This is not one of those TV psychobabble things, but fact. It’s based on a variety of studies at places like Yale University ?s school of medicine, where Linda M. Bartoshuk, Ph.D. , is one of the world ?s leading authorities on taste. One of her papers is ?Chemosensory factors influencing alcohol perception, preferences and consumption. ?
I finish my first week teaching the introductory wine class at the Dallas branch of the Cordon Bleu today, and I have enjoyed it. A couple of observations:
? Most of the students, who are younger than 30, don’t seem to drink wine. They know it’s out there; it just doesn’t much interest them. This contradicts any number of studies that say that the students’ generation (the Millenials) is becoming more interested in wine.
? Many of them know about Two Buck Chuck, the inexpensive wine sold only at the Trader Joe’s grocery store chain. This is especially interesting, since there are no Trader Joe’s in Texas.
? The idea that the government, as in some European countries, can regulate what grapes are grown where and which grapes can be used to make specific wine strikes many of them as silly. I mention this because — especially in Texas — so many people are worried that the schools don’t do a good job of teaching the values of free enterprise.
? The 1855 Bordeaux wine classification is even more confusing than I thought, and I thought it was pretty confusing already. It’s one thing to know; it’s something else entirely to explain it to 30-some odd students. How do you come up for a good answer to: “Why did the French do it that way?”
? Our pal Scott Carpenter, the Everyday Wine Guy, has announced his wines to watch for the new year. Scott likes Spanish tempranillo (no surprise to regular visitors here, who know how much I like it) and Argentine malbec, He also recommends Sonoma’s Hannah Winery and Vineyard, and those are nice wines. They’re a bit pricey for the Wine Curmudgeon, starting at about $20, but they deliver value.
? Expect to see wine distribution issues take center stage in state legislatures across the country this year. On one side are consumers, Internet-based retailers, some traditional retailers, and some wineries. They want to lift shipping restrictions that prevent consumers from buying wine on-line and directly from wineries. On the other are distributors, some state alcohol regulators, and some retailers, who like the current system the way it is. Big money is being spent in this fight, according to the Specialty Wine Retailers Association, a trade group for Internet wine sellers. It reports that distributors and their allies contributed $50 million between 2000 and 2006 to legislators, candidates, and the like. We have an especially cantankerous situation in Texas, where the retailers and distributors faced off last year and more than $7 million was spent in contributions.
How well do you know wine, and especially how we drink it in the United States? The answers — which will clear up quite a few misconceptions — are after the jump.
1. What’s the average price of a bottle of wine sold in the U.S.?
2. How many Americans drink wine?
3. Where does the U.S. rank in per capita consumption of wine?
4. What’s the most popular wine in the U.S.?
5. How long does the average American keep a bottle of wine?
? My pal Alfonso Cevola, who tolerates my almost constant request for availability information with a patience that is awe inspiring, is an accomplished wine blogger in his own right — On the Wine Trail in Italy. Alfonso’s effort is ranked 64th in something called 100 Top Wine Blogs, which is damned impressive. He is ranked ahead of a bunch of better-known and very chi chi names.
? Availability — that is, who has the wine I’m writing about? — is the bane of my existence as a wine writer. One would think that these days, with high-tech inventory systems, real-time inventory scanning and the like, that any retailer would tell at any time if they carried a wine. And one would be wrong. Case in point: A piece in the New York Times business section a couple of weeks ago, detailing vintage and small producer champagnes. Great article about great wine, but unless you live in Manhattan, not much chance to try them,
? What about Virginia sparkling wine? Dave McIntrye recommends Kluge Estate, which he touts as the best bubbly on the East Coast. What about availability, you ask? It has limited national distribution, and I have seen it in the Dallas area.
? Elin McCoy, whose book on Robert Parker is a must read for anyone who cares about wine, notes that 2007 was one of the best years ever for wine auctions. Why does this matter to those of us who don’t buy wine at auction? Because it’s more pressure on wine prices and on producers to make wine that appeals to auction buyers.
One of the au courant trends in the wine business is for producers to tout their green credentials, and the wine doesn’t even have to be organic.
I have received a couple of dozen press releases over the last six months for various producers, each insisting that I need to write about their wine because it comes in environmentally sensitive packaging or that it has a small carbon footprint.