A very important update

Time for a massive update on what you can expect from The Wine Analyst!

In short: more content, more structure in posting, all surrounded by two commercial initiatives pertaining to South African wine and sake.

Wine writing as we know it on the fast track towards an untimely demise. A multitude of blogs and shadier ways of sponsoring content (which is not unique to the wine business, as shown here) has led to something of a crisis of faith. If a budding wine writer were to attempt to preserve his or her integrity, how fair would a playing field where sponsored content, free samples or free press trips reign be? Wine writers who get something out of their activities are scarce, those who can actually make a professional living have become as illustrious as an authentic bottle of Lafite 1982 in China. People like Jamie Goode or Matt Walls have shed their light on the future that lays ahead of someone who likes wine and can string a couple of sentences together, but there is of course no definite path. There are pioneers who managed to combine both commercial interests as well as ‘honorable’ wine writing, and I am taking a page from their book.

Simply put: aside from blogging I am launching two new initiatives: a curated selection of South African wines “The Wine Analyst Goes South”, as well as one of the most extensive offerings of sake in Belgium “The Sake Collection”.

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TWA Goes South

I have said it before and I will continue to say it, South Africa holds an enormous potential which is being unlocked at an ever-accelerating pace. It has been the source of some of the most exciting wines that I have drunk over the past couple of years, and I am convinced that it will keep on delivering in the future. I will curate a selection of roughly 60 wines for the moment, the result of a quite strict selection process in cooperation with a local importer. The focus is on producers who I believe will play a large role in determining the future of the wine scene, aside from a range of entry levels wines to acquaint oneself with South Africa.

The Dutch version of the catalogue can be found here (other languages will follow).


The Sake Collection

I don’t think that I mentioned this in the past on the blog, but ten years ago I graduated with a Masters degree in Japanese Studies, following a year at Osaka University. It is an old passion of mine that has been rekindled in recent times, following a long overdue return to one of my favorite countries on the planet. I passed the WSET level 3 in sake earlier this year, and having tasted quite extensively over the past months, I am convinced that the image people have of sake does not do justice to something truly unique in the world of drinks. The Sake Collection will be my way to inform, entertain and educate people on the joys of premium sake. This initiative goes much further than simply selling sake, but will also go on to presentations, workshops and education purposes in general.

The Dutch version of the catalogue can be found here (other languages will follow).

A note on integrity

Commercial ventures and independent wine writing make a pairing as good as Burgundy land prices and common sense, but I do think that there is room for coexistence. The key is transparency and integrity, two things that I hope I have sufficiently displayed over the last years, so this is basically an expansion of the rules that I mentioned on the website since the beginning. If there is ever a sake or a wine that I work with mentioned in one of my articles, it will be clearly marked both at the top of as well as within the article. If I were to write about an item or trip that has been offered in some way, it will be properly disclosed in the article itself. If I were to write a review on a restaurant that is also a client of mine, it will be stated as such.

Finally, the format of this newsletter will also change. It will only appear on a monthly basis, not with every article published, and while the focus will remain on the blog content, initiatives taken by TWA Goes South or The Sake Collection will be included for informative purposes.

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And finally, a first public appearance!

I do go out from time to time instead of just staring at a fridge filled with wine to taste, and will be present at this weekend’s Vini Birre Ribelli, offering a selection of sake to taste and enjoy. It would be my great pleasure to meet you there!

An impression of the Real Wine Fair (II)

Moving on to the other side of the world, South Africa. Three estates were present: Mother Rock, mentioned here and here in the past; Jurgen Gouws, whose wines could qualify as my gateway drug to South Africa after having tasted them at RAW two years ago; and Testalonga, the solo-project of Craig and Carla Hawkins. I have tasted quite a few of their wines at separate occasions, so this was a great opportunity to go through the full lineup. All in all, the wines are exemplary expressions of their variety, yet characterized by a freshness and purity that really shows the signature of the winemaker. Continue reading

An impression of the Real Wine Fair (I)

The 2014 edition of the Real Wine Fair was my first proper wine event. Two intense days packed with tasting, attending presentations given by experts, plunging into the completely unknown with Georgian wines and still remembering great wines made by the likes of Olivier Pithon, Elisabetta Foradori and Anton Van Klopper (just a few months back, I cracked my last, wonderful bottle of his 2010 Lucy Margaux pinot noir). The last couple of years I had to chose to either attend the RWF or RAW, given that London is not exactly cheap and winewriting doesn’t generate anything worthy of the term revenue. This year however, thanks to the combination of cheap Eurostar tickets and suitable dates, I had the luck of attending both fairs. Continue reading

