Arnica’s Articles on JancisRobinson.com

With passions for honest wine and romantic stories, Arnica writes off-the-beaten-path articles highlighting social and environmental issues for JancisRobinson.com. Here are some of her recent stories…

Piquette – the people’s drink

piquette in a BC garden

At the height of last summer, I offered up a thirst-quenching, unconventional drink for wine lovers to try in Piquette – a summer wine for everyone.

I fully expected someone to complain about this lower-alcohol, wine-waste beverage (made with water, sugar and grape must) getting exposure on this esteemed website, but no one seemed to mind. Especially as piquette isn’t even allowed to be sold in the EU – only consumed by winegrower families*. But the summer crickets chirped, the article was eventually bumped off the home page, and the fine-wine community seemed not to notice. More…

Keto-friendly, low-carb wines

Female doctor and patient

Food trends inevitably have a deep impact on the wines people choose to drink. The rush to produce big tannic Cabs coincided with the protein-based Dr Atkins diet popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Today vegan wines are becoming easier to find, due to the rise of climate consciousness and plant-based eating. 

However, today’s fastest-growing global diet trend has largely been ignored by the wine world. 

According to Google Trends, 48.6% of the UK’s nutrition and diet searches from 1 February 2020 to 31 January 2021 were related to the ketogenic diet. Compare that with the Cambridge or Mediterranean diets, representing less than 2% each of UK diet searches. (1) In the same time frame, in the United States, ‘keto wine’ was searched as often as ‘natural wine’, 34% more often than ‘organic wine’, six times more than ‘low alcohol wine’ and 30 times more often than ‘sustainable wine’. (2) Yet you would be hard-pressed to find the term keto on a shelf tag or a wine label in North America or the UK. More…

How to taste vermouth

Harry Dosanj of Kelowna, British Columbia and his mobile bar

‘Hi, Harry.’

‘Hi, Arnica. I’m pretty excited about this.’

‘Me too.’

Harry Dosanj and I grinned at each other through the computer screen. Twenty minutes before, I had dropped a dozen plastic-covered wine glasses at his doorstep, and the samples were now covering our respective desks. As a wine consultant and writer, I often taste a dozen wines in a sitting, but not aromatised wines. More…

Vermouth – the tasting notes

The colours of vermouth

This is the time for something stronger, no? But which vermouths are worth buying? Tam (TC) and Arnica Rowan (AR) did the hard work so you don’t have to. Tasting Notes…

Confessions of a smoke-taint taster

2020 grape harvest at Lightning Rock, Okanagan

Arnica Rowan lives in Okanagan, where the surrounding vineyards, such as this one at Lightning Rock in Summerland, British Columbia, are so smoke-affected that pickers have been given masks and respirators. Photo by Ron Kubek.

I could taste it, even before I opened my eyes. There was that restricted feeling in my lungs, and a bitter taste of ash on my tongue. I didn’t even need to get out of bed to know that our house would be surrounded by haze. Forest fire is too familiar an aroma, in the air and in wine. More…

Vermouth – alt wine for the young and hip

Shawn Dalton of Marrow Vermouth

There is a quiet revolution going on in the world of wine. From the cobbled streets of Barcelona to the glam restaurants in Vancouver, a fortified drink is being sipped from afternoon to evening. Affluent millennials with scarves tossed around their necks are tilting back wine glasses, eschewing the convention of their elders and enjoying craft vermouth straight. More…

Piquette – a summer wine for everyone

a Summer in August piquette bottles

In François Rozier’s late-18th-century manual Cours complet d’agriculture (Complete Course in Agriculture, Volume 7, 1786), instructions on how to make piquette are simple. 

I’ll paraphrase from page 714’s ancient French: ‘Once you are done fermenting the wine and have removed the wine from the mashed-up grapes, throw the grapes into some kind of container. Add as much water as grape must. Within the day, a little fermentation will start. The second day, add as much water again. If you added all the water at once, you would have ended up with a watery mess. Then on the eight to tenth, or twelfth day, drain the liquid into a barrel. The liquid will bubble and foam like a wine, although it isn’t coloured or viscous like you are used to. If you want to give body to the little wine, you need to add sugar or honey. Store the piquette in barrel – it will last until the next year’s harvest.’ More…

Reducing alcohol naturally

Lenz Moser sorting Cabernet grapes in Ningxia

Across the planet, consumer preferences are swinging to less concentrated, lower-alcohol beverages. Meanwhile, the global wine industry is facing increasing temperatures, resulting in grapes with higher sugar content at phenolic ripeness, and producing super-concentrated, higher-alcohol wines. Australian red wine’s average alcohol has risen by 2% since the 1980s, to 14.4% today (see this report). Global warming is the Achilles heel of the wine industry.

While wine industry advocates are wringing their hands, wondering in North America how they are going to compete with the runaway success of the White Claw hard seltzer, grape farmers have started doing what farmers do best – innovating. On the undulating flatlands of Marlborough and the fringes of the Gobi desert, vines are being tended differently. The farmer’s methods are simple but effective, naturally lowering the alcohol of the wines. More…

Instagram accounts for wine lovers

Collage of recommended Instagram accounts

As we isolate ourselves at home, social media has taken on many important roles: connecting us with friends, following the news, and entertaining us through the endless hours. See, for example, Richard’s constantly updated list of opportunities for Lockdown learning. Our time online has skyrocketed as we’ve been stuck inside; for example, Italians have spent 70% more time on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp since their terrible COVID-19 outbreak. Fortunately, several social-media accounts provide wine lovers with education, entertainment, and even some stress relief during this difficult time. More…

Truffles – precious for Piemontese sustainability

Arnica Rowan smelling a black and a white truffle in Piemonte

The hounds stand up on their back feet, pressed up against the fence of their enclosure, and whine in anticipation. 

‘They are excited to hunt the truffles’, explains Giorgio Romagnolo, patting one on the head with an indulgent smile. He passes me a long wooden staff, springs open the locked gate, and the lean Italian hounds bound out into the farmyard. We are off, the hounds leading the way through the foggy courtyard, across the country road, and up the hillside into the aspen trees.

It’s annual truffle festival time in Piemonte. While wine lovers in the main city of Alba are sipping Barolo and leaning over steaming plates heaped with glorious truffles, I am trundling off into Piemontese woods near Costigliole d’Asti with Giorgio, one of the region’s 4,000 licensed truffle hunters. Equipped with a simple wooden staff, a pickaxe, and a highly trained dog, trifulau like Giorgio are the source of all of Piemonte’s famously fragrant white truffles. More...

Piemonte – much more than Nebbiolo

Claudio Fenocchio with Arnica Rowan and his orange Arneis in Piemonte

Claudio Fenocchio (right) gestured across the vineyard towards an ancient stone building. ‘I was born in that house, just like my father and my grandfather, and my grandfather’s father’, he chuckled. ‘Probably in the same room.’

We are sitting in his tidy office, with wide glass windows looking out across the foggy fields and barely visible Piemontese farmhouses. We are both now relaxed. After completing a marathon Barolo barrel tasting, we are finally sampling one of the two wines I’ve come to Giacomo Fenocchio to taste. A glass of Freisa in hand, I listen to Claudio talk about his long family history, and try to wrap my head around the wine. Strawberry jam, oolong tea and black pepper, with woolly tannins that give Nebbiolo a run for its money. It’s delectable, and novel. More…

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