? Those were the days: The Italian Wine Guy remembers when no one had heard of Santa Margherita pinot grigio. Hard to believe, no? His point, and he makes it well, is that the Italian wine world (and, by extension, all of the others) has changed significantly in the past four decades ? sometimes, even more than we realize. Or, as he writes: ?Anyone who complains about not being able to get an Italian (or any other) wine of their choice is either lazy, unimaginative or just plain silly. Go down the aisles of a local liquor store, and see the immense selection we have now that we didn ?t have in 1977."
? Fooling the wine world: This epic story from New York magazine (more than 4,000 words) is entitled ?Chateau Sucker ? ? which should tell you everything you need to know about the Rudy Kurniawan case. He ?s the fellow who has been selling counterfeit wine to the experts for years, and is currently under federal indictment. Most of the big names in the wine business are in the story, and the question it raises is whether they wanted to be fooled ? a question that speaks volumes about that part of the wine business.
? Yes, screwcaps are here to stay: In which another wine drinker wonders why they have to put up with those silly screwcaps.Though it does offer one of the best explanations of screwcaps, which the Wine Curmudgeon wishes he had thought of (and will now update and steal). Think of corks as music on CDs. Think of screwcaps as digital music. Doesn ?t make the music any worse, does it?
? French gulping down rose: The French, who have cut wine consumption by more than 20 percent over the past decade, like rose more than ever before. Journee-Vincole reports that 1 out of 4 bottles of wine sold in France is rose, up from 1 in 10 bottles in 1990. Apparently, the French see rose as a lighter and healthier alternative to red wine, and it appeals to the younger audience that doesn't drink as much wine as their parents or grandparents.
? Bernie Madoff's wine collection: The serial swindler liked wine, but wasn't very discriminating. That attitude didn't help the federal officials who are selling Madoff's assets to re-pay his victims. They raised just $41,000 when they auctioned Madoff's wine. How pitiful is that? I've probably got a couple of thousand dollars worth of wine in the house, and I never swindled billions from anyone.
? Grape crush third highest ever: California crushed 3.7 million tons of grapes in 2010 — the third-largest crush to date, reports WineBusinessNews.com. The good news for consumers? California grape prices fell by almost seven percent, and so wine prices should continue to be "consumer-friendly" for the next couple of years. Otherwise, the figures are quite contradictory, and trying to make sense of them is not easy. Some of the numbers show that the price for Napa grapes declined by more than seven percent, which would be a crisis of epic proportions. On the other hand, says the magazine, looking at another set of figures, maybe they increased one-half of once percent.
? Changes in the Robert Parker empire: Jon Bonne at the San Francisco Chronicle details key changes in the way Robert Parker — the most important person in the wine business — will review wines. The story is very long, and a lot of it is very inside baseball, but there are a couple of things worth noting. Parker is going to review fewer California wines, which Bonne called "stunning news," and the critic who will take over California probably won't be all that different from Parker. "Those awaiting the demise of big, hedonistic cult wines are probably out of luck," wrote Bonne.
? Sunday booze as budget panacea: Since 2002, 14 states and numerous municipalities have repealed their blue laws banning Sunday alcohol sales in efforts to spur revenue growth for their governments. Now, 36 states allow such sales, and a host more want to end Sunday bans in an attempt to raise cash without raising taxes. The biggest hurdle the states have to clear? From liquor store owners, who like their legally mandated day off. The irony to all this is that adding an extra day of liquor sales doesn’t usually increase tax revenue in the long term. There’s a short term bump, but most people drink the same amount of wine, beer and liquor regardless of when it’s sold, so the only thing that changes are buying habits. If I drink a bottle of wine a week, I’ll buy it on Sunday instead of Saturday.
? Wine and global warming: Spain’s Pancho Campo, the country’s pre-eminent wine expert, says people who still doubting the existence of climate change are outdated, and points to changes to grape growing as one reason why. Campo says climate change could result in a change in grape quality, and that average temperatures in some wine growing regions have increased so much that grapes grown in particularly hot countries are too alcoholic, ripen oddly, and produce wines that lack aromatic complexity. During my trip to Spain last month, global warming was discussed several times, and winemakers and vineyard managers say they’ve seen significant changes to their grapes over the past 20 years.
? Jancis Robinson on screwcap quality: “While traditionalists may still be reluctant to embrace them, there is now plenty of scientific evidence that indicates money spent on wine sealed with anything but a screwcap is a game of risk” — or so says one of the most influential wine critics in the world. Which, frankly, I’m going to believe more than another news release or video from the cork producers. This article, from Robinson’s Web site, is as good an overview of the history of screwcaps that I’ve seen.
? Argentina ahead of Chile: Argentina exported more wine to the U.S. in 2010 than arch-rival Chile, which may have been the first time that has ever happened. Argentina ranks fourth, behind Italy, France and Australia, as a supplier of wine to the U.S. market. The two countries have been fighting for several years to see which would be the biggest exporter to the U.S. market, and it has turned into a point of national wine pride.
? Gruet says it didn’t do anything wrong: The story is more than a bit confusing, but the gist is this: When Laurent Gruet, whose family owns New Mexico’s Gruet Winey, bid for Texas’ bankrupt Cap*Rock Winery last year, Laurent wasn’t acting for the winery. Hence, neither he nor the winery is responsible for damages in a lawsuit relating to the failed bid. And, for good measure, the company that owns Gruet, which is controlled by the Gruet family, says Laurent “lacked the requisite mental capacity ? to bid for Cap*Rock.
? Everything you ever wanted to know about corks: The article in Practical Winery & Vineyard is quite technical, complete with diagrams of molecules, but the language isn’t too difficult and it’s easily the best piece I’ve ever seen on the difference between corks, screwcaps, and artificial corks. Plus, authors Carlos Macku, Ph.D., and Kyle Reed, Ph.D., from the department of technical services at Cork Supply in Benicia, Calif., threw in some some academic humor: “Wine packaging (probably one of the most challenging of all food barriers) has certainly evolved from the days when the product was transported, stored, and sold in Egyptian amphorae or medieval wooden barrels.”