Jan 15, 2013

Consumers and wine - fresh information from 2012 monopoly sales

The Finnish wine monopoly Alko has just released its most recent sales information on 2012 wine consumption and it is time to take a fresh look at what Finns, a Nordic nation of 5.4 million, are drinking.

Wines in the price range of under 8 euros per bottle continue to dominate the market with a 65 % and 77% share of all red and white wines sold, respectively, down from 68 % and 81% in 2011 (all prices being scaled to the usual 0.75 litre bottle size). The statistic is very much influenced by tax increase in 2012 as well as sales of bag-in-box wines (BiB) which represent 39% of all wines sold in Finland,  mostly priced under 8 euros.

Picture: Alko
It is encouraging to learn that wine continued growing as % of total alcohol consumption in 2012. And bulk wines naturally lead this trend as newbies to wine and new generations are more and more willing to try wine and make their initiations on the entry level products, i.e. the lower priced wines.

So why not study this trend and enjoy popular wines from the named price range, i.e. "St. Elmo Village", a Californian medium dry (12% abv) which was the 4th most popular white wine sold in 2012, and a red "Caballo de Mendoza" from Argentina's largest wine producing area (13% abv), on the 5th place among reds. 

Both wines are imported by Altia Denmark where the wines were also bottled, then further sold in Finland by Altia. The decision to bottle bulk wines in Europe rather than in the country of origin leads to a significantly more efficient logistical operation, leading to cost efficiency as well as being environmental friendly, factors which usually go unnoticed however are appreciated by the consumer if they were aware of them. The wine labels do not carry vintage information.

Picture: Alko
* ...While writing this, notes of grapefruit and flowers emerge from the St. Elmo Village, combined with a surprisingly round mouth-feel and nice acidity in the medium-dry finish. While St. Elmo Village is suited to be enjoyed with food as well as over a social setting, the red Caballo we had with minced meat soup at dinner was well suited to the carefully spiced dish. Notes of blackberry and ripe cherry in a fruity, smoky and spicy charcoal-made-barbecue style emerge after the bottle has been open for 2 hours *

... Back to the subject. Now consider this anomaly which would definitely not exist in a free market situation for wines. While wines over 17 eur in Alko represent only 1.5% and 0.5% of all sold red and white wines, respectively, the wine monopoly carried a whopping 826 and 323 items for these categories in 2012. Now compare those numbers with 285 and 217 items for wines under 8 euros, respectively. Needless to say, if there was no wine monopoly, Alko simply could not carry this amount of non-moving goods on its lists, as it is on a business sense plainly unrealistic. For those offering critique on wine monopolies, in this sense, Alko does a nice job in keeping available nation-wide a large number of extremely slow-moving wines, four times the amount of items compared to best seller wines. 

Similar information can be found from Swedish wine monopoly Systembolaget's statistics, however with a significantly larger spread among price groups. Wines under 8 eur (69 SEK) represent only 42% of wines sold while 78% of all wines are priced under the next threshold,  under 10 eur. Explaining the significant difference between the two Nordic countries, in Sweden the more pricey old world producers Italy and Sout Africa are the largest countries of origin while Chile dominates the Finnish market being twice the size of the next largest country, Spain. 

Jan 11, 2013

2000 Chanson Meursault Boucheres 1er Cru, 2002 Daniel Moine-Hudelot Chambolle--Musigny 1er Cru

Ok so here is the deal.

Burgundy from early this millenium, i.e. white from 2000 and red from 2002, both from very good vintages for the respective areas. Expectations are high. However only one delivers. Which one?

2000 Meursault Boucheres 1er Cru, Chanson

Nice golden semi-intensive color, indicating promise of a mature white. Nose has some grassy notes, like straw and seaweed, with honey, citrus and white pepper. Initially the honey is in the forefront, then pineapple and ripe citrus come in forefront. Not an intensive bouquet in this one, albeit being spicy. And on the palate, oak is fortunately not too evident, however has contributed for the wine's mouth feel being thicker, somewhat oily and round, spiced up with some nice acidity. But that's what you can expect from the wine making style, appellation and its age. Feels like this is a sensitive expression of a Meursault, one in which I would like to find more intensity in taste. On the palate, this one leaved me somewhat short. I have had many better white burgundies before.

2002 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru, Daniel Moine-Hudelot

Now we are talking. What a wine. Really nice structure and all that pinosity I love. Straight after opening the bottle, the wine is very concentrated and long, the taste lasting for a minute. However still so silky. Balanced nose of pepper, blueberry and lingonberry, those forest-like notes along with underbrush. Such an  impressive wine.  Like my friend said well, there is a fine element of saltiness or sea salt in this one, which I think makes it unique within Burgundy wines. Round however having a nice backbone to it, the wine commands respect. This one is meaty after 2 hours of air time. Lingonberry and blueberry mixed with meaty notes and peppery, without being too meat-soup-like, if you know what I mean.

Slightly matured color. The wine evolves in the glass after two hours after opening into an even more ripe feeling, air does good for this one (like you would be surprised of the fact...). On the palate, first you have a silky feeling, in mid-palate the alcohol gives the wine a strong backbone and the intensity of the aftertaste is great, lasting looooooong. Very long indeed.

