Malolactic Fermentation in Red Wines

Malolactic Fermentation in Reds Wines
– Best Explanation Ever –

by Jo Diaz, The Wine Blog

Winemaker Patrick Melley of Russian Hill Estate Winery  just answered this question of Malolactic Fermentation. And for wine beginners (or intermediates, like me), this doesn’t get any better. As one of our clients, I get to edit for the winery on occasion. This was one of those times, but only on the technical business writing side for this one. not for winemaking.

In the past on this blog, I’ve discussed Malolactic fermentation, but only as it relates to white wines. For your benefit, I’ve reduced Malolactic fermentation, but only as it applies to white wine. (I’ve never had to explain ML regarding red wines, because I’ve always know it’s just done; no pomp and circumstance necessary… just done.)

So, White Wine and Malolactic Fermentation, According to Jo

It’s as easy as A + B = C

Acid + Bacteria = Cream
(Malic Acid + Bacteria = laCtic Acid, the same acid in Cream and milk.

If you didn’t know, now you’ve no got it.

But, this doesn’t apply to red wine in the same thinking, I’ve just learned… not the same way as it does for white wine. So, what is it about with red wines? Patrick explained to me that it’s different for red wines, because we can’t say they have a “Creamy” texture. They are, however, softened. Patrick’s explanation.

PATRICK MELLEY ~ On Malolactic in Red Wines

It seems that many people are unsure what it is; although, it’s often referred to when discussing wine. It’s commonly referred to as either “ML” or “Malo.”

While most people know about primary fermentation, where yeast converts grape sugar into alcohol with the byproducts of heat and CO2 production, most don’t yet understand the role of Malolactic fermentation.

It’s similar to primary fermentation, in that there’s a biological conversion of one product into another. In the case of “ML,” the process is done by bacteria rather than the yeast, which does the work in primary fermentation. In ML the bacteria will naturally convert the Malic acid, which is found in grapes, into Lactic acid. The bacteria usually work at a slightly slower pace than yeast, so the conversion usually takes longer to finish than that of the primary fermentation.

Some of the reasons that a winemaker wants to convert the malic acid into lactic acid is that it makes the wine have a softer feel. And more important, it makes the wine more stable during its ageing and bottling.


If there’s remaining malic acid in the wine prior to bottling, the wine can become fizzy during certain conditions, such as exposure to heat. The warmth will activate the bacteria, which is normally in wine, and allow it to begin converting any remaining malic acid into lactic acid. If it happens while in a bottle, the cork will not allow the CO2 gases to escape. When the bottle is opened, it appears to be fizzy due to the trapped CO2.

The whole ML process has some very complex chemistry, and the above explanation is a very broad overview of the process. I hope this helps to get a handle on Malolactic fermentation. In the meantime, keep enjoying Russian River wines!!

So there you have it, straight from “Ask the Winemaker”

They are softer, but we can’t call a red wine creamy, now can we?

96 Point, Stellar, Bold, Rich & Explosive Pinot


In 2001, two generations of the Cobb family came together to explore a shared passion for Pinot Noir with the founding of Cobb Wines. Focused exclusively on crafting single-vineyard, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs, Cobb Wines combines the winegrowing expertise of David Cobb — one of the pioneers of Pinot Noir  viticulture on the far Sonoma Coast — with the winemaking talents of his son, noted pinot noir specialist, Ross Cobb. The original seeds for Cobb Wines were planted in 1989, when David began cultivating pinot noir vines at his sustainably farmed Coastlands Vineyard. A marine ecologist by trade, David spent years studying soils and climatological charts in his search for the ideal place to found his vineyard. His search led him to the ridgetops of the Sonoma Coast, where he believed he would be able to grow grapes perfectly suited to a more complex and graceful style of California pinot noir. On weekend and summer breaks from college, David would be joined in the vineyard by his son Ross, who quickly grew to love the hands-on work of growing wine grapes. And the rest, as they say… is history!

Cobb 2017 Pinot Noir, Emmaline Ann Sonoma Coast
GGWC 79.99 Net Item

Use code COBB during checkout

Vinous 96 Points: “The 2017 Cobb Pinot Noir Emmaline-Ann Vineyard is another stellar wine in this range. Bold, rich and explosive, the 2017 possesses tremendous depth and nuance. Black cherry, plum, menthol, licorice and sage infuse the 2017 with tons of character. The 2017 is marked by a real sense of vertical energy and statuesque beauty. The 50% whole clusters are not especially evident. What a wine!”

