The History of Wine

Dionysus, Greek God of Wine and Pleasure

Dionysus, Greek God of Wine and Pleasure

People commonly enjoy wine today with an Italian dinner, to accompany a romantic evening, for a nightcap before laying down to sleep, or as a vehicle for getting inebriated. We know that wine has been consumed by people for many years, making appearances in ancient mythology, holy texts, and cultural customs that date back to the distant past all over the world. However, the history of wine is rarely talked about, and totally deserving of the wine enthusiast’s interest. If you were wondering where wine was first made, here are some clues…

The Origin of Wine

Archeological evidence suggests that drink made of fermented grapes was created in China as far back as 7000 BC. Soon after, wine became a prevalent beverage in the Near East, Mesopotamia, Israel, and Egypt, gaining deep appreciation in Greek and Roman culture, mythology, and daily life. Under the Roman Empire, the wine press was greatly improved and barrels for transport were developed.

Wine in Religion and Mythology

Wine’s ability to alter consciousness has been appreciated within religious circles since it’s conception. The Greeks god Dionysus, god of the grape harvest, was characterized as a hedonist, libertine, and theatric. His cults carried over into Roman culture as well. Wine has been a part of communion in the Catholic Church since ancient times, representative of Jesus’ last supper. Famously, Jesus turns water into wine in the gospel books.

Origin of American-Made Wine

Since the creation and consumption of wine predates written language, it’s impossible to know for certain when and where wine came into existence. However, it’s been speculated that wine first appeared in modern day Georgia following the development of pottery sometime after the Neolithic era, later spreading south, and eventually out in all directions. Georgia seems the most likely source because of the wild grapes endemic to the region. Whatever the case, wine went on to have a major presence in varied social circles, cultures, and different parts of the world. Standing the ultimate test of time, wine continues to be appreciated today.

Cheers!

Wine Trends Fall 2014

There are some interesting trends in this year’s Wine & Spirits compilation of top-selling Harry Dalian, Wine Cellarrestaurant wines. For one thing, only one brand in the top 10 wines of 2014 has an average price below $50. In fact, the average price for the top 10 restaurant wines hovers just around $80: the top wine, Cakebread Cellars, averages $86.48.

Popularity of Higher Priced Wines

Perhaps those who are willing to purchase wine at a restaurant are willing to spend a little extra for a better quality. Or perhaps sommeliers talk up particular brands and get their customers to try vintages they might not otherwise purchase. Or maybe wine drinkers merely feel that $90 is a reasonable amount to pay for an enjoyable bottle of wine.

Whatever the reason, higher-priced wines were surprisingly popular this year. Bubbles also saw a recent surge and Cabernet’s popularity increased dramatically. Indeed, four out of the top five labels have a heavy investment in Cabernet wines.

California Wine Beats France and Italy’s

Wine 2014, Harry DalianAs you might expect, Napa Valley had an excellent showing and California actually took 36 of the top 50 slots. Oregon had three on the list and Washington had just its Chateau Ste. Michelle, but New York did not make it at all! Even France and Italy had a poor showing with only a few brands clustered toward the bottom, and Spain didn’t even break the top 25.

Why are customers ignoring French, Italian, and Spanish wines? One could easily blame more progressive sommeliers but another possibility is the recent trend toward local foods and wines. Some sommeliers might cringe at the suggestion but the result is that many people choose local wines over Old World favorites.

Wine lists like these are intriguing for the data, but we can only guess at their reasons or implications. We’ll have to wait until next year to see how the numbers have changed once again.

Beer Growing in Popularity in France

Man thinking about wineFrance has long had a reputation for focusing on drinking wine. However, according to an article recently completed for Wine Searcher, that fact has been in the process of changing in recent years. Three decades ago, the industry of microbreweries in France was on the verge of extinction. However that is in the process of changing; within recent years, the United States claimed the title of the world’s largest wine consumer, taking the title from France. In addition, figures recently reported indicate that over seventy percent of the French people consider themselves clueless in regards to wine.