On mistaking marketing ploys for wine (2)

Schermafbeelding 2017-04-09 om 18.55.25So, how have our blue wine-producing friends fared since their marketing-heavy launch last year? Admittedly, they dropped off my radar quite quickly after I published this article. At the time, I had contacted them to see if their wine would be available in Belgium, as it was perennially sold out on their Dutch website. I didn’t get a reply until just a while ago, when they were thrilled to announce that they were back in production and that I would be able to order as much as I would need, or required to slip me into a sugar-induced coma (well, non-caloric sweeteners technically). It was casually mentioned that past issues were resolved, which is basically click bait for a google search to what said issues may be! Continue reading

Loire Tripping 2017 – The Salon & La Levée

Finally, my impressions from a day at the Salon des Vins de Loire. Contrary to last year, I only attended on Tuesday, due to the Salon changing its calendar and starting a day earlier, thus overlapping the numerous off-events. I don’t really know why this was done, nor did I get a straight answer from basically anyone, but I do think that it is to the detriment of the Salon. Visitors were few, perhaps also because it was the final day, but compounded with the fact that there was an entire tasting area gone in comparison to last year, this is not a good sign. I get that you want to be the biggest and the best, but look at Millésime Bio and Vinisud facing off just a week before the Loire events; no one really wins. Continue reading

Loire tripping 2017 – Dive Bouteille

img_4974Dive is the type of chaos with a flair that only the French know how to do right. Get annoyed at the lack of navettes between the Saumur station and the Ackerman cellars where la Dive takes place or walk. Get pissed off at the crowds of backpack-carrying groupies who just hang out with their revered winemaker of choice, or simply mingle with them. Finally, get paralyzed by the fear of swallowing due to the lack of spittoons, or carry around your own in a trolley, trumping backpacks in annoyance, like a certain couple of Dutch wine merchants (although you never know with the Dutch, they may as well have been creating their own very special blend of salvia-textured wine vinegar).

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A different kind of pink

There are a couple of tropes that you can count on in wine writing. Champagne is reviewed to bits around the holidays. March-April is all about Bordeaux with both supporters and critics of the primeur system basically repeating the exact same argument that they have had for the past five years. Summer is about rosé, which, based on what you read, is always better than the year before, higher quality, vintage-impact non-existent and seemingly the only wine you can chug when you pass 25°C, only to be completely forgotten and ignored come September. The rosé hype of the past couple of years remains on the up and up. Given that marketeers figure out something new to keep the buzz going every year (brosé,  rosé-infused gummy bears, or this year’s frosé), I doubt that we will see an end to it soon.

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On mistaking marketing ploys for wine

There are wine-related stories that should never find their way to serious wine media. Some of these are obvious. Take for example the recently launched “Pinot Meow” and MosCATo” wines for cats (cringeworthy right from the start) which were luckily not taken up by too many publications. Other bits of news are not as clear-cut like this week’s Blue Wine launched in several countries and reported on in The Drinks Business or Decanter among other media. Continue reading

RAW, the Artisan Wine Fair 2016

IMG_3625The 2016 RAW fair took place in London this weekend, and just like last year, it was an intense but terrific experience. An increasing number of winemakers seems to realize that it is a unique opportunity to showcase their wines to both old fans and people who are a lot more open-minded than the ones attending Prowein or Vinexpo. Of course, estates come and go but the showing does remain impressive. Those with long-established reputations stand side by side with those who are only just stepping into the world of wine, often presenting their first vintage to the public, nervous about the impression that they’ll make or the feedback they will receive. Continue reading

Getting around to reliving Dive Bouteille

Note: sommelier studies and papers to write have led me to neglect The Wine Analyst yet again. From now on though, things will be different and posts will actually be published, even on a more or less regular basis!

To start with a bit of hipster news, beards are out, moustaches are the new thing (in all likelihood in solidarity with those struggling to grow a full beard)! Dive Bouteille has developed quite the rapport with the wine hipster community and continues to enjoy increasing international attention, not in the least thanks to Alice Feiring and Pascaline Lepeltier.

