Winebits 297: Sweet wine, imported wine, regional wine

? The Winestream Media always acts like the Winestream Media: Shanken News Daily, a news service for the wine business, ran an item last week noting that Indiana ?s Oliver Winery was taking advantage of the sweet wine trend to boost sales. What the story missed was that Oliver was selling hundreds of thousands of cases of sweet wine long before it became a national trend, and is actually one of the regional wineries that started the trend (along with Missouri ?s St. James, North Carolina ?s Duplin, and Texas ? Llano Estacado). How did Shanken get this so wrong? Because, as with all members of the Winestream Media, nothing happens unless they say it does, which is why so much wine writing, wine analysis, and wine criticism in this country is so poorly done. I once did a piece for a trade magazine owned by the same company that owns the news service, and had a fight with an editor who insisted that Texas ? liquor laws were so unbelievable that what I wrote couldn ?t be true. She just knew the way the world worked, and wasn ?t going to let the facts disturb her.

? Where ?s all that French wine? W. Blake Gray, who started out to defend the quality of Australian wine, has done yeoman work in analyzing where the imported wine comes from that most of us drink. I think even Blake was surprised to find out how popular Argentine wine, and specifically malbec, was, and how much less popular French wine was. Of course, if you read most mainstream wine criticism, you ?ll get the opposite impression, because who wants to write about $8 malbec when there ?s all that Bordeaux and Burgundy to drool over?

? The problems with regional wine: My pal Kyle Schlachter, long a defender of regional wine, is also smart enough to know that not all regional wine is created equal. This blog post, focusing on how consumers use social media to critique wineries, is pointed, excellently written, and painfully accurate in discussing how too many regional wineries don ?t understand customer service, don ?t care enough about wine quality, and don ?t want to work with anyone else to improve their business. I saw this all the time when I did Drink Local Wine, and it always made me crazy; Kyle has more patience than I do.