ADVERTISING: Advertorial — GEORGE BALLING: Internet ‘intel’

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Whether you go online to find information on a winery as you plan your next trip to wine country, or if you go online trying to locate a particular wine, companies like Google and Facebook among others capture information on your searches. Then, the next time you go online for anything, an ad will pop up on your Google search or your next visit to Facebook for any one of a number of websites offering wine for sale. It’s not really all that surprising, as many search engines and much of social media have really become advertising platforms.

We understand it, but there are also some things to watch for as many of the websites that are advertising aren’t what they appear to be, or in some cases, they are just “spinning” some trends emerging in the wine industry that don’t merit quite the attention they are getting. Also, there are some parts of any internet offering in wine you should be cautious of.

With any wine offered over the internet, you should be more careful with vintage than anything else. No matter if it is a domestically produced wine or one from overseas, vintage is vitally important. Just look at the difference between the 2011 and 2012 years here in the U.S. and you will understand the importance. The large internet wine sites are notorious for not sending the vintage they advertise. Your best bet is to buy your wine from your favorite local wine professional where you can verify the vintage first hand and get the guidance your local merchant provides on the growing year.

One of the newer websites to begin popping up in Facebook news feeds is something called “Dry Farmed Wines.” This is a site that claims to sell only wines that are dry farmed, organic and vegan. It is playing off concerns with wine allergies, sulfite allergies and the fear of wine additives. We understand this and strive to carry the “cleanest” wines available from winemakers and wineries we know well and trust, including wines that are certified organic and biodynamic. This particular site is offering a solution to a problem that largely does not exist, so caution should be exercised.

As far as dry farmed grapes, not all varietals or regions benefit from dry farming. Also, there is no indication that dry farming makes wine grapes any better to consume versus those that are irrigated. Dry farming is also not part of the standard for grapes to be certified organic and it does nothing to alleviate wine allergies. With the fact that most wine grape growers are keenly aware of how much water they use and put on their wine grapes, it appears to be some clever marketing aimed at taking advantage of a fad.

Many wine consumers similarly are looking for wines without sulfites. The challenge here is that sulfites are present in wine from the fermentation process even if no additional sulfur chemicals are added. This site that traffics in wines without sulfites is actually selling wines that are more artificially manipulated to remove those sulfites, which are naturally occurring. And finally, claiming that their wines are vegan is a bit of a spoof, since virtually all wines do not contain animal products of any kind. Egg whites are rarely used in the fining of wine now, so the chance of encountering a non-vegan wine is slimmer than slim. Your best bet to consume the cleanest wine possible is to work with your wine professional to access wines that come from their known producers, not a site claiming some superior product that is no better than any other.

The internet site First Leaf is one we have talked about before. They claim that all retail wine is marked up three times from what the winery originally sold it for. Any wine professional will tell you this is simply false. No wine sold retail and most wine sold in restaurants are ever marked up three times. In fact, First Leaf is trafficking mostly in private label wines they have purchased in bulk. The site should be avoided.

Our move update: The Dinner Party moved this past weekend, so by the time you are reading this column we will be in our new location at 3510 North Government Way. This is the former Great Harvest location at the westernmost end of our existing building. Our hours will be 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday. We will feature wine tastings daily, from Tuesday through Saturday. We look forward to seeing you in our new expanded location.

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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.

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