Thursday, December 15, 2016

2016 Blog year in review and 2017 prospects

This past year I continued to build a body of work, with an especial focus on Greek and Italian wines and wine history. I have also begun an effort to further improve the cohesivness and accessibility of the blog content.

North Greece
The early part of the year was devoted to detailing the story of the North Greece wine region using data collected during an EWBC pre-Conference trip sponsored by Wines of North Greece. At the conclusion of the series the reader would have been cognizant of the environment, the wines, and the issues that market players confront as they strive to make quality wine as well as improve the standing of Greek wine on the world market while confronting strong headwinds at home. The individual posts produced as a result of that trip and subsequent efforts are shown below.
The Italian campaign rolled out on a number of fronts. First, I visited Sicily and, with the leadership and direction of the most connected man on the island -- Brandon Tokash -- was able to meet, amd spend quality time with, some of the leading winemakers in broader Sicily and Mt Etna. Combining that primary material with secondary data from Nesto and di Savino's The World of Sicilian Wine resulted in a number of high quality posts on the regional landscape, wine infrastructure, and wines.

I also paid a visit to Umbria and the highlight of that trip was a visit and tasting at Paolo Bea.

Another angle of attack in the Italian campaign was participation in, and reporting on, themed tastings of significant Italian wines organized by Antonio Galloni and Vinous and held in both London and New York. In many of the cases the winemaker was also in attendance at the event. These tastings allowed deep historical perspectives on the wines of Gianfranco Soldera, Vietti Rocche di Castiglione, Bartolo Mascarello, Ornellaia, and Masseto. And my efforts did not only focus on the actual wines tasted. If I had not previously profiled the winery or the region associated with the producer, I did so prior to publishing the post on the tasting.

Unfortunately for Piemonte, this year the region has been in the news for reasons other than its great wines. Sometime in August it was announced that the Vietti family had sold its winery and vineyard holdings to an American company named Krause Holdings. This news caused an uproar among Barolo fans. I had sat next to Luca at the Galloni Vietti tasting and had visited the estate a few weeks later as part of the launch of Suzanne Hoffman's Labor of Love. I wrote a couple of relevant posts following the announcement, one looking at the implications of the sale for the broader Barolo region and the other looking at the practical implications for Krause holdings of being in control of both the Vietti and Enrico Serafino (an earlier purchase) properties. Some of the fears I had voiced in the first post on the broader implications will be validated if a rumored purchase of Roberto Voerzio by LVMH does come to fruition.

The History of Terroir
In his sweeping treatment of ancient versus modern wines (Inventing Wine), Paul Lukacs identified the seminal terroir events in France as the demarcation of the Burgundy vineyards by the Cistercian monks beginning in 1098 and the AOC system implemented in the early 20th century. But this apparent terroir desert misses the true formative period -- as well as the ups and downs -- of this concept, beginning during the Renaissance and continuing for two centuries thereafter. A period and history that is detailed in Thomas Parker's Tasting Terroir: The History of an Idea. I summarized Parker's history in a number of blog posts and further summarize the effort in the timeline below.

Book Reviews
I read a number of excellent wine books during the course of the year but only reviewed three of them on the site.

Suzanne Mustacich's Thirsty Dragon is the War and Peace of wine literature. I had to read it twice in order to tease out the many threads and fully internalize and embrace the story that it related. It is a tour de force, throughly researched and impeccably sourced with 40 pages of chapter-specific notes and an index; but the fullest potential is unrealized. That being said, the reporting and analysis contained within the book are exceptional. The epilogue, titled Shangri La, is an especially cogent and insightful piece of analysis.

While a lot of attention, as regards Piemontese winemaking, has revolved around the battle of the modernists versus traditionalists, or the Burgundization of Barolo, the region has also been undergoing an under-reported transformation: the rise of women into the wineries' leadership ranks. And it is this under-explored story that Suzanne Hoffmann captures, and tells effectively and empathetically, in her initial publication Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte.

The World of Sicilian Wine (Bill Nesto MW and Frances di Savino, University of California Press(UCP)) is simply the best region-specific wine book I have ever read. It is comprehensive, detailed, informative, well-structured, revealing, and an ode to research well done. In addition, the writing style makes it easy to read and comprehend -- traits not equally shared by all books issuing from UCP.

Blog Organization and Futures
As shown in the bulletized material regarding North Greece above, I have begun a process of tightly tieing all posts to a region. This allows for a more cogent presentation of the material as well as providing me with a road map of uncovered areas. I have begun to do this with all new posts and will go back during the course of the next year, to painstakingly allocate each of my past posts to its appropriate slot(s).


This has been a personally rewarding year. I hope that you have derived some value from my musings. I hope to continue along the same path during the course of the upcoming year: learning new things and sharing them with you.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme


  1. What a great wine year you had, Keith. Appreciate the education you provide here. I rarely comment but always read. I hope our paths cross at some point next year. All the best in 2017.

    1. Thank you Frank. You missed out on the Etna piece. Hope to see you somewhere next year. At a minimum I am scheduled to be at the WBC. Happy holidays to you and family.