Winery Notes: “The 2017 Emmaline Ann displays a pure, vibrant nose of lavender, rose water and conifer. Ripe red cherries and cranberries make up the core of the palate, and the weightless, deft texture this site tends to exude is here in spades. A woodsy, dried-mushroom note hangs in the background of this vintage, making this a slightly more savory and forward iteration of the usually restrained and always gorgeous Emmaline Ann”

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Andy Erickson’s Vivacious, Impeccable UNDER $70 Cabernet Blend

Arietta is the name for wines born of a passion for music. The name Arietta, meaning short aria or art song, expresses our belief that all great wines must sing. Both wine & song should “take flight,” in the course of which the qualities of balance, vibrancy, depth, overtones, and complexity resonate and give us a sense of exaltation.  Add ANDY ERICKSON, the longtime Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, etal winemaker and you have the keys to success!

Arietta 2017 Quartet (Bordeaux Blend) Napa Valley
GGWC 69.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code QUARTET during checkout

Winemaker Andy Erickson’s Notes: “The aromas coming from the glass after pouring the 2017 Quartet are delicate yet exuberant. Floral notes and red fruit aromatics are fresh and focused. Notes of red cherry, rose petal, black tea and bay laurel are among the first scents noted. The color of the wine is dark black-purple with a red note around the rim. This opaque dark hue belies the bright energy and focus of the wine. On the palate, the wine has a remarkable intensity, though it is balanced and well proportioned. Red raspberry, baked cherry, vanilla bean and crushed stones are some of the impressions as the wine hits the palate. The flavors build into an intense, long finish with polished tannins and lingering red fruit flavors. While this wine will age for a decade or more, it is immensely appealing immediately after opening.”

The wine is a blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot

Anthony Galloni: “The 2017 Red Blend Quartet is a delicious, easygoing Cab blend from Arietta. Expressive floral and savory notes add character and meld into a core of ripe red plum fruit. Cedar, sweet pipe tobacco, mint, crushed flowers and sweet spice all come together in a pliant, aromatic wine that is impeccable in its balance. This is a very pretty and expressive wine from Arietta that over delivers.”

Robert Parker 94 Points: “Deep purple-black in color, it features youthful, vivacious black and red currant notions with an undercurrent of black plums, mulberries, Indian spices and fragrant earth plus wafts of tobacco and new leather. Full-bodied and laden with decadent black fruit and spicy layers, it has a velvety backbone and long spicy finish.”

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When I tasted the latest Bevan wines I was speechless how good they were, even at this young stage! I opened, and decanted the wines at 1 PM, and tasted them at 4 PM. Every sip was stunning, amazing, wild! One bottling after another I was blown away, probably the best wines Russell has ever made! Top Notch! Unfortunately production levels are as always low, and not a large amount was allocated to me, but I am very excited to share the following highly rated wines from Bevan Cellars:
Bevan 2018 Ontogeny Proprietary Red, Napa Valley – 99 Points 
NET ITEM 104.99
Use code BEVAN18 during checkout
Mix & match with other BEVAN wines OK

Jeb Dunnuck 99 Points: “The 2018 Ontogeny should be up there with the 2017 and has lots of cassis and currant fruits as well as plenty of graphite, tapenade, salted chocolate, and leafy herbs. It’s a rich, full-bodied, deep, sexy beasty.”

Winemaker Notes: “We have to go back to the 2013 vintage to find an Ontogeny that is this enthralling. The wine’s pedigree is special: Tench, Sugarloaf, Harbison, Wildfoote, Saunders and Sage Ridge. We didn’t grow a single grape specifically to go into Ontogeny. Instead, we selected barrels from our vineyard designates to produce something enchanting, and this wine shows that we accomplished that. It cascades across your palate with seamless ease. Explosive notes of crème de cassis, lavender and huckleberries give the wine a luxurious fruit component. The mouthfeel is all about controlled power, the tannins come in waves, but they hit with incredible grace.”

