Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wine Sales Break Record as Demand Explodes

Wine sales in the United States from all production sources — California, other U.S. states and foreign countries — increased 2 percent from the previous year to a new record of 360.1 million 9-liter cases with an estimated retail value of $34.6 billion, according to wine industry consultant Jon Fredrikson of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates in Woodside. Of the total, almost two-thirds or 207.7 million cases of California wine account for a 58 percnet share of U.S. wine sales with an estimated retail value of $22 billion. Including exports, 2012 California wine shipments to all markets in the U.S. and abroad reached 250.2 million cases.
"The U.S. is the largest wine market in the world with 19 consecutive years of volume growth," said Wine Institute President and CEO Robert P. (Bobby) Koch. "Competition for retail shelf space and consumer attention is intense, so California's high quality, record winegrape harvest in 2012 could not have come at a better time. California vintners continue to respond to growing worldwide demand with a wide array of outstanding wines from regions throughout the state and Wine Institute is supporting the effort by opening markets and eliminating trade barriers in the U.S. and abroad."

"Wine shipments to the U.S. market climbed by nearly 50 percent since 2001 and it is likely that American consumption will continue to expand over the next decade as wine continues to gain traction among American adult consumers," said Fredrikson. "The amazing diversity of choices and exciting new offerings are attracting new consumers and boosting consumption. Among the key growth drivers are favorable demographics, a widening consumer base and increasing points of distribution in both on- and off-sale outlets. For example, Starbucks is now serving wine in some key markets and and Facebook Gifts both sell wine online."

Varietal Trends in Chain Retail Outlets
Wine sales in U.S. food stores and other off-premise measured channels from all domestic and foreign producers grew 2% by volume and 6% by value, according to Nielsen, a global provider of information and insights into what consumers buy. California wines grew faster than the overall category by a full percentage point. By varietal in the table wine category, Chardonnay remained the most popular varietal with a 21% share of volume, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% volume share; Merlot, 9% share, and Pinot Grigio/Gris, 8% share. The largest percentage gains were Muscat/Moscato, up 33% in volume with 6% market share, and domestic red blends/sweet red wines, up 22% in volume with 5% share of market. Also of note was Malbec, up 21% by volume with a 1% share.

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"Consumers have more access to wine throughout the country with wine-selling locations expanding by well over 50,000 from five years ago. Off-premise retail outlets grew 15% to almost 175,000 outlets, while restaurants and other on-premise outlets increased 12% to 332,000 locations in the U.S.," said Danny Brager, vice president of the beverage alcohol practice at Nielsen. "Retailers recognize that wine is a large and growing category, even in economically challenging times, and tends to attract upper income consumers and all legal drinking age groups. Wine also pairs well with food, leading to larger, more profitable shopping baskets."

Sparkling Wine and Champagne
Shipments of sparkling wine and champagne reached 17.7 million cases in 2012, up 2% over the previous year. California sparkling wine grew 3% with Moscato based sparklers driving the growth. While overall total 2012 volume slowed after a major surge in 2011, sparkling wine shipments to the U.S. in 2012 were at their highest level since 1987.

U.S. Wine Exports
U.S. wine exports, 90 percent from California, reached $1.43 billion in winery revenues in 2012, an increase of 2.6% compared to 2011. Volume shipments reached 424.6 million liters or 47.2 million cases. Of the top markets for California Wines, the European Union's 27-member countries are the largest accounting for $485 million, up 1.7%; followed by Canada, $434 million, up 14%; Hong Kong, $115 million, down 30%; Japan, $111 million, up 6%; China, $74 million, up 18%; Vietnam, $27 million, up 22%; Mexico, $20 million, up 4%; South Korea, $16 million, up 26%.
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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Vibrant WINE Culture in the PIEDMONT (NO, NOT THAT ONE)

Noel Sherr labored in the wine business in New York City for 10 years. He was the general manager of Chambers Street Wines, one of the city’s best retailers, and worked for top importers like Polaner Selections and David Bowler Wines.

So when he and his wife, Marie, decided to leave for better weather and an opportunity to open his own business, he was loath to give up that easy access to a diversity of wonderful wines. A number of his friends had settled here in Durham, and he investigated. “The horrible, paralyzing fear I had about leaving New York City was, ‘What am I going to drink?’ ” he recalled. “But it became apparent that we could find the wines we liked to drink. We realized we could live the life we wanted to live.”
Vibrant wine and food cultures thrive these days in all sorts of American cities — Austin, Tex.; St. Louis; Atlanta or even Birmingham, Ala. — as high-speed travel and communications make the world a smaller place. Still, one hardly expects to find a Shangri-La for wine lovers blossoming here in the rolling Piedmont hills of central North Carolina.

Sure, the Research Triangle, an academic and high-tech center formed by Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill, has an educated, worldly population that welcomes the chance to eat and drink well. But many other college towns and affluent communities don’t seem to offer the same wealth of choices or ease with wine. As I discovered on a recent visit, the Triangle stands out for its openness toward unusual, unorthodox wines.

