• Local rose: Just when the WC gets all flustered about the future of Drink Local, I read this in the Southern Illinoisan newspaper in downstate Carbondale (where, a long time ago, I was a general assignment reporter). The Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Alliance launched an aggressive and seemingly expensive marketing campaign this spring to make rose Illinois’ official state wine, and “unite” the industry with a common product. Give the WC’s enthusiasm for Drink Local and pink wine, what could be a better idea?
• Not just in England: Oz Clarke, one of the patriarchs of modern wine writing, says English wine won’t become more successful or more popular until more people can afford to buy it. This is a lesson that emerging wine regions, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere, never seem able to understand. It’s one of the biggest problems with Drink Local, where producers don’t understand that people are more likely to buy $15 wine than $30 wine, no matter how noble the $30 wine is. Clarke told a wine seminar that it was crucial to get “really good bottles of still wine in front of people for the same price as, say, New Zealand.” Wise words, indeed.
This week’s wine news: The Italians regained the top spot as the word’s biggest wine producing country in 2016, plus sparkling wine in France and England
• No. 1: Italy became the world leader in wine production during 2016, according to the Italian farmers association Coldiretti. Italy, Spain, and France take turns producing the most wine in the world; the Spanish have been first the past couple of year. Also worth noting: Italian wine exports to the Champagne region of France grew 57 percent last year. If the story in the link is correct, this meant that people in Champagne were buying Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine. This raises all sorts of Python-esque questions, especially given the Champagne region’s take no prisoners attitude toward other sparkling wine.
• Sparkling legal battle: What happens when two French wine regions disagree about who should be allowed to make sparkling wine (and neither of them is Champagne, to continue our Python theme)? There is a lawsuit, of course. Wink Lorch at Wine-Searcher.com reports that the Clairette de Die appellation has been given permission to make rose sparkling wine using a little known technique called methode ancestrale. This has drawn the ire of the Bugey-Cerdon appellation, which is currently the only region allowed to make rose sparkling using methode ancestrale. Not to worry if you’ve never heard of methode ancestrale or either region; Lorcher says very people in France have. The dispute, in fact, may not be about those regions or the technique as much as it is about establishing a precedent to allow better known appellations, like Beaujolais, to make methode ancestral rose sparkling.
?Just like Champagne: Not the quality or flavor or price, but the appellation law. The European Union is expected to rule that sparkling wine from Sussex in England can be called Sussex, just like sparkling wine from Champagne in France is called Champagne. This known as protected status, and it’s an important development for usually little respected English wine. So, the next time you’re at your favorite wine bar in London, you won’t have to ask for a bottle of English sparkling — you can ask for a bottle of Sussex.
? Screwcaps are OK? There’s a journalism term called “parachuting in” that makes cranky ex-newspaper reporters even crankier, and this story from something called Business Insider looks to be classic parachuting. That’s when someone who doesn’t know much about the subject writes about it in a one-off and the story is mostly breathless prose telling us something we already knew. Such as: “While many bulk wines use screw caps ? which is likely where the stigma originated ? a screw cap is by no means and indicator of the quality of your wine.” No kidding. Where has this reporter been for the past 20 years? The rest of the story is mostly in the same vein, including the obligatory reference to the romance of the cork.
? Peter Mondavi: Peter Mondavi’s death at 101 didn’t elicit the same kind of response as that of his brother, Robert Mondavi, when the latter died in 2008. Chalk that up to the way the wine world works, and that Robert was a more public person than Peter. Nevertheless, Peter Mondavi was one of the people who made wine the way it is today, and the wine world would be significantly different if not for him. The Grape Collective ran its interview with Peter Mondavi, then 98, to commemorate his death, and it’s well worth watching.
? French wine consumption declines again: But they still drink more than the rest of us, something that tends not to show up in these stories. A five-year study by a French agriculture ministry agency found that French adults drink more than six bottles of wine a month, down from about 18 in 1965. By comparison, the average American drinks about one bottle a month. Why have the French cut down? They ?re ?increasingly cautious about products that are dangerous in excessive quantities, ? said a ministry spokeswoman.
? English buying less wine: By two percent over a year ago, according to figures from a British trade group. This is an amazing statistic, given Britain ?s long history as a wine drinking nation, and it shows just how deep and difficult the recession has been there. A report spokesman did not hedge his comments: ?Overall, the latest market report shows that consumers are continuing to tighten their belts and shop around for the best value in these tough economic times. ?
? Wine.com customers love their Cristalino: It was second most ordered wine from the Internet retailer in 2012, and this was the sixth consecutive time it made Wine.com ?s top 100 sales list. This does not surprise the Wine Curmudgeon, long a Cristalino fan, though it may surprise many in the business who keep waiting for wine prices to increase. In fact, the top 10 list was headed by an $8 Columbia Crest wine, and two or three wines on the list were really expensive.