Tim's Wine

‘In the name of science’: Twelve bottles of wine are sent to the International Space Station so effects of microgravity on the aging process can be studied

by Timothy Varan on Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Reposted from the www.dailymail.co.uk/ Written by: By STACY LIBERATORE

Astronauts aboard the International Space just received a case of wine that is out of this world. A Luxembourg-based wine company launched 12 bottles of red wine to the craft that will be aged for an entire year ‘in the name of science’. Researchers are set to study how weightlessness and space radiation affect the aging process, with the hopes of developing new flavors and properties for the food industry.  The wine will not be consumed by the crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS), but will be used in an experiment into how microgravity affects wine’s aging process, Techcrunch reported.

While there are 12 bottles in space, the wine company has donated another 12 bottles for researchers to study on Earth – allowing them to compare the batches after the year. Both the samples on the ISS and on Earth will remain sealed and kept at 64 degrees Fahrenheit. And the researchers have predicted that the two batches will taste different at the end of the experiment.

The red wine was just one of a few odd items launched to the space station on Saturday from Allops Island, Virginia, U.S., by aerospace company Northrop Grumman by the European startup Space Cargo Unlimited. The care package, weighing about four tons, also includes sports car parts and a baking oven and cookie dough to make chocolate chip cookies. Astronauts aboard the ISS will test the ‘Zero-G’ oven by baking chocolate chip cookies from dough that was sent into space by Hilton Double Tree earlier this year.  Astronauts have never baked before aboard the ISS, only warming food with an existing ‘oven’ – they usually avoid food that produces crumbs that may float around the cabin and cause problems. Typical ovens rely on the convection of hot air to evenly warm the food, meaning adaptations must be made for the ISS’s microgravity kitchen.

Hilton, which created the oven in partnership with New York company Zero G Kitchen, said: ‘In a typical convection oven on Earth, there is a continuous cycle of hot air rising and cool air moving in to replace it, setting up a constant flow of air in the oven called a convection current that allows for even cooking. However, the International Space Station (and space in general) is a microgravity environment, so there is no “up” direction for the hot air to float towards – meaning, we can only depend on heat being conducted through the air.’

A NASA ground controller called it a ‘good launch all the way around’ on Saturday. Other newly arriving equipment will be used in a series of NASA spacewalks later this month to fix a key particle physics detector.

Vineyards Can Help Stop Fires

by Timothy Varan on Sunday, November 3, 2019

Many customers have asked about the effect of fires on the wineries in Sonoma County this past month. This is a repost from an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 29th, showing that the vineyards do not generally burn and actually help the fire fighting effort.

While the Kincade Fire raged through the Alexander Valley on Thursday, Ken Wilson waited anxiously to learn the fate of two wineries and a ranch he owns in the famed wine growing region.

Early Sunday morning, Wilson received devastating news: Soda Rock Winery, which he and his wife Diane have owned for 19 years, had been reduced to ash. But at Wilson’s other Alexander Valley winery, deLorimier, something amazing had happened. “The fire burned right to the edge of the winery,” said Wilson, who had gone to deLorimier on Friday to assess Kincade’s initial damage. “Just all the way to the front driveway.” Wilson knew the reason it did not spread further – his grapevines.

“Basically, it burned to the vineyards and then stopped,” he said. “The vineyards did a good job of stopping the advance of the fire.” He was observing a phenomenon that other vintners throughout California have been witnessing repeatedly over the past few years: Grapevines are natural fire breaks. And though they are not capable of stopping a fire like Kincade in its tracks, they may be saving structures and even lives. “The vineyards – if the vines are well kept and if they’re not letting grass grow underneath the vines – have been helping us as fire breaks,” said Cal Fire deputy chief Scott McLean. “It’s not night and day. Keep in mind these fires have seen dramatically strong winds. But we can definitely fight fire off of these vineyards, using them as anchor points.”

What is it about vines that helps combat fire?

“Vines are green and full of water,” said S. Kaan Kurtural, UC Davis professor of viticulture and oenology. “With the amount of water they can hold in their tissue, they become an oasis in a hot environment.” Sounds simple enough. But if all it takes to stop a fire is a living plant, then why don’t trees do the trick? “Forests have a lot of underbrush, so there’s a lot of fuel for a fire underneath the canopies,” Kurtural said.

