Wine ó Spirit world tales

Spirit world tales

By Tim Protzman

And beers and wines and Google, oh my! 

There are big doings in the Spirit Realm and theyíre not the kind that go bump in the night. Mergers, acquisitions and Supreme Court rulings have reshaped the beverage industry almost overnight. What that will mean in  these parts remains to be seen but national trends usually play out here.

First, wine consumption is up slightly as more people find interesting, agreeable grape varieties at good prices. Second, consumption of hard liquor is also on the rise slightly, because of the rebirth of the cocktail. Third, beer consumption, especially of the national brands is down slightly for the first time in a decade. This is due to the explosion of beer alternatives like wine coolers and malted energy drinks like Hyper Glow and B (to the) E, from Anheuser Busch. These drinks contain a little more alcohol than traditional beer, plus caffeine and ginseng. And while the health benefits of these beverages hasnít been determined, their pleasant soda-like taste with a hint of NyQuil has captured the fancy of the all-important 21- to 30-year old demographic. Itís kind of a paradox that while the national brand sales are falling, the micro and nano brewery sales are steadily climbing. More people are trying the artisanal brews like Cisco, Ommegang and Duval, the Belgian import.

As the beer market reinvents itself, the wine and spirits industry is undergoing some consolidation. Both Constellation Brands and Pernod Ricard have an offer on the table for wine and spirits giant Allied Domecq. This company owns Callaway Vineyards, Clos du Bois, Atlas Peak and even Dunkiní Donuts! (How about a glass of chardonnay with that Munchkin?) Whoever wins the bidding war is certain to maximize profit and present some nice inexpensive wines designed to win the hearts and minds of the wine-drinking public. Look for more animal and rhyming names, like Catfish White or Chateau Hobo as they attempt to gain market share through instantaneous brand recognition. The wines will be fruity, pleasant and around $10. Theyíll also be in snazzy 21st-century packaging ó and may even glow in the dark!

If youíve been Googling wineries in the wake of the Supreme Courtís decision on Internet wines sales, you may not notice any difference. The ruling concerns two states that allowed their citizens to purchase wine via the Internet from in-state wineries only: Michigan and New York. These states will now have to give the same consideration they give to in-state wineries to those out of state, or ban Internet wine sales altogether. The law isnít designed to make it easier for you, the consumer, to buy direct, just to level the playing field for intra- versus interstate trade. The Granite State, being one of the most forward looking and business-friendly is the only one in New England that allows Internet wine sales. Good news for shipping stores on the borders!

After all this industry talk itís nice to meet a wine maker who thinks like a farmer.

Twelve of us wine writers had lunch with Pieter Malan of Simonsig Family Vineyards for an all-fish meal at Oceana in midtown Manhattan. And, yes, they served red wine with the fish.

Simonsig is a large vineyard in South Africaís Stellenbosch region, just east of Cape Town. Pieterís love for wine was apparent and overwhelming as we peppered him with all kinds of questions:

ďWhatís the soil composition?Ē  Mostly red clay and glacial outwash.

ďDo you use oak?Ē Yes, but only for a few of our wines; in my opinion oakís importance is diminishing.

And my own contribution: ďDo rhinos and giraffes wander in and eat the grapes?Ē No, itís rural, but not that rural.

It was exciting to listen to 400 years of family history which began in the Loire Valley of France and culminated in Mr. Malanís fatherís little vineyard in De Hoop. After apartheid ended Mr. Malanís three sons took over and the wine became world-famous, following the same ancient standards and formulas developed during three centuries of South African wine-making. And despite Pieterís success at marketing (he recently closed a large deal with an airline thatíll offer his wines during flights, which represents about 84,000 bottles annually) he still knows every inch of his vineyards.

This attention to detail represents itself in the glass. And while we tasted 9 good wines, two stand out as great: the Chenin Blanc and the signature Redhill Pinotage.

2004 Simonsig Chenin Blanc $9.99. Melon fruit with pineapple and maple walnut oatmeal flavors. A nose of gardenia and apple. Crisp enough for an aperitif, but a slightly sweet finish that works so well with food.

2002 Simonsig Redhill Pinotage. $29.99. Made from a Pinot Noir and Cinsault hybrid, this lusty red has the brawn of a prizefighter and the grace of a ballet dancer. Deep, plummy with a classic Bordeaux aroma and a surprisingly smooth finish. The definitive wine for roast loin of Springbok. One of the best Iíve tasted this year.

E-mail your wine experiences to

- Tim Protzman 

Find your bottle

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission can help you find your beverage with a click or two. Just go to, type the name of your wine into the product locater and click ďgo.Ē The siteís search engine will come up with a list of stores that carry the bottle you seek.

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