Mr. Sherr and two partners found enough of those wines here that they opened Cave Taureau in downtown Durham last fall, a small shop with a deliciously recondite selection that would be right at home in Brooklyn or San Francisco. Looking for lightly sweet, pink, sparkling Cerdon de Bugey from the Savoie region of eastern France? Or a Cornas from Thierry Allemand, one of the Rhône Valley’s most gifted vignerons? Or perhaps an enticing nine-year-old nerello mascalese grown on the foothills of Mount Etna in Sicily?

They’re all right there on the polished wood shelves among the horns, skulls and other bovine paraphernalia inspired (like the store’s name, Taureau, French for bull by Durham’s endearing moniker: the Bull City. And so far, sales are brisk.

It’s this broad-minded curiosity that appealed to Louis/Dressner Selections, a leading American importer of small, handmade European wines that brings a large group of its growers to the United States each year to meet members of the trade and to offer consumer tastings. Last year, it added Durham to the itinerary, which had included only New York and California.

“We’d been working in the area, and we’ve enjoyed a terrific market there, so we thought it was a good idea,” said Kevin McKenna, a partner in the company. “There really is a great wine culture in the Triangle right now.”

What’s most intriguing about that culture is that it’s entwined with the region’s fascination with food. For many in the Triangle, wine is not a matter of ratings on the 100-point scale, status labels, hushed tastings of benchmark wines and other trappings associated with connoisseurship. Instead, the area shows a rare comfort with wine that belies its relatively recent embrace of its pleasures.

“Here, instead of saying, ‘Ah, reminiscent of white pepper,’ they just say, ‘Wow, this is fun, what do I eat with this?’ ” said Ken Rosati, the owner of Centerba Selections, a local wholesaler that distributes wines from small-scale growers.

All over these hills, small restaurants that specialize in locally grown ingredients have blossomed. Farmers’ markets, even in the dead of winter, were packed with mustard greens, Olde Henry white sweet potatoes, turnips and squash, bacon and sausage and, this being the South, all manner of pies. Right alongside is a first-rate selection of wines at restaurants and at shops like Cave Taureau and Wine Authorities, many from small vignerons, demonstrating a clear understanding that wine is just one more ingredient on the table, subject to the same standards of production and purity as the food we eat.

“Farm-to-table is so active there that it’s sort of translated into wine, where other markets are really lagging in that area,” Mr. McKenna said. “It’s a great thing.”You sense this at Rue Cler in Durham, where John Vandergrift, an owner and chef, might add local collard greens to classic bistro dishes, served with an excellent Saumur-Champigny, a Loire Valley red. Not far away at Vin Rouge, another bistro, the general manager, Michael Maller, has served aged Muscadet by the glass with locally caught seafood. Mr. Sherr, who worked as a waiter at Vin Rouge after moving from New York, never imagined that many customers would go for old Muscadet, which is usually served young and fresh. “We sold bottle after bottle,” he recalled. “I thought, people are really open here, and they’re getting it.”

Last year, Matt Kelly, the chef at Vin Rouge, opened Mateo, a Spanish restaurant in Durham. Mr. Maller, who is also the beverage director there, put together an extensive Spanish wine list with the first page devoted entirely to sherry, a fortified wine that is having a renaissance after years of withering sales. His selection includes sherries from excellent small producers like El Maestro Sierra, Tradicion and Gutierrez Colosia.

“Because of the universities, people have been around, so there’s a lot of curious people here,” Mr. Maller said. “They tried it and they like it.”It probably doesn’t hurt that one of the country’s prominent importers of sherries and other Spanish wines, André Tamers of De Maison Selections, makes his home in Chapel Hill.

In Raleigh, the state capital, the choices include J. Betski’s, where John F. Korzekwinski’s central European cuisine is accompanied by a superb selection of beers and wines, including Elena Walch’s gewürztraminer from the Alto Adige region of Italy, rieslings from Austria and Germany, and good Austrian blaufränkisches.

One wouldn’t want to miss the star chef Ashley Christensen’s constellation of Raleigh restaurants, most notably Poole’s Downtown Diner, where Matt Fern, the beverage director, has accompanied the beautifully rendered expressions of Carolina cuisine with a glass of Bandol rosé from Pradeaux, one of the great old-school growers, or even an unusual Castello di Verduno Bellis Perennis, a white wine made from the red pelaverga piccolo grape. Mr. Fern, who settled here for good in 2002, remembers when the choices were far more narrow.

“When I first got here, the wine lists were the old standards: 20 chardonnays, 15 merlots,” he recalled. “This area has completely gone way more food-centric.”In Chapel Hill, a bucolic town dominated by the University of North Carolina, Lantern uses local ingredients to make Asian-inspired dishes, which would go beautifully with a Benoît Lahaye rosé Champagne or a chardonnay from Domaine de Montbourgeau in the Jura.

Not far away in Carrboro is Acme, where the chef and owner Kevin Callