Happy weekend. I’ll leave you to peruse the week’s wine news. I’ll be found with my head in a study book (and a glass in hand).
New York Times: What’s Behind the Growth in Alcohol Consumption?
A comparison across demographic groups over two decades offers some clues, and there has been a particular rise in misuse among women during the pandemic.
American deaths from misuse of substances, including alcohol, have increased over the past two decades, but not uniformly across various demographic groups.
Overall rates of alcohol abuse and related deaths have consistently and significantly increased for white non-Hispanic Americans, while Black Americans have experienced a much slower and less significant incline, and some other groups have had declines.
More recently, alcohol use has been up during the pandemic, with one study showing a greater increase in misuse among women than among men. (For men, heavy drinking is considered more than four drinks per day and 14 drinks per week, and for women, more than three drinks per day and seven drinks per week, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.)
“Alcohol kills many more people than many may realize,” said Yusuf Ransome, an assistant professor at Yale’s School of Public Health.
KOSU: Why South Africa Banned Booze — And What Happened Next
In South Africa, the government tried to control the COVID-19 outbreak by banning booze to keep people from gathering. Plus, sober South Africans were less likely to violently protest a complete lockdown.
You couldn’t sit at a bar; you couldn’t order a glass of wine; you couldn’t even buy beer at the store.
There was an immediate public health benefit that had nothing to do with COVID-19. Suddenly, emergency rooms were empty, devoid of alcohol-related accidents.
But the ban also exposed the country’s complicated and painful history with alcohol. READ MORE…
VinePair: Why the Wine World May Depend on Regenerative Agriculture — Starting Now
The green vines sprawling down hillsides and across fields at Gamble Family Vineyards are as picturesque as those found anywhere in Napa. But to Tom Gamble, what’s under the trunks and trellises is just as important as what’s above.
Gamble is a practitioner of regenerative agriculture, a sustainable farming model that’s taking off worldwide. The driving force behind regenerative agriculture is that growers should put their focus on building soil health. This seemingly simple idea offers numerous benefits, including better water retention in the soil, more resilient plants, and greater biodiversity in fields. READ MORE…
Forbes: Germany Introduces A New Wine Hierarchy Based On Geography
On January 27, 2021 the new German wine law came into force. It introduces a new kind of hierarchy for German wines based on its geographic origin. In a way it can be seen as a remodelling of the system that previously existed with the aim to improve the overall quality of German wine as well as to fit better with the EU system. The four primary geographic “levels” for a German quality wine (Qualitätswein) are now Area, Region, Village, and Vineyard.
The implementation will be progressive and will be binding from the 2026 vintage. READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: Pio Boffa, Piedmont Wine Patriarch, Dies of COVID-19
Pio Boffa, leader of the Pio Cesare winery in Italy’s Piedmont, died this weekend after a two-week battle with COVID-19. He was 66.
A fourth-generation winemaker, Boffa spent four decades converting Pio Cesare from an acclaimed négociant to a high-end estate winery with more than 173 vineyard acres in Barolo and Barbaresco. He was perhaps best known as a tireless global ambassador for Piedmont wines.
“The long history of Barolo has been made by great people who set an example for others, and Pio was one of those people,” said friend and fellow winemaker Davide Rosso of Giovanni Rosso. “He was an entrepreneur with a vision of quality—absolute quality—to put Barolo on the wine lists of all the top restaurants in the world.” READ MORE…
The Guardian: How bad will California’s fire season be? Experts on the threat – and what can be done
After the third-driest year ever recorded in the state, California risks disaster just months after a devastating 2020
Hillsides typically decked in colorful flowers are parched and splotched with brown. The so-called desert “superbloom” never materialized.
California is facing a critically dry year. America’s most populous state received only half its average amount of rain this spring, making 2021 the third-driest year it has ever recorded.
The dry conditions raise fears the state could see another devastating wildfire season, mere months after some of the worst blazes in the state’s recorded history scorched 4m acres from north to south.
