If You Read Anything This Week: Wine News 1/18/2019

Remembering Gerard Basset: As posted earlier this week, the wine world lost a legend when Gerard Basset passed away on January 16. He held both the MW and MS titles, mentored many, and worked as a sommelier, hotelier, judge, and writer. Decanter shared several tributes, and Jancis Robinson wrote her own remembrance and shared details of his life. [Decanter, JancisRobinson.com]

Brand Winery sold: Ed and Deb Fitts, founders of Brand Winery in Napa, have sold the winery and 15 acres of vines to former Apple executives Jim Bean and Christine O’Sullivan. Brand was purchased by the Fittses in 2005, with a first vintage in 2009. Winemaker Philippe Melka will remain in his post. [Wine Spectator]

Interstate commerce update: The Supreme Court heard arguments in the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Assoc. v. Blair case on Wednesday. The court must weigh the 21st Amendment, which authorized states to regulate alcohol distribution within their borders, against the dormant-commerce clause, which says states cannot create barriers to out-of-state economic interests. [The Washington Post]

The micro list: Shorter, “micro” wine lists are officially a trend according to Bloomberg. Economics have played a role, as has the shift to more casual dining. Of course, opinions vary: some sommeliers strive to include something for everything, while others think a short list should have a narrow focus. [Bloomberg]

Reviving Retsina: Producers in Greece are working to improve the reputation of Retsina, hoping to transform it from a cheap source of shame into a proud cultural tradition. Roditis, Muscat of Alexandria, and Savatiano are among the grapes used for new-wave Retsinas. Gaia is the most prominent producer. [NYT]

Meat-free somms:  talked to vegetarian and vegan sommeliers about how their dietary choices impact their work. Key to success is understanding the principles of pairing food and wine, including not just ingredients but also preparation. The article also considers vegan and vegetarian wine. [World of Fine Wine]

Our favorite SevenFifty Daily article this week

Italian grapes: Italy offers a wealth of obscure grapes, an exciting prospect for increasingly curious wine drinkers. SevenFifty Daily highlights ten to know: Timorasso, Rossese, Schioppettino, Friulano, Verdiso, Piedirosso, Fiano, Gaglioppo, Nerello Mascalese, and Carricante. [SevenFifty Daily]

What do you think?

What do you think of the questions and arguments posed in the Supreme Court case heard this week?

What are your priorities for a short wine list?

Which high-quality examples of Retsina have you had the opportunity to taste? Do you have a favorite?

What would you add to the conversation around working as a sommelier with dietary restrictions?

What's your favorite obscure Italian grape?

What else have you been reading this week?

  • Favorite obscure Italian grape?  Crovino!


    A rare, dark-skinned grape from Liguria with the tendency to literally fall off the vine once ripe.  Vigneti a Prua also makes an excellent one.  (They might both be owned by the same family?)  I met the producer who was around 20 years old at the time.  He talked a lot about how it's a lot of work near harvest time as the grapes obviously don't all fall at once and dealing with birds and other animals is a lot of work.  Between the manual labor and use of nests for protection, etc, most other producers have simply ripped theirs up and planted something else.  He took over the winery when he turned 18 and him and his sister still feel it is important to maintain the local varietals and history so they forge on.