Fermented Thoughts

This page is dedicated to all those random thoughts, flowing through the brain of the average wine writer. These thoughts, become trapped in the barrel of their minds; just waiting for the right day or time to be uncorked upon an unsuspecting wine-world.

Some folks would call this a 'rant' page, and that's also accurate. That said, it's highly recommended that the reader pour these thoughts into a decanter first, with copious hours of decanting in advance of reading this stream of consciousness, before imbibing.


"The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity." - Walt Whitman
Today's Rant By Bill Eyer: December 06, 2018
Put a Cork in It: Simplicity is the key when it comes to uncorking a bottle of wine and also understanding the role of the closure. I know for most folks who are new to wine, you may be surprised to find that you'll need some tools to get into a majority of the better bottles of wine today, that is unless said bottle only needs a quick snap of the wrist and crack of the cap.

Of course, most of the wine from Australia, for example, comes with quick snap screw-caps, as well as a majority of the wines of New Zealand. While caps are inherently more comfortable to deal with as a consumer, requiring no tools whatsoever to access the wine in the bottle, it's not a natural product, like cork is. But as the producer, depending on the number of punctures in the liner, thus controlling the degree of oxidation over a period of time, thus aging the wine. But how exactly are these products which compose the cap acquired? Striping mining in some cases, and a plastic liner, hmm, not sure that's an environmentally sound way to go.

But some studies show that the screw caps are better at preserving wine adding a level of consistency, previously unknown with corks. Do you honestly want your natural product wine touching a synthetic product the screw cap? Are they (caps) great for quick turn wines, that will be consumed quickly, like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, inexpensive Chardonnay? You betcha, I value those caps, especially in those categories.

Ahh yes, the age-old question, stelvin (aka screw cap) cap or cork? Let's dive right in; this is one of my favorite topics to debate. It's chic and oh-so-fashionable to be excited over the screw cap, in fact as I eluded to earlier, some countries have entirely adopted the SC as their closure of choice. But did you know some wine producing regions do not allow the SC as an alternative closure?

Some claim the failure rate of cork is 5% but in my personal experience, and yes as a wine writer, and I get to uncork a bit more wine than average vino-sapiens, I've only encountered a 1% failure rate. This data is of course anecdotal. But what of screw caps, can they also be 'corked', meaning can they become a victim of TCA? (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole) The answer is yes, but the perception among wine enthusiast is that it's not an issue, but it can be.

Here's something else to consider for those advocating the demise of cork closures. Would you agree to pay more (subsidize) for stelvin closures to offset those now unemployed in Portugal and other cork producing countries? I'm fond of saying folks should be willing to live by the courage of their convictions, or put more colloquially, put your money where your mouth is.

Am I suggesting every producer use cork exclusively, solely to keep that industry going? No, not at all. Frankly, I do not believe it's an all or nothing proposition either though. Portugal has been sustainably harvesting cork for centuries, I'm pretty sure that's a long time. So it’s probably not wise to dismantle an entire industry without a solid plan in place first. Now let's talk about the environmental impact of Stelvin closures, it has recycling issues, no one is recycling caps and, let's say corks end up in a landfill, not good, but it’s not awful either.

Here's another consideration which popped up in a discussion board conversation about barrels last week, another natural product. “The capture of carbon by the cork oaks during the photosynthesis process results in plant growth and transforms atmospheric CO2 into O2 and, in the case of organic matter, into cellulose. For this reason, the forest is considered to be an important carbon sink.” source the Porto Cork Council. 

Other types of closure, like plastic corks, uh-no. C'mon do we honestly need more plastic in landfills or have them become stuck in a sea turtles nose? How about glass closures? Yep, those I like and they're showing up more and more. Glass is still actively recycled in every state of the union, think about it, granted some states do more than others. 

How are you going to seal Champagne bottles or sparkling wines made in methode champenoise? You need corks and the cage, and a bottle cap won't cut it. In my opinion, I believe cork enhances the quality of the wines it touches; but not all cork is created equal either, "you get what you pay for" is perfect catchphrase to put an exclamation on my point. What do you think? 

Today's Rant By Bill Eyer: November 06, 2018

Tartrates In My Wine? Argh, what is this? Do I take it back to the store? Why does my cork have diamonds on it? Oh wait, these are red, why does my cork have rubies on it? Is this mad science gone wrong? Do I panic and run around like a crazy loon-bag?

