In the wine industry, controversies come and controversies go, but one that seems to have stuck around a while revolves around zinfandel. And there’s no better place to dredge up the old debate than at the annual ZAP Grand Tasting held each January in San Francisco. This year marked the event’s 20th anniversary, and the question of what zinfandel is and what it should be gained even more traction than in years past.
The debate on zinfandel was probably best encapsulated by the SF Chronicle’s Jon Bonné’s Thirst column. Rather than go over it in detail, there are a few observations I think bear relevance. For one, it is very easy to project your ideas and philosophies onto a grape like zinfandel. It has a populist appeal which speaks to a broader segment of the market and grates the grits of those who take wine more seriously. Yet when one starts to dig deeper and learn about the old zin vineyards that populate California’s North Coast region, complaints arise that the prices are too high and that it drives away everyday drinkers.
ZAP: Is this the line for Turley?
There can be no doubt that the “zin-fanatics” are a unique bunch of wine enthusiasts and they can certainly rile those who take their wine more seriously, including many who are in the industry. Thing is, those are often the same people who complain that we need more consumers at wine events. Apparently, the 8-10,000 zin fans lining up at Fort Mason don’t count because they are “that type” of consumer. (more…)
One of the most incredible stories in today’s wine world is that of Lebanon’s Chateau Musar. With vineyards first planted in the Bekaa Valley in 1930, Serge Hochar and his family have made wine continuously through times of both peace and strife in his war-torn home. Any winemaker will tell you that harvest is a stressful, difficult labor of love under ideal circumstances. But with the added complication of bullets, mortars, and armed checkpoints, Serge has passionately persisted with an unparalleled dedication to his craft. Only twice in his decades-long career was he unable to complete harvest. In 1984, Decanter Magazine made Serge its first “Man of the Year” for his single-minded devotion to winemaking through such incredible conditions.
Serge Hochar of Chateau Musar with Boo Mahmoud of Broadbent Importers
A recent invitation to a Chateau Musar tasting prompted me to clear my schedule—when you get the opportunity to meet with Serge personally, you go. Tasting with him is less a presentation centered on tastes and aromas, soil types or vineyard aspects related to his wines, than it is a discussion of deeper subjects—philosophy, life and wine’s inextricable role in those areas. As he said, “I am not as interested in talking about the world of wine as I am about wine’s place in the world.” Questions from our group served as launching points for Serge to talk about a variety of topics ranging from history to art and back to wine, sprinkled throughout with glimpses of his impish humor. Tasting with Serge is a graduate-school experience and at times I felt transported back to my days at LSU, albeit with much better refreshments. (more…)