Arts & Entertainment

DOWD ON DRINKS: Wine Notes From Near And Far

Keeping up with the worldwide wine scene can be a fulltime occupation in these days of the global marketplace.

On the assumption you don’t have enough time to do that, herewith a capsule-by-capsule rundown to keep you up to speed.

Miracle of the vines: Sagrantino, a venerable wine from the Umbria region of Italy, has long been known for its deep red color. Originally it was produced in the Middle Ages by followers of St. Francis of Assissi for use in religious services. Now, after a decade of research and experimentation between the University of Milan and the Arnaldo Caprai estate, a white version of the wine has been produced.

After 10 years of research, Marco Caprai told the AGI news service,

"We have managed to obtain a species of vine which, although it is not naturally-occurring, was present in the genetic features of the Sagrantino that we used to know. This result has been achieved resorting to self-fertilization, that is one of the most frequently used methods of genetic improvement applied to create new varieties of vines."

Wine as reality TV: Network and cable stations have been cashing in on the public demand for reality shows with big payoffs. Now, public television is getting in on the act. PBS’ "Wine Makers," a reality competition set for 2007, will pit 12 contestants vying for the chance to launch their own label.

The twist is that financing the series requires a new sponsorship model, rather than the restrained PBS method of a somewhat generic announcement by program underwriters. This time, what are described as "top-tier sponsors" are being offered a five- to 15-second spot before and after the half-hour show. In other words, non-commercial TV is going commercial.

Targeting a new market: Target stores in 19 states have gotten into the wine- selling business. The variety store chain is selling Wine to Go, four-packs of wine in single-serving sizes of pinot grigio, cabernet sauvignon/shiraz, merlot and chardonnay.

However, in a nation of varying and often conflicting laws about sales of alcoholic beverages, availability is limited. Target.com does provide a map showing which states allow wine sales in its stores.

Canadians going to the goblet: Earlier this year, I spent some time with master distiller Harold Ferguson at the Canadian Mist operation in Collingwood, Ontario, learning the basics of blending Canadian whisky. As it turns out, I probably should have been spending more time with some local winemakers or wine sellers to stay current with Canadian consumer preferences.

According to a new Statistics Canada report, wines sales have outpaced spirit sales in the country for the first time ever, by a slight $4.2 billion to $4 billion (Canadian). Beer sales, however, remain way out in front with $8.4 billion in sales for the same fiscal year, which ended March 31, 2005, and was just reported. The growth in wine sales has been mostly in reds, with sales of that sector up 60 percent in the past five years.

That is more than double the increase in sales of white wine and triple that of all spirits.

Pomegranate wine in Israel: Pomegranate has been the fruit of the moment for several years, selling big-time in its natural form as well as in juices and extracts. According to Productscan, a product data service, 215 new pomegranate-flavored foods and beverages were brought to market in the first seven months of 2006.

Father and son Gaby and Avi Nachmias, the third generation of a farming family who were founding members of Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra in Israel’s Upper Galilee area near the border with Lebanon, began experimenting 10 years ago to create a new strain of the ancient fruit that would be richer in vitamins and antioxidants, sweeter and deeper in its red color than most pomegranate types. That led to more experimentation and a pomegranate dessert wine from their own fruit. Domestically, Rimon wines cost about $15 to $24 a bottle. The company will not speculate what distribution costs will do to pricing in the U.S.

Aussie label fading away: If you’re into collecting rare wines, grab a bottle of Broken Earth from Australia. Tandou Limited, a southeastern Australian agriculture company, has decided to sell its winery at Monash as well as the Broken Earth name and get out of the wine business.

Tandou began as a private company growing irrigated cereals and grazing merino sheep. It now is involved in producing both cotton and wool, owning and operating fruit orchards, and operating water management systems.


 (c) 2006 Hearst Newspapers