Vol. 1 No. 16…terroir revisited…already???

TB is always looking for ideas and sometimes those ideas come from readers. This time, it was questioning my contention that terroir doesn’t pertain to an area, say, like Lodi. Here is my answer, and as always the teacher (question answerer?), if given time, learns more than the questioner. If not learns, then at least solidifies the thinking. Thanks Stepehen, here is the response sent to him:
Thank you for your comments on terroir. I will clarify in the next issue. However, just as there are micro-climes within even a relatively small area  – in the half mile drive up to where I lived in Orinda, the temperature could differ by as much as five degrees. Is Napa Valley the right area for growing cabernet? Yes. Pinot Noir? No. Chard? Yes and no. Thus the terroir differs even within the valley, especially the valley floor and the hillsides. This is not as much of an issue in either Bordeaux or Burgundy for making good wines but, as Karen MacNeil writes in The Wine Bible: “Given the vast and variable climatic and geologic forces that must come together to make a wine what it is, why is it that so many Bordeaux are considered great? When you ask Bordelais winemakers that question, chances are they will answer with a single word: terroir. The most renowned wines…are said to be wines of terroir: that is, they derive their characters from singular plots of land.” 
Lodi, my friend, does not have terroir…only perhaps in the sense that, say, all red wines from Calaveras County finish with a slight bitter aftertaste which I don’t find appealing…perhaps it is gold in the soil? Monterey County red wines often exhibit a ‘bell pepper nose’ which I also find unappealing. Thus the terroir does not suit these grapes.
We live in an age of engineering: financial, chemical, etc. A grower can take a sample of his wine to a lab in Napa and they will analyse it and tell him what he needs to do to turn it into a 90 point wine! Helen Turley produces perhaps the most expensive single vineyard zinfandel’s on the planet. Rave reviews? At first I thought it was my taste-buds, then I read a description by a wine critic that resonated: “chemical soup”.
Is there anything wrong with ‘creating’ a wine of quality? No, a person who invests their money and labor (we’re talking the small family owned vineyards here), in trying to make more from their labor? Most certainly not, but when the price escalates based on those high ratings it penalizes the producer of solid quality wines, and why? Nothing, or very little that the rating chaser did has earned those marks. Likewise, many of those producers, simply are not worth the money but are a kind of parasite on the rating issuer and once it starts, the ‘sold out’ mailing lists perpetuate the myth. This is what Jancis Robinson was referring to when she spoke in her blog of faux collectors.
Now, however, the wine-buying public seems to be learning: according to a California trade publication/blog which is chock-full of information on all aspects of wine (www.wineindustryinsight.com), two trends are present among wine buyers: the price increases from a 90+ rating are dissipating as either people are deluged with these wines or simply are finding their own choices, which TB of course, recommends they do; and the fast growing segment of wine buyers is no longer the $10 and under range, but the $10-20 range, and to a lesser extent, the next layer above that, while the high end is stagnant.
Perhaps consumers are finally coming to realize that they are their own best wine critic…at least you know what you are looking for, no?
TB
©Copyright 2015 TBOW, all rights reserved.
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traderbill

How did Trader Bill originate? It was conceived by me as a way of providing information summaries of global financial markets so that friends and associates could bring themselves up to speed on events and changing market conditions upon their arrival at work. In addition, it provides information on speakers and economic releases that day with consensus estimates and level of last release so that the reader is prepared to react, or knows how the market might react upon the release of information. Who is Trader Bill? Initially any reference to me was as ‘i’. This is to remove the aura of ego and to suggest that i am but a humble reporter, albeit with 35 years of investment experience. Investments are demanding of ego, however, or one would not feel that he was qualified to manage someone else’s money in the first instance. Therefore i needed an ‘alter-ego’. Like Winchell and Mahoney, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy and especially Trader Vic and Mai Tai’s! Why Trader Vic? Because he was a likeable man who delivered pleasure to his customers and knew exactly what their desires were. The reason for the alter ego became obvious once I introduced Trader Bill into my commentaries: people started asking what Trader Bill thought. They had never asked me what I thought before, but suddenly they wanted to know what TB thought! Now mind you they KNEW that I was Trader Bill but for some reason he became bigger than life. Maybe it was the small ‘I’? What does Trader Bill try to do?His goal is to educate from his years of experience. Consider that most of the traders and people managing investments weren’t even around in 1987 for the crash! Consider that Graham and Dodd, and even Warren Buffet are not relevant to them, too old hat. Their historical perceptions of markets and fundamentals (earnings, price/earnings ratios, bonds, debt service coverage) are irrelevant in this fast moving world. This is the NEW ECONOMY, or is it? How did your style originate?Years ago i found that i had a knack and talent for writing. In addition, i developed an ability to analyze market news about 15 years ago. It took the Crash of ‘87. Prior to that i was just listening to what others said about the economy. But bond yields had been soaring in ‘87 yet the stock market just kept hitting new highs. That was when i began to learn about markets. i have both a dry and witty sense of humor (some call it inane!). Therefore i attempt to make even the worst news somewhat amusing: whether it is the absurdity of an economic release, or the comments of a CEO. This is trading desk humor (or gallows humor). It isn’t politically correct but it does ease tension. Ironically, it is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (in the Navy they say: it’s always darkest before it’s pitch black!), that allows you to be more objective in your analysis, as bad as a situation is there will still be a tomorrow! You will see that i practice three-dot journalism, a style made famous by San Francisco reporter Herb Caen, whom i idolized. At least to me it is effective. What is so special about your analysis?Frankly, i don’t know that it is special, but at least it beats “the market closed down today on profit taking.” What i do know is that most of what you read is spat out without considering whether or not it is rational, like the above statement. Is it right? Sometimes yes and sometimes no, and that is the key to what is different about my analysis: it is meant to make you think. Is Dan Rather right or is Trader Bill right? If it causes you to stop and think about it, regardless of whether you agree, i win! Because THAT is my goal…not to have you think i am a guru, got that? Bet you never heard that ANYWHERE before in my business! Instead they want you to think just how smart they are but remember in this business if you are right 60% of the time you ARE a genius! Another thing that is different is when i am wrong on an analysis i will tell you, not hope you forget what i said. So now you have the tools to do what the speculators and hedge funds do: challenge authority, and if you make money it is because YOU did it not me. i was just a tool, your flunky to do the grunt work and let you decide…course you could be wrong too but at least you looked at the big picture. But the goal is also to have fun! This shouldn’t be a business of hushed tones and grim faces. It is a living, breathing thing and nowhere else in the world do you have the odds as much in your favor as here. Just beware of the guy who wants to put his arm around you and tell you he is your friend. So there you have it. I hope you select me as one of your sources for market information. If you do I promise to work my best for your financial success. Trader Bill

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