Vineyards, by contrast, are well manicured. Aggressive pruning and leaf trimming regimens remove extraneous vegetation. By the time wildfire season hits, most grape growers have tilled their cover crop – the beneficial plants, such as rye and barley, that grow between rows of grapevines – which removes yet another burn risk. Unlike forests, most vineyards are irrigated regularly, keeping that inner tissue moist. By the time the Kincade Fire hit Alexander Valley, most of the region’s grapes had recently been picked. Farmers usually give their vines a big irrigation drip after harvest, so the valley was likely full of well-sated vines.

The layout of vineyards also helps. The typical California vineyard is densely planted and relatively uniform, acting like an infantry in tight, close formation. It’s hard for a fire to break through that army of standing water.” In this case, the monoculture is what makes them special,” Kurtural said.

So far, vineyards have seemed to be micro-breaks, not macro-breaks. They may save individual structures, but they seem unlikely to change the overall course of a large wildfire. And they’re helpless to defend when fires jump – which happens when wind carries burning material beyond the main fire, igniting a spot fire. That was the case with the Kincade Fire, which jumped early Sunday morning to the west side of Highway 128, where it met Soda Rock.” We take everything into account when we’re fighting these wildfires,” said McLean. “Natural boundaries, natural borders, natural defenses. A vineyard is one less thing that burns.”

Can vines ever burn?

It’s possible but, according to Kurtural, unlikely. What does burn are the plastic irrigation lines, which hang near the base of vines. A vine would have to be exposed to heat for a very long period of time in order to desiccate and burn, and fires often move too fast for that to happen. Kurtural suspects that vines’ firefighting capacity may be enhanced as these natural disasters occur. “We’ve taken a lot of measurements of vines during these wildfires,” finding that the plants sometimes cease to perform photosynthesis due to the excess carbon in the air and the lack of sunlight from prolonged smoke, he said. “They certainly are confused, and they can’t photosynthesize. So all the water stays in the tissue,” Kurtural said. “That might be one of the reasons they’re so good at stopping the fires.”

The Brave New World of Tariffs

by Timothy Varan on Friday, November 1, 2019

In September the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced that the US was justified in imposing $7.5 billion dollars in tariffs against some European Union countries.  This is in response to what the US argues are unjustified subsidies that the same EU countries gave to Airbus, fifteen years ago, giving them an unfair advantage against American producer Boeing.  The result is that the US government has identified a list of products, of which many are categories of wine we sell, that will be subject to new tariffs beginning on October 18th.       At the moment I believe that the effect for us will be minimal with regard to the wines we sell in 2019. Inventory at distributors and in stock are not subject retroactively, so it will only apply to wines landing in bonded warehouses after October 18th. 

It’s not all bad news

Luckily all Italian, Greek, Portuguese and Austrian wines are excluded as well as any over 14% alcohol, regardless of country of origin.      Twenty years ago this would have been a bigger issue, but thanks to climate change, today most of the European reds we buy are at or near this threshold.  As wines under 15% alcohol are allowed to state their content with a variance of 1.5%, importers I have spoken with will simply relabel them above the minimum to avoid the tariffs.  However, many white wines from Europe fall well below this level and so they will likely be subject to tariffs.  This includes most Loire white wines, including Sancerre, many Rosé from France, Albarino and most Spanish white wines, and virtually all German white wines.  If you love those wines, you may want to consider stocking up.     

We have been here before, sort of…

For those of us who love European wines, there is a precedence for rapid price increases, and we managed to get through.  In 2008 the Euro spiked to 1.59 against a very weak American dollar, and stayed above 1.3 for several years.  Currently the dollar is very strong, trading at 1.09 against the Euro.  Even with a 25% tariff the real value of the wines is below the ten year historic high.  During that period many producers were forced to lower prices, and many importers also cut their margins, to offset the increases.  There are also many great wines from Italy and Portugal, to say nothing of the ever increasing quality of South America, that are also available to fill the void as they are not subject to the tariffs.  Never fear, we will get through this, it may just mean discovering many great new wines to fill the voids!

Seven new grapes approved in historic Bordeaux AOC vote

by timswine on Tuesday, July 2, 2019

As a national heatwave loosened its grip for a few hours Friday morning, the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur wine producers’ syndicate unanimously approved the use of seven new grape varieties.

