What’s New in the World of Wine
Eclectic is Back:
A generation ago vintners in California were running over each other in an attempt to tear up their vineyards to plant more Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Now, plantings are spreading to a wider set of grapes than ever before. From 1880’s styled black blends of native grapes, to the massively successful set of Rhone programs in and around Paso Robles, opportunity exists for an incredibly diverse set of grapes to be grown in California. It’s only a matter of time before we see Spanish and Portugese grapes being grown in huge numbers in a new wine region (Temecula perhaps could give these a try based on its own climate and the easy sales that come by existing only an hour’s drive from about 30 million people).
The 2013 Harvest is Huge:
Ok, seriously the number of grapes coming in this year is huge. Maybe that’s not accurate, 2012 was huge. 2013 is 10% larger. We’re not talking new plantings, but the same vineyards are producing about 50% more grapes than they did in a small vintage of 2009. The results are yet to be determined, but let’s try and remember that while huge production from a vineyard is a really good thing for a grower who gets paid by the ton, it isn’t necessarily the best thing when it comes to fine wine. For great wine, smaller production from a vineyard usually leads to more dense flavors in every berry. We’ll see how winemakers deal with the massive crop, perhaps more interestingly we’ll see how the industry deals with the oversupply as the last time production levels were this high, we saw a dramatic drop in prices.
How the Government Shutdown Affects Wine:
Ok, so after Prohibition ended 80 years ago, the Federal Government decided that they weren’t doing a very good job at controlling alcohol and alcohol sales. Al Capone would probably disagree with that sentiment, but the government decided to allow each state to make their own set of rules and to police themselves. During this time period of a shut down Federal Government, that’s a good thing because only one major thing is going to change for the wine industry. One of the few responsibilities held by the Feds in the wine industry is the acceptance and approval of wine labels. Each and every wine label needs to be approved by TTB in order to end up on consumers shelves. While wineries typically give themselves plenty of time to release a wine after it has been in bottle (6 months for a white and up to 18 months for an average red) so there isn’t typically any real rush, the process has seen a dramatic lengthening over recent years due to budget cuts and the corresponding furlough days. Labels which were once approved in two to three weeks are now taking close to two months to gain approval and that’s talking only about labels which are exactly the same as the year before, with the exception of the year changing. For an entirely new wine, how long might it take for an approval process now, given that there might be many weeks or many months of a back log? For large wineries sitting on the inventory for a while extra is probably fine, but what about new, smaller vintners?
- License: Creative Commons image source
Mark Aselstine is the owner of Uncorked Ventures, an online wine club based just outside of San Francisco focused on delivering the highest quality wine in the industry, not the cheapest!