Bevan 2018 Tench EE Red (Cabernet Blend) Napa Valley  – 100 Points – 
NET ITEM 204.99
Use code BEVAN18 during checkout
Mix & match with other BEVAN wines OK

Jeb Dunnuck 100 Points: “The same 60/40 split of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, brought up in new oak, the 2018 Tench Vineyard EE Red Wine is another incredibly pure, complex, yet powerful 2018. Rocking levels of crème de cassis, spring flowers, chocolate, and graphite give way to a full-bodied, pure, and seamless wine that has incredible potential.”

Winemaker Notes: “The 2018 EE Red Wine shows the vineyard’s complexity and depth. Where the Cabernet Sauvignon is about power and persistence, the EE mesmerizes and seduces you. The Cabernet in EE comes from Block 2A on the Tench Vineyard. which is made up of beautifully homogenized red soil that gives finesse and more refined textures. When combined with Cabernet Franc and a kiss of Petit Verdot, you get a wine that has complexity and a breadth of flavors and aromatics of fruit as well as ripe tobacco, violets and cedar. Complexity and harmony, the 2018 EE is magic.”

Bevan 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Tench Vineyard Oakville, Napa Valley –  98 Points 
NET 204.99
Use code BEVAN18 during checkout
Mix & match with other BEVAN wines OK

Jeb Dunnuck 98 Points: “Iron, crushed rocks, spice, and scorched earth notes all dominate the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Tench Vineyard, a rich, powerful yet balanced wine. Showing the purity of fruit that’s classic in the vintage, ripe tannins, terrific balance, and a big finish, it’s going to benefit from 2-4 years of bottle age.”

Winemaker Notes: “The Tench Cabernet Sauvignon is the purest version of this wine we have crafted to date. The fruit flavors are obvious from the second you pull the cork until you have consumed the last sip. Blackberry and boysenberry flavors drive this wine, but hints of spice and mocha complement them. Blocks 1A and 1B go into this wine, and their rocky, red soils give this wine its power. It has an captivating intensity that pushes it to a level that previous vintages have not achieved”
Bevan 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Sugarloaf Napa Valley –  98 Points  
NET 204.99
Use code BEVAN18 during checkout
Mix & match with other BEVAN wines OK

Jeb Dunnuck 98 Points: “A 50/50 split of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, the 2018 Sugarloaf Mountain Proprietary Red just pops on the nose with its blue fruits, wildflowers, violets, and wild strawberry aromas and flavors. Juicy and full-bodied, it has beautiful fruit, a plush, sexy texture, and notable freshness and purity.”

Winemaker Notes: “ The Sugarloaf Mountain Proprietary Red is back for 2018 and it is a true anomaly. In the Bevan portfolio, this wine is always the last to come around and show its stuff. In 2018 I feared it would be the slowest vintage ever to find its way, but it has already found its charm and grace. Once this wine was put in the tank it was off to the races. The intoxicating Cabernet Franc (60%) aromatics of exotic spices, dark cocoa, and floral perfume cannot be held back. The Merlot (40%) pushes the mid-palate and gives the waves of flavors and incredibly plush landing zone. This is yumminess to the limit.”

Bevan 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Wildfoote Vixen Stag’s Leap, Napa Valley 
NET 204.99
Use code BEVAN18 during checkout
Mix & match with other BEVAN wines OK

Tasting Notes: Very deep garnet-purple colored this Vixen Block Wildfoote Vineyard displays broad aromatics of cassis, black & blueberries,  with hints of spice, lavender & dark chocolate.  The lush wine is full in body,  loaded with bold flavors of black stone fruit, a touch of vanilla and a whiff of earthiness. Intense on impact, this wine is like a linebacker at first with its big frame, but elegant like a ballerina finishing with  finely grained tannins and just enough freshness.

Winemaker Notes: “In 2018 the Wildfoote Vineyard Vixen Block was magic in the tank. The fruit flavors were so red and blue, the floral components were so heady and intoxicating. The textures are what you hope for from Stag’s Leap, polished and supple, but in 2018 the wine has an extra level of intensity. The tannins are a little more powerful and the acid a dash crisper. The energy and verve in this wine makes it singular and unique in our portfolio.”

Also check out:


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Call 415-337-4083 or email for priority allocation.