Officials, researchers and policy analysts are calling on communities to get ready. “It is going to be another smoky summer,” said Craig Clements, a professor and director of the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center at San Jose State University. READ MORE…
Wine Enthusiast: California Wines Made With New Hybrid Grapes Hold Promise, If Anyone Will Drink Them
Losing a vineyard to disease is “extremely painful,” says Adam Tolmach, cofounder of The Ojai Vineyard. In 1981, he planted more than five acres of mostly Syrah on Ventura County land that his grandfather purchased a half-century earlier. His last vintage was in 1995.
“You put your heart and soul into it,” says Tolmach. “I planted every one of the vines and nurtured them. It was like my baby that I was working on. It was very heartbreaking to have it slowly die off.”
The culprit was Pierce’s disease (PD), which is spread by insects known as glassy-winged sharpshooters. It’s one of the few scourges that actually kills vines, rather than just hamper them. A problem in California since the dawn of commercial grape-growing in the 1880s, PD is more prevalent in Southern California. But it’s also known to hammer vines in the north, especially along riparian corridors like those near the Napa River.
“We were getting eaten alive by Pierce’s disease in the mid-1990s,” says Doug Fletcher, who worked for Chimney Rock Winery in Napa from 1986 until his retirement in 2019. “The next cycle is on its way up again. You’re seeing more Pierce’s disease now than we have in a long time.”
With climate change marching forward, it’s only going to get worse. READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: Green Teams
The existential and economic threats of 2020 didn’t stop wineries from pressing ahead with critical environmental and social initiatives.
On the contrary, even throughout the pandemic shutdowns, the wine community found opportunities to collaborate across borders and make remarkable strides—all while coping with complex health and safety restrictions, new approaches to selling wine with restaurants and tasting rooms closed, trade wars that wrenched global distribution and massive wildfires in the U.S. and Australia.
“The best premium companies must stand up and lead by example in the fight to prevent damaging changes in the wine regions of the world,” says Miguel Torres Maczassek, general manager of Spain- and Chile–based Familia Torres, which is involved in multiple partnerships related to sustainable winegrowing. “We have to work together so that our future generation can keep producing wines that reflect the terroir with excellence.” READ MORE…
Harpers: Frost claims between 30% and 50% of Bordeaux
Bordeaux has had variable impact from early April’s devastating frosts, Harpers has learned, with estimates sitting at around 30% to 50% loss, while some estates having “lost everything”.
According to the CIVB, Bordeaux’s regional body, “Between 30% and 50% of the vineyards in Bordeaux have been affected by the frost, with the level of damage varying from vineyard to vineyard”.
In line with France’s other regions, while some vineyards have only suffered slightly, others have been heavily impacted across the crop with some areas experiencing 100% loss. READ MORE…
Wine-Searcher: The Complete Guide to Fighting Frost
Jack Frost holds an icy sword above the heads of many vineyard managers.
He can strike vineyards (and other crops) at various times of the year. Episodes are of less concern during winter when the vine has shut down – assuming the variety and rootstock are sufficiently winter-hardy.
In most vineyard areas frost are most damaging in Spring during the early stages of the reproductive cycle. The delicate early bud structures which are the precursors to the berry clusters can be destroyed, thus devastating the entire crop.
There are actually several types of frost. READ MORE…
Press Democrat: Gov. Newsom declares drought emergency for Sonoma, Mendocino counties in visit to Lake Mendocino
With the cracked, parched bed of Lake Mendocino at his feet, Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a local drought emergency in Mendocino and Sonoma counties on Wednesday, saying the region stood apart from the rest of California due to “acute and dramatic” water-supply woes heading into the driest months of the year.
The declaration marks the most formal step so far in addressing what’s now the second straight year of extremely low rainfall, resulting in record-low levels at this time of year in both Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma. READ MORE…
Press Democrat: Sonoma and Napa counties differ on mixing wine and cannabis cultivation
As cannabis emerges as a burgeoning and profitable crop in California, its path out of the shadows has been rocky and inconsistent in areas where the wine grape has been dominant.