The move can be seen as an historic climate change adaptation step for the Bordeaux wine industry, although there is agreement that greater measures are still needed.

The new varieties approved at the syndicate’s annual general meeting were four reds, Arinarnoa, Touriga Nacional, Marselan and Castets, and three whites, Alvarinho, Petit Manseng and Liliorila.

The vines were chosen primarily for their reduced susceptibility (but not resistance) to disease, later harvesting potential and ability to maintain acidity and volume in the face of climate change’s warmer weather and unseasonal frosts. All while maintaining existing flavour, aroma, production and quality levels.

Growers will be allowed to plant the new vine types on up to 5% of their vineyard area, and to add up to 10% of their production to final blends, all within existing controlled origin (AOC) rules.

Planting rights for the new grape types – still subject to a final approval by INAO, the French wines of origin quality oversight body – will last 10 years, with an option for one renewal. The first new vines should be planted during the 2020/2021 season.

Bordeaux et Bordeaux Supérieur grower, Christophe Piat of Château Couronneau, said the vote for the new grape types was an excellent first step but more was needed. ‘‘We are still a long way from planting the polygenetic, disease-resistant, hybrid varieties we need,’’ he said.

He added that Bordeaux was reaching the limits of what it could do within existing rules. ‘‘We can’t keep making Merlot at 16 degrees. Anyone who works in international markets will say that,’’ Piat said.

The Bordeaux Supérieur union’s press release alluded to the same need. It said its next move will be to consider the integration of resistant hybrid grape varieties for AOC wine production.

Contextualising the current situation it said ‘‘hybrid varieties can only be planted’’ for protected geographical indication (IGP) wines, or wines without geographical indication. Their use ‘‘will therefore only be possible with an amendment’’ to EU legislation via ‘‘the rewriting of the Common Agricultural Policy.’’

The new grape types in more detail

Arinarnoa: a Tannat/Cabernet Sauvignon cross that is less susceptible to grey rot damage, with low sugar levels and good acidity. Wines are well-structured, colourful and tannic with complex and persistent aromas.

Touriga Nacional: a late ripening grape that can reduce the risk of frost or heat damage and is less susceptible to most fungal diseases apart from excoriose (dead arm). Wines are complex, aromatic, full-bodied, structured, colourful and suitable for ageing.

Castets: a forgotten Bordeaux grape variety that is less susceptible to grey rot, powdery mildew and mildew. Wines are colourful and suitable for ageing.

Marselan: a late ripening Cabernet Sauvignon/Grenache cross that is at lower risk of spring frost, heat, grey rot, powdery mildew and mite damage. Wines are colourful, distinctive and suitable for ageing.

Alvarinho: an aromatic grape that can compensate for flavours lost due to hot weather, at lower risk of grey rot damage, lower sugar levels and good acidity. Wines are aromatic with good acidity.

Petit Manseng: a late ripening, aromatic variety that is at much lower risk of grey rot damage. Wines are soft with sustained aromas.

Liliorila: a Baroque and Chardonnay cross that, like Alvarhino, offers highly aromatic qualities that can be used to compensate for other aromas lost to heat. It is less at risk of grey rot damage. Wines are aromatic wines, powerful and flowery.

Sophie Kevany – Meininger’s Wine Business International

Crazy Case Sale June 28-30th
Orange Avenue Store Only

by timswine on Thursday, June 27, 2019

Don’t miss our the semi-annual Crazy Case Sale!  This one promises to be bigger and better than every before, with almost 400 cases ready to go to new homes.
    The way this sale works is as follows.  The left side of the classroom room is set up with cases of wine that cost from $15 to $20 per bottle.  You will pick 8 bottles from those stacks.  Then the right side of the room contains wines priced $21 to $42 per bottle, from which you pick four bottles.  The total cost of the 12 bottles is $129 (plus tax.) If you do the math you quickly see that you could buy up to $328 worth of wine for only $129!  But wait there’s more!

     Club members select a 9th bottle from the left side of the room, giving you a baker’s dozen case for the same $129!  