Magnificent, 94 Point Côte Rôti from California

A British couple settled in the hills of Mendocino where they found land with schist-like Cote–Rotie soils on a windblown cool mountain top overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which would become their “estate” vineyard. With the assistance of Justin Smith (Saxum), Crole Meredith & Steve Lagier (Lagier-Meredith), Mike Officer (Carlisle) and Wells Guthrie (Copain) they set out to plant what has become a much regarded Rhone-varietal vineyard. Wells helped develop and maintain the vineyard. Under the tutelage of the great Roar winemaker (Scott Shapley) they have put some very good quality and well-priced wines on the wine map!

Halcon 2018 Syrah “Alturas” Estate, Mendocino
GGWC 35.99
Use code HALCON during checkout

Mix & match OK with other Halcon wines

The Alturas is a wonderful wine, offering up a youthful but superb bouquet of violets, cracked pepper, grilled meat and crunchy cassis. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied, concentrated and tensile, with fine-grained tannins, a deep core of crunchy fruit and a long, sapid finish. While this is already delicious, it’s emphatically a young wine, and the real fireworks will begin when it has five years on the clock. Cropped at 1.25-tons per acre and fermented with 50% whole clusters, this lovely Syrah from Halcón wouldn’t be out of place in a flight of great Cornas. It’s also shockingly good value.

Vinous 94 Points: “A stellar, alluring wine, the 2018 Syrah Halcón Vineyard captures the essence of this site in its combination of inky dark fruit and savory, perfumed explosiveness. Blueberry, sage, mint, lavender and spice all race out of the glass in a magical, deeply expressive Syrah that hits all the right notes. Th Alturas 2018 is just magnificent!”

Jeb Dunnuck 94 Points: “Leading off the two Syrahs, the 2018 Syrah Alturas (there’s normally a splash of Viognier) offers a beautiful, Côte Rôtie-like bouquet of black raspberries, spring flowers, bacon fat, and scorched earth. Made in a fresh, lively style, it has good concentration, medium body, bright acidity, and plenty of polished tannins. It displays beautiful elegance as well as complexity.”
Also check out:

Award Winning (Domestic) Rhone Varietal Tasting with Halcon owners Paul & Jackie Gordon


Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email for priority allocation.

Cabernet Franc Is on the Rise in Napa

Cabernet Franc Is on the Rise in Napa

by Shana Clarke

Cabernet Sauvignon

Courtesy of Caladan

is indisputably Napa’s premier red grape. But lately, Cabernet Franc has been gaining fresh attention among winemakers in the region. In the past few years, the grape has been making its way in more single-varietal bottlings and blends. Now, as growers plant more vineyards to Cabernet Franc and demand rises, grape prices have followed suit.

Cabernet Franc’s presence in the valley may still be small, but winemakers say they see the grape’s potential. “We have an opportunity to make a really great Cab Franc in the Napa Valley,” says Chris Carpenter, winemaker at La Jota Vineyard Co., which makes a $95 varietal bottling of Cabernet Franc. “We have the right climate, the right soils, and people are starting to pick up on it.”

For consumers, Cabernet Franc hits on multiple levels: It appeals to both classic Bordeaux aficionados, as well as a younger generation that is drawn to the leaner, herbal style found in the Loire. Carpenter reports that drinkers of his Cabernet Francs are recognizing the longevity of the variety and are beginning to think of it as a collectible wine, much like Cabernet Sauvignon.
For wine drinkers interested in getting in on Napa’s Cabernet Franc trend early, here’s what to know.

The first known Cabernet Franc in the region was planted in 1949 in Detert Vineyard, which was originally part of the To Kalon Vineyard. The original 18-acre site was predominantly Cabernet Franc — approximately 17 acres — largely due to the influence of Robert Mondavi, who purchased much of the fruit.
Although a replant of the west block of that vineyard in 2015 saw a higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon plantings go in, third-generation vintner Tom Garrett of Detert Family Vineyards says he has seen an uptick of interest in Cabernet Franc, such as their Oakville Cabernet Franc, which sells for $100. “From our perspective, both from making our own wine and selling grapes, we — as you can imagine — have seen the growth and interest in Cabernet Franc just continue to slowly grow,” says Garrett. “There are a lot of really passionate Cabernet Franc enthusiasts out there.”

Cabernet Franc

Courtesy of Gentl & Hyers

plantings are small in the region, but are growing. There are currently 1,211 acres of Cabernet Franc to Cabernet Sauvignon’s 24,354 acres. However, Cabernet Franc plantings increased by 13.5 percent from 2006 to 2016, and new projects indicate more to come.