Both Sonoma and Mendocino counties this month are taking steps to write rules for commercial cultivation of a cannabis plant that had an estimated $4.4 billion in legal sales last year statewide. In addition, retail dispensaries and processing plants are already part of a growing regional infrastructure.
Yet, Napa County remains an outlier. There’s an increasingly more contentious debate between the upstart marijuana industry that has finally become legitimate and the conservative wine sector protective of its “Napa Valley” multibillion-dollar brand it fears would be sullied by cannabis farms. READ MORE…
Blogs Worth a Read
Taken from the list of Blogs I follow regularly, here are just a few posts from this past week I think are worth a read. Shoot me a note if you have suggestions of blogs to follow or want your blog included on that list.
Jancis Robinson: Vaccinating wine country
California is ahead of most of the rest of the US in terms of vaccination, and wine country has led the way.
A palpable sense of relief has descended upon northern California wine country. On Wednesday 7 April the counties of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino all moved out of the ‘Red: substantial risk’ tier and into the ‘Orange: moderate risk’ tier after their daily rates of reported new COVID-19 infections fell below six per every 100,000 people, and their rates of positive test cases fell below 5%.
Practically speaking, this means that winery tasting rooms and wine country restaurants can reopen, allowing customers inside at a limited capacity, and that wine tasting can now legally resume without an accompanying meal (a requirement that was among the stranger impositions of California’s COVID-19 protocols). Wineries can now operate normally at 25% of their standard capacity up to a maximum of 100 guests, while restaurants can operate at 50% capacity for indoor dining. READ MORE…
A Must Read Blog: The Regenerative GM—Tablas Creek Vineyard’s Inspiring Circle of Life
When I called Jason Haas, the spirited, (staggeringly!) prolific General Manager at Tablas Creek Vineyards in Paso Robles, California it was ostensibly to talk chalk.
If you’ve driven the dry, winding, oak-strewn roads of the western Adelaida wine district of Paso Robles (I worked harvest there in 2017) you know there’s a white, dusty cloud of calcium carbonate that follows you everywhere. The chalky, mineral-rich, limestone soil responsible for this dust is actually ‘the X factor’ in some of the world’s finest wines (think: Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne).
Remarkably, there’s a rare band of this calcareous limestone seabed on the eastern slope of the Central Coast range of California, and it just happens to run smack dab through the rolling hills of Tablas Creek Vineyards. READ MORE…
Vino Joy News: Yao Ming offers top wine for NFT to fight anti-Asian hate
Retired NBA superstar Yao Ming has offered his top wine for blockchain powered NFT auction, to raise money to fight anti-Asian hate crimes in the US.
Retired NBA superstar Yao Ming is offering his top Napa wine from his winery through blockchain technology NFT at auction, with part of the proceeds going to support Asian Americans amid the country’s worsening Asian-targeted hate crimes.
The sale of his top wine, The Chop Drop, paired with NFT (Non Fungible Token) makes Yao Family Wines the first winery in the world to offer a wine for auction paired with a NFT digital collectible.
The NFT marketplace allows sellers to layer digital rights management atop physical assets. Each “Chop Drop” NFT is paired with an actual bottle of the Yao Family Wine “Chop”, a Limited Release Cabernet Savignon, leveraging the Ethereum blockchain to protect the rights to a physical good in the digital world. Those rights can be unambiguously verified, transferred, traded, and sold all over the world. READ MORE…
Deborah Parker Wong: Sneak peek at the Slow Wine Guide USA 2021 print edition
Slow Wine debuts its first stand-alone guide which has been expanded to cover the wineries and wines from the United States’ major wine growing regions of California, Oregon and Washington and New York states.
As the only U.S. wine guide that includes eco-friendly criteria for inclusion, the 2021 edition profiles 285 producers and more than 850 wines all of which celebrate and demonstrate the Slow Food ethos of “good, clean and fair” that forms the foundation of our work.