     All of the wines in this sale are limited so if we run out then the sale is over.  Shop early, shop often, bring friends and don’t miss out!  If you can’t get by the store, call us 407-895-9463 and ask us to pick a case for you, or give us an order from the wines listed below.  All orders must include payment with a credit card because absolutely no orders will be held.  Due to the nature of this sale, all items are sold “as is” and are final, no returns, trades or credit can be issued.

Select 8

2016 Chateau Rousseau Entre Deux Mers Cuvée Tradition $15

2018 Zenato Pinot Grigio $13

2016 Talis Friulano $17

2016 Ch. de Beau Soliel Muscadet Sevre et Maine $17

2016 Cave de Hunawhir Alsace Riesling $18

2017 Dominique Cotes de Provence Rose $20

2016 Kila Brut Cava $18

2016 Sierra Cantabria Rioja Tinta $14

2015 Cidice Tempranillo $14

2016 Alta Vista Cabernet Sauvignon $15

2013 Tarrica Pinot Noir $15

2013 Tarrica Red Blend $18

2015 Areyna Malbec $15

2009 Vina Alijibes Petit Verdot $18

2015 Hayes Valley Meritage $18

2017 Terra D’Oro Barbera $18

2012 C&T Cellars Merlot $19

2013 Casa Silva Los Lingues Cabernet Sauvignon $20

Select 4

2015 Cambiata Chardonnay $25

2016 Mura Cannonau di Sardegna Grenache $25

2012 Liberated Cabernet Sauvignon $25

2014 Era Costana  Rioja Reserva $25

2004 Cincel Reserva Tempranillo $25

2015 Chateau Miqueu Haut Medoc $22

Highlights from a Glorious Trip in Tuscany

by timswine on Thursday, October 4, 2018

For those who follow me on Instagram (@timswinemarket) and FaceBook (@timswinemarketorlando) you probably saw the amazing trip I helped to host in Tuscany, along with Art in Voyage (@travelinstyle).   We stayed at Villa Laura, which is the farm restored by Diane Lane’s character in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun.  It was a magical setting and a great home base for our travels.

     During this trip we visited six wineries, all in the middle of harvest.  All of our hosts were very gracious and showed tremendous patience with me as I guided our eleven guests through the process of converting grapes into wine.  We were lucky enough to visit small and large, family owned wineries and see the process through several different lenses.


At each visit we tasted several different wines, typically those available to us in the US.  We also purchased a few bottles, often those not available in the US, for dinner each night back at the villa.  It is always wonderful to taste the wines with the people who make them, but there is also a reward in seeing how they work with food as well.  After all, the essence of Italian wine is to compliment food.

      Below is a list of wines that were standouts for me during our trip.  They are all available at the Orange Avenue store and can be ordered by your local TWM if you want to try them. (To be fair to the wines not listed, many are not yet available so I will feature those later in different clubs and weekly features.)

2016 Felsina Chianti Classico ($29)

2013 Felsina Chianti Classico  Riserva “Rancia” ($59)


For many years this has been one of my favorite Chianti estates.  Their vineyards are in the southernmost zone of Chianti Classico, Castelnuovo Berardenga.  This area lies closest to Siena and is lower elevation than the rest of the Classico zone, so the wines typically show great power.      

    The 2016 just arrived and is an excellent introduction to the powerful side of these wines.  This bottling is aged in large botti for year, then bottled and held for an additional six months in bottle.   It offers a dynamic combination fresh and tart cherries, new car leather and forest floor mushrooms.  You can drink this wine now or cellar it for up to five years.

    The 2013 Rancia is a single vineyard bottling, at one of the highest elevations in the zone and a perfect southwest exposure.  This bottling is aged in new French oak barriques for eighteen-twenty months, then bottled and allowed to rest another six before release.  Here the fruit is darker, with notes of blackberries intertwined with the tart cherries, as well as dried straw, tamarind and spice cake aromas.  The feel on the palate is dense but framed quickly by firm tannins.  This wine will be best from 2020 through 2030.

2015 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina ($22)

2013 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva “Bucherchiale” ($45)

       On our second day we traveled to the northern-most, and highest elevation, area for Chianti Classico, the sub-zone of Chianti Rufina.  This is in no way to be confused with the mass-production brand, Ruffino.  Selvapiana is one of the oldest, and most respected properties in the zone, with winemaking and management directed by Federico Giuntini, the sixth generation of the family.  The wines here are a little lighter than those of Felsina, but show incredible finesse.

