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Tailor-made wines from grapes to labels
2013-04-03
By John H. Isacs

Tailor-made wine is an intriguing and multi-angled topic. Similar to the most carefully tailored suits and dresses, quality wines from their earliest inception to final bottling are painstakingly nurtured and fabricated. Like master-crafted clothes, when a specially made wine pleases your palate you feel better about yourself and your sense of taste.

As the international wine industry continues to grow and globalization ruthlessly dictates the types and styles of wine we drink, many wine styles and wine experiences are becoming generic. Must we suffer this seemingly inevitable movement toward wines made to please everyone and appease the lowest common denominator of taste? Absolutely not! With a little effort and acumen you can still enjoy something unique. Specially made or designed wines, like a custom suit, can be measured to your taste or occasion.

Custom labels and style

The easiest way to tailor a wine is to customize its label. A simple search on the Internet will result in numerous companies that customize labels for special occasions and gifts. Most of these companies offer a wide range of label designs and themes suitable for birthdays, graduations, retirements, engagements, weddings and even divorces.

They also personalize wine glasses, decanters and other wine accessories. Naturally, the wines offered by these companies vary quite a lot in terms of quality and cost, so I counsel a rather judicious approach. The labels may be beautiful, but not always the wines.

Frenchman and noted wine consultant Gilles Eychenne of Overseas Concepts in Hong Kong offers wines with special labels to the Chinese market.

For corporate customers he not only designs private labels but also customizes the wine style according to the requirements of customers. The varietal type and style of wines sourced from France and Spain are selected and vinified to match different regional Chinese ingredients and cuisines.

Make your own wine

If a special label and wine style is not enough for you, then you can make your own wine. Several companies in the United States and France allow clients to be intimately involved throughout the wine-making process.

Crushpad is one such company that's based in the Mission District of San Francisco. The company has 30 different steps in which a client can be involved, starting with choosing the varietal right up to bottling the wines; trained wine-making staff are available to advise and guide each step.

Some people actually go to Crushpad's winery and take part in the physical labor of making the wines, while other more laid-back wine lovers guide the process via computer from the comfort of their home. The cost of 300 bottles (one barrel) of your self-made wines ranges between US$4,000 and US$7,000.

Other companies offering similar services are Vintages in Fort Collins, Texas, and The Grape Escape in Dayton, New Jersey.

Lavau winery in the Southern Rhone wine region of France also allows customers to make their own wines and partake of the process, all in the resplendent natural environment of Provence.

Depending on the company and style of wine you choose to make, the process of making your own wine usually takes about six to 16 months.

These are the extreme cases of tailor-made wines analogous to not only guiding the tailor but also helping him cut and sew the cloth.

At present, I'm not aware of wineries in China offering similar services, but I'm relatively sure we'll have them in the not-too-distant future. Wine connoisseurs, it's time to get your hands dirty.

Special occasions

A number of the world's best wine makers offer special release wines tailored for specific occasions or clients.

Arguably California's finest sparkling wine producer, Iron Horse Winery in Sonoma, California, has a range of wines that are specially made and designed for specific occasions. The most recent was a wine to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

They also have a sparkling wine exclusively made for Disney called Fairy Tale Cuvee.

This is a Blanc de Noir (Pinot Noir) wine with a label wistfully scattered with pixie dust.

Perhaps the most famous tailor-made wine from Iron Horse is their legendary Wedding Cuvee, a matrimonial sparkler extraordinaire.

Made from mostly Pinot Noir with a dash of Chardonnay added for freshness and structure, the wine has a very romantic rose color and abundant alluring red and stone fruit aromas and flavors. Bubbles never tasted so romantic.

The giant Spanish CAVA sparkling wine company Freixenet recently launched a new range of red, white and rose wines named Mia. In Spanish mia means "my" and wine maker Gloria Collell has tailored these modern, easy-drinking wines especially for women.

The wines are available in Shanghai and like their maker, they are young, stylish, quintessentially feminine and perfect for a women's night out.

Micro wineries

A growing number of tiny producers produce high-quality artisan wines. While not made for one person or one occasion, the wines from these wineries are hand-crafted and made as carefully and with as much care as any haut couture ensemble. One example is Spoto Wines a tiny winery in Napa California.

Owner Stuart Spoto learned the art of wine making from his father and now his daughter helps out.

They are dedicated to producing the finest Oakville Cabernet and Bordeaux blends made in extremely small batches, the very antithesis of red wine globalism.

Spoto Wines offers a unique experience of quality that's tailor made for devotees of Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux style blend lovers.

So the next time you think about purchasing a wine with special meaning and one of a kind flavors, think tailor made.

Like wearing the perfect suit, when a perfectly tailored wine adorns the table and intrigues the palate, the result is both ineffable and magical.

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