Now in its fourth year of publication, producers from Washington and New York states are making their debut in the 2021 edition alongside producers from California and Oregon who made participating in the guide a priority during this unprecedented year. READ MORE…
BK Wine Magazine: Sauvignon blanc, aromatic, popular and more multifaceted than you think
Sauvignon blanc is a popular grape. It has increased enormously in the last 20 years. A dozen countries have significant plantings, and another ten have a smaller, but growing, surface. Sauvignon blanc grows best in a slightly cooler climate. It often has an aromatic and straightforward character. But it is more complex than you might think. In fact, it can produce world-class wines, if you know where to look.
Sauvignon blanc was mentioned in France as early as the 16th century. It is now planted around the world, and it continues to increase. Twenty years ago, there were 65,000 hectares in the world, and now there are 124,000 ha. France is the most important country with a little over 30,000 hectares, but not all that far ahead of number two.
Sauvignon blanc gives a dry wine, aromatic, with fresh acidity and aromas reminiscent of gooseberries, rhubarb, passion fruit, green apples, grapefruit and sometimes boxwood and tropical fruit. You easily recognize it, thanks to these unmistakable aromas. It is a wine you often drink young because you want the fruit and the aromatic character intact. READ MORE…
Science & Wine: Do we really understand what experts tell us about wine?
There have been many studies on the richness and variety of the language that professionals use to describe or market wine. There have also been some studies which have investigated the difference between experts and non-experts in terms of their ability to perceive, discriminate, evaluate and talk about wine. We asked a related, but simpler question: how much do standard wine drinkers really understand when experts speak about the sensory properties of wine? READ MORE…
Young Gun of Wine: Skin Contact Kaleidoscope
Over the last decade or so, the winemaking practice of keeping white grape skins in contact with fermenting juice – just like making red wine – has changed the wine landscape like few other developments. While drinkers may be split on the merits of some of the more extreme examples – with fervent advocates and detractors on both sides of the fence – there’s no denying the styles have entered the public consciousness, and they’re here to stay. READ MORE…
Fluctuation in the wine market is not showing any signs of easing as producers, retailers and consumers continue to navigate the impacts of a global pandemic. It has never been so critical to keep a pulse on marketplace data given these shifting dynamics.
Nielsen is collaborating with Wines Vines Analytics and Sovos ShipCompliant to provide a much more comprehensive view of the U.S. off-premise wine category than ever previously available, with a data product that enables both separate and combined views of retail off-premise sales and direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipments.
It’s important to note that the below numbers are comparing March 2021 to COVID-impacted periods of 2020. Easter 2021 was also one week earlier compared to last year. While the volume growth was still very positive, it was at its lowest point since the start of the pandemic.
Here are some highlights from the most recent data, along with commentary from Nielsen consultant Danny Brager. READ MORE…
These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!
Wine Intelligence: Why Labels Matter
It is the ultimate signal of what’s in the bottle, yet the wine label is often the victim of misunderstanding on the part of the brand owner. Can consumer sentiment help?
When asked about their archetypal consumer, many wine brand owners default to a similar answer: someone educated, high earning, well respected, aesthetically sophisticated, thoughtful, adventurous, enlightened, looking to demonstrate their cultural maturity but not in a flashy way. In other words, a sort of idealised version of themselves.
It is true that such consumers do exist, and some niche businesses have made a success of selling to people who look, sound and act a bit like the owners of those businesses. However, for most wine brands, and especially those operating at scale, the customer-as-version-of-producer archetype tends to break down.
The reality is that consumers of wine in any market are a broad church, with some common characteristics but a lot of differences too. READ MORE…
Scheid Family Wines: Innovation and Inspiration Abound at Scheid Family Wines
Scheid Family Wines, based in Monterey County, California, is pleased to announce the promotion of Casey Di Cesare to Winemaker for its innovative brands Sunny with a Chance of Flowers, Metz Road and Grandeur. Sunny with a Chance of Flowers is a low calorie, low alcohol, zero sugar wine that is the trailblazer in the Better for You category. It was recently named a Top 10 Hot Brand by Wine Business Monthly. Metz Road is a vineyard-designated offering that utilizes in-vineyard native yeast fermentation and Grandeur is the Company’s first wine made from Certified Organic grapes. READ MORE…
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