At La Jota Vineyard Co., Carpenter started with a block of Cabernet Franc planted on St. George rootstock. “We still farm that particular piece and it is probably one of the oldest Cabernet Franc blocks in the Napa Valley,” he says. “But we’ve also planted additional Cab Franc up there as the popularity of that particular wine in the La Jota range has grown.” To meet customer demand, La Jota’s initial production of 200 cases quadrupled to almost 900 cases.

Carpenter’s conviction for Cabernet Franc in Napa is reflected in his newest project, Caladan. Aiming to create what he calls a “Right Bank expression” of Cabernet Franc in Napa Valley, he sources his fruit from four distinctive mountain sites — Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder, Diamond Mountain, and Spring Mountain — to produce a notably complex wine that sells for $150.

One of the biggest indicators of Cabernet Franc’s growing popularity is grape prices. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture 2019 Grape Crush Report, Cabernet Franc commands an average $9,493.79 per ton versus Cabernet Sauvignon at $7,865.52 per ton. This is not a one-off; Cabernet Franc has commanded a higher price point since 2016. While much of that is driven by supply and demand, the fact that there is such a demand speaks to the growing popularity of the grape.


Somewhat a fickle grape, Cabernet Franc “has a mean streak, and it’s a green streak,” says Dan Petroski, winemaker at Larkmead Vineyards. The challenge is this: Pushing Cabernet Franc to full ripeness causes it to lose its nuanced aromas and flavors. But when the grape is underripe, it can be unpleasant.

“There’s a weird love-hate relationship with Cabernet Franc in Napa Valley,” Petroski says. “I think we’d all say we love it, but we’re all afraid to champion it because we’re worried about the flavor profile not matching the Napa Valley profile.”

However, Petroski adds, “I think people are opening up to the idea that green is good, that these are more complex and nuanced flavors in our wines.”

Cabernet Franc’s

Courtesy of Larkmead

role as a blending grape also plays into its growing popularity. At Larkmead, Petroski changed the cepage of the winery’s LMV Salon, which sells for $185, so Cabernet Franc leads the blend rather than Cabernet Sauvignon.
From a business perspective, grape variety gives more options within a portfolio. “I’m using it personally at Larkmead to diversify our lineup,” says Petroski. “The majority of our vineyards was planted to Cabernet Sauvignon — over 70 percent. It’s not in our best interest to offer six red wines that are all Cabernet Sauvignon.”

One Cabernet Franc specialist in the region, Lang & Reed, has seen significant success with its sales, even during the pandemic. Owner John Skupny, who has been bottling single varietal Cabernet Francs since 1993, says he was initially quite concerned about sales at the onset of Covid-19, given that most of his wines are sold on-premise. However, he pivoted to direct-to-consumer sales channels and was able to sell through the vast majority of his wines, including the renowned $85 ‘Two-Fourteen’ Cabernet Franc, recouping “80 to 90 percent” of expected sales.

Whether this success — and those of the producers interviewed — is indicative of changing consumer tastes or a desire to buy beyond Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa, is anyone’s guess. Cabernet Franc plantings overall remain small and Cabernet Sauvignon continues to dominate. But the growing number of Cabernet Franc bottlings indicates an enthusiasm for the grape and a glimpse at what may be a growing interest in varietal diversity in the region.


95 Point UNDER $35 BIG RED


A British couple settled in the hills of Mendocino where they found  land with schist-like Cote–Rotie soils on a windblown cool mountain top overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which would become their “estate” vineyard. With the assistance of Justin Smith (Saxum), Crole Meredith & Steve Lagier (Lagier-Meredith), Mike Officer (Carlisle) and Wells Guthrie (Copain) they set out to plant what has become a much regarded Rhone-varietal vineyard. Wells helped develop and maintain the vineyard. Under the tutelage of the great Roar winemaker (Scott Shapley) they have put some very good quality and well-priced wines on the wine map!

Halcon 2018 Petite Sirah “Tierra” Theopolis Vineyard
GGWC 34.99
Use code HALCON @ checkout

Can mix & match with other Halcon wines

Vinous 95 Points: “The 2018 Petite Sirah Tierra Theopolis Vineyard is a deep, powerful wine. Black cherry, black plum, black pepper, menthol, licorice and chocolate infuse the Petite with tons of complexity and nuance. This is such a gorgeous, captivating expression of Petite. In a word: superb!”

