Tag Archives: climate change

Winebits 523: Booze ban, grape varieties, liquor licenses

booze banThis week’s wine news: Building an island to get around a booze ban, plus climate change’s affect on wine and good news for Massachusetts wine drinkers

A private island: What do you do when the liquor cops ban public drinking? You build an island where they can’t enforce the ban. That was the case in New Zealand over the New Year’s weekend, where residents built a sand island in in a bay to avoid the ban. The BBC reported that “Locals joked that they were in ‘international waters’ and thus exempt from an official liquor ban.” Which seemed to work; one local cop said he thought it was a terrific idea.

Climate change effects: A Harvard study says winemakers might be able to counteract some of the effects of climate change by planting lesser-known grape varieties, even though many of them are reluctant to do so. Says Elizabeth Wolkovich, one of the study’s co-authors: “With continued climate change, certain varieties in certain regions will start to fail – that’s my expectation. The solution we’re offering is how do you start thinking of varietal diversity. Maybe the grapes grown widely today were the ones that are easiest to grow and tasted the best in historical climates, but I think we’re missing a lot of great grapes better suited for the future.”

Loosening the law: Massachusetts, which has some of the toughest liquor laws in the country, should be willing to loosen its restrictions. That’s the conclusion of the state’s Alcohol Beverages Control Commission Task Force in a 288-page final report. The good news for wine drinkers? The task force says the state’s grocery stores should be allowed to sell alcohol in every store, as opposed to the current cap on the number of stores in a chain that can sell booze.

Winebits 474: Starbucks wine, Jackson Family, Jancis Robinson

Starbucks wine

The WC papers: Who should I donate them to? Will the university help me clean out my office to find them?

This week’s wine news: The end of Starbucks wine, plus adapting to climate change and the Jancis Robinson papers

No more: Starbucks’ effort to sell beer and wine in the evening has failed, and the coffee shop giant ended the program last week. The goal was to sell alcohol at thousands of locations, but the plan ended after only 439 stores. This is not a surprise, given that hardly anyone goes to Starbucks to do anything other than drink coffee. And the company, whose missteps have been well documented, acknowledged the mistake when it said it was dropping beer and wine to focus on its “core business.” Which is business-speak for selling coffee. This is also significant since the chain’s demographics are about a generation younger than wine’s, which seems to speak to the way Millennials have not gravitated to wine as they were expected to do.

Adjusting for the weather: How will climate change change the wine business? David Gelles of the New York Times does an excellent job showing how Jackson Family Wines, makers of the ubiquitous Kendall Jackson chardonnay, is adjusting. This is the kind of writing and reporting about wine I wish we saw more of – accurate, intelligible even for the non-wine drinker, and informative. My only gripe? This line: “Climate change is forcing the Jacksons to confront questions both practical and existential: Can you make fine wine with less water?” Of course you can, because fine wine has been made with less water in Spain and elsewhere in Europe for centuries. Only in California would anyone ask that question.

The Wine Curmudgeon papers: Jancis Robinson, the British wine writer who is probably second in influence only to Robert Parker, has donated her papers to the University of California-Davis, perhaps the best wine school in the world. This raises an important question – where should I donate my papers? Because, of course, the world needs the WC papers (part of which is pictured with this post). How else to determine the genesis of my groundbreaking work with cheap wine? My stops and starts on the way to understanding and championing local wine? And, of course, the tax deduction, because the WC e-shop will make millions.

Winebits 276: Packaging, climate change, Paul Draper

? Fetzer goes small: Ever wanted a glass of wine at a baseball game, but weren ?t able to buy one? That changed this month when Fetzer introduced what it ?s calling Zipz packs ? 100 percent recyclable 187ml PET containers (a form of plastic) of wine at several big league baseball stadiums. The Zipz will be available in stores later this year. ?Alternative venues ? are one of the hot topics in the wine business these days, as producers look for ways to sell wine in places where it hasn ?t been sold. I ?m skeptical, though, of wine at ball games, and I ?m as big a baseball fan as I am a wine drinker. It just doesn ?t seem like a good match.

