Profile: Tom Wark
Fermentation Wine Blog
A native of Northern California, Wark’s initial foray into wine began in 1970 when he, in a curious mood, pulled a jug of Sebastiani Red off the top shelf of his mother’s pantry and accidentally deposited the contents on to her recently waxed kitchen floor. Despite the negative impact this first foray had on the floor and his mental state, his interest in wine never waned. Upon graduating with a Masters in Diplomatic history 20 years later, he entered the wine industry.
An advocate of wine blogging, Wark founded the Wine Blog Awards in 2007 and helped launch the first Wine Bloggers Conference in 2008. In 2011, his blog FERMENTATION: The Daily Wine Blog won Best Overall Blog and Best Industry/Business Blog at the Wine Blog Awards, which was followed by the award for Best Industry/Business Blog in 2014.
NoteStreams By Tom Wark
One of the major battle grounds in the ongoing alcohol three tier war is the issue of Self Distribution: when producers sell their own product to either retailers or consumers without the use of a wholesaler. To craft brewers and craft distillers, a dynamic part of the alcohol beverage industry, this ability is crucial to their success. It is often argued only by the wholesaler tier that producer sales without use of a wholesaler is a corruption of the three tier system; an example of one tier encroaching on another tier’s territory and an undermining of principles of the system. This view of self-distribution ought to be dismissed.
At a wine competition the award that every winery wants to win is the “Sweepstakes” Award. Sometimes it is called the “Chairman’s Award”. In short, these awards are given to the single best red, white, rose, sparkling and dessert wine. Many red wines may get a gold or even a “double gold” award, but only one is awarded the “Sweepstakes Red” Award.
One would think it is a simple matter, but it turns out it’s not. In fact, there are various theories and practices behind the writing of a wine’s full name. My approach has always been the same: Except in those instances when the wine is to be written alongside a relatively few others of the same brand, then one ought to write the name of a wine in such a way that most easily allows the reader to find what they are looking for.
If a Sonoma Pinot Noir tastes much more like a Burgundy Pinot Noir than it does a Sonoma County Zinfandel, isn’t this a very strong argument for making varietals the organizing idea behind wine? This is the question that occurred to me when I read Andrew Jefford’s article in Decanter that made the opposite case.
Sure, they'll tell you the wine to serve is Gewerztraminer because it's spicy character will work well with the roast turkey and maybe even with that stuffing. Some will tell you to go with the Pinot Noir. So what's the right answer?? Read on, and discover a surprisingly simple way to conquer this dilemma!
Today, in nearly any thoughtful discussion of fine wine by knowledgeable drinkers, one finds a near universal bias towards Land-Focused or “terroir-driven” wines over “Hand-Focused” or winemaker-driven wines. This land-focused bias—the belief that wines that accurately depict a terroir are “better” wines—is nothing new. Old World wine drinkers and vintners have held this attitude for generations and have codified the bias into appellation laws.
What I’ve been wondering is this: Is a land-focused fine wine bias a more reasonable or legitimate approach to understanding and appreciating fine wine than a hand-focused bias?
Winemaker Matt Dees and his colleagues at Goodland Wines in Santa Barbara, California have chosen to take a remarkable step: They have decided to purposely confuse the wine consumer in order to try to enlighten them. Here’s what’s happening: At Goodland Wines, individual bottlings don’t carry the name of the varietal. They only carry the name of the AVA or “appellation” from which the grapes were grown that went into making the wine.
Savvy wine consumers know French labels often show similar information - but could the approach actually work here? I think confusion will be sparked before debate - but I encourage you to decide for yourself!