A California startup that taught a computer to ‘taste’ wine is using the technology to help winemakers improve their products and attract new customers.– CNN Business, May 28, 2021
Sax’s Natural Arkansas Grape Wine. This is the original wine long sought by historians, a sample of which, when sent to the University of Arkansas for a chemical analysis was returned with this report: your horse has diabetes.”– The Signet Encyclopedia of Wine, E. Frank Henriques, 1974
EAST COAST WINE DREAMIN’
The poor, miserable Eastern U.S. has traditionally been dissed and dismissed. Every decade or so the winemakers producing East coast wine must embark on a reinvention of themselves to a hopeful new level of quality and recognition – and new customers. They do it with grit and determination, living in a world of ever-increasing competition, even by nonhumans. The computer “taster” wants to homogenize wines, while the east coast wine people are continually having to battle the age-old trials of the irregular and unconventional flavors of their wines, while incorporating them into a cool aesthetic.
The reality today is that it is not just a wine world anymore.
East coast wine must compete for space on that stage with pesky artificial intelligence apps, craft beer, craft cider, fruit or no fruit seltzers, and alcoholic beverages at all levels of interest and sophistication, or lack thereof. Not to mention exciting new booze.
They are busy envisioning a new world, but the world is busy reinventing itself as well…
Urban Farm Fermentory, Seaweed Cidah, 6.5% alc.
Our first example is Urban Farm Fermentory Wild Fermented Seaweed Cidah, 6.5% alc. Available at the winery, $5.00 for 12 oz. can. Made from apples and Maine seaweed that “has hints of low tide and salty brine.”
The perfect accompaniment is, of course, smoked herring tinned fish with a side of nori (seaweed). The Eastern U.S. has always lived alongside unconventional flavors, some of which are intended, many of them occur by accident. This is clearly an intentional effort from people who adore wild fermented, and now briny flavors and textures.
Next, must we begin to pinpoint seaweed terroir? Maybe there is a seaweed terroir expert in Maine. Who knows? Yet, no computer-generated model can invent this.
Allagash Brewing, From Maine, With Love #2, 8.6% alc.
Our next stop for your jaw dropping moment on the stage is a beverage titled From Maine, With Love #2 (in a series), 8.6% alc., $5.00 for 12oz. can, from Allagash Brewing in Portland, Maine. “Inspired by a classic cocktail the Boulevardier, it is composed of Lambrusco grape must, angelica root, and bitter orange peel.”
A beer, a wine, a cocktail? To add a bit of additional excitement, it is aged in a bourbon barrel. This is the creation that occurs when you play around with lots of ingredients, both in and out of a brewery.
Have with any bar snack. This takes ale up into horizons that we have not yet imagined. A percentage of profits go toward the protection of Casco Bay. Available only at the brewery. Ale, Lambrusco, bitter orange, bourbon barrels, who can dream of more?
Bluet, Maine Wild Blueberry Sparkling Wine, 7% alc.
Bluet brings us Maine Wild Blueberry Sparkling Wine, 250 ml. can at $5.00 each, packed in a four pack, 7% alc., out of Scarborough, Maine. This is on shelves, in stores, and is a work of genius. One can equals one pint of wild Maine blueberries.
By way of demographics: the old Downeaster Mainer can call it Blu-ett, while the Portland hipster can say Blu-ay. Antioxidant’s, yeah, you could live to 100 (oldest state in the nation), and you can mix it into the latest craft cocktail for your newly arrived guests from Brooklyn. This is one versatile beverage. There is blueberry fruit power here without the abundance of funk that can overpower a cocktail.
It is well crafted, dry, refreshingly good.
Wild Maine blue berries… in case you haven’t noticed, this is the year of the Maine blueberry: soap, bathwater, candles, craft beer, laundry detergent, condiments by the boatload!
There is one thing that is missing — the internet commercial. In the 1980s there was a thing called wine coolers. A bit like Truly and White Claw today. The brand California Cooler was gigantic. So, Ernest Gallo, owner of the world’s largest winery, set out on his quest to conquer them by hiring the Hal Riney Agency out of San Francisco to come up with a little something. That little something was the creation of Frank and Ed (two old hayseeds on a porch), doing the world’s most folksy thirty second pitch for Bartles and Jaymes, Gallo’s newly invented Wine Cooler. This is iconic stuff. Google it up.
Instead of you, the confused consumer, just peering at a can, pull up a newly created Facebook commercial of the old Downeaster and young hipster sitting on a stage, dangling their feet off, while yakking it up on your phone. The rest will be history.
This is a wine that can conquer all. Soundtrack by the Mallet Brothers.
RAS, Arkadia 2020, 8% alc.
Next up, Arkadia 2020 by R A S, $24.99 for 750 ml., 8%alc., at select retailers, Portland, Maine. “It sits at a new nexus point where artisanal wine, cider, and beer intersect.”
Frankly, they have already intersected. The magic word here is sustainable and certified organic by MOFGA. It is spontaneously fermented with native yeasts, having no fining or filtering. This is both a political statement and a call to arms against the industrially produced wine world.
We poured it blind for our wine savvy neighbors and there was a “wow, what is this?” gasp. It is frothy, Lambrusco like, and has aggressive funk with a very slight blueberry finish. Unlike the Bluet, this is clearly a labor of love versus a more commercial endeavor.
We were all dismayed with the serious price when compared to the others. There seems to be an extreme artisanal economy of scale happening (480 case total production, kept cold in stores). Once you just get past the funk, and if that is your aesthetic, then this is your perfect beverage.
Actually, it pairs up well with a local blue cheese. I liken it to a celebration wine for a couple whose student loans have just been paid off. I like to keep my “Tuesday night” wines to around $10 per bottle or so. There are a zillion great values out there in wine world.
East Coast Wine, Persevere!
East coast wine continues to make great strides in quality, diversity, and beverages that reflect the lifestyles of the region. New wine regions do not appear overnight. They take decades to evolve, change directions, discover themselves, and grow.
A famous Washington State winery owner was asked when his new plantings of the Syrah grape would make great wine. He replied, “In twenty to thirty years.” When the same question was posed to a French winegrower on his recent plantings, he replied, “Probably three generations.” The operative word here is to persevere.
Layne has been a professional in the wine business for many decades as a teacher, importer, writer, competition judge, and winery CEO. He was awarded the Master Knight of the Vine for his pioneering work in the Oregon wine industry. Read more from Layne at http://winemaniacs.wordpress.com/blog.