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Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

A Pinot (Film) Noir

September 15th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

Burgundy has become the site for some of the most harrowing tales in wine cinema. A devastating frost wipes out a vintage. An international supervillain stages an elaborate fraud. But few match the potential Pinot (film) Noir intrigue of “Shadows in the Vineyard”, a true wine drama of threatened vine sabotage and a high-stakes ransom on perhaps the most hallowed ground in wine: the vineyards of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC). Earlier this month, the film company, Landmark Studio Group announced that production would soon begin on a story that will strike fear in the heart of any Burgundy lover.

Adapting Maximillian Potter&rsqo;s book of the same name, the limited TV series “Shadows in the Vineyard” will dramatize the 2010 exploitation case that rocked the iconic estate and all of Burgundy. In January of that year, co-owner Aubert de Villaine received anonymous letters threatening to poison and destroy DRC‘s acclaimed, incalculably valuable vineyard, the Romanée-Conti grand cru monopole, unless a $1.2 million ransom was paid.

Writing in Wine Spectator’s “Unfiltered” blog, Colin Dreizen reports that: “The 2015 book ‘Shadows in the Vineyard,’ provides the foundation for the series. Noah Wyle and Judith Light have signed on to co-star. What followed was a saga unfolding in the usually quiet Côte d’Or.” “Max’s story is many things,” co-producer David Ozer of Landmark Studio told Unfiltered via email. “It is a mystery, a love letter to Burgundy. But I think what the creative team loves is the fact that it is a story of hope—of light triumphing in the face of darkness.” The producers also indicated the story will explore the writer Potter’s own transformative experiences, and a new appreciation for wine, gained during his time in Burgundy researching the book. “Production is planned to start in early 2021. While specific locations have not been decided yet, the producers would ideally film in real-life Burgundy”, Dreizen writes, Potter will be revisiting the story as a co-writer of the screenplay, and his team hopes to involve DRC and Burgundy locals as much as they can. “What the people of Burgundy went through during this event was a real trauma, in many ways,” Ozer said. “We want to respect that.”

But it wouldn’t be much of a wine drama without, well, wine. Wine will be central to “Shadows in the Vineyard”; and the team will be turning to expert wine consultants to get every element right. “We think that this is an incredibly complex, multifaceted story and, like a wonderful grand cru, there is so much to savor here,” Ozer stated. “It needs time to breathe, so as to allow all of these intricate elements to be fully realized.”

Here at Skolnik Industries, there’s no drama with our Stainless Steel Wine Barrels. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums.

French Researchers Unlock a Secret to Wine Bitterness: Oak Barrels

August 11th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

In a recent article, in Wine Spectator’s “Unfiltered” newsletter, Collin Dreizen reports on a study, and a very unpleasant blind tasting, that reveals how one chemical compound in oak barrels may be the culprit for some less welcome flavors in wine.

Collin writes that: “Fans of full-bodied reds and spicy Chardonnays know they can, in part, thank oak barrels for the toasty, nutty vanilla flavors and smooth textures found in their favorite wines. But could wood be adding a bitter note to tipples? It makes sense: Oak imparts tannins, and tannins are astringent. In a recently published study, however, researchers from the University of Bordeaux focused on a different phenolic compound they believed to be the main culprit for barrel bitterness: coumarins. Where are they, how do they affect your wine—and can anything be done about them? With the help of taste-testers willing to try some very bitter potions, the scientists found some surprising answers.”

“Many plants, including oak trees, contain coumarins, compounds so caustic they can deter predators,” explained Dr. Delphine Winstel, the postdoctoral researcher whose thesis formed the basis of the study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and titled the “Role of Oak Coumarins in the Taste of Wines and Spirits.”

But Winstel and her colleagues wanted to figure out which coumarins actually make it into oak barrels. They picked up some samples from the master coopers at Seguin-Moreau and successfully identified the five coumarins known to exist in oak—plus, one more, previously undetected. “It is always very satisfying to find a compound that had never been identified in wine,” Winstel told Unfiltered.

How much of a pucker do coumarins really pack in the glass, and at what levels are they detectable? To find out, the team hosted a more-acrid-than-usual blind tasting of coumarin-laced wine and spirit samples for a group of 22 trained tasters. With noses clipped to block the coumarins’ noxious odor, the panel dutifully tasted through. “I’m not sure that tasting bitter molecules in a hydro-alcoholic solution in the morning is the best pleasure in life,” Winstel observed. “But every panelist was diligent!”

Winstel’s group also analyzed 90 commercial wines for coumarin levels, plus some spirits: reds from Bordeaux and Burgundy, whites from the Loire and Alsace, Cognac vintages back to 1970, and more. They found higher coumarin levels in red wines than white, but beyond that, “there is no particular region or appellation that shows a higher level of all coumarins,” Winstel concluded.

Collin summarizes that: “While the team determined how much was too much when it comes to coumarins, and is closer to knowing how coumarin levels can vary between different trees and perhaps even barrels, there’s much work and unpleasant tasting yet to be done. But these new findings could still have a real effect on the wine industry. Vintners might one day work with coopers to limit the coumarin levels in their wines. And any discovery makes for a sweeter day in the world of wine.”

Here at Skolnik Industries, there’s no bitterness in our Stainless Steel Wine Barrels. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums.

What? A Wine Can Shortage?

July 14th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

The US market has seen sales of canned wines exploding, as consumers can’t get enough of them. This has led to a slowdown in the supply of the cans, as Jeff Siegel recently reported in Wine Business International.

Jeff writes: “Drink Bev, a California canned wine producer, has seen its volume increase eight-fold over the past two years. Which should be a good thing, right? Right — apart from the pandemic-caused supply chain bottlenecks that are hampering can producers of all kinds, be it beer, wine, or soft drinks.”

“What we found so far, having trouble with getting cans, only kicked in recently,” says Alex Butti, the Vice President of Operations for Drink Bev, which makes 250 ml cans for two whites and a rose from California’s Central Coast. “When we were doing less volume, we had no trouble sourcing cans. But when we outgrew our vendors, finding cans in the short term has been difficult.”

The difficulty in finding supply is coming from increased demand from consumers, who have increased canned beverage consumption during the coronavirus lockdowns across the US, as well as the supply chain failing to keep pace with increased demand.

“The can shortage doesn’t seem to be as bad as was the case for toilet paper and hand sanitizer in the early days of the lockdown in April,” says Butti. “It’s smaller companies that are having problems; there are regional shortages and fewer canned beverages at some national supermarkets, though not widespread.”

“Supply chain issues have resulted in longer lead times to get cans for filling — anywhere from one to eight weeks,” says Butti, “it’s not about a supply shortage as much as it is about taking longer for cans to get from manufacturers to bottlers. In addition, inventories at bottlers are significantly smaller than they were at the beginning of the year.” US canned wine producers, package their product in three different sizes: 187 ml, 250 ml, and 375 ml. By comparison, most US beer and soft drinks come in 12-ounce (355 ml) cans.

“Yes, there is a very high demand for the 250 ml format for wine at this time, as it’s a popular size for most beverages, like water and coffee,” says Heather Clauss, Chief Commercial Officer for California’s FreeFlow Wines. “So, some of our customers have indeed had some challenges procuring cans.”

Here at Skolnik Industries, there’s no shortage of our Stainless Steel Wine Barrels. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here.

Making Napa Winery Tours a Virtual Reality

June 16th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

In a recent issue of the Napa Valley Register, Sarah Klearman wrote about a new development during the COVID pandemic: “There was not a single visitor at Schramsberg Vineyards. No one gazed over the legions of sun-warmed vineyards or into the thick wilderness that surrounds the storied property, which had bloated with green in the late-season rain.” Sarah goes on to say that “It all seemed a shame to Geoffrey Curley. And as it so happened, he was in a position to do something about it. A decade ago, he founded his own company — Geoffrey M. Curley and Associates — and set to work creating interactive exhibits often punctuated by 360-degree virtual experiences. As travel came to a standstill and tasting rooms closed their doors, Curley wondered if the technology might be of use to the broader American wine industry.”

“There had been some discussion internally a while ago about having this kind of virtual tour, where you could see the path of a visit,” Schramsberg President Hugh Davies said. “Maybe not surprisingly in this particular moment of a more virtual reality, when they contacted us, we kind of jumped at it.”

All of the wineries Curley has so far worked with, apart from Schramsberg, are boutique producers. Some, like Dos Lagos Vineyards, make as few as 800 cases each year. “It sounds pretty fascinating, the idea of virtual tours,” Dos Lagos Owner Tom Dinkel said, noting that many of the winery’s club members, cooped up in their homes, have expressed a desire to return to the valley once life normalizes. A virtual tour, Dinkel said, could help transport not just existing club members, but perhaps catch the eye of newcomers online. Sarah explains that “Boutique wineries have been hit especially hard by the pandemic’s impact on tourism. Tasting rooms account on average of 28% of sales for small wineries; they also serve as conduits for wine club membership, which on average accounts for an additional 23% of sales. Wineries producing between 1,000 and 5,000 cases could lose as much as 48% of their revenue for the year, according to one estimate. “Once people try the wine, it speaks for itself,” Dos Lagos’ Dinkel said. “But so many people don’t know who we are. So if someone’s searching for ‘Napa wines’ and they find our virtual experience and like what they see — we’re hoping for that kind of exposure.”

Virtual tastings, as popular as they’ve become, bring only the wine to the consumer — not necessarily the experience tied to the wine. The virtual tour could fill that void, Davies said. “In a unique way, this may attract people,” he added. “But we know nothing we are going to be able to do is going to attract everyone the same way.”

“We’re taking that physical interaction out of these experiences, but still trying to tell those stories, generating that emotional response to the people who are creating the wines,” Curley said. “The work that vintners do, their families, the landscape — that’s in every bottle as much as the wine itself.”

