Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Cool Climate Whites

I have a story about Cool Climate Whites. Once upon a time when it was time to pass my wine tasting exam to get the WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits, the school presented me with the following exercise, in front of me, there were three wines, they didn’t tell me the grape variety, origin or vintage, I was supposed to taste them blind, write tasting notes about them, identify the grapes and origin of the wines and identify a common characteristic that all of them shared. The three whites were a Mosel Riesling, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a basic Chablis... and you guessed it!  Their common denominator was that all three were Cool Climate Whites.  I knew this immediately, mostly because I love acidity (a giveaway for this category), and purity in wines… meaning little or no winemaking man intervention, another giveaway.

I love Cool Climate Wines, both white and reds. I always say that climate is a very important factor in viticulture, where matching grapes, soil and climate is like a good marriage. Certain grapes need more sun to properly mature and prefer mild or warm climates, and then we have other grapes, mostly whites, that do quite well with less sun. Now, remember that viticulture is only possible on certain latitudes in our planet, mostly between 30 -50º north and south from the equator. Now, less sun, and therefore less ripeness, less sugar, and less alcohol. Less alcohol means less body and at times less fruity flavors. Instead, you will get more acidity, more vibrancy and freshness, more green and mineral flavors and more elegance. You will also have more focus, precision, as the French say “pointu”. Of course, we always need to aim for the balance of all the elements in wines. Even in a cool climate wine, though acidity is normally the central element, there are other things that keep the wine together, among them, their ability to express the terroir and soils, such as the cases like Chablis or Mosel, (wines known for their minerality, wet stones aromas and flavors). 

I believe this is a wonderful category of wines to enjoy in the summer, most of them are light to medium bodied, with high acidity, balanced alcohol, and pure… so pure in the sense that  producers have chosen to feature the aromas and intrinsic characteristics of the grapes, instead of masking the wines with too much oak. 
This is a category that will match very well, with light summer dishes, vegetables, salads, light fish/ seafood or even on their own, like I love to enjoy them… chilled and seating on a balcony or patio overlooking the stars or my favorite TV show. I love drinking Sauvignon Blanc while on vacation on the beach… that is a sublime experience indeed! that I will resume once the pandemic is over!

Flavor profiles of whites from cool climates usually are all types of pears, apples, especially green apples, citrus (lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange), peaches. Green herbs, fresh grass, green peppers, also stones, and other mineral flavors.

There are plenty of cool climate places in the world: Burgundy, Loire Valley, Alsace, Carneros, Russian River and Sonoma in California, Casablanca in Chile, most appellations in Germany and the UK, Austria, Rías Baixas & Txacoli in Spain. Oregon (especially appellations closer to the Pacific coast), New Zealand, appellations in the South Africa Coast, etc.  Most of these places are either too north so the coolness comes from their location, some are due to their high altitude (temperature goes down as we go high up) or the vineyards/areas are heavily influenced by cool sea breezes, (proximity to oceans and rivers).

Below are some examples of Cool Climate wines that I have tasted lately

1)Marlborough, New Zealand: sunny and influenced by cool sea breezes, Marlborough is a unique location to grow Sauvignon Blancs, like nowhere else on the planet. NZ Sauvignon Blancs are vibrant with piercing fruit intensity. 

Sunday Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2019 $14.99
Medium bodied Sauvignon Blanc showing intense lime zest and passion fruit notes and beautiful zingy acidity.

Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018 $19.99
Light bodied Sauvignon Blanc featuring fresh green grass and grapefruit notes, and lively yet well integrated acidity.

2)Mosel, Germany: Germany and the UK, are two countries located so far north, they are in the northern limit for viticulture. In wine terms we call these locations “marginal climates”, located at 50-55º latitude respectively, here it’s so cool, grapes have a hard time to mature, of course this is fast changing with global warming. Of the many cool climates spots, Mosel is one of my favorites, there is an elegance found here that can't be duplicated anywhere else, plus alcohol levels are low, allowing me to drink more wine… without having a headache.

Gunther Steinmetz Brauneberger Riesling 2017 $18.99
Dry and racy Riesling, featuring lemon peel, honey and flint notes, complex almost Alsatian in body. Superb!

