Rosé Tasting in St. Tropez

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Oh, Canada

Sales of luxury items over the internet are currently booming. Wine, being a luxury item, should be no exception. In a discussion with Rodolphe Boulanger at the U.S. Vinitaly Tour NYC, he stated that “Wine as a luxury is underrated.” Rodolphe is the Imported Wine Director for Lot18, a company which is growing at an incredible pace. Lot18 uses a sample sale model, similar to websites such as Gilt and RueLaLa to sell wine online. They hand pick wines and offer an invitation only service to sell to its members.

Do sites like this threaten the three-tier system? What is the three-tier system? The three-tier system of alcohol distribution is the system for distributing alcoholic beverages set up in the United States after the repeal of Prohibition. However, no state is identical in it’s practices. According to three-tier, alcohol must pass through several intermediaries before it reaches the consumer. It begins with the producer (wine-maker, brewer, distillery), moves onto an importer/distributor and finally is sold in a retail store. Each representative takes a piece of the pie along the journey. Sites like Lot18 have to defer to these laws. However, the biggest threat to the system that employs numerous Americans comes from the North.

The Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) is a government owned corporation responsible for the trade of alcoholic beverages in the province of Québec, Canada. Like the 21 alcoholic beverage control states in the United States, Québec has a state monopoly over the wholesaling and retailing of alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, and distilled spirits. Québec is the single largest purchasing entity of wine in the world and being situated in Canada means it does not have to abide by American law. What is to stop this colossal corporation from advancing into the U.S. market?

Essentially, there is nothing stopping them. In fact, the U.S. along with FedEx, have been shipping wine to uncontrolled provinces in Canada for years. Therefore, Québec has begun planning their own online retailer of wine.

However, American companies are not intimidated. According to the panel at Vinitaly, where consumers flock to buy their alcohol will be a matter of convenience. Therefore, price, efficiency, warehouse management, distribution, and costs will become essential to a successful operation. Boulanger went on to state that “With millennial’s (ages 21-32) embracing imported wine, the industry will continue to grow. They want access to the wine lifestyle, with a bottles they can drink regularly.” With all these factors, it seems that there is room for the industry as a whole to gain, not just one entity. The internet has developed an exciting culture for the world of wine and it will be interesting to see how it develops.

Check out this video to see how brewers in Michigan are fighting the state monopoly.

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Valentino’s 5-Course Dinner & Wine Tasting

Valentino's Wine Tasting

Join us for an exclusive 5-course dinner with wine pairing!

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Monarchy of Rosé

America’s taste for dry rosé is maturing rapidly. With changing food trends, rosé has allocated itself on wine lists year round and chefs are pairing dishes with its unique taste in mind. It’s association with luxury and celebration are beginning to challenge champagne’s eminence. In 2010, U.S. retail sales of imported rosé grew 22%. This is good news for Provence, who I see as a leader in quality rosé production and who’s exports jumped 132% since 2010.

What makes Provence superior if most wine regions of the world produce decent rosé at more competitive prices? Provence is synonymous with rosé wine. The difference is in the captivation, terroir, and quality.

France is the world’s leader in rosé consumption and production. In Provence, 608 producers spawn 162 million bottles per year. 88% of those bottles is rosé, 9% red, and 3% white. It is safe to say that Provence exudes a concentrated, single-mindedness about rosé that is strikingly unique in comparison to other major wine regions.  Taking this interest a step further, the region introduced the world’s first Rosé Wine Research & Experimentation Centre to further the mastery of winemaking and local conservation techniques.

Provence is home to a vast and varied range of terroir and climates. Ranging from Les Baux to Bellet, Provence is home to nine Appelations of Origin (AOP) and Vins De Pays (IGP). Most of Provence is a Mediterranean climate represented by ample sunshine, hot, dry summers and mild winters. The mistral winds flow from the Rhone Valley often drying out any rainfall left behind. Clay, limestone and schist are abundant soil types found to the west of the region. The east is comprised of clay, sand and schist with an influence from the sea.

The country of France is notorious for their laws regarding quality wine making. Provence adheres to strict quality controls. The type of soil is analyzed and classified, grapes are matched to typicity, and quality is judged by viticulure, vinification, maturation and aging. The highest result will be an award of AOP status. This is favorable to consumers because it distinguishes Provence as a region of merit and acknowledges the contents of your bottle.

Provence is the fourth major wine growing region in France. It is viewed as the underdog in a country where the vine is absolute and in an industry where trends come and go. Unlike other regions, Provence has established itself next to its acclaimed French brothers by staying authentic.

Below Francois Millo talks (in French) about Provence Rose.

