Interesting Fact

Slurpees and wine?

A sure sign the culture of wine is shifting: 7-Eleven plans to sell “ultra-premium” wines, some running as high as $54.99.

Now you can get your slurpees, Red Bulls, cash back with that pack of gum and wine all in one trip!

7-Eleven marketing folks told USA Today the change is partially about attracting upscale millennials. But I thought millenials didn’t care about the price of wine? The marketing folks must have done some focus groups that told them otherwise.

About 700 stores in 16 states now have “Fine Wine” displays with under $19.99 bottles, but the prices are eventually going to also range from $19.99 to $54.99. Wineries represented include Stag’s Leap, La Crema, Louis Martini and Wild Horse.

Would you buy your wine at 7-Eleven? I can see this a plus for urban dwellers who don’t have grocery or liquor stores nearby.

Wine for cats!

A Japanese pet supply company has released wine for cats. Yes, you read that right.

The drink is a mix of Cabernet grapes, Vitamin C and catnip, which sounds similar to frat party jungle juice to me.

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Courtesy kotaku.com

It’s non-alcoholic and sells for $4. It’s called Nyan Nyan Nouveau, a play on the Japanese version of meow and the fancy English (with French roots) word for modern.

I think the whole idea of wine for cats is absurd. I can’t wait to hear what their sales are like. Any vets out there think this is a bad thing?

How do you know when it’s time to crush?

So I’ve seen grapes on the vine, I’ve seen the barrels in the cellar, I’ve seen the bottles on the rack, but there are still many parts of the winemaking process I haven’t seen, such as a winemaker testing the grapes to see if they’re ready.

Blogger Jameson Fink talked to Ross Andrew Mickel, winemaker at Ross Andrew Winery, to get the skinny on how one chooses when to pick grapes. Mickel told him that it’s about knowing the grapes, spending time with them, and tasting them. Mickel taste tests the grapes using a ziploc bag, scissors and a glass to extract juice, which he then smells and tastes. If it has a green banana smell, it’s a no-no.

“I definitely don’t want to make a wine that smells like a green banana skin,” Mickel told the blogger.

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Most winemakers tend to sample the grapes for several weeks before harvest time, which in California wine country usually runs from August to October. According to chanticleerwine.com, winemakers look out for soft berries, red fruit flavors (unripe grapes can taste like bell peppers) and brown seeds.

So how soon before I can get those grapes crushed, bottled and flowing into my glass? Whites tend to finish first and reds can take longer, sometimes more than a year, according to Food Republic, which recommends a Beaujolais Nouveau for the impatient drinkers. That wine is ready six to eight weeks after the harvest.

Review: Luisi Barbera d’Asti

Barbera’s not a wine grape you hear about everyday. In fact, before I drank the 2011 Luisi Barbera d’Asti, I had only had Barbera in blends before.

So what is Barbera all about?

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Barbera is one of the most popular grapes planted in Italy. You can also find it in Australia, thanks to UC Davis. It’s also grown in California.

Barbera wines run the gamut from fruity to medium-bodied to concentrated and intense. Often, they have a high acidity level.

When I drank the Luisi, it was ruby red and tanngyyy. After letting it sit in mouth for a bit, it felt like pop rocks. Who knew an Italian wine would bring me back to the schoolyard days?

There are two kinds of Barbera: Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba, which signify the region in Italy where the grapes come from. Asti is drier and Alba tends to be rainier and the climates impact the flavor of the wine. Luca Currado Vietti, owner of Vietti Winery, told Wine Spectator that Asti and Alba are like Napa and Sonoma, in the sense that they are two wonderful, neighboring wine regions. Some say d’Albas are fruitier and d’Asti’s are more intense, but I haven’t tried the former myself, so I can’t confirm.

I’ll add a Barbera d’Alba to my list of wines I have to try, but I won’t be getting a Vietti wine. They cost upwards of $80, which is way out of my budget, I mean out of this universe, out. If you have a suggestion for a Barbera d’Alba under $20–under $15, even better–let me know in the comments.

I wouldn’t recommend the Luisi Barbera d’Asti to everyone–especially not to those who prefer smooth wines that aren’t explosive on the taste buds.

However, if you like thick and bold, you’d probably enjoy this Barbera.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Luisi
  • Type: Barbera d’Asti
  • Origin: Italy
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: $16.95
  • Alcohol content:13%
  • When to drink: Bring this to dinner with the in-laws, not to your friend’s house party.

Price fake out

When people think wine is expensive, they think it tastes better, at least according to a 2008 scientific study.

The scientists gave 20 participants Cabernet Sauvignon and a non-wine liquid reminiscent of saliva (gross) to drink as they scanned their brains, focusing on pleasure centers. Wines were administered multiple times, both at their retail price and at a 900% markup or markdown. The participants drank what they thought were $5, $10, $35, $45 and $90 wines.

And guess what, the guinea pigs had a better time drinking the wine they thought was more expensive!

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From the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of the United States of America:

Our results show that increasing the price of a wine increases subjective reports of flavor pleasantness as well as blood-oxygen-level-dependent activity in medial orbitofrontal cortex, an area that is widely thought to encode for experienced pleasantness during experiential tasks. 

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised by the findings. Louis Vuitton and other luxury brands have been marking up prices for years to exude, well, an essence of luxury.

Most of the time that I buy wine it’s under $15, sometimes I splurge for a $20 bottle. If I’m at a winery, it’s 99.9% of the time more than that, but I still buy there because many prices reflect the small batches or boutique wines. Buying bottles at a restaurant also tend to cost more (more on that in an upcoming blog post). However, I usually get a bottle while dining out when there’s several people at the table who will be splitting the check, making the bottle more economical than individual glasses of wine. If you can BYOW, like some restaurants in Los Angeles, you’re a winner in my book.

What’s your maximum price when it comes to buying a bottle of wine?

California losing ground

As more wineries have popped up in other states, California is no longer home to more than half the wineries in the nation. In 1993, the Golden State claimed 52% of the wineries in the United States. In 2012, it clocked in at about 43%. Here’s an infographic I made that visually shows the change between 2000 and 2012:

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Surprising, huh?

I’ve only been wine tasting in California, Oregon and abroad (Spain and Italy). I’ve been told I need to head to Finger Lakes, NY. Where else outside my home state makes for good wine tasting? Tell me in the comments.