     Their base level Chianti Rufina is aged in large, Slovenian casks for one year.  There was no Riserva Bucherciale made in this vintage so the bottling has a little more stuffing than their typical bottling. The nose is marasco cherries, violets, candied orange peel, dried blackberries and a very subtle hint of allspice.  On the palate it is very silky and balanced, with moderate weight, high acidity, and faintly obvious tannins.  Good 2018-2023.

     The impressive 2013 Bucherchiale, which Federico considers the best since 2009, is from a single vineyard, which faces southwest for perfect exposure.  This wine displays a sweeter, more obvious blackberry, raspberry jam quality, with notes of tarragon, chocolate covered orange peel and a kiss of porcini mushroom.  On the palate it is nicely dense, with intergrated but high tannins, moderate acidity.  Drink 2022-2033. (I have tasted several 20+ year old examples and this wine ages magnificently,)

2015 Podere Ciona Semifonte ($22)


     Made by the engaging Lorenzo Gatteschi, with help from his parents, this is a tiny estate producing incredible wines for the money.  Every offering is limited and this is the current wine to arrive in the US.  It is a blend of 82% Merlot and 18% Alicante Bouchet, aged in large oak for a year.

     As a “super Tuscan” this wine delivers a different nose than a wine made of Sangiovese.  The bouquet is red licorice, candied cherries, milk chocolate and rose petals.  On the palate it shows a nice concentration of fruit, with soft tannins and lowish acidity that frame it into the finish.  Only 120 bottles available.

     After visiting this estate and tasting through their impressive line-up again, I stand by my belief this is the best value in serious Tuscan wine you can buy for near term enjoyment.  Owner Federico Carletti has grown this from fifty acres he inherited from his father to now more than 900 acres, and yet every wine offers incredible quality, and value.

     Their flagship wine is produced from higher elevation vineyards near the village of Montepulciano, and aged in equal parts large botti, 400 liter tonneaux and 225 liter barriques for 14 months.   It is a blend of 85% Sangiovese and the balance in Colorino, Canaiolo and Merlot.   It shows notes of ripe black figs, candied cherries, sage, cedar, allspice and caramel.  On the palate it shows good texture, with moderate acidity and tannins.  Drink 2018-2028. 

2013 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino “White Label” ($79)

2013 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino “Tenuto Nuovo” ($125)

2015 Casanova di Neri Pietradonice ($89)


I do not believe there is a hotter estate in Montalcino, and perhaps all of Tuscany, than Casanova di Neri.  Giacomo Neri and his sons oversee every step of the production of their wines, using only estate grown grapes from their extensive vineyard holdings.   

     Their White Label is the wine found Giovanni Neri first made in 1971.  It is produced from vineyards near the winery on the southeast side of the town of Montalcino.  This wine is aged for four years in botti, then a year in bottle before release.  It shows a rich nose of old leather books, cinnamon and clove, white chocolate, fennel seed, birch syrup and luxardo cherries.  The feel on the palate is very dense and concentrated, with firm but integrated tannins and moderate acidity.  Drink 2023-2033.

     Their highly rated Tenuto Nuovo is a single vineyard bottling from a vineyard Giacomo purchased in 1985, in defiance of his mother.  It is a site located north of the town of Montalcino and was not considered ideal for ripening Sangiovese.  Twenty years later, various vintages have received numerous 100 point ratings and the 2004 was the Wine Spectator Wine of the Year.  Talk about a bet paying off!   This bottling is aged for 48 months in French tonneaux (400 liter barrels) and a year in bottle.  It is a bigger wine than above, with rich notes of dark chocolate, caramel, graham cracker, cinnamon, baked dark cherries, clove, dried figs and a kiss of balsamic syrup.  On the palate it is very dense and powerful, with firm tannins that are nicely integrated, with moderate acidity.  Drink 2023-2043.

      Finally, and new to our lineup, is their Cabernet Sauvignon, Pietradonice.  This wine is a single vineyard site south of the town and is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is aged for 18 months in barriques, of which 25% are new.  It shows an enticing combination of cooked black currants and black cherries, herbs de Provence, lavender and dark chocolate.  Texturally it is extremely dense and broad, with firm tannins but bright acidity.