November 28 2006
Something interesting is happening in the world of wine, albeit quietly with a sure, measured pace.
Negociants like Cameron Hughes, Don Sebastiani & Sons and consumer boutique vignerons like Crushpad are all popularizing a portion of the wine industry that used to be a very quiet corner of the business—creating labels for bulk wine or a quasi-custom crush with high quality markers.
But, there’s a next level over the horizon, and I wonder who will seize the opportunity to marry the bulk wine market with the hardcore enthusiast.
The next level is for a negociant outfit to start aggressively blending and to translate that blending ability to consumer preference so a customer might dictate the percentages of varietals that go into a bottle.
Take for example, a whiskey company: Compass Box Whiskey Company. In their own words:
Compass Box is a specialist Scotch whisky company. We are devoted to making some of Scotland’s premier whiskies through the art of blending.
We work like fine wine negociants. We choose individual casks of whiskies from different distilleries that offer complementary sets of flavours. We carefully blend these casks in small batches to make our proprietary whiskies.
These guys buy barrels, mix up their own blend and then sell it—as ultra-premium whiskey. I’m not much of a whiskey drinker, but I love this idea.
On the wine side there’s Mayo Family Winery in Glen Ellen. They have created www.theblendingcellar.com. The premise is simple enough, a consumer gets to blend his own wines using wines they have aged in French oak for a year—choosing from a couple of Cabs, Merlots, a Cab Franc and a Malbec, you can tweak until you find the right mix for your palate.
An even better bet for this is their blending kit that lets you do this at home. For $100 bucks you get all six wines, instructions and some equipment and a customer can do their own blending trials in the comfort of their own home. Once the blend is set, you place your order and your custom wine shows up shortly thereafter.
I Love this!
I think the long-term application is consumer retail. Can you imagine going into a combo wine shop & blending room? The store is using the Enomatic for sampling of all kinds of wines and then has a dozen wines on tap that can be trialed and blended and then bottled on site. The store has its own proprietary blends, ala Compass Box, which it sells, but also has “recipes” for other blends, as well.
Wine, on site sampling and participatory activity—what could be better? Let the cash registers ring!