Dr Hermann H Riesling 2018 $19.99
Delicious off dry white, featuring vibrant acidity, lemon and petrol notes and a light body with only 10 % alcohol. Ideal with spicy foods.

3)Robertson Valley, South Africa, though summers are dry and sunny here, the vineyards are cooled down by the Breede river breezes and also by the Agulhas coast influences. The Chardonnay grapes used in this wine grow on limestone soils, similar to those found Burgundy. This wine was aged on its lees for 4 months.

De Wetshof Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2019 $19.99
A crisp full bodied Chardonnay, full of yellow and green apple notes. Creamy mouthfeel and a touch of minerality rounds up the persistent finish. 
  
So, there you have it! What wines are you enjoying this summer? Tell me on Instagram @silvinalawinaUntil next one, cheers! Silvina

#coolclimatewines #coolwines #whitewines #thoughtsoflawina



A special thanks to Broadbent Selections and HB Merchants for these wonderful samples.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

E-Wine Retailers

In one of my latest posts, I wrote about E-commerce and how since the beginning of the pandemic, online retail sales have increased to an outstanding 237%! Of course that makes me very, very happy, mostly because I think life is better with wine… more so during the pandemic. 
I guess, I wanted to explore and to recommend to you, the most important wine retailers online. I know what you are going to say,  my papa/mama wine store around the corner is selling online too and now they deliver, I will continue to go to them… and sure, do that, it’s completely fine. But, there are some wine stores out there, that have taken the time, not only to build an incredible selection of wines for you, but they also ship, no matter where you are (even to other countries too, as we soon will see). It’s also good to check the prices. Sometimes, if you buy, let’s say 1 case or more of wine, you can get free shipping and if the store prices are really good, you will save a lot of money, too. 

Wine.com

This eretailer has plenty of labels, actually more than 20,000, plus it lists scores too. It can ship to your house or you can pick up your bottles at any Wallgreens or Federal Express locations nationwide. $49 per year gives you free shipping for a year, good if you are planning to buy wines all year long. Prices are also good, you can also chat with a representative to ask for help. They have free virtual wine tastings and very interesting lists such as 90 pts and less than $20 or 94 pts and less than $50.  10% discount off, if you buy a full case of wines. 
You can search your bottles by varietal, region or style, and sort your results, they even have a quiz to discover your wine style... I did the test and it was correct, I'm a crispy and minerally white wine fan, perfect for summer.

Vivino.com
The biggest wine community online. The good thing about Vivino is that it values consumers’ opinions and not wine critics’. Every time you scan a label with your phone, it will take you to the page of your wine to see what others think about it. Best wines must have received at least 3.5 points or up, I normally go for bottles that have received at least 3.8 or better 4 pts.
They sell all over the world, including outside the US. They work with stores that can ship to your address. In the US, deliveries can be tricky in certain states, so do check before placing an order. Shipping charges vary according to each store, sometimes a minimum of $150 is required.
You can do searches by varietal, region, food pairing.  They list most popular wines in the community (they review an average of 100,000 wines per year, more than any trade magazine or wine critic). They also have a less than $10 wine list (if money is tight, look for recommendations here). 

Benchmarkwine.com

This eretailer is for the rich and famous… a huge selection of top wines and collector’s items. They divide their categories in cellars, that include different styles: The Acclaimed Cellar, the Magnifique Cellar, the Explorer Cellar, etc. They also have a wine club, you can sign up to receive 3-4 bottles per month starting at $75 plus per bottle. 
If you only drink cult wines, this is the place for you. They guarantee the provenance of all their stock. If you on the other hand, are a collector who wants to sell your fine collection, they can help you too.

JJbuckley.com
Besides having good prices and ratings, JJBuckley can also store your wines for $0.28 per bottle. Plenty of discounts here, including $25 from your purchase of $250.  They also have wines discounted as much as 40-50% off. An impressive selection of high end brands.

Wineaccess.com

Good selection of wines, free shipping is included if you spend $120 on 6 bottles, they ship to most estates of the US. They don’t ship overseas. 
A huge variety of wines to choose from, they also have a Wine club for $150 per shipment plus tax, 4 per year, which includes 6 bottles of wines, plus a guided video tasting of these wines and 10% discount in all their selections.