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An overdue reflection on the Salon des Vins de Loire

If you are a serious winelover, France is definitely the place to be in the beginning of the new year as large events are organized throughout the country. Millésime Bio gives the kick-off in the final week of January, leading directly into the Salon des Vins de Loire (with its numerous off-events) and ending with Vinisud. Unfortunately, some winelovers have completed unrelated day jobs, meaning that choices have to be made. Last year I visited La Dive Bouteille, basically the first off-salon event, and this year I combined it with a visit to the actual Salon (yes, people still go there) as well as Renaissance (formerly Renaissance des Appelations). Even when spending four days in Angers, this still meant that I had to skip Pénitents (Thierry Puzelat and René Mosse inviting friends) and Les Anonymes.

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Wine investments, a opinion on superficial media reporting

Media and wine are not good friends in Belgium. Superficial and incorrect information is moribund, and no one ever takes the time to correct it as items usually get the ‘light’ treatment, snuck in as filler. On the 23rd of December the VRT news contained an item on wine investments. The way it was announced in the newsreader’s almost playful style did not bode well. My fears were confirmed and it was yet another casual report that would do more harm than good to the image of wine. In exceptional circumstances, as the original video is in Dutch, my commentary is also provided in Dutch. Happy reading and more importantly, happy holidays! Continue reading

A discovery of sweet wines

Berry Brothers wine list, credit to German fine winesYou cannot get a full picture of German Riesling without talking about the country’s tradition in sweet wines. At one point in time they ranked amongst the most expensive wines in the world, even beating a couple of Médoc First Growths. Unfortunately, they took a turn for the worse in the eighties. ‘liebfraumilch’ is largely to blame for the image of sweet German wines that still persists in many parts of the world. Continue reading

On the (un)-importance of vintages

The Bordeaux en primeur campaign has come and gone as it does every year, resulting in the usual commentaries, analyses and articles being spawned. What always strikes me is the emphasis placed on the vintage assessment, more so here than in any other part of the world it sometimes seems. In fact, the general public tends to extrapolate the verdict of the 2014 Bordeaux vintage to France, or even the whole world. Continue reading

The historical value (or lack thereof) of wine

For a recent column in Decanter Jane Anson interviewed Michel-Jack Chasseuil, one of the greatest wine collectors in the world. I had come across his name before, namely while browsing through his book  ‘100 vintage treasure from the world’s finest wine cellar’. Chasseuil is an obsessive collector and the proud owner of some of the rarest and supposedly greatest wines in the world. Continue reading

Wine for the ages

There are dozens of misunderstandings amongst the general public when it comes to wine. It is too expensive, it all tastes the same, I don’t know anything about it so I have to look like a deer caught in the headlights when presented with the wine list in a restaurant, anyone who knows the name of a grape variety that is not chardonnay or merlot is a snob,… . Continue reading

An opinion on tasting notes (3)

Now we get to the difficult part, how do you actually come up with a tasting note? Sommelier courses nearly always start explaining students how to taste using a structured approach that can serve as a template for virtually every wine they would encounter in the future. Yet, when browsing professional tasting notes, there is little structure or uniformity to be found. Continue reading

An opinion on tasting notes (1)

One of the most boring things to read in an article on wine is the list of tasting notes. This may seem contradictory as the essence of a wine is always, always found in the tasting. An estate may have a long history, it may be owned by celebrities or a bottle may even have been dug out of a sunken submarine, if the content does not excite or lacks a sense of identity than it is all for naught. Continue reading

Champagne – A state of affairs

One of the first wine regions that thoroughly fascinated me was Champagne. This is not a coincidence as it is the closest international wine region from Brussels (sadly, Limburg or the Westhoek are as of yet not recognized as global centers of quality wine) and Belgians are possibly the largest consumer group of champagne (all the wine that Belgians buy on a quick trip to the region is not included in most market research). Continue reading

A Definition of Minerality

Judging from the wine blogosphere, you would be quite correct in assuming that German white wine is the next big thing, up for a well-deserved revival after the world had been flooded with cheap, low-quality liebfraumilch for decades. I myself only discovered the new wave in German wine a couple of years ago when I was introduced to Dönnhoff (Nahe) and Horst Sauer (Franken). Continue reading