Jeb Dunnuck 94 Points: “The 2018 Petite Sirah is another exceedingly elegant, seamless wine from Gordon’s estate vineyard. Deep purple-hued with notes of blueberries, California bay leaf, violets, and bouquet garni, it’s medium-bodied, elegant, and lightly textured, with the fresh, focused, streamlined style that’s present in all these new releases. It’s going to be reasonably approachable on release yet keep for 15 years, if you’re so inclined.”

Also check out:  


Make sure to sign up for the HALCON VIRTUAL WINE TASTING on Friday September 11

Award Winning (Domestic) Rhone Varietal Tasting with Halcon owners Paul & Jackie Gordon

Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email for priority allocation.



These wines are made by two friends from different continents. Union Sacré exists at the meeting of worlds. Two long time friends, Xavier & Philip, who arrived at the Central Coast from opposite ends of the world. Xavier is a WSET certified, oenology degree holder from France, Philip is a self-taught designer from Michigan. Between the two of them, Xavier and Philip have 25+ years experience working at various Central Coast wineries.

Union Sacre 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon “Le Confident” Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara
GGWC 29.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12 or more
Use code UNION18 during checkout

Le Confident from Union Sacré offers up sweet aromas of blackberries, herbs and licorice, followed by a medium-bodied, ample and layered palate, with a sweet core of fruit, good balance and a flavorful finish.  This is truly a well-priced wine!

Winemaker Notes: “The wine opens with bold, generous, aromas of ripe blackcurrant, fresh raspberry, baking spice and a touch of dried herb.  On the palate, it feels as big, bold, rich and deep, but is even smoother and more finessed.  Flavors range from dark currant, blackberry, and raspberry fruit to cured tobacco, exotic spice, and just a touch of toasty oak.  Those flavors keep on pumping through a long, generous, and smooth finish with just enough fine tannin to give shape and help the wine stand up to steak or aging. Delicious now with a decant (try 30-45 minutes) and sure to improve for 7-10 years. A great value!”

Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email for priority allocation.

The wine world keeps changing.

The wine world keeps changing.
This essential reference book shows how.

By Dave McIntyre

The Washington Post
The World Atlas of Wine, 8th Edition authors Johnson and Robinson.
(Mitchell Beazley)

“Wine is the one thing we buy to eat or drink where we can tell just from looking at the label exactly which spot on the globe produced it,” says British wine writer Jancis Robinson. “And if we look at the vintage — when; and at the name of the producer — who. It’s geography in a bottle.”

Geography needs an atlas. And because wine’s geography is changing dramatically, as the wine world’s reach expands with advances in viticulture and changes in climate, it’s time for “The World Atlas of Wine, 8th Edition” (Mitchell Beazley, October 2019, $65), written by Robinson and Hugh Johnson. This is an authoritative reference wine lovers will want to explore, even if they have invested in previous editions.

That description of wine’s mystique, a large part of its appeal to romantics and poets throughout the centuries, was uttered by Robinson in an interview with me last month at an event hosted by the Smithsonian Associates. Robinson has taken over primary authorship of the atlas since she joined its masthead with the fifth edition. In our conversation, she described how this is the most dramatic revision yet.

Wine lovers scrutinize each new version for regions receiving recognition. When the seventh edition was published in 2013, Virginia celebrated its entrance onto the world stage with its own section. (Disclosure: I consulted on the Virginia page in this edition.)

This year, British Columbia, Uruguay and Brazil receive their own sections, and Israel and Lebanon, lumped together in previous editions, have solo roles. There is also more specificity — the Napa Valley section has a new part on the St. Helena area, and “Burgundy keeps filling in,” Robinson said.

But the more remarkable changes reflect trends that started before the 2013 edition but really became notable since then. These include climate change and a shift in consumer perceptions of wine, as well as changes in the way information is presented and consumed in the new tech era.

“The effect of a changing climate was not something we could ignore,” Robinson said in a particularly British locution. The book’s front section, in previous editions given to basic information about wine appreciation, now includes a discussion of climate change, including a graph showing harvest start dates in Chateauneuf-du-Pape moving from late September and early October around 1950 to the beginning of September in 2000. “That could be anywhere, really,” Robinson said. Regions such as Bordeaux are experimenting with grape varieties better known for hotter climates, changes that could potentially alter the taste of some of the world’s classic wines.

