If You Read Anything This Week: Wine News 6.8.2018

Remembering Anthony Bourdain: The food world is reeling today in response to the passing of Anthony Bourdain. He was found dead in his hotel room in France, where he was filming for Parts Unknown. He was 61. Bourdain’s best-selling 2000 memoir helped spark public curiosity about kitchen life, and he has inspired eaters and travelers ever since. [NYT]

Measure C saga: The fate of Napa County’s contentious Measure C is not yet decided. As of Tuesday night, the initiative led by a very narrow margin: 7,191 to 7,149. Updates are expected today and into next week, but the decision might not come until late June, when the county certifies the election. [Napa Valley Register]

Australian wine in China: The popularity of Australian wine has suffered in the US and UK in recent years, but Chinese consumers are picking up the slack. Australian brands are investing heavily in China, with great success thus far. Most Australian imports to China are bottled (not bulk), with 93% red. [JancisRobinson.com]

Lafite’s next chapter: Bloomberg profiles Saskia de Rothschild, who became the youngest person leading a first-growth Bordeaux estate when she took over Château Lafite Rothschild in April. Her challenges include sparking millennial interest in Bordeaux, pursuing sustainability, and navigating the Chinese market. (See also these tasting notes and reflections from Eric Asimov, who was present at a dinner commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Rothschild acquisition of Lafite!) [Bloomberg, NYT]

Bloomfield & Friedman split: The months-long process of dividing April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman’s restaurant empire concluded this week. Bloomfield will take control of San Francisco’s Tosca Cafe and LA’s Hearth & Hound while remaining chef at the Breslin and John Dory Oyster Bar in New York. It appears Friedman will maintain ownership of the Spotted Pig, at the center of multiple allegations, and White Gold. [Eater]

Rodenstock dies: Collector Hardy Rodenstock has died at the age of 76. A music publisher, he gained a reputation for tracking down old, rare wines. He is best known for the so-called Jefferson bottles he claimed to have found in 1985, which led to accusations of fraud. The Billionaire's Vinegar tells the story of the controversy. [Decanter]

Our favorite SevenFifty Daily article this week

Yeast experiments: Today, many winemakers are interested in understanding the precise microorganisms involved in their fermentations. There’s widespread curiosity not only about the differences between commercial and indigenous yeast but also about the many variations within, and outcomes for, each category. [SevenFifty Daily]

What do you think?

How was Bourdain’s work influential in your career or love of food and drink?

Is Australian wine popular in your market? How have you seen its reputation shift over time?

What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for Bordeaux today?

Have you heard of other interesting studies of yeast in winemaking?

What else have you been reading this week?

  • Anthony Bourdain's adventurous spirit coupled with his literary and cultural savvy added to my curiosity about food, wine, and travel.  It wasn't until 2008 during my tour to Afghanistan as an Infantry Platoon leader, though, that I found out about him.  A fellow Lieutenant from New Jersey let me borrow Kitchen Confidential.  Boom!  That is when I decided that I would further my knowledge of food and wine and maybe pursue a career in the industry.  The biggest take away for me from Bourdain's travel docs were the parallels between his approach to travel and how I felt in Afghanistan, Panama, Colombia, etc.  I wanted to actually get to know these people and their culture, not fight them or participate in geopolitical mania and transnational corporate BS.  He seemed simultaneously immune to the white noise and absurdity of the world and engulfed in its morass.  Check out the Marseille episode of Parts Unknown during which he and Eric Ripert talk about karma and reincarnation, hope and hopelessness, and death.  Sad and telling in hindsight.  Peace be with him, his family, and friends.  The world is a little darker without his example.          

  • Bourdain was a main driver for me being in the restaurant business.  Kitchen Confidential's impact on chef culture is not to be understated.  He made it so that the tattooed chef in a flannel shirt and jeans who focused on offal and farm-to-table ingredients was not only possible, but cool.  At a time when people were looking at Food Network for their clean cut celebrity chefs who were doing the same 1/2 hour, 4 camera shows, he appealed to those that wanted to understand a bit more ... combine that with the follow up of A Cook's Tour and TV shows like Good Eats and Iron Chef America (both of which give us permission to geek out on the details of food, if in very opposite ways) and Bourdain was set to become the frontrunner for Americans to understand global food culture in a new way.  His transition into an elder cultural statesman to me has been amazing and his genuine graciousness and kindness (in a way coming from a place of extreme cynicism and skepticism) is something that has always resonated with me.

    Skip the obits and instead take a look a this old New Yorker piece which does a great job of capturing him.