third and Bryant Streets, but not before “the wooden tanks and casks came apart in the fire storm,” as [wine historian Charles] Sullivan describes it. The spilled wine might have washed into the streets as it had at other warehouses, but a “plugged sewer line” and the building’s solid concrete walls and floor kept the sloshing wine within the structure. Suddenly, the building itself had become a wine cellar, which enabled the C.W.A. to pump the precious liquid through fire hoses to a small fleet of barges, which were towed to Stockton in the San Joaquin Valley, where the wine was distilled into brandy.
The U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority has banned winemaker Premier Estates' "Taste the Bush" advertisement, created by agency Saatchi Masius. According to the government agency, the phrase is understood "to be a reference to oral sex, particularly given that it was accompanied with the image of the wine glass positioned directly in front of the woman's crotch" and that the "ad presented the woman in a degrading manner."
Of course, the value of the ad's earned media, aka free publicity, has far exceeded anything Premier Estates could have paid for.
ASA Ruling on Budge Brands Ltd t/a Premier Estates Wine (via Huffington Post)
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I'm not much of a drinker. I like to have an occasional sip of my wife's wine when she has a glass. I do enjoy opening wine bottles, though, and this opener by Brabantia is my favorite. It's easy to use, and pretty fool-proof. You just place it over the neck of the bottle and turn the knob. The teflon-coated screw grabs the cork and pulls it out. The plastic model is $11 and the stainless steel model (the one I use) is $18 on Amazon. Read the rest
Kathleen Wilcox on the trend for weed-infused wine, here quoting Dr. Carl Ruck… Read the rest
As previously posted, Pope Francis plans to chew coca leaves and already drank tea infused with coca, the raw ingredient in cocaine, during his visit to Bolivia.
Psychedelic historian Michael Horowitz points out that Francis is following in the footsteps of Pope Leo XII who appeared in an advertisement for the coca-infused French wine Vin Mariani, popular in the late 19th century. Read the rest
With respect to the finding that cheap wine is as good as expensive wine
, I respectfully submit that free wine is better than any other wine. Read the rest
Fox News investigates
: "According to a report released this week by Morgan Stanley Research, there was a global undersupply of about 300 million cases of wine in 2012, the largest deficit recorded in almost 50 years."
Sorry, my fault! Read the rest
A Chinese woman reportedly suffered a snake bite when the reptile jumped from her wine bottle and struck her hand. Apparently, the woman from Shuangcheng, Heilongjiang Province had been drinking pickled snake wine to treat her rheumatism, but this particular snake was still living. Snake wine is a common curative in traditional Chinese medicine. (Global Times)
(image: Genghiskhanviet/Wikipedia/CC) Read the rest
We all know that you can drop red food dye in white wine and get a critic to call it plummy and tannic. But the same holds true for classical music and other snob-infested culture zones. Alex Mayyasi at Priceonomics:
Expert judges and amateurs alike claim to judge classical musicians based on sound. But Tsay’s research suggests that the original judges, despite their experience and expertise, judged the competition (which they heard and watched live) based on visual information just as amateurs do. ... The key to understanding the aforementioned wine research - without concluding that the entire wine industry is a massive conspiracy powered by snobbery to sell identical fermented grape juice - is that just like with classical music, we do not appraise wine in the way that we expect.
If it comes in a bottle and you paid more than $30 for it, you're probably a sucker. Read the rest
I don't know anything about wine, but I like the looks of Vinport's limited-edition Star Trek wine featuring label art by Juan Ortiz. The labels represent classic ST episodes: "The City on the Edge of Forever," "Mirror Mirror," and "The Trouble with Tribbles." Star Trek wine (via Laughing Squid) Read the rest
Winter is here. Which means it's time once again to start science-wanking the climate of George R.R. Martin's "Game of Thrones" series. Back in May, i09 had a great piece on possible astronomical explanations for Westeros' weird seasons, where Summer and Winter can each last a decade. The hard part (which prompted lots of great conversations here) is that the lengths of the seasons are apparently totally unpredictable. Here's an eight-year-long Summer. There's a Winter that lasts five years and another that lasts a generation. The implications for food storage, alone, are enough to drive one batty.
Word of Martin says this is magic. But it presents so many science-related questions that it's really, really fun to speculate about how you might explain the differences between that world and ours in purely naturalistic terms.
Now, at The Last Word on Nothing, Sean Treacy brings up a different sort of food-related problem that I'd not even considered while I was busy trying to figure out the volume of the average Westerosi grain silo. How do you grow wine grapes without predictable seasons?
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... grapevines have a life cycle that depends on regular seasons. In winter, grapevines are dormant. Come spring they sprout leaves. As summer begins, they flower and tiny little grapes appear. Throughout the summer the grapes fill up with water, sugar and acid. The grapes are finally ready for picking in early autumn, then go back to sleep in winter. This cycle is why wineries can rely on a yearly grape yield.
A moment of silence, please. Some complete bastard in Italy has destroyed 84,000 bottles of Brunello
, worth at least $25m. [Eric Asimov/NYT] Read the rest