I recently had the chance to attend a Wine Law Masters Class at Berkeley School of Law that was taught by Richard Mendelson. Mendelson is arguably the foremost authority on wine law in the United States, and his class on the subject at Berkeley Law was a first in the United States. And as a winemaker himself, Mendelson possesses an intimate knowledge of the ins-and-outs of the wine world.
His class was quick and full of information, but extremely interesting. If you happen to be a student at Berkeley I highly recommend taking his class, which happens to include a tasting of the wines he produces on his vineyard.
I’m also in the process of reading his recently published book From Demon to Darling. It is a comprehensive history of wine law in the United States. I think you’ll be surprised right away at the deep connections this country, and the people that founded it, have to wine.
You can check out Mendelson Wines at www.mendelsonvineyard.com.
And you can get From Demon to Darling at Amazon.
Yesterday I was able to do something that I honestly thought I’d never get the chance to do after starting law school. I was picked to be on a jury. Crazy right? I’ve heard countless times how they never pick anyone with legal experience, but apparently in this case a law student was the lesser of two evils (it was a domestic violence case and quite a few of the other women there had personal experience with that).
At first I wasn’t too happy about being selected, but I tried to make the experience into a learning opportunity and I think I really did learn a lot. A few things I noticed:
- I was amazed at the lack of experience on the side of the defense team. I know everyone has to start somewhere, but one of them honestly looked like this was his first time speaking in public.
- The prosecutor dropped the ball big time. When you have the burden of proof, you should probably at least get in all of the evidence you can. Like maybe……the 911 tape!
- After being in law school I’m surprised at the lack of legal knowledge among laymen. One of the other jurors actually told me that he thought 70/30 was “beyond a reasonable doubt.” 30% unsure? Really? In a criminal trial??
- I also am of the opinion that we really need to make the process more comfortable for jurors. Sitting in uncomfortable chairs all day without anything to eat…….that leads to angry people making decisions that affect people’s lives. Not a good combination.
This is probably purely a law student thing (being excited at the chance to participate in a jury), but next time you get called to jury duty take some time to think about it. It’s really a privilege to be able to participate in a system like this. In most other countries you wouldn’t have a chance to have a say at all. And while I admit the judicial system has its problems, I think it’s about the best the system can be.
The EU is expected to vote in June on whether or not to allow rose wine to be made by mixing red and white wines. Winemakers from France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland fear that such a move could lead to job losses and endanger their traditional rose, which is made by the more time-consuming method of leaving crushed red wine grapes to soak with their juice. New World winemakers in countries such as Australia and South Africa already make roses by mixing reds and whites.
The EU has attempted to resolve the standoff by proposing the title of “traditional rose” for wine created in the Old World style. France is leading the charge to block the change and has the backing of Greece and Italy, but also needs the backing of Germany and Spain to stand any chance of holding out.
We all know that the direct shipping laws are crazy right? Well now eCompli has started www.directshiplicense.com, where anyone that needs them can download direct-to-consumer wine shipping license applications. President of Compli, Rachel Dumas Rey, says “The do-it-yourself model allows any winery to complete direct shipper license applications, required certificates, forms and tax permits. The website provides detailed instructions by state on the correct sequence and documents required.” eCompli has been in the compliance business since 1997, but before now have only offered their products on a large scale. This web-based platform allows smaller wineries and producers to access those very same tools.
American “port-style” wines are attempting to find a new name for themselves. The U.S. has never been as strict with wine naming conventions as European countries are. Where to us Port means a fortified wine, elsewhere it specifically means from the Porto region of the Duoro River Valley in Portugal, made from specific Portuguese grape varieties and shipped from the town of Oporto. That difference may not seem like a big deal, except when you’re attempting to do business internationally. To add to the problem, in 2006 the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) ceased approval of new domestic “port” labeled products. While anyone who received approval prior to 2006 is “grandfathered” in, new producers and brands have to find different terms to use.
The members of the Sweet and Fortified Wine Association (SFWA) have expressed a preference for the term “fortified wine” because it can be used to encompass not just port, but other products such as sherry and madeira as well. However the TTB hasn’t allowed that term on wine labels in the past, possibly because of its use on nutritional supplement products and the confusion it might cause to have two meanings.
Some of the alternatives names the SFWA has come up with are: Fort, Forte, and “WSA” (wine spirits additions). Personally I would lean toward a name like Fort or Forte, simply because of it’s similar sound to the traditional Port name. It’s tough to completely change a product’s name and ensure consumers will still buy it.
The SFWA is also attempting to combat the stereotype that port-style wines are an “old person’s” drink. They’re attempting to market more towards the 21 to 40-year-old age group.
If you’re new to the world of ports I recommend trying D’Vine Wine’s Raspberry Chocolate Port or Desert Moon Vineyards Fireside Ruby. Both are excellent ports and very easy to drink.