Red Wine & Allergies

We’re used to hearing about red wine as the ultimate health food (see Wine and Dementia and Drink Red Wine, Live Longer, for example), but it turns out that there’s one area where its effects may be less than beneficial. Recent news articles suggest avoiding wine, and in particular red wine, if you suffer from allergies. Why? It turns out that red wine stimulates histamines and amplifies allergic reactions. Dr. Charles Owen, medical director of the Heart Hospital of Austin Emergency Department, is quoted in an article on by Kate Weidaw titled Wine could make allergies worse. Owen notes, Continue reading “Red Wine & Allergies”

Why Well-Reviewed Wine Tastes Even Better

It shouldn’t be surprising, but that Cabernet Sauvignon that Robert Parker rated at 95 points will, most likely, actually taste better to you once you are aware of the rating. The research doesn’t come from the world of wines, but rather from brain science. Harvard researcher Jamil Zaki showed men photos of women, and asked them to rate them for attractiveness. Then, he showed them ratings from a “previous group” that were, in fact, random. Continue reading “Why Well-Reviewed Wine Tastes Even Better”

Red Wine Gives Boost to Breast Cancer Drug

Red WineWe’ve known that red wine confers health benefits for years, but here’s a new one: researchers at the Cleveland Clinic, led by Charis Eng, MD, Ph.D., Chair of the Genomic Medicine Institute, have found that red wine boosts the effects of a common drug used to treat breast cancer. The drug is rapamycin, and the compound in the wine is, of course, resveratrol. The latter compound seems to be the active ingredient in red wine that drives most of its health benefits. Continue reading “Red Wine Gives Boost to Breast Cancer Drug”

One Glass of Wine = 149 Grapes

Grapes in WineWe love wine trivia, and we wondered how many grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine.

First, we ran across this factoid: about 630 grapes go into making a typical 750ml bottle. The statistic comes from Terry Armentor of Heck Estates, owner of Valley of the Moon winery, Kenwood Vineyard, Lake Sonoma Winery and Korbel as reported here.

Another calculation from Eno Wines estimates that the number of grapes used to make a bottle is in the 440-660 range.

149 Grapes in Your Glass

If we stick with the 630 number, it means each glass of wine takes 126 grapes to make, assuming you pour five glasses from a bottle. That’s about a 5-ounce pour. A more generous 6-ounce pour translates into 149 grapes. Continue reading “One Glass of Wine = 149 Grapes”

Malbec Dominance Continues

New sales data shows tht Malbec is officially the hottest wine export from Argentina:

Malbec stood for 40.1% of the volume of bottled wine exports during 2010 (this percentage was 34% in 2009). Except in The Netherlands (Chardonnay) and Paraguay (blend red wines), Malbec was the leader variety in the main 25 destinations, with high share percentages on the total, which in most cases is higher than 30%. For instance, in United States, 60% of the volume was for Malbec, while this figure amounted to 48% in Switzerland, 47% in Mexico and 37% in Peru. [From Malbec keeps on breaking records by Gabriela Marizia.]

From our perspective here at Box Wines, that trend makes a lot of sense. Malbecs are easy-drinking and usually (though not always) inexpensive. More importantly, it seems that even sub-$10 Malbecs are often quite drinkable. With the US economy still in recovery mode in 2010, good but inexpensive wines are a logical choice.

And, lovers of boxed wine can enjoy Malbec, too. We found Vaca Morada Malbec in a 3 liter box – .at around $4 per bottle, it’s a great value. This trend was evident last year, too, as reported in Malbec Crushing Other Grapes.

Generic Ads for Box Wines?

Tom Wark’s Fermentation blog recently suggested that the wine industry increase its appeal by doing national advertising with a pitchman like well-regarded actor George Clooney. The key elements of Wark’s proposed strategy are,

1. Every sector of the wine industry would need to pitch in (wineries, retailers, importers, wholesalers)

2. No region and no variety and no country should be highlighted

3. The TV creative must translate seamlessly into a print and on-line campaign.

The first two parts of that would seem to be potential blockers – getting everyone in the diverse wine industry to sign on would be a real challenge.

This provocative post got me thinking, though – would it be possible to launch a similar, smaller scale campaign to boost acceptance of box wines? Continue reading “Generic Ads for Box Wines?”