Wine stability treatments are a time and a resource consuming practice in winemaking and mostly treat what is a cosmetic issue in wines. So what to do, heat, chill or do nothing, let's explore those options here on the rant page.

To chill or not to chill that is a good question, it's NOT about a sensory or even a quality issue, it's all about appearances. No one wants to serve wines with the appearance of glass shards in the bottle, but not every winery has access to the equipment necessary to perform cold stabilization. It's a significant cost in the winemaking process. Consider this, you're not only losing time to market, but the electricity cost is also substantial, keeping wine at its freezing point for two weeks and lastly, on average you'll lose 5% of the wine that is cold stabilized.

So many buts.....But the concern over precipitates is often for white quick turn wines, like Sauvignon Blanc for example. On the other hand, red wines don't need cold stabilization, as they are barrel aged throwing out precipitates over the course of a year on their own in most cases.

But if you choose to not cold stabilize your white wines, you can expect it to be an issue that will crop up when the average wine consumer unwittingly places their wine in the refrigerator to chill it and they will see what is known colloquially as wine diamonds. If you do have the equipment, and you do decide to take this extra step, it's best or recommended to save it as the last step before the final racking or filtering process.

Most consumers today, are savvy to this process, and will not give it a second thought. But consumer education is a continual process, as the younger set enters into the market. While the "stainless steel-glycol jacket era" collectively gave the winemaking community a warm fuzzy feeling with removing the issue before it ever left the winery in a bottle, new and improved methods of removing precipitates have been developed, like potassium removal strategies and crystalline inhibitors for example.

Heat stabilization is a common practice for white and rose wines to help remove excess protein. But for red wines, it's more of a common practice for those in the mass commercialization arena. Heat stabilization is not necessary for wine quality or making it safer to drink, but a heat stable wine is far less likely to have a hazy appearance over the life of the wine. A protein haze is far more of a potential issue in white wines than red wines, whose phenolic material often causes it to precipitate out during the winemaking process. So dear consumer if you see wine diamonds in your boozy Chardonnay you refrigerated, don't panic, it's no biggie.

Today's Rant By Bill Eyer: August 23, 2018

How Wine Criticism Is Changing

"Today, about 800,000 people visit the site each month, and more than 2,200 wines are reviewed on the site each day. This means CellarTracker users review more wines in just six days than Robert Parker reviews in an entire year."
It's time once more boys and girls to trudge out the weathered and beaten straw-man from the closet. Ugh, just what we needed another "wine-scores" are dead article [link to the original article above]. It must be a slow day at the office, huh? I hear this kind of thing all the time, but I don't see any evidence to support the straw-man conclusion.

First, the quote above is a prime example of an apples/orange comparison. So 'Sherlock' if you want me or anyone else to think that every one of those eight hundred thousand folks who you cite in the statistic above has the same 'chops' as Parker or any other wine reviewer for that matter, pardon me, but I'll just have to laugh.

I've worked on the retail side of the wine trade for many years, one where we don't have scores posted at all and also at a place which used neckers to call out scores. Some wine stores keep a list of those 'scores' for customers and clients who ask for them and to be quite honest, many consumers still depend on them to affirm their buying decision.

Second, uh, if you've [the writer] been to any Costco wine department recently, you would see with your very own eyes that SCORES are still in extensive use and in fact, they have just added the voice of another critic, the stingy Stephen Tanzer. The citing by the author from a handful of boutique wines stores as evidence, really? C'mon man, please get real, no one is buying the shite you're laying down.

Third, you use this point to support your conclusion. You breathlessly write in the article, "And then there are social media. Facebook has eclipsed 1 billion active users; Twitter has half as many. Earlier this year, Instagram announced that it has over 100 million users." Blah, blah, blah. Uh okay, so really, how many of those folks on those platforms actually review wine? But let's not forget to mention Vivino and Delectable, most of whom using the Vivino app, are just ordinary, garden-variety wine enthusiasts who taste and sample very few different wines over the course of even a month.

Bottom line: is the face of wine criticism changing? Possibly, but most certainly it's only doing so at glacial speeds. Perhaps a better argument to make would have been the 'evolution of wine-scores,' but you're the professional writer I'll leave that to you. Do #Wine Scores Still Matter? Despite the opposition in some quarters, the answer is a resounding yes!


Popular Posts