Combining all these facts, it makes it less surprising that the French are in the process of turning towards beer as the alcohol of choice instead of wine. As a result, the number of microbreweries has increased incredibly in the last few years. Since 2010, the number of small breweries in the country has doubled. In 2010, there were only three hundred and thirty four microbreweries in the country; by 2013, that number had increased to six hundred small breweries. There are also now twenty microbrew bars with unique beers on tap and over one hundred and fifty others available in a bottle. Several well known microbrew bars in the country include Le Supercoin, Express de Lyon and La Fine Mousse. With all of these options available, craft beers are now able to be purchased very cheaply in the country, sometimes with prices as low as ten euros a bottle, which is the equivalent of thirteen American dollars a bottle.

Despite all of this, France still consumes less beer than its European neighbors, and what they do choose to drink is often softer, less bitter and more refined than the typical choice in beer. In general, craft beers only account for just barely three percent of the beverage market in France. However, as the microbreweries continue to be created and developed, more unique and craft beers are brought about. This allows for more options, which could motivate even the wary consumer to give beer a try; in essence, with more craft beers, there is nearly a beer for everyone.

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Best Value Wines

Harry Dalian, Trader Joe's WineThe best wines come from Italy, France, Southern California… Or do they?

Yes, many famous vineyards are in those locations, and come from those climates. You can buy from these locations, however, it does not mean you have to spend top dollar on a very expensive bottle. Do you have the underlying need to impress a date or family member with your knowledge of wine and the sophistication with which you select it? Don’t forget that it can be so much fun to sample the various wines you can find from other areas whose qualities have not been built up on word of mouth and marketing through the grapevine. One of the best places to try a handful of wines you might have missed is Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe’s, if you haven’t been there recently, has amazing prices. On both food and wine, Trader Joe’s pretty much undercuts all its competition. It has been known affectionately as “the poor man’s Whole Foods”, or should be known as the Smart Buyer’s Whole Foods. Here are a few options:

Purple Moon Wine

Perhaps I shouldn’t tell you the prices up front. Instead I’ll go into the qualities.

Purple Moon Wine comes from a likable vineyard in California. It is a Red wine with easy drinkability and a medium body. Not as harsh or bitter as some Reds, Purple Moon Wine is great for those who love the taste of Red, but would like to be able to drink it with the ease of a White. You can find Purple Moon Wine at a Trader Joe’s wherever wines are sold. The price… now you can have it… it only $3.99

Josefina Syrah Rosé Paso Robles (2012)

Josefina Syrah Rosé Paso Robles comes from San Antonio, Texas by the San Antonio Winery. While it may not compare to the easiness of the Purple Moon Wine, San Antonio does a good job with a Rosé. While the color does not match up in the way you would imagine with most Rosés, the taste is particularly nice, and it is well more than a bargain at $4.99

For more wines at a great value, stay tuned!

How To Taste Wine

Harry Dalian, SynesthesiaThere’s no doubt in my mind that if you have arrived to this site you enjoy wine. The question, however, is whether you enjoy it to the full extent you are able. Are you able to apprehend the subtleties between years, between location of the grapes, the type of wine? More than likely you have tried a few. However, I would like to put forward the idea of D. T. Suzuki, that the master is a master because he approaches his subject of mastery every time as a beginner. Therefore, no matter how experienced, you will enjoy wine more when you stick to these steps and principles, and approach it by sense alone, and not with expectation.

Let’s talk about Red Wine.

Wine Tasting: Sight and Synesthesia

The first move you’ll make will be with your main, overwhelming sense: sight.

Harry Dalian, Wine and SynesthesiaLook at the wine. To get a better view, tilt the glass to its side and observe the color. Can you see whether it changes? Is it darker in the middle? Is it lighter on the outsides? What type of a color would you describe it with? I’ll give you a few words you can consult as necessary. Ruby, Violet, Purple, Burgundy, Pink, Rose, Amber, so on.

Don’t arm yourself with terms as a means to impress, but know them so you can articulate as you see. Remember, the greatest minds, like that of Da Vinci, were not confined by the thoughts that preceded them. Da Vinci was one to experience self induced synesthesia, the cross over of senses. If you wish to express the color of the wine with a word that doesn’t exist, try it; being open to senses means not taking for granted which is which. You can hear a sight. What does it sound like?

Taste and Smell

As we discussed earlier, the more open you are to your experience, the less preconceptions you take with you to the experience, the more honestly, and accurately you will experience it. Experience your wine with a newborn mind.