Reservebar.com 

Huge selection of spirits with some solid wines. Free delivery with $150 purchase, Reserve Bar delivers to most states. Other specials include $10 off from a purchase of 6 bottles or $25 off from a purchase of 12 bottles.

Wine-searcher.com
This is not a wine store but the place where you can find your wines in stores, all over the world that sell online and also find out their price and vintage. I use it all the time. It includes information to help you find wines overseas, which is helpful when traveling on holiday. 

Drizly.com 
Drizly is not a store per se, it lists brands that are available in retailers near your address, that sell and deliver the products to you. Delivery may or may not be included, depending on the store and how much you spend on your order. In my neighborhood for example, shipping is in most cases only $4.99. Delivery should be within 60 minutes. Prices vary, actually some of them are more expensive than in real wine stores. My recommendation is to check Wine-Searcher for the best prices. 

Minibar.com
Minibar is similar to Drizly, it offers a $5 off on your first order. The selection is however limited, it is convenient because of the delivery option, but thanks to Covid-19 most wine stores deliver these days.

So, what are you waiting for? don't you think it's time to stock up on some wines? Cheers! Silvina.
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#thoughtsoflawina #WineWednesday #vivino #wine.com #benchmarkwine #JJbuckley #drizly #minibar #wineaccess #minibar #reservebar #wineretailers #ewine




Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Whites for Summer: Pinot Gris & Pinot Grigio

Now that Summer is finally here! it is time to explore more fun whites, by trying and learning about delicious Pinot Gris/ Pinot Grigio.

Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, as it is known in Italy, and Grauburgunder, as it is known in Germany, are all the same grape variety, basically a grape mutation of Pinot Noir. However, the style of wines Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio can create will be very different according to climate, winemaking intent and yields. 




Picture of Pinot Gris, courtesy of Wines of Alsace.








One of the best expression of this grape comes from Alsace, where it produces dry, as well as, sweet/dessert styles, affected by botrytis (VT:Vendages Tardives and SGN: Sélection de Grains Noble).  In Alsace, the perfect combination of dry autumns, mineral soils and low yields, produce wines that have fuller bodies, balanced acidity and enticing aromas featuring citrus, spices and honey notes. Here, Pinot Gris is considered one of the top 4 noble varieties of the appellation, and is vinified both as a varietal and in blends, yielding an unctuous and worth aging wine. 

In Germany, especially in Baden and Pfalz, we can find some good samples too, though these tend to be higher in acidity and with lower alcohol levels than those from Alsace. 
In Italy, Pinot Grigio sales raised up to 223 million bottles last year alone. We have two different styles: the mass produced, inexpensive quaff that don't show much complexity/ personality, yet it continues to be a favorite of US consumers.  And better yet, it's the Pinot Grigio produced in appellations in the north east of Italy, such as Alto Adige-Trentino, Collio and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia that make very good samples featuring medium bodies, stone fruit flavors, nice minerality and zippy acidity.

Besides the locations described above, Pinot Gris/ Pinot Grigio has been planted all around the world, in California is usually treated as Chardonnay and fermented it or aged in oak. Oregon produces some good examples, mostly due to Oregon’s cool weather that suits this grape quite well. New Zealand’s Southern Island (Martinsborough) and Victoria, Australia offer good promise too.
Something to notice about this variety is that its skins vary in color, going from grey to blue, to purple, almost too dark to create a white wine. In any case, producers make white wine by removing the grape's skins. 

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio usually features a deep golden color, light to medium bodies and aromas showing honey, lemon,yellow apple, white nectarine, peach and tropical mango, according to climate variations. 

Recommended Producers:
Alsace: Hugel, Trimbach, Weinbach, Zind-Humbrecht, Josmeyer, Lucien Albrecht
Italy: Alois Lageder, Felluga, Attems, Franco Terpin, Tiefenbrunner,Jermann.
Oregon: A to Z, Chehalem, King Estate, Benton Lane, Elk Cove, Big Table Farm.