Certainly one of the better Burgundy wines I have had for a while. Complex. The wine can be kept for many years in the cellar however it is very enjoyable right now. Usually Chambolle-Musignys are feminine in style, however this 2002 has more to it than just sensitiveness, it has a definitive backbone which does not overrun any sensitive parts.

I bought the bottle from the producer's shop in center of Nuits-St.-Georges. Got to get more of this! The producer is a small one, and has been purchased in 2008 by Domaine de la Pousse d'Or. When this bottle was made, the mayor of Chambolle-Musigny still owned the estate. It would be very interesting to find if there are differences in wine making style after the acquisition. They also ow parcel of the very prestigious 1er Cru wineyard of "les Amoureuses" in Chambolle-Musigny, a vineyard which wines are priced at Grand Cru level everywhere. Hopefully I will find bottles to buy.

Jan 10, 2013

1967 Delas Chatauneauf-du-Pape

What an interesting fella this 1967 Delas is.

Try to imagine a wine, one that has been touched by oxygen, but not too much. Plenty of oxidation in this one, just enough for the wine to enter a state resembling the taste of a dry sherry.

Notes of black tea, raisins, smoke and cigar box in it, along with strawberry juice and burned sugar, in a thick mouth feel. Medium length. Some pepper notes too, presumably from the Shiraz content in it. Like spicy meat soup. Tannins are fully integrated at this point. The wine still has great acidity.

We drank this just before Christmas, thus the season could not have been better considering the raisins tasted in this wine. A bit of orange emerges on the palate after letting it breath for 1.5 hours.

Brown color with a hint of red left, check out the bottom photo on the right. I did remember to take a photo when there was a few drops left, ok better late than never.

The wine is 20 years past its peak, however not dead and still enjoyable if old wines suit your palate. Due to oxidation, plenty of sherry feeling in this one. Which is certainly not surprising. It is nice that the wine has lived this long. However the friends I drank it with did not like it that much, the oxidation feeling taking a center stage in our conversation. So again, you are able to find good conversations about wine around this one. Interesting.

Jan 9, 2013

2011 Amauta I - A red from Cafayette Valley with a lot of personality, whether you like it or not...

It is safe to say that Amauta I divides opinions - loved by most, not understood by some. While the wine is enjoyable (or very enjoyable) to a vast amount of consumers, I know there is a large amount of wine lovers who oppose this kind of wine style. As the division in opinion will most certainly be huge, which group do you belong to?

Let's get to the basics. Amauta I is a dry red from winery El Porvenir de los Andes in a less known wine producing area of Cafayette Valley. The valley is one of Argentina's most northwestern wine producing areas. Located within the area of Calchaqui Valleys at altitudes beginning from 1,700 meters up to 2800 meters, Cafayette Valley has 2,500 hectars of wineyards for mostly the white tórrontes variety which is the most popular white in Argentina. One of the most highest altitude wine producing areas has very little rainfall, low humidity and large difference between day and night temperatures.

However also interesting red wine projects seem to pop out of the mostly sandy soils of this area.

One such is the Amauta I in my glass. Made of Malbec 60%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20% and Syrah 10% from vineyards located at altitude of 1,750 meters. The divider of many opinions.

Super intensive. This 2011 wine is very young - however even with its big tannins, the sweet tannin structure makes the wine enjoyable already at a young age. The producer explains impact of high altitude of their vineyards to give sweet tannins to their wines. Some of that toffee feeling to reveal that French oak was (I think partially) used. So let's give a positive remark on tannin structure. After tasting the wine, I was very surprised to learn that the wine had been matured only 6 months in oak. Seems like there was much more oak in this one.

Its unbelieveable big sweet fruit will please a lot of people. Nose with loads of smoke and roasted meat, oak, sweet cola, herbs and very strong licorice and toffee integrated to plum and blackcurrant. The palate is dominated by almost-sweet fruit which is the tale of this wine. After getting air for 1.5 hours, the notes of meatiness in the wine turned into a charcoal (barbecue) feeling. And that's your recommended food pairing too.

A lot of alcohol in this one, 14.5% abv. I can already feel wine aficionados who love their Pinot Noir trembling. OK, so we have established that this wine is super intensive.


Where is its sensitivity? Where is the hint of something you want from the wine to seduce you?

You are not able to find it in this wine. This one is a muscular, strong, fruit & licorice bomb which is in-your-face in style. Not my type of wine, however if you need a big wine, look no further. Price tag is set at 24 eur in your local Alko shop, so the price keeps its sales numbers relatively low.

At first when opening the bottle, the wine has a bit of a harsh aftertaste after 5 seconds, of which volume decreases as time in glass increases. But it stays there underneath in the mouth feel while the wine rounds up with 1.5 hours after opening.

The positive fact about this wine is its ability to provoke discussion. While enjoying the bottle we had plenty of discussion about it, which is a compliment to any production with lots of winemaker's love behind it.

The story behind El Porvenir de los Andes are Italian immigrants who established the winery in 1890. The winery was however bought by Romero-Marcuzzi family in 1999 who invested in wine making and the winery now lives a renaissance. The renowned wine maker Paul Hobbs is consulting the estate.