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Wednesday Wraparound

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Wines & Vines magazine has their annual Wine Industry Metrics report out, and as usual it contains some useful and interesting factoids.

Most of the details point to a healthier wine industry in 2012 than last year. Off-premise sales and direct-to-consumer (DTC) shipments are both up, the latter by a whopping 36%. Winery jobs posted an impressive 18% gain for the last 12 months. The hottest DTC varieties were Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, while Cab Franc and Merlot dropped a little and Syrah tumbled [again] by a lot. In stores, red blends and Meritage were way up, and so were Sauvignon Blanc/Fume Blanc.

That Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are becoming consumer favorites doesn’t surprise me in the least. Pinot is just about the food-friendliest red wine and Sauvignon Blanc one of the most versatile white wines you can buy. This suggests to me that people are drinking dry table wine to go with their meals, rather than to slosh by themselves. We’ve been waiting for a long time for America to be a wine-drinking country. Maybe it’s time to recognize that we’re there.

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The news from Europe about the vintage just keeps getting worse. Now, they’re saying it’s “the worst wine harvest for the region in up to half a century.” This is due to rain, cold and hail, especially in Champagne and Burgundy. What a contrast to California, where the #1 news topic is the fantastic harvest conditions.

It’s been a picture perfect growing season: no rain, no frost, no cold like 2010 and 2011, no wildfires, nothing to compromise grape quality. Yes, we had that brief, odd day or two of scattered showers and T-storms on Oct. 10-11, mainly in the Central Coast, and a couple of days of heat the week before that. But the heat was neither excessive nor long-lasting, and simply hurried up the picking. We’re now enjoying the most glorious weather ever. Maybe a little rain next week–too soon to tell. The hype on this vintage is going to be over the top.

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Speaking of the harvest, it will soon be over, and that Whooshing sound you hear will be thousands of winemakers and their helpers, rushing off to the airport to catch the quickest flight to Hawaii or Mexico, where they intend to flop down on beaches and soak up the sun, remaining as motionless as possible except for the lifting of an arm to take another sip of maragarita. They haven’t slept, or barely, for the last month, what with grapes pouring into the winery and tanks to be managed. It’s cold and damp at night, and s**t happens with relentless regularity. Come November, wine country will again be quiet, the tourists gone, the restaurants half-filled. Winter actually is a lovely time to visit, even when it’s raining. I have a lot of travel coming up: Monterey next month for the annual Party in the Hangar, the Fort Ross-Seaview area at the end of the month, and Santa Barbara County in December. I always cross my fingers and hope it won’t rain, but sometimes it does, and a California rain can be a cold rain. I prefer dryness and warmth, but, like all Californans, I remind myself that we live 12 months a year off the water that falls during 3 or 4 of those months, so might as well accept it for what it is, a gift.

  1. Dan Fishman says:

    I’m curious about your thoughts on the decrease in sales of Syrah, and increase in red blends (which I have seen mentioned in a few recent reports). Any chance a lot of people have just given up and started labeling their Syrah as a red blend?

  2. @Dan Fishman. Good question. I haven’t researched it. Maybe! Of course, they’re limited by TTB rules.

  3. @Steve, are they limited? I know you need 75% Syrah to name it varietally, but couldn’t you theoretically call anything a blend? I don’t know of any wine that is 100% Syrah (or other variety) and called “proprietary red” but it seems that you could do that if you so wished. You could argue that the wine is a “blend” of various vineyard sites in that position. Thoughts?

  4. GrapesRGreat, you’re right, you can call anything a blend if you want. I do think some Syrahs are 100%.

  5. george kaplan says:

    I can’t wait to buy Jadot 2012s for 60% off retail.

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