Wines that I have tasted lately that I liked:
Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio 2018, Alto Adige $12
Gradis Ciutta Pinot Grigio 2018, Collio $19
J Hofstatter Pinot Grigio 2018, IGT Delle Dolomiti $19
Astrolabe Pinot Gris 2016, New Zealand, $14
A to Z Pinot Gris 2018, Oregon, $14
Thank you to Frederick Wildman, HB Merchants and Vineyard Brands for donating samples.

Cheers! Silvina
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#peterzemmer #gradisciutta #Jhofstatter #thoughtsoflawina #WineWednesday #pinotgris #pinotgrigio.



Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Netflix Series and Rosé Wines

Let’s face it, we are in the middle of a crazy summer! Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no vacation for La Wina. This year, I had plans to visit both the Washington and Oregon wine trails, which I postponed for next Summer. I suppose I could have tried to go somewhere not crowded, for a few days, maybe near the beach and by car, but the truth is that everything is so uncertain these days, I decided it was best to stay put in my apartment. And, like many of you, part of my weekends are filled with Netflix series. 

At the beginning, I didn’t want to waste my time watching TV all day.  But there was nothing else to do for fun. Before beginning any new series, I always check how many episodes they have, to decide to start or not, for me shorter is always better, 8-12 episodes at most, since I get antsy very easily, when I see too many episodes or many seasons. From the beginning, I decided not to watch any dramas… life is dramatic enough, don’t you think? And chose comedies or rom-coms instead! With the occasional thriller, I love thriller movies/books/series. I also love to watch series made in Europe: Spain, France, Italy, UK, Denmark, etc. This way, I can also enjoy some traveling vistas too! Though, sometimes I wonder, after seeing so much beauty, What the heck am I doing in NJ?

So, here are some of my favorites: Valeria, (Spain) she is a writer, trying to find her voice, so she starts writing about herself and her friends. The Hook Up Plan (France) her boyfriend dumped her, so her friends hire a guy to seduce her and boost her self esteem, she ends up falling in love with a gigolo...I loved this one, especially because I can brush up on my French, and get lost in the streets of Paris! 2 seasons.  Unorthodox (Germany/USA), she is a Hassidic girl who decides to be free...and finds love and herself in the process. I loved her courage and her pixie cut!  Lovesick (UK) they are roommates, they are in love with each other, but with different timings, will they ever find their way? This one will make you think about love and fate, are the important things in our lives written? Rita (Denmark): she is a high school teacher that will make you laugh, are all guys in Denmark blond and tall, GQ cover men? 4 seasons. Money Heist (Spain), this is a worldwide phenomenon and one of the most seen shows in Netflix, what if a group of thieves take over the National Reserve Bank in Spain and start printing millions of Euros? 4 seasons, though for me the first two were best. Ciao Bella Ciao, Ciao, Ciao… I love that song.... Marcella (UK), she is a detective trying to catch serial killers, plus sometimes she blacks out, making you think that she may have killed one of the characters in the show and now doesn’t remember, 3 seasons. 

Now, what to drink to watch all of these?  A fine selection of Rosés. To learn about the different styles and places to get the best Rosé read an earlier post of mine. Thank you to Frederick Wildman, HB Merchants and Royal Wines for providing samples for me to taste.

Castello Monaci Kreos Rosé 2019 $14.99
Great value comes from the South of Italy, and this is exactly the case with this Castello Monaci Rosé from Puglia. Kreos rosé is named after a Greek Goddess that used to cry for the death of her son killed by Achilles. Made from 100 % Negroamaro grapes, planted in calcareous soils and vinified completely in stainless steel, using the saignée method.  A refreshing rosé featuring crushed strawberries and sour cherry notes and a lively finish.

Santi Infinito Rosé 2019, Veneto, Italy $12.99
This rosé comes from the Veneto region near Lake Garda. It’s a blend of 60% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 15% Molinara, the same blend used in Valpolicella and Bardolino reds. Santi Infinito Rosé is also made in stainless steel, under low temperatures to preserve the freshness of the fruit. A small portion of this wine undergoes malolactic fermentation. A dynamic rosé with ample citrus and strawberries notes and very balanced acidity.

