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Who’s drinking what? (and 6 winemakers to watch)


This just in…

When statistics collide

American adults are now prefer beer over wine by double-digit margins, reports the Gallup Poll.

No, wait. American adults are drinking considerably less beer, and more wine, says The American Journal of Medicine.

I don’t know about you, but I’m so confused, I’ll drink anything, as long it has alcohol in it.

The Gallup Poll first told us that Americans preferred wine over beer back in 2005. It was huge news then. Everybody was saying, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty wine is finally Number One!” So it comes as something of a surprise that Gallup now is telling us that beer is the buzz of choice for 47 percent of us, while wine dropped to a measly 31 percent. Must be global warming, or Iraq, or something in the air.

But then there’s that contradictory AJM report, which found us consuming “significantly less beer and more wine, while intake of hard liquor has remained largely unchanged.” It’s hard to know what to make of these duelling studies, both from respected sources.

The two reports also weighed in on demographics. According to Gallup, college grads and people making more than $75,000 a year drink more than their opposites. Meanwhile, the AJM study says younger people drink more moderately than older people, although when people get really old, they drink less. All of which explains my own drinking patterns perfectly.

Six winemakers to watch

One of the pleasures of being a wine writer is discovering brilliant young winemakers who aren’t yet well known to the public, but ought to be. Here are six who’ve caught my eye (and my palate). Some have been around longer than others; all of them will be around for a long time.

Mikael Sigouin
Kaena Wine Co.

Honolulu-born Mikael is head winemaker at Beckmen Vineyards. He fell in love with wine during a tasting at Niebaum Coppola. His own label is Kaena, which is Hawaiian for “potential for greatness.” Mikael specializes in Rhône-style wines sourced mainly from Santa Ynez Valley.

Justin Mund
Addamo Vineyards

Justin got the top winemaking gig at Addamo just last year. I first met him when he was assistant winemaker (under Eric Hickey) at Laetitia. A graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Justin’s first Addamo wines, made from estate Santa Maria Valley fruit, are just coming out.

Russell From
Herman Story

Named in honor of his grandfather, Russell From (above, on left) specializes in intense, powerhouse Rhône reds and whites from the Central Coast. He worked formerly at Central Coast Wine Services.

Ryan Waugh
Six Degrees

Ryan makes a single wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, from a tiny vineyard high in the Mayacamas Mountains, on the Sonoma side. Ryan started his career at Savannah Chanelle, and also owns Waugh Cellars. His Six Degrees Cabernet is a serious wine.

Paul Clifton

Lucienne focuses on Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. Clifton, its founding winemaking, also is  Hahn’s winemaker. Previously, he was at Bernardus, after a stint as a firefighter.

Mike Padrick


The name stands for “passion and perserverance” says Padrick, who credits Brian Loring as his mentor. Mike’s single-vineyard Pinots, especially his Cargasacchi Jalama, are killer.

P.S. Please visit my blog at Wine Enthusiast’s Unreserved.

  1. Morton Leslie says:

    I don’t know about you, but if asked on a phone survey about the family income I always keep my mouth shut until they get the the “xxx,xxx and above” number and then I tell them, “it’s that one.” I know I am a small sampling, but I think it might hint to the fact that we wine drinkers tend to lie more about our income.

    One thing I do hear more frequently are complaints about red wine headache. (Now that would be an interesting survey.) I have been wondering, could we be extracting more headache fraction (whatever that is) than we used to and turning of potential wine drinkers?

  2. Lucky you. I’ve never been contacted by a phone survey. I don’t know anything about the headache thing, expect that in my life, a lot of people have told me they can’t drink wine because of it. You’d think the industry would jump on this bigtime.

  3. Headaches I get after a whole bottle of wine, or two, I figure I deserve. If you get a headache from two glasses, you got a problem. Congeners, histamines, SO2- I’ve heard all kindsa theories, they’re probably all partly responsible. The SO2 theory doesn’t stack up, though, because whites can have just as much or more than reds. With too many winemakers dumping all kinds of crap in their juice to make the wine “better” (oak flour, enzymes, powdered tannin, not to mention the sneakier preservatives, all approved by the TTB), God only knows what gave you that headache. Drink a lot of water, and try “Our Daily Red”, an organic-grapes and, I think, sulfite-free wine made by a guy who tests every blend by drinking half a bottle to see if it “burns clean”, i.e. no headache. If it’s the stuff that makes the wine red that bothers you, obviously, drink lighter wines, like Pinot (sometimes, not always, these days). Remember, Ibuprofen is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

  4. Mark: Amen, bro!

  5. Morton Leslie says:

    good comments Mark. I agree about alcohol and SO2 being ruled out. Also not ruling out the possibility of multiple sources. But I believe your comments about “dumping all kinds of crap” to be the most insightful.

    Histamine intolerance in certain individuals is well documented, but the wine headache has been shown to occur with wines low in histamines and in subjects who are histamine tolerant. Researchers at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, London, UK did a great experiment with a low histamine wine on several cohorts of classical migraine patients using clever masking with lemonade, extreme chilling, black bottles and straws of whether subjects were drinking red wine or vodka through straws. They found 90% of those drinking the masked red wine got migraines within 3 hours. The vodka group got none. Since the wine had low histamine, they felt the place to look was in flavinoids.

    So they next focused on 5-hydroxytryptamine (also called serotonin.) 5ht is a neurotransmitter amine synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan and formed in blood platelets. 5HT acts as a vasoconstrictor and is implicated in some primary headaches like migraines and tension. Researchers in the Department of Chemical Pathology at the same Queen Charlotte’s Hospital confirmed that most red wines are able to bring about 5HT release from platelets in vitro. They found one red wine that resulted in negligible release, so they looked at several brands of this ‘low-releasing’ red wine versus the high releasing ones. They found that this variation in releasing power was not related to intensity of red color. They did a partial purification of the offending wine by column chromatography and showed releasing activity to be associated with a low molecular weight orange fraction.

    What I feel significant and interesting is that there are ways of avoiding these low weight phenolics in winemaking techniques. In some cases they result of what we dump in wines, in others from wine making techniques themselves. Changing these practices are not incompatible with making delicious red wine, though some might find the techniques a little capital and small-lot intensive… and best suited for high end wine. But I fear, though delicious, such wines would be scored in the mid-80’s when compared to intense, “fruit forward” wines by the gatekeepers of luxury wine. And, I really don’t know how big and profitable the wine headache market might be.

    Regarding God, his ibuprofen does nothing for me. I use the devil’s combo of four asprin and a sudafed.

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