My first visit to TEXSOM 2018 was a resounding success. Truly the best wine education experience in North America.
North America doesn’t have a Vinitaly, ProWein, or London Wine Fair which of course are about producers there is of course elements of education. I don’t think the US can or will ever have a major trade wine event like ProWein as example. But what is essential is that there is a TEXSOM.
TEXSOM is important to keeping up with a need for deep knowledge in wine. While all that is grown is known is not true. What producers showcase are often under appreciated as opposed to showcase regions who have a much easier time promoting their wines than lesser known regions or varieties. Being a former off premise wine marketing manager at a 290 store chain there was always from the wine buyer perspective to buy wines that are “trending.” Buying into trends is promoting a temporary bubble as opposed buying to create a wine authorship for the consumer and the store itself. I do think many off premise buyers want to buy wines their consumer want to buy, however, many of these same buyers get a bit wrapped up in buying trend so as to not miss out. That doesn’t mean don’t buy a trend wine–don’t invest so much that it outweighs the full spectrum of high quality wines–and an evergreen authorship of wines stocked.
A tangible example I have is a wine retailer here in San Francisco has a sign that says “Eastern Europe” to highlight wines they have in stock from this region. The assortment had gotten smaller overtime–from my recollection the assortment trimmed to 50% fewer SKUs. Eastern European wines should not be a trend category but always present for the beautiful story they tell of place, variety and tradition. And Eastern European wines is an evergreen category.
Back to TEXSOM – I signed up the first day and I start to sign up and thought I would get everything I wanted–each selection started to give a “sold out” notification. But I have not a single disappointment with what I selected–my focus was white wines in my first year. Here is a list of the courses I took:
- Italian White Wines – Ian D’Agata (writer of Native Grapes of Italy) and Laura DePasquale MS
- An Overview of Current Styles of White Wines of Portugal – Dirceu Vianna Junior MW
- Stylistic Comparisons from the Commonwealth: Expressions Across South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia – David Wrigley DipWSET MW and Mary Margaret McCamic MW
- Survey of Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages with Nicholas Paris MW
- White Bordeaux Drew Hendricks MS and John Blazon MS
- Iconic Retrospective Vertical Tasting: Dr. Loosen with Ernst Loosen
Italian White Wines was a stunning display of wines and knowledge. Ian D’Agata’s book on Native Wine Grapes of Italy presenting his years of research and Laura DePasquale, MS who both were equally valuable in the content presented. I walked away in awe in terms of knowledge and how this continues to confirm my view of wine. My view is that wine is that while an ancient beverage anchored in at least 8 millennia of history; so much of wine is new or recognized or understood. What is new is that wine varieties like Timorasso or Schioppettino are being rescued and having more hectares planted then at the point where they could have gone extinct. These varieties amongst many other examples were saved by either one person, small group or even a Nonna. A Nonna (grandmother) would save a variety by saying her vineyard with sometimes an unknown variety or varieties on that site were off limit to replanting with a known variety.
Grazie Mille Nonne
This tasting was so helpful–when was the last time I tasted a Nascetta…. well far too long–a rare Piemontese white grape variety. Ian and Laura were superb in terms of giving technical information but also what a variety tastes like.
This course truly was inspiring in thinking about Italian white wines and also how the wine journey continues to understand our viticultural heritage today.
I have been to a “wine education” experience for years (I won’t name event) probably easy to guess as I have said cost me at least 3-4 Burberry Trench Coats (JPM Event Cost Index) did not approach one year at TEXSOM. Some people say TEXSOM is expensive but I would say that I am getting knowledge that I could not get any other way–on subject matters are complex and well thought out. The other event that I had attended was more personality driven than driven by excellence in knowledge. Personality centric events are driven by those close to the organizers versus a wide net that highlights talent and imparts knowledge.
The White Bordeaux presentation by Drew Hendricks MS and John Blazon MS was a great walk through in fantastic wines at down superb wines at down-to-earth price points. I recall a note was there was more Josh Wines sold than are imported of the entire White Bordeaux category into the US.
Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages presentation by Nicholas Paris, MW was an eye opener as he periodically surveyed on and off premise representatives for the Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages on their wine lists. It was a rarity to find on lists and this was Nicholas’s thesis. I do find on wine lists say in the Bay Area and then when I go to smaller markets–even wine retailers have so very few.
Iconic Retrospective Vertical Tasting: Dr. Loosen presented by by Ernst “Ernie” Loosen was one of great humour and great seriousness about what he does as well as this family producing gorgeous riesling wines. Appreciating the tradition of multi-generations from perspective of the Loosen family is great to hear. I was floored when we tasted two “West German” wines one was the 1976 Beerenauslese and and 1988 Auslese Riesling wines. First these wines are delicate, relevant and more importantly remarkable. I am always amazed to taste a wine that is not just drinkable but stunning and all the while is from a different era of history ‘The Cold War’.
I always appreciate German Riesling–still even with global warming a challenging wine grape to grow and only in certain sun facing slopes to capture enough heat units to ripen.
A special event like TEXSOM invites special wines to be poured. I was enthralled with beauty of aged Schioppettino which is as rare as rubies to find a recent vintage and north of impossible to find library wines. The producer Ronchi di Cialli was pivotal to resuscitate this variety. The struggle to keep native grape varieties has been a race against time, government, and Phylloxera to keep it going. This is a great example of native grape variety that if lost we would be poorer for it. This wine grape especially the beautiful aged vintages show the delicacy of these wines over time. A once in a life time tasting.
I understood this year had more MS and MW presenters than past TEXSOMs and the conference is getting sharper year over year. I felt at home at TEXSOM and I did see many friends and enjoyed the camaraderie versus an event with only a competitive mind-set.
I would highly recommend TEXSOM and it’s promise of being a great fixture for continuous wine education in the North America landscape. I will attend the 15th edition next year. And of course TEXSOM doesn’t happen on it’s own but a fleet of volunteers and the hard work of TEXSOM founders and principals James Tidwell, Drew Hendricks, Donaji Lira and Kyle Miller.
James the Wine Guy
Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.
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