La Bastarde Rosato di Toscana 2019 $9.99
Made from 100 % Sangiovese grapes, this rosato from Tuscany was made with the saignée method and aging on lees for 3 weeks. An expressive rosé , with juicy strawberry, pomegranate and orange blossom notes, complemented by a refreshing finish. Delish!

Hecht and Bannier Rosé 2019, Côtes de Provence $19.99
Enticing Rosé from Provence, featuring a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Rolle.  Made fully in stainless steel.   Hecht and Bannier rosé showcases intense raspberry and orange zest notes and a tight mineral finish. Fleshy!

Domaine de Tarique Côtes de Gascogne Rosé de Presée 2019 $13.99
Well crafted Rosé from the Gascony in SW France. It’s a blend of 30% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 25% Syrah, 15% Tannat. Domaine de Tarique rosé  is a full bodied Rosé with fresh plum and ripe cherry notes and zesty acidity.

Chateau Sainte Beatrice Rosé 2019 $19.99
Made from a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and a small amount of Syrah. A harmonious rosé, exudes white cherry and strawberry notes and a very crispy finish. Kosher.

Chateau Roubine Cru Classe Rosé 2019 $24.99
A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Tibouren, Syrah, Mourvedre and Rolle all grown organically. After a short maceration with skins, fermentation takes place under strictly controlled temperatures to preserve fruitiness. No malolatic fermentation is allowed. An elegant rosé delivers mineral (chalky) notes and intense strawberry and raspberry aromas. Kosher.

There you have it! Now, let me continue watching Billions on Showtime, I just found out why I live in NJ, because I am only 20 minutes away from one of the most beautiful cities on earth: New York, I raise a glass to you, we have less cases of Covid 19 every day! Cheers, Silvina.

For more wine recommendations, follow me on Instagram @Silvinalawina and subscribe in my website to receive "Thoughtsoflawina" in your inbox.
#Roséwine #thoughtsoflawina #netflix #wineinlockdown



Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Covid-19 Effects in the Wine Industry

I recently attended a webinar organized by Vinexpo NY focusing on the effects of Covid-19 in the Wine and Alcohol industries. This post is inspired by what I learned in this very informative session led by IWSR, a company based in the UK, that specializes in alcoholic market analysis. 

I must confess, I don't know anything about Economics, though life gave me some exposure, because of my background. Any Argentinean is familiar with the concepts of inflation, devaluation, the cost of dollar vs the peso, recessions of different kinds and lengths, basically how at any time, an economic downturn can impact disposable incomes. However, the effects vary and sometimes are not exactly the same for every industry. Take for example, the last economic crisis that took place in the US, in 2008. We had high unemployment, though less than today’s rate (40 million and counting), and of course the classical effects of any recession, with people afraid of spending or spending less due to loss of jobs and purchasing power, which translated into an increase in alcohol at home consumption and price stagnation. But, on that occasion, we also saw, an increase in consumption, by then, I was working for a wine importer and I saw this with my own eyes, how inexpensive/value brands were selling like hotcakes, while more expensive brand sales decreased, and were affordable to a small group of rich consumers. It took the industry a while to see sales increases for high end wines. So the question is, if we survived then, can we survive again? 

The Covid-19 crisis is completely different from the crisis in 2008, not only because the economic consequences have the potential to be much worse and severe (at the moment I'm writing this post, it's still too soon to see fully the economics effects of the pandemic, though economists are forecasting difficult times ahead), the difference lies on the pandemic itself. The pandemic is more dangerous than any other recession, because in a regular recession we would normally wait and hope for things to start to shape up again (with good economic politics in place, this could happen sooner rather than later). But now, everything depends on the life of a virus, that we know very little of, and that has made us uncertain/ afraid of everything.  All of a sudden, the person next to me has the potential to give me a disease that can kill me and therefore I must stay away from the world if I’m to survive, and so overnight, millions of businesses went under. Indeed, the tragic closure of all restaurants and bars for example, though some are surviving on delivery and take out and some outdoor sales. A pause on all types of retail travel and all the entertainment activities related to travel, and a fundamental change in our social behavior, that may stay with us for a while. Even as states reopen, consumers may be slow to go back to indoor restaurants and bars, at least until a vaccine or cure appears. We went from being with people in gatherings to being in seclusion at home. Of course, wineries, importers and producers are feeling the blow, mostly because a big chunk of their business comes from sales in the on premise channels, now gone until further notice. Think about what happened to the many bars in most cities in the US that can’t do delivery or take out of drinks or the closure of tasting rooms that up until a few months ago, generated considerable sales to any winery. Yep.. the road just became bumpy and according to the IWSR, these effects may stay for a while, at least for 5 years (up to 2024), to return to the same level of sales Pre-Covid-19

