July 14, 2014: What drew you to wine?
I loved everything French – art, music, literature, food, wine. I was a baby existentialist who had wandered around New York dressed in black and carrying a Camus novel, hoping someone would notice. When my marriage was unraveling in the mid-1970s, I needed to find work. The world of wine was an obvious idea, as a job as a bilingual night receptionist in a Beaune hotel was not appealing.
How did you get into the wine business?
My first job was selling oak barrels to wineries in the U.S. for François Frères. I arrived in California with a small barrel to show and my first sale was to Bob and Nonie Travers, owners of Mayacamas. Later I also became a broker for Taransaud. I sold Kistler their first barrels – that put me in touch with viticulture and vinification. My first list of wines came out in 1977 – I worked with Kermit Lynch and the Troisgros brothers, then started Le Serbet in 1979 with wines from domaines who were willing to have a go with an unknown American expatriate. Now we sell wines from more than 80 [domaines]….
July 15, 2014 — The new black bottle for the 2012 Angelus, embossed with 21.7-carat gold words and the Saint-Émilion château’s iconic bell symbol, looks like it would be pretty hard to fake. Fusing the gold onto the glass was a complex process requiring two firings at 600°C and 500°C.
But most wineries charging big bucks for their wines use less-dramatic techniques to reassure wine lovers they’re getting what they paid for. (The Angelus fancy bottle is a one-off to celebrate the year the château was promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classe A.)
Security companies who’ve spent decades devising protections for pharmaceuticals and Gucci handbags are wooing the wine industry with overt and covert high-tech solutions that go way beyond early anti-fraud efforts. In 1984, for example, Château d’Yquem started incorporating a special watermark its label and, in the 1990s, Penfolds began adding a laser-etched identification on bottles of Grange.
Here’s a short list of ways wineries are now combating fakery….
from BLOOMBERG MARKETS:
June, 2014 — Owning a winery is many a wine lover’s secret fantasy, but few have made it work in reality as well as Ken Freeman, a managing director at Harpeth Capital LLC, and his wife, Akiko.
After spending three years prowling the back roads of Sonoma County, the couple in 2001 paid $875,000 for a dilapidated winery and a run-down farmhouse on 3.6 acres (1.5 hectares) in Sebastopol, California. Now, they also own 22 acres of nearby vineyards—and their Freeman Vineyard & Winery sells 5,000 cases a year of superb pinot noir and chardonnay at $35 to $55 a bottle.
Among the latest releases winemaker Akiko Freeman, 49, pours for me is the silky, intense 2012 Gloria Estate pinot, the first made entirely from the couple’s own grapes….
from The World of Fine Wine:
Issue 43, 2014 — On the fourth day of the Rudy Kurniawan trial this past December, I watched Burgundy producer Laurent Ponsot give an overview of the famed region to the jury in the courtroom at the Daniel P Moynihan Federal Courthouse in Manhattan. After pointing out Morey- St-Denis, where his domaine is located, on a large map, he recalled the shock of discovering that Kurniawan was passing off counterfeit bottles of Domaine Ponsot’s expensive reds as the real thing.
It was fitting that Ponsot was the first of three famous winemakers on the witness stand that day. Fake Ponsot wines consigned by Kurniawan to auction house Acker Merrall & Condit for an April 2008 New York sale set the case in motion.
The testimonies of Ponsot, Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée- Conti, and Christophe Roumier of Domaine G Roumier were among the highlights of the landmark United States of America v Kurniawan trial, the first time the US government had prosecuted a criminal case against a wine counterfeiter….
May, 2014 — Every time I drive west over the Mayacamas mountains from Napa into Sonoma, I feel I’m leaving behind glitz, glamour and grand estates and entering – with relief – into a slower, more rural wine world. Populated by farmers in jeans, the descendants of Italian grape-growers, and vintners obsessed with Pinot Noir, the byways of laid-back Sonoma remind me of Napa before the mega-rich arrived in their Lamborghinis.
This is where the northern Californian wine rush began 200 years ago, when Russian fur traders planted vines near coastal Fort Ross in 1812. Its wine history lives on at still-thriving, century-old stone wineries and in veteran gnarled vines that new pioneers strive to preserve….
6.26.14 — I discovered this under-$20 French red wine on a recent visit to Burgundy, though it wasn’t from that famous, fashionable region. Legendary wine broker Becky Wasserman poured the deliciously light and fruity 2012 Domaine des Bérioles Saint-Pourçain Les Grandes Brières at a family-style staff lunch of creamy asparagus risotto and a pork casserole, both cooked by her husband, Russell Hone, at their homey offices in the center of Beaune. The domaine is one of the 100-odd fine producers that their company, Le Serbet, represents….
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