Thursday, February 26, 2009

Santa Cristina versus Rutherford Hill

Hi folks. I used a family gathering as a backdrop for a comparison of two reds, the first of it's kind for me this year.

In one corner was a Santa Cristina 2005 Toscana (Sangiovese, Italy), ABV 12.1%. In the opposite corner was a Rutherford Hill 2004 Merlot (Merlot, California), ABV 14.2%.

The Santa Cristina had a rather tight nose to me, with only earthy, woody, almost asphalt-like tones. After some swirling I began to catch a floral aroma. The taste was moderate tanins with some presence of dark fruit. To my disappointment, the finish was abrupt and left my mid-pallate feeling unsatisfied. The sudden finish had me wondering if the product was slightly watered down, not sure. For $12.00, I've had better--Score: 2.0

The Rutherford Hill's aroma was very, very fruity. There were sweet, creamy hints to it (suggesting oak played a part in it's development), with an obvious dark berry component to it. The high alcohol upon taste was very quickly masked by the balance of the fruits, vanilla/caramel hints, and very firm tanins. This lit up my entire mouth, and stayed around for a long time--I was floored by the terrific taste of this--I am sure this will be a tough one to surpass this year for me, particularly for the reasonable $17.99 price. Score: 4.5

Monday, February 16, 2009

Terrorism in the Wine Industry: The CRAV are No Sons of Liberty.

As an American who believes in personal liberty, I can’t help but look back with pride at many of the events of the American Revolution. One such event strikes a cord: the Boston Tea party, where the Sons of Liberty, dressed as American Indians, boarded a British ship and dumped tons of English tea in Boston harbor in protest of British taxes. But just for a moment imagine that tea being wine, that harbor being in a Mediterranean port, and those Indians being black ski masked shadows. However, replace the noble cause of liberty, with the goal of bringing about more socialist government regulation of free trade. This, in a nutshell, is the story of CRAV, France’s Wine Terrorist organization. But as you will see, the CRAV is anything but a modern day Sons of Liberty.

I was fascinated to recently learn that there was an outlaw organization in existence that used acts of terror in an effort to allegedly “protect” the wine industry of France. I for one would think that after hundreds of years of leading the wine world, that French wine would not require any type of extreme violent action to protect its future. Well, certain wine producers in the Languedoc-Roussillion region seem to disagree.

Little is know about the Comité régional d'action viticole(CRAV) or, the Regional Committee for Viticultural Action, other than what it claims to stand for. The CRAV first emerged sometime in 2001 and 2002. They claim to be a group of nameless but small wine producers in the south of France who have been driven to violence by a combination of declining prices, droping demand in France, less expensive imports from Spain and Italy and global competition from new world wine areas like Australia and South America. The Comité Régional d'Action Viticole is a shadowy organization which has publicly claimed to have an estimated 1,000 members and an unknown number of sympathizers who believe the French government is not doing enough to protect small wine producers from globalization.

It has claimed responsibility for bombing a grocery stores, a winery, agriculture ministry offices, hyjacking a tanker and destroying large quantities of non-French wine. On March 6 , 2006, more than 120 ski masked men armed with crowbars attacked the Mediterranean port city of Sète in France's Languedoc region. They broke into two wine merchants' warehouses and dumped thousands of gallons of wine onto the ground. Then in May of 2007, the group even went so far as to release a video which threatened that “Blood would flow” unless action was taken to raise the price of wine. But the CRAV is no joke, they are said to be influenced by Corsican and Basque separatists. Both of these known terrorist organizations, have taken many lives and at times caused wide spread econmomic distruption.

In my humble opinion, the CRAV have done nothing but hurt the wine industry of southern France. In this day and age, where terrorism has caused so much harm to so many people throughout the would, I would expect that their actions have turned wine consumers interest away from the Languedoc region. This is quite a shame since I have nothing but good experiences with wines from that region.

Instead of resorting to violence in an effort to bring about more government control, perhaps these producers should switch gears and work for less regulation and freedom. With less regulation and government control, these producers could adopt a more cost effective business model that will produce quality wine which could compete with external competitors. In the end, how ironic is that this organization was created to fight the free market when a freer market is what will ultimately solve their problems.