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Burgundy, Bourbon & Birds

Myself, AIWF and Waldy Malouf cordially invite you to:

$100 Members, $125 non-members – for Tickets visit:

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Black Tie Brewing vs. Premiumization

I just got back from Italy and expected my first post to be about wine. However, while sharing a meal with an ancient beer company and several wine experts, I arrived at a eureka moment that I was ignoring beforehand…

It’s 2011, and we are going through a food and beverage explosion in the United States. We have seen numerous trends, including the recoil of many past trends. However, Black Tie Brewing (as I hope no one else is calling it), is the launch of high end beer to compete with wine as king of food and meal pairings.

Early to execute this idea was Carlsberg, who launched a $400 bottle of beer in 2008. Most shocking was Stella Artois Nobilis which was bought by AOL Canada for $15,000 Canadian. It was a six pack of 1.5L bottles signed by Angelina Jolie, Kate Hudson, Woody Harrelson, Charlize Theron, Bo Derek and Samuel L. Jackson for the sake of the WildAid charity. Great idea for a great cause. Since then we have seen an influx of premium beer enter the market.

Does this story sound familiar? This is not a new concept. Dubbed “premiumization” by several writers and websites, it is the foxy innovation of making products seem upscale by completely blowing the cost to profit ratio out of contrast.

However, all premium brands must bow before vodka. The vodka craze is directly linked to premiumization. If a few don’t come to mind, you must not drink, watch tv, read, or breathe. We are talking about a spirit who’s reputation is based on not having any flavor. Feel free to talk me into being a vodka lover in the comments.

On the other side of this premium trend are some humble companies creating quality drinks and for prices people can afford. One of which I met this past Saturday.

Birra Ronzani is the fifth oldest beer in Italy. Spawned from the streets of Bologna, it is made using a traditional recipe of malted barley and hops, using the dry hopping method. Dry hopping is the process where hops are cast uncooked to beer at different stages of fermentation. This process is used in such beers as IPAs or pale ales which tend to have a revealing hoppy aroma.

The beer pours well, honey in color and topped with a thick white head. The nose is rich with hops and hints of pine. Medium bodied, it feels smooth and balanced in the mouth. What I love about this beer is that it is not pushing the idea of flavor on you. It is great with a meal and is served in a 750ml bottle (the same size as a bottle of wine) which promotes the idea of sharing. A server keeps it chilled in a Birra Ronzani bucket filled with ice. Keeping with the same idea, it is poured into a wine glass. It is not currently in the United States but when it gets here you can expect it to be priced around $12. Sounds like a good deal/experience to me! Check out Birra Ronzani and let me know what you think. Also, what are some of your experiences with premiumization?

Check them out here.

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Adeus Caipirinha!

Summer is coming to a close in New York and unfortunately, for those drinking seasonally, that means saying goodbye to some choice refreshments. For me, this means flaking on a warm weather favorite – Caipirinha.

Although Montauk is almost 5,000 miles from Brazil, the country’s national cocktail has found asylum at the laid back retreat The Surf Lodge. Montauk, located 125 miles east of New York City, boasts a sensible, subdued attitude. With six state parks and a coastal lining of beaches, the casual fishing village has become a major tourist destination. The Surf Lodge embodies the local attitude and integrates it with international/Latin American character. Perched directly on the placid waterfront of Fort Pond, it is commonplace to have your toes in the sand, hammocks slightly swinging, tikki torches blazing, stand up paddle boarders gliding through the water, and of course a satisfying cocktail in hand.

Thus, the perfect cocktail for this Latin American surfer lifestyle has to be Caipirinha. I recommend the following recipe for this Brazilian pastime:

2 ounces cachaca

1 1/2 barspoons of sugar or 3/4 ounce simple syrup

1/2 fresh lime

Fresh ingredients is a must when creating cocktails. Like cooking, sub-par ingredients will yield a poor drink.

A Caipirinha requires cachaca. Cachaca is made from sugarcane juice and comes only from Brazil, who happens to be the world’s largest sugarcane producer. It is typically aged in indigenous woods such as freijo, cedar, imburana, cherry, and jequitiba. These foreign sounding woods are what gives cachaca its funky, exotic, herbal aromas and excite the taste of a well made Caipirinha.

With cool weather on the way, it’s time to say “adeus” to The Surf Lodge and Caipirinha. Fortunately, the lodge is open year round and cachaca and caipirinha are sold at restaurants, stores, and bars across the United States. Share some of your experiences and recipes for caipirinha by leaving comments below. Also, be sure to check out the restaurant at The Surf Lodge commanded by Top Chef star Sam Talbot. It’s worth the hike.

Check out this video to get an inside look and see what Travel Channel had to say.

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