Wine news for the holidays

Some tidbits to nibble on over the next couple of days:

? The European Union has finally agreed to reform its wine-making laws in an attempt to increase quality, reduce the glut of poor quality grapes, and appeal to younger, more au courant wine drinkers. Some of the changes are long overdue, especially in regards to French overproduction. But some of it, like an emphasis on marketing, seems wrong-headed. Europe makes great European wines, so  why try to make great New Zealand wines?

? Needless to say, not all Europeans were happy about changes. One regular visitor to this space forwarded this, from Corriere della Serra in Milan (Italy’s equivalent of the New York Times). The headline, he says, translates to: “The EU puts sugar into wine. Italy: Our wine will remain pure.” It refers to a process called chapitalization, where sugar is added before fermentation to raise sweetness and alcohol levels. It’s a common practice in the cooler parts of Europe, where grapes often don’t ripen enough. Is it good or bad for wine? That depends on how it’sused. Some great French and German wines chapitalize, and some really crummy wines do, too.

? My old pal John T. Edge, a food writer of some repute, has been following the development of regional and southern U.S. wine. Almost of the wines he mentions are worth trying, though you’ll probably have to be in the state they’re made to find them. And Georgia sparkler made with muscadines that he mentions sounds quite intriguing. John T. also has some wise words for regional producers and consumers: “Honesty is important. Never mind all the ribbons and medals. Truth is, we have a ways to go. Too many whites taste vegetal. Too few reds have the ripe fruit and fine-grained tannins on which great wines are built.”