When approaching taste and smell, let the color blend in to your smell. Yes, you can smell the color. The combination, or simultaneous perception will make the experience stronger and more authentic to the actual wine.

You bring nothing to your venture. When the wine is in front of you, you can behold it in the ways you are able to experience it. Try to experience the wine from each angle and see how they fit together.

 

Online Wine Auctions Change Market

Harry Dalian, Wine OnlineChristie’s, an established wine auctioning firm, turns approximately seventy five million dollars in profit a year from the sale of their products.  However, according to Per Holmberg, a large portion of that is attributed to their implementation of online auctions. An article recently completed by Wine Searcher detailed the effect online wine auctions are having on the entire industry, but in particular, Christie’s wine auctions.

According to Holmberg, online auctions are the best way to get started in buying wine at auctions.  Prices are

Harry Dalian, Buying Wine Online

 generally lower, particularly when the consumer considers what is for sale.  Vintages can be quite a deal via online auctions; wines produced in 2007 and 2008 that were very expensive upon their initial release have come down remarkably in price via online auctions.

Online auctions have also infused a younger generation with a passion for

Christie’s holds six online auctions annually.  In these auctions, a variety of products are offered, often mixed cases with a variety of bottles.  E-Sniping can be an issue, however, according to Holmberg; in the closing moments of a bid, outside parties make top bids, beating out a dedicated enthusiast who has followed the auction for quite some time.  Christie’s resolution for this issue relies on the computer, which can recognize when e-sniping is occurring and automatically adds an extra three minutes to the auction, providing the dedicated bidder with a chance to regain the top bid.  Counterfeit wines can also be an issue, although not one specific to just the world of online auctioning.  Holmberg says the wine industry is no different than watch or purse productions; fakes are always a possibility.  However, he does reassure that Christie’s does their very best to prevent profiting off of a bottle that has been counterfeited.purchasing wines.  Typically, theaverage buyer of wine is a male within the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five.  However, online auctions increase the ease and price wine can be purchased at, which has brought in significantly younger buyers.

 

Best Wine Under $15

Separating the Secrets from the Swill

Varieties of Wine, Harry DalianIn a world where wine at a low price is ever more available (not a bad thing), what can we do to distinguish between the multitude of options? In this blog, I will discuss the best options under $15, and help you separate the secrets from the swill. 

You walk into your local wine or liquor store and, as if stumbling into a guerrilla encampment, you find yourself surrounded by bottles beckoning you to take a taste via chic labeling, clever design, and well written copy. What do you do? Well, in all honesty, what I would suggest you throw a Wine tasting.

Bad Wine Tasting Party

Invite a few friends, couples, or co-workers. Ask that each party bring three bottles of wine, within a budget of $30. Make sure there is an even amount of Red and White, or rather, that reserve each tasting for one variety entirely. If there only a few people there, $30 is good mark to bring you all enough variety. If there are more, perhaps each party only need to bring one or two. You’ll actually want to have six different wines to try. But* remember you’ll need a glass for each person, so, depending on the number of people attending, you may need more than one bottle of each selection. (I would suggest this too, in case you all find one that you like!).

Secret Tip: Personally provide a bottle of more expensive wine, a selection that has been verified by some kind of connoisseur, or something simply nice, and “in a class above” the wines you are selecting now.

Wine Tasting: Finding the Best Bad Wine

red wine woman - harry dalianWhen your friends arrive, display all the bottles on a table for people to see, each person should give them each an introduction so everyone knows what they are drinking. Don’t just go ahead and pour them, though, you’ll want to make sure you keep which wine it actually is a secret. Have the bottles brought back into the kitchen, and bring them out in waves so people can taste them. Alternatives, depending on how fancy you want to get: pour one or two glasses at a time, and pass them between you. You may want to number the glasses and keep a cheat sheet in the kitchen so you know what you’re working with.

People should rate the different wines, ranking them according to their favorites, and also venture a guess which they think is which. You should compare at the end to see which sample got the most votes, and when all the info is collected, at this point you can reveal which wine was which, and also, whether or not the more expensive wine was outranked… (often, you may be surprised, it is).

Best Wine Under $15

Now, not only have you had a great time, you will also be able to make an educated selection next time you’re looking for a cheap bottle of wine. …if you’re not too tempted to try another tasting.