By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Randall Murray: Educate yourself on the range of wine issues such as counterfeiting, fermentating
Placeholder Image

Here’s a collection of myths, stories, newsbreaks and interesting tidbits from the world of wine. Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up.

Guess which nation is poised to become the world’s second-largest consumer of wine.

No, it’s not Luxembourg, although that’s a pretty place to visit.

According to the International Wine & Spirits Research organization, China is expected to become No. 2 in the world by 2020, bumping Great Britain and France. Of course, No. 1 is the United States.

It’s tough being No. 1; there’s always somebody breathing down your neck.

The U.S. knocked France out of the top spot in 2013.

***

Fake news has been making headlines for the past six months or so. But so has fake wine.

Even though an unscrupulous wine broker named Rudy Kurniawan went for an extended stay in the slammer in 2014, the problem of counterfeit wine continues to vex those who prize their 1959 Chateau Lafite-Rothschilds and Domaine Romanee Conti Burgundies.

Maureen Downey, one of the leading sleuths tracking down bogus wines, warns fully 20 percent of fine, collectible wines on the market are fakes. The fraudsters are very clever at putting substandard wines into bottles, then making the bottles, corks and labels look authentically old.

Downey estimates “ ... 70 percent of the Chateau Lafite sold in China is fake.”

Lafite is one of the five first growths in Bordeaux and is highly prized in China. A bottle of Lafite from the grand 2009 vintage is listed by a highly respected New York store at nearly $550.

***

Speaking of expensive French wines, don’t think this is a new thing. In 1845, Fraser’s Magazine quoted a Bordeaux wine merchant who complained that not only were the top-rated French wines too expensive, but he wasn’t able to find any to buy.

Reminds me of the guy who griped about the food on a cut-rate cruise line.

“Not only is the food lousy,” he groused, “but the portions are so small.”

***

Plato, the great Greek philosopher, seems to have had your faithful correspondent in mind when he wrote wine in moderation was important until 40.

After that, he counseled, drink away to cure “the crabbiness of old age” and “soften the hard cast of mind.”

I think I resent that.

***

Anyone who knows much about wine understands the role that oak barrels play in the process of fermentation and aging of wines — both reds and whites. Ever get a whiff of something that smells vaguely like vanilla extract from a glass of premium cabernet sauvignon ... some chardonnays, too?

That comes from oak. But don’t think it always comes from oak barrels. No, mon ami, winemakers have many ways to tweak things a bit and present a wine that smells like oak but never came close to an oak barrel.

When you consider that a good French oak barrel can cost more than of $1,500, and wineries may need a couple of thousand ... well, like the old saying goes, follow the money.

I read recently a company has developed a series of 11 oak chips, each with its own set of characteristics to meet the needs of different types of wines. Just dump some of these little goodies into a container of aging wine and, bingo, oak aromas. It may sound like cheating, but it’s really not.

Check your wine label. If it says the wine is oak-fermented or oak-aged, your wine may be a little, uh, chippy. If it says the wine was aged or fermented in oak barrels, you’re getting the real thing.

***

If you think wine grapes and wine have forever defined California’s Napa Valley, think one more time.

Following World War II, the most important fruit crop there was prunes. The cash value of the prune crop was higher than grapes as late as 1960.

Just to prove the degree to which things have changed, it was announced earlier this year the price of one acre of vineyard land in Napa exceeded $1 million.

And you wonder why there are so many $100 cabernets from Napa?

***

In closing: I ran across an apron (I really enjoy cooking) I regret not buying.

It said, “I rescued some wine. It was trapped in a bottle.”

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.

Regional events