Here at Skolnik Industries, our stainless steel wine barrels are more attractive than ever. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here.

Wine Consumption Has Increased During Lockdown

May 19th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

In a press release published in the latest “Wine Industry Advisor” it was reported that: “America’s 77 million regular wine drinkers upped their frequency of wine consumption during the pandemic lockdown, despite the closure of many on-premise establishments.”

The release goes on to say: “The new Wine Intelligence US COVID-19 Impact Report polled a nationally representative sample of 2,000 monthly US wine drinkers during March and April 2020 to understand how their wine drinking behavior was changing as a result of the restrictions due to the coronavirus. The findings paint a picture of a nation finding new occasions for wine drinking – at lunchtime, or catching up with friends online, or replacing the trip to the restaurant with a more indulgent evening meal.”

The growing volume of wine purchased was tempered by a small decline in the average price per bottle paid overall, according to the research. However, within this average were significant variations by consumer type. More involved and committed wine drinkers, who mainly spend between $15 and $20 per bottle normally, tended to spend a bit more than usual, while less frequent wine drinkers tended to spend a bit less.

The Wine Intelligence report shows that: “There was a significant growth in online shopping across all age groups, with the most likely users of online channels being younger, urban, affluent consumers. While the majority of respondents said the origin of wine they bought during this period stayed the same, there was a notable shift in purchase preferences towards domestic wines and away from imports. Some 18% of respondents reported buying more wine from California and other US regions during this time, while 20% said they were buying less wine from France, Italy and Spain. Additionally, US wine drinkers increased their trust in California wines. Looking to the future, US wine drinkers on the whole expressed caution about going out to bars and restaurants immediately after lockdown restrictions were ended – around 40% said they would be less likely to visit a restaurant, while 27% said they would be more likely.”

Commenting on the report, Wine Intelligence CEO Lulie Halstead said: “Our data supports other evidence that shows that US wine drinking is holding up, and that sales will continue to be solid once lockdown ends. In fact, there are clear opportunities with certain consumer segments right now and also in the medium term as we move to post-lockdown behavior. Looking ahead, the US wine drinker is understandably quite cautious about their household finances and the idea of getting on a plane. Thankfully for the wine category, their intention seems to be replacing big treats like vacations and big events with small treats like a nicer bottle of wine.”

Here at Skolnik Industries, our stainless steel wine barrels are more popular than ever. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here.

Virtual Wine Tasting and The New “Normal”

April 14th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

As wine country adjusts to social distancing, producers have found new ways to reach out to wine lovers who can’t make it to tasting rooms. In a recent issue of the Wine Enthusiast, Kathleen Willcox, writes that: “The wine business in California is responsible for about 81% of U.S. wine production, employs 786,000 nationwide and generated $114 billion in the U.S. in 2018. Direct-to-consumers (DTC) sales, meanwhile, have increased in importance to small and medium-scale wineries in recent years. In 2018, the DTC wine sales totaled $3 billion in the U.S., an increase of 12% from the previous year. Of those sales, about 38% happen in the tasting room, which translates to roughly $1.14 billion in annual sales.”

Kathleen goes on to say that: “The creativity of response to changing circumstances in the wine world has been astounding. Your favorite producers are available to you, some more than ever.”

Other wineries have tapped their staff’s strengths to stand out of the virtual pack. Evesham Wood is utilizing the skills its advanced sommelier, Christopher Lindemann. “We launched sampling packs that will bring the private tasting experience into a guest’s home,” says Lindemann. “We’re setting up private, virtual meetings on Skype, Google or FaceTime. Distance learning has been part of the cultural vernacular for some time, and though this will require an adjustment, we think that we can have real conversations, even over a distance.”

Ken Wright Cellars (KWC) offers one-on-one Zoom sessions with members of its winemaking team. The winery also helps collectors organize their cellars and provides in-depth information on vintage, vineyard, farming and production techniques for wines they own.

“The virtual tasting experience has been a long time coming, especially for a family-owned winery,” says Ivory McLaughlin, a KWC ambassador. “If anything, this crisis has just accelerated trends currently happening around the country and in our culture.”

Maggie Curry, Kendall-Jackson’s director of marketing, says the winery has adopted a “glass-half-full mentality.” It’s attempting to turn a time of isolation and social distancing into a positive for wine lovers and the brand. In the coming days, the producer plans to expand tastings to include virtual cooking classes, cellar restocking tips, yoga seminars and virtual sip-and-paint classes.

In Paso Robles, Hope Family Wines offers one-cent shipping on orders of three bottles or more, plus home delivery and pickup. Every tasting flight will include a video that features winemaker and President Austin Hope and other key members of the cellar team, as well as a curated playlist to pair with the wine. “This crisis has made us feel more connected than ever to our community,” says Hope. “The response has been incredible, but I have to say our favorite comment so far is that we ranked second only to toilet paper as one of life’s great necessities.”

Here at Skolnik Industries, our stainless steel wine barrels are “virtual” at www.skolnik.com . Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here.