Nutrition Labeling for Wine?

Wine Nutrition LabelIn the not very distant future, each wine bottle (or wine box) sold in the U.S. might have a nutrition label like every other beverage. There’s a proposal being studied by the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau that would require all alcoholic beverages, including wine, to place a standard nutrition label on their packaging.

The rules could pose a special hardship for wineries, who have to cope with frequent changes in vintage and composition:

“If labeling is made mandatory, then the Wine Institute is asking for accommodations, such as being allowed to generalize the calorie and carb counts on wine, rather than needing to have each vintage of each variety analyzed. Additionally, they want the option of choosing the style of label, perhaps putting the information on a thin strip-style label rather than the more traditional (and much larger) box format that appears on other foods and drinks.” [From – Cheers? Booze bottles may get nutritional labels by Michelle Locke.]

I suppose it might be interesting to know the calories in a particular wine, though somehow I doubt it would lead to different choices. Picking lower-fat crackers is one thing; is one really going to pick a wine based on calories rather than taste and preference? Personally, I’d be most interested in such labeling for beers, where there is an enormous variation between brews. Sierra Nevada Stout, for example, packs in 20 carbs, about ten times as many as an ultralight beer.

What do you think – do wines need nutrition labels?

Oldest Winery Found in Armenia

A winery dating to 4000 BC was found in Armenia. The discovery included a grape crushing vat, along with the remains of grapes, grape seeds, and grape vine leaves. The oldest previous wine-making site dated to just 3000 BC.

On three pot shards, researchers from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, found a residue of malvidin, a pigment that gives grapes and wine a dark red hue.

The ancient seeds belonged to a domesticated grape variety, known as Vitis vinifera vinifera, that is still used to make red wine today, the team reported. [From the Wall Street Journal]

Sadly, no actual wine was found. Following this discovery, though, I expect at least one modern winemaker will use the remains discovered at this site to launch their own “prehistoric wine.”

Bouchard Finlayson Wine Tasting

Peter Finlayson
Peter Finlayson
While I was on board the Regent Seven Seas Mariner sailing from Cape Town, I was lucky enough to be part of a wine tasting conducted by Peter Finlayson, founder of Bouchard Finlayson winery in South Africa.

Bouchard Finlayson is located close to the southernmost point of the African continent, in the sea-coast town of Hermanus. The climate there is considered to be fairly Mediterranean-like. Summers are hot, and winters are wet but not very cold. They grow virtually all of their own grapes, and purchase only tiny quantities of grapes from other sources for their blends. In their densely-planted vineyards they grow Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, and various others. Surprisingly, they don’t grow Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, as Finlayson thinks those do well enough elsewhere in South Africa; he’d prefer to focus on Pinot Noir that can benefit from the unique microclimate of his location.

The wines sampled were:

Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer 2010

Riesling and Viognier make up most of this wine, with Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc playing contributing Roles. I found it to be pleasant, with green apple and peach notes and a creamy texture. There was no oak. A little tartness was present to add to the interest.

Missionvale Chardonnay 2009

This lightly oaked Chardonnay had a lovely tropical fruit nose. Peach and citrus notes led to a nicely acidic finish.

Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2009

Medium ruby in color, this Pinot Noir is the most visible offering of Bouchard Finlayson. It has a very nice raspberry aroma. It’s not big and bold on the palate, as one might expect from a Pinot Noir, but mild berry flavors lead into a surprisingly big finish with lingering black pepper notes.

Hannibal 2008

Peter Finlayson commented that Hannibal was his most common choice if he wanted a glass of his own wine. It’s a blend that features Sangiovese as its biggest component (60%), with additions of Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, Mourvedre, Barbera, and Shiraz. Hannibal entices the nose with a big aroma of cherry and clove. Tasting it was a little odd. The first taste didn’t seem to show much, but with another sip Hannibal exhibited a round, smooth fruitiness that transitioned into an exceptionally long finish with oak and prominent tannins.

Asked about closures, Finlayson said that his winery would continue to use tradional corks. Even though corks can have a negative effect at times, screw cap closures simply don’t offer the opening experience that a cork does.

Finlayson remarked that while some people call winemaking an art, he considers it a sport. The variability of weather and grapes, the time pressure to produce most of one’s product in a few weeks each year, and the fact that once bottled wines keep changing make it more like a competition than a predictable science.