Now, before exploring some of the solutions and creative trends we are seeing right now, it's important to look at the sales of wine, at what was happening right before Covid-19. Sales of wines increased for 25 consecutive years, but things changed in 2019, which was the first year when we saw a decrease of 1% in sales, consumers favored spirits and hard water seltzers, instead. Luckily, since the start of Covid-19, only 100 a days ago, we have seen a 200+ % increase in wine retail/online sales, and numbers in wine consumption continue to climb up (similarly to what happened in 2008) this will help to compensate some of the loss of all on premise sales. Now, this won't benefit all producers equally, obviously well known brands with better channels of distribution, will do better than others (unknown and/or smaller producers). 



So, I guess when life throws you lemons, you make lemonade! The time has come for producers to be creative and to invest in other ways to connect to customers, as my mother used to say “necessity is the mother of all inventions”. Some of these trends, we see now, are the use of social media, the wonders of ecommerce, now staying for good and expanding in all markets, rapidly becoming the only way to sell/get wine and spirits (I promise to write about online retailers in a future post), the at home consumption experience, replacing at least for the time being the on premise experience we used to enjoy in the past, the appearance of virtual tastings, happy hours and virtual bars on Zoom or Instagram, now a new way for any producer to connect with their clients, directly. A comment about virtual tastings, those that know me, know that my favorite thing in life is to taste wine… and well watching someone else do it online for me, is not exactly the same. That’s why, I’m more in favor of attending educational conferences, learning about regions or grapes in general,  than watching experts drinking wines I don’t have access to. A better choice, I would like to see more, could be to give a virtual winery tour, with wineries showing parts of themselves, of their properties, allowing attendees to ask questions about terroir and wines….I know.. I just went into wine nerd mode!  If they could complement this experience with tiny samples, that would be ideal for me. A few posts ago, I reviewed the Hopwine event that I thought was wonderful. Maybe, these mini bottles will be the new normal in an industry without wine tastings?, hey if it worked for the perfume industry, maybe wineries should give them a try? 

The bottom line, producers need to reinvent themselves, to be creative and strategic in giving their clients a personal experience, in order to connect “at home” with them. Some restaurants are already doing this, by offering their customers the possibility of duplicating the on premise experience at home, with chefs sharing recipes online and bartenders giving tips and tricks to replicate their famous drinks. Take for example, Olive Garden that now offers their own lineup of Italian wines to go with their meals, indeed a very inventive way to retain customers and to provide them everything in one stop. Will this work? It will depend, it’s not new that the highest markups in wines and spirits happen on premise, and that we only pay for them because they are part of the divine on premise experience. Now, if you could get the same wine/ spirit/ drink much cheaper online/ to go, why would you pay more and buy it from a restaurant? Maybe it’s time for lower markups?  that will be excellent!
Something good coming out of all of this though, is the trading up in price and quality. If before, I was paying $30 for a bottle of wine at any restaurant that normally cost $10 at the store, I could easily decide to buy something better with a higher price tag to drink at home “in the new normal”.
Also, expect a bigger presence online from producers and importers and more investing in digital marketing, educating customers online seems to be the way to acquiring customers' loyalty. I guess we shall see, indeed, we do have a long way to fully recover, economically and mentally, but I'm confident that resilience and creativity will play a key role to our success. 
Cheers! Silvina

#thoughtsoflawina #covid19 #alcoholindustry #wineandspirits

For more wine recommendations, follow me on Instagram @Silvinalawina and subscribe in my website to receive "Thoughtsoflawina" in your inbox.

A special thanks to IWSR for providing all figures and reports to write this post.