The Cote d’Or geography, depicted in a page from the atlas. (Mitchell Beazley)

“The whole shape of the wine world has been expanding toward the poles,” she said. “Who’d have thought there would be a vineyard in Norway, or thriving wine industries in Belgium, [the Netherlands], Denmark, even southern Sweden?”

Another aspect of climate change is wildfires. Not just California, but Australia, Chile and Portugal have experienced dramatic fires in recent years that have threatened their vineyards. “Smoke taint is a major science now,” Robinson said.

Robinson calls wine “geography in a bottle.” (Mitchell Beazley)

Some regions have gained from climate change, but even those advantages may be fleeting. Southern England has become known for sparkling wine and attracted investment from some famous champagne houses, but summer 2018 was so hot that the region “made some really quite drinkable still wines,” Robinson said. Germany, which traditionally struggled to ripen grapes consistently, “was so hot this year that some grapes were actually sunburned.”

Our discussion at the Smithsonian focused on so much more, from changes in grape growing (organic, biodynamic) and winemaking (carbon neutral) to the popularity of “natural” wines, a trend about which she is, shall we say, skeptical.

“You’ll remember when everyone agreed on what was good in wine, back in the ’90s,” Robinson said. “Everyone was focusing on making copies of French classics. The more oak, the better; the more alcohol, the better. Nowadays, the paler, the tarter, the lower alcohol you’re red, the more it’s admired. In some ways, I think this has gone too far.” Ideology aside, she said, “the wine has to be good.”

The cover of the eighth edition says “completely revised,” and there are several new features. “Acknowledging peoples’ short attention spans, we’ve got short summaries at the start of each section,” Robinson concedes. Infographics give snippets of knowledge about grape varieties and other subjects. And new 3-D maps show the contours of some regions in a more effective way than traditional terrain markings on older-style maps. Soil maps reflect vintners’ current fascination with capturing the geology, as well as the geography, of their vineyards’ terroirs.

The new edition is not a mere update of a seminal reference work first published in 1971. It is a complete makeover, a revitalized almanac of wine in a dynamic era. More than a snapshot of wine as we know it today, it is a projection of how it may develop in the next few years — or even decades.

Battling the Shame of the Rosé

Battling the Shame of the Rosé

Contributed by Oliver Styles
Wine Searcher

Are rosé wines inherently inferior, or is it a case of outright discrimination?

If there is one category in the world of wine in which, to be honest, no-one really takes all that seriously, it’s rosé. A lot of wine people will say they like rosé, but that it has to be a serious rosé, a “proper” rosé (of the south of France, basically), with the colour of a partridge’s eye, and a bit of structure, and it has to be dry, and it has to have good acidity, and good length.It’s the kind of wine that exists in their head, but not in real life. Because there is no such thing as great rosé – not to an expert, anyway.

When was the last time you heard of a 100-point rosé? Never. How many big-hitters in the wine world regularly rave about the cheeky blush Zinfandel they enjoyed with tacos the other night? They’d be turned on like a clown in a gorilla enclosure. If you really want a gauge on how unpopular rosé is among the cognoscenti, I’ve never seen Jamie Goode in a rosé T-shirt. The UK critic and writer owns a T-shirt collection so vast I can’t be 100 percent sure he doesn’t own one, but I’m close to certain he doesn’t have a branded Domaines Ott or a “brosé” tee lurking in his vast collection (which, in our housebound age, is currently getting a regular airing on Instagram TV).

Popularity isn’t prestige

No, we don’t “do” rosé. I suspect it’s because we still see it as the halfway house wine: don’t feel like a red; don’t feel like a white; well… And this is why, I think, so many celebrities and Millenials are running with rosé. It’s one of – if not the – largest growing wine category in the US, and I suspect that is purely because wine lovers have not taken any notice of it. There are rare exceptions – Elizabeth Gabay MW has published a book on rosé, I’m told – but it’s a drink one doesn’t need to “get” wine in order to enjoy. No-one is going to sneer at you – much less revere you – for drinking rosé at a party. No-one who knows wine, or even knows a little bit about wine, is going to give you grief.

And the same is true of celebrities. Everyone – figuratively everyone – is jumping on the rosé bandwagon. And it’s because they are safe from a horde of critics asking how much new oak they use, wondering what the viticulture regime is like, asking about post-ferment maceration times and premature oxidation. It’s safe.