? Weather and wine: This piece, from The Raw Story web site, doesn ?t mince words: ?Can any region continue to grow the exact same varieties and make the exact same style of wines? If what we know today is correct, that is highly unlikely. ? The reason is climate change, and it goes into great detail explaining what ?s going to happen and why. Grapes, say the experts, are important in understanding how climate change will affect other crops, since the wines are more sensitive to climate than rice, corn and soybeans, which could help researchers figure out how to better adapt these crops to warmer weather.

? Well-earned award: Paul Draper, the man behind California ?s Ridge Vineyards, has been named the 2013 Winemakers ? Winemaker by the Institute of Masters of Wine and the drinks business trade magazine. Ridge has long been one of the world ?s great wineries, and has continued to make honest wine when so many others were chasing scores and critical acclaim. Which, not surprisingly, is why he was honored: ?an approach that has been characterised by an emphasis on traditional winemaking practices, sustainable agriculture and a sense of place. ?

Winebits 248: Climate change, grape supply, and grape supply

? So long, Napa: W. Blake Gray interviews perhaps the world ?s leading wine and climate change expert, who predicts that California ?s premier grape growing region could no longer be that by 2050. Gregory Jones of Southern Oregon University told Gray that if if global warming projections are accurate, Napa will be too hot to grow fine wine grapes. Wrote Gray: ?[Jones ?] says only in the U.S. does he face resistance to the concept of climate change, although he said in many cases wineries deny global warming publicly while admitting their concerns to him privately. ?

? Yet another bumper harvest: The 2012 California wine grape crop could reach 3.7 million tons, the second-largest ever, according to an estimate from a growers ? group. So much for that grape shortage, eh? That would be a 10 percent increase over 2011 and 13 percent over 2010. If true, and given the near-record number of imported grapes coming into the U.S., wine prices should remain flat again next year.

? So long, China: Remember how the Chinese were driving fine wine prices through the roof? Remember how all the top wine producers and the Winestream Media were falling all over themselves to cater to the Chinese? That ?s just so 2010. Reuters reports that the biggest Chinese political scandal in decades, which has roiled the country and even threatened to delay a planned change of government, has knocked the top off the Chinese wine boom. Hong Kong Bordeaux wine sales, where many wealthy and apparently corrupt Chinese, buy their wine, are down 25 percent in value and 6 percent in volume.

Winebits 244: Climate change, Ubuntu, Bed Bath & Beyond

? California ?s changing climate: Because that ?s not the way it used to be, when the rest of the world was jealous of the state ?s incredible wine growing climate. Writes Jon Bonne in the San Francisco Chronicle: ?It's starkly clear that the climate for wine growing in California is becoming less stable. ? Whether you blame climate change or human meddling for the shifting styles of California wine, the net result is that those who want to make truly great wines will have to adapt to ever less routine vintages. ? That difference has consequences not only for those who buy more expensive wines, where climate is part of the terroir, but for those of us who buy $10 wine. The weather was so perfect In California that it was easy to make quality cheap wine ? just let the grapes ripen and don't get in the way. If the grapes aren ?t going ripen on schedule anymore, those $10 winemakers will have to show skills they didn ?t need before.

? Wine and computers? The Wine Curmudgeon is a bit of a computer geek, so I was excited to hear that someone had released a wine with the same name as Ubuntu, one of the leading Linux operating systems. The wine is Portuguese, from Niepoort,, and was issued in 2008 and 2009 when South Africa hosted the football (soccer, for those of us in U.S.) World Cup. The operating system and the wine aren ?t apparently related, though, notes the OMG Ubunutu blog; they ?re both named after a particular African philosophy.

? Pairing wine with kitchen appliances: Bed Bath & Beyond, which recently bought World Market, is adding wine to one of its suburban Chicago locations. It also wants to do tastings, says the Chicago Tribune. I speculated about how well that would work for Bed Bath & Beyond after the World Market acquisition, and now we ?ll get a chance to find out. I wonder: When someone goes in to buy a slow cooker, are they really going to buy wine, too?