The Origin of my Grapes is a Secret...so FUQUA!
Posted 18 April 2009 - 04:27 PM
Doesn't seem too provocative or out-of-bounds to ask where the grapes in a wine were grown. Odd that Fuqua wouldn't just answer the question.
Posted 19 April 2009 - 09:44 AM
Assemblage of wine is common, but usually it involves blending wines from different producers within a defined region. This is especially true in areas mature enough to be considered DOC/DOCG or AOC regions. Rioja winemakers in Spain don't include less expensive wines from vineyards in La Mancha; Bordeaux winemakers don't blend wines from the Rhone. But many wines, including Sherry and Champagne, wouldn't be what they are without assemblage.
The risk Mr. Fuqua runs by not disclosing the origin of the wines he uses in his assemblage is that some people will wonder whether he is practicing coupage[/] or "cutting the wine."
Mr. Fuqua is quite clear that the "feedstock" wines used in his blends are not all from Texas. Having tried some of the wines that use only Texas-grown grapes, I think he is probably wise not to attempt only Texas "appelation" wines. Becker's "Texas Port" was a particularly awful exemplar. (It was several years ago that I tried it, though.) Texas vineyards and the Texas wine industry are young and struggling, and they should be allowed some slack. The state doesn't have AOC- or DOC-like regulations.
But for those of us familiar with what the French call conneries, I agree that he should affirmatively disclose the origin of the wines used in his [i]assemblages -- especially when people ask. Otherwise, many potential buyers -- including, maybe especially, this crew -- will begin to wonder whether he isn't aiming for a luxury price point with only run-of-the mill "ingredients."
We all know where that can lead on DallasFood.org!
Posted 20 April 2009 - 12:22 AM
Then Lee Fuqua the owner, founder and winemaker of FUQUA Wines left a monster-sized (> 500 word) retort to me in which he STILL did not say where the grapes came from.
Why is it so important to him not to disclose origin of his grapes?
I would fathom the following: His major marketing angle is that FUQUA is a Texas winery. However, most of his wines are made with non-Texas fruit. We still don't know where the fruit comes from but I would guess it is California since that is where the bulk of the resale fruit in the US originates. Nonetheless, it could, in principle, be grape concentrate shipped in from China -- we just don't know because he won't say.
One could take FUQUA's winery, Texan winemaker, and 12th generation Texan bathroom cleaner and transport them to Guatamala and the wine made would be the same (some might say the average quality of wine would improve in both countries). However, if you substitute Missouri or Oregon fruit for the California fruit the wine can never be the same. It is the origin of the fruit that defines what a wine is -- good or bad.
Winemaking from alien fruit is fairly widespread now, and becoming commonplace. There is nothing wrong with it in principle. My recommendation to wineries that do this is that they unambiguously distinguish these wines from those made with indigenous fruit.
The consequences of not doing so are severalfold, including lack of consumer trust in the product and winemaking generally. Alaska will have as many wineries as Texas, all using Lodi fruit. In Texas, one of the biggest dangers I see is that lack of clarity will destroy the Texas wine industry. Consumers will assume that Texas wines are made with California grapes and will simply buy the 'real thing'. Texas winemakers who strive to create a great Texas product will go out of business in a market for lemons.
That is why I want Lee FUQUA to come clean and stay clean and if he won't I want the whole world to know it.
Posted 20 April 2009 - 07:32 AM
We all know where that can lead on DallasFood.org!
P.S. I understand the 2008 Chateauneuf de Quetzaltenango was a strong candidate for the 157th gold medal at the DMN competition. But the gold had all been used up, paying Robert Decherd's "equalization" bonus last year.
Posted 20 April 2009 - 07:13 PM
Actually, both methods are used. Calais Winery in Deep Ellum ships in whole grapes in a 'bath' of CO2 to prevent fermentation or rotting in transit. The thinking is as follows: wine making actually starts with the crush. That is when pigmentation from the skin creates rose and red wines, and where the treatment of the grapes determines such things as whether properties of the stems and the seeds get into the wine (e.g. tannin).
There are regulations
delimiting areas but I don't know if there is the panoply of quality control rules on top of that which one would find in Europe.
Posted 21 April 2009 - 08:25 AM
Posted 21 April 2009 - 11:17 AM
Consumer spending changing bigtime now. Value is in - high priced goods are out. So is overpriced wine. Just today, the WSJ has a great article on what Cmpbell's Soup is doing to address the downturn. Now, you may say that soup and wine are not the same thing, but spending trends are. It's scary what they are seeing. They can't even move 10 cans for 10 dollars because people are stopping bulk buying in supermatkets. They have 20 bucks for food, and 10 of that can't go for just soup to sit in a pantry anymore.
Same with wine - people no longer are shelling out for a case, even to save 10-15%. Since Fuqua's store/winery is a wine retailer, selling vast majority of sales inventory of others wine, I bet he's seeing this, too. So, he's lashing out, in the wrongest way possible. Defending a brand with attacks on others and refusing to answer a simple question about sourcing.
Fuqua should have gone the open way of Times Ten Cellars -- been VERY upfront with every bottle made with juice from elsewhere since they opened. That way, they garnered trust and good PR for their future releases that did come from their own west Texas grapes.
I'd love to hear Kirk's feedback on the public persona/relations issue Fuqua is turning this into. Seems to me he's a classic case of when a leader needs to shut their pie hole and get a pro involved in messaging. Or damage control!
Posted 21 April 2009 - 11:38 AM
Re: My remarks about D Magazine. If you will go to Kirk's post above and click on "check THIS out" you will open the article I was referring to in D Magazine.
And, regardless of that particular article, I will stand by my critical remarks concerning D Magazine.
Posted 21 April 2009 - 02:14 PM
I provided some advice over on SideDish.
All this sound and fury, because you didnít want to answer a legitimate question from a consumer? Your attorney must be a busy person.
Seems to me there was a very simple way to avoid this entire situation: answer the question, and answer it truthfully, fully and in simple terms. Surely, itís not proprietary data or competitively sensitive information. If you believe it is so, why do so many other winemakers openly disclose the[ir] grapes, blends, fermentation times, casking and aging?
Youíve managed to take a situation that could have been over in five minutes and become a net positive for your brand, and turned it into five days (so far) of crisis.
Hereís some advice from someone who deals with these issues:
Stop arguing, donít rattle your sabers or threaten legal action, and just post the information Ö here and on your website.
Fuqua wines for real people. Fictitious people need not apply.
Thank you to the real people for your continued support.
And then Nancy Nichols (smartly, I might add) turned off the comments. I learned of her action when I tried to reply:
Good luck with that.
I see a bright future in co-branded Fuqua-Noka wine and chocolate tastings.