Friday, June 5, 2009

Cellar Tracker

For those of you who may not have found this tool on the web I would like to point it out to you. Cellar Tracker is a site that was created by Eric Levine when he was on sabbatical from Microsoft. His burgeoning interest in wines and his growing collection lead him to see if he might create a program that would enable him to catalog and track his bottles. Feeling he was onto something, but desiring some feedback from his peers, he shared what he had developed with a very receptive audience. This audience grew and became a note sharing community. When Eric reached the end of his eight week sabbatical he was in a position to support himself with what he had invented and he did not return to Microsoft. 

For a monthly subscription, you can have access to Levine's cellar tracking software. I have not reached the point where I feel that I need to document and track everything I have in my makeshift crawl space "cellar," but I have found the Cellar Tracker website to be useful nonetheless. The search engine provides free access to any wine that any member has ever written a note about and I would challenge anybody to try to query a wine that is not in the database. If you do find one, well fine, but the wonderful thing about finding a wine that you are interested in is that you have the opportunity to see what other wine drinkers have to say about it. Of course all of the posts must be taken with a grain of salt as each person has their own taste, but the notes can be used in a number of ways. Perhaps you were wondering if you would like to invest in a certain wine, or you heard that a particular wine might be just the special thing you were looking for for a special occasion, but you are not sure if you want to spend the money; well, on Cellar Tracker you would have the opportunity to read the tasting notes of however many people may have written about that particular wine and perhaps come to a concensus based on the multiple opinions that you had the chance to read. Another way to use the notes is to maybe come to a decision as to whether or not a bottle is ready to drink or if you should hold it a little longer. Also, a useful tool that can be accessed through the search engine is a wine shopping tool called Wine Searcher ; under each tasting note is a link that connects you to a long list of places that are offering the wine in question sorted from the least expensive to the most expensive. 

I am sure that there are a myriad of ways that this site could be used that I have not even begun to tap into; take a look yourself and see how you might be able to use it. Cheers to Eric Levine for finding a way to make a living at what he loves.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wine Meets Fashion II

In an earlier post I made mention of a wine meets fashion feat that was pulled off beautifully by the Champagne house Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin and Louis Vuitton; the city traveller that is sold to house a full 750 ml bottle with two flutes or smaller versions that are designed to hold a 375 bottle of the non-vintage brut in the classic VCP yellow or the non-vintage brut rose in pink. The insulation can be pulled out so that the carriers can be used as handbags  and their firm structure makes for a tidy package to tuck neatly under your arm. 

VCP has teamed up with another fashion icon to house one of their vintage champagnes as well. Not only is the 1996 La Grande Dame bottle decorated by the House of Emilio Pucci in the classic swirling style of Pucci, but there is a decorative neoprene jacket that zips neatly over the bottle to hold in the cool. It does not end there; there is a satin bag printed with more of the iconic Pucci print that fits loosely around the neoprened bottle and all of this comes in a box that clamshells open to reveal the layers of prizes.

I have not had the pleasure of experiencing this bottle first hand, but if my ship ever comes in, this item is on my list of bottles to acquire and I will drink it with my fashion blogging sister.

While we are on the subject of Veuve Clicquot I should mention a wine read that may appeal to history buffs: The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It. Madame Clicquot was an amazing business woman who knew how to make calculated risks that moved her enterprise forward. One of the things that makes her story all the more notable is that, man or woman, her business practices were remarkable, but the fact that she was able to pull off the feats that she did when she did was incredible. Her cellars survived the Napoleonic Wars despite the fact that Reims was a town that was occupied by the enemy on more than one occasion. The author, Tilar J. Mazzeo, created a biography based on extensive research that has been enhanced and filled out with plausible storyline that connects her timeline landmarks. Champagne is often thought of as a feminine drink and this has to do with The Widow who was instrumental in modernizing the process of making champagne and how it was marketed.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Not to be categorized as a light read, the documentary Mondovino does not hand its message over easily, but it does speak loud and clear to those who are willing to listen. I have stated that I have no intention of politicizing this blog, but Mondovino makes it oh so apparent how political wine is. Jonathan Nossiter has painted a vivid picture of how globalized wine is becoming to the point that “everybody is making the same wine.” The biggest villains, according to Nossiter’s presentation, are a wine consultant, Michel Rolland, and wine critic, Robert Parker, Jr., and as the movie progresses one is given the impression that these two are not only in bed with each other, but that the Robert Mondavi dynasty and Wine Spectator join them in their romps as well.


Robert Parker has gained such an ironclad reputation as a critic over the years that many winemakers fear that their wine sales will fail if they do not make wines that he likes. He favors heavily extracted fruit forward wines that are easy to drink upon release. Winemakers around the world have fallen into this trap; even those who have generations of tradition and local character that they could be celebrating have dismissed their ways of winemaking in the hopes that he will give them a nod. This phenomenon is known as Parkerization. Rolland consults with over 400 winemaking clients around the world and coaches them as to how they can make their wines a “success” by modernizing their techniques. He tells them all to micro-oxegenate, it is his mantra. My impression is that this is the element that takes the furry edges off of the tannins prematurely and speed ages them so that they do not have to be cellared for enjoyment later. I believe that this process prevents the wines from being age worthy if I understand what was being stated correctly.


The argument made by the anti-globalization proponents in the movie is that most people in our high speed stress laden world barely have time to enjoy pleasurable things such as eating, good company, and loving so, unfortunately, why would they want to take the time to wait for a bottle of wine to age beautifully? I would love for that question to become this statement: In a world that has become so fast paced, enjoying a bottle of wine that has been allowed to age beautifully parallels the most pleasurable things in life that time must be taken to enjoy-good food, good company and love.