Furthermore, there is definitely  a level of cynicism in rosé production globally. To ignore that would be unfair. Syrah not going to get ripe this year? Turn it into rosé. Merlot starting to show the effects of a damp season? Rosé. Change in sales forecast for Cabernet Sauvignon? Rosé. Pinot Noir cropped too high? Rosé. There are any number rescues for red grapes and they generally involve making a pink wine. But remember: there’s no lack of commercial cynicism in standard red and white wine production either. There are any number of techniques with which winemakers can polish a turd – that’s part of the reason we get the natural wine movement. So why are we so hard on rosé?

Because we’re basically snobs, and rosé exposes wine people to that inevitable conclusion. Just look at the regulations for making rosé in France: you can’t blend white and red wine to make it. Oh, except in Champagne, though. There you can because… well, just because…

Settling the scores

In fact, rosé Champagne ratings give lie to the claim that rosé cannot be a serious wine. There are very very few still rosés at The Wine Advocate to get between 95 and 100 points. I counted four – yes, four. The other 50 were all Champagne or sparkling. The only wine therein to get 100 points was the 2008 Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé. Which, while that remains remarkably instructive by itself, at the very least shows that one can produce a 100-point rosé.

Even if you bring in the 94-pointers, just under 6 percent are still wines, the rest fizz. In fact, if you look at all wines scoring between 94 and 100 points on the Robert Parker site, you get 37,000 wines. Of which there are six still rosés. Six. That’s not evaluation, that’s discrimination. The 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards is perhaps a little less shocking but still at the same level: the top rosé got Best in Show with a 97/100 score. It was accompanied, in the top tier, by five other still rosés. Out of 818 other rosés and a total of around 13,000 wines. Even rigged elections don’t have those ratios. And I’m sure most other wine sites are the same. In fact, with numbers like that, I’d go as far to suggest that wine critics are incapable of “getting” rosé.

You could, of course, make the argument that this entire category will never make great wines – but that poses a problem for the likes of Cristal, or any other top-scoring rosé. Should they hand back their laurels? Furthermore, the fact that rosé Champagne regularly scores well blows the notion that blending red and white wines is not a valid winemaking method out of the water. The least acceptable technique produces the best wines of the category? Strange.

Oh, but bubbles, you say? Well, at what point do we stop shifting the goalposts? After all, let’s be honest: the process for making rosé is no different to that of making white wine. And yet it is never – never – as good as white wine? Please.

And unless you refute a superstitious belief that, for some reason, wines must respect the color of their grape or they are automatically 93 points or less, or that the global winemaking talent we have is incapable of making a great pink wine, then you’ll get what we have now. Which is, I believe, fully fledged and deeply ingrained discrimination. And that’s kind of ridiculous.

What I actually think happens is that there is an automatic glass ceiling placed on the score of a rosé the moment a critic sees its colour. It’s 97 or 96 max – “grand max” if we’re adopting the French-isms wine writers love these days.

So the writers and critics now have to do one of two things: either admit they are snobs and attempt to make the claim that rosé can never make good wine; or acknowledge that there may be the semblance of discrimination against rosé that is, at the very least, unjustified, and move to judge rosé with less preconceptions. Maybe – and this might be much more useful than we suspect on face value – we might do well to define what great rosé is before we start scoring it. And don’t give me that nonsense about a capacity to age. If we could judge wines on their capacity to age, people would be able to judge Bordeaux wines blind (which they can’t, apparently), and after all, being able to age isn’t an automatic five-point bonus. I can age a can of Sprite.

So if wine lovers bemoan the fact that the likes of Post Malone, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Cameron Diaz, and the like are getting into rosé; if we decry the dubious marketing strategies that surround the category; if we feel that we can’t tap into the rosé boom with Millenials; if we get grumpy about “brosé” (I still do, to honest, and I don’t know why); then we only have ourselves to blame.

Sure, there’s a cynicism behind rosé production but that’s not unique to rosé. I truly think we’ve been horrifically unfair to an entire category that is only just getting the recognition it deserves. And it’s not getting it from the tastemakers, from the critics, from the people who supposedly know better – it’s getting it from the masses.

That doesn’t mean the masses are right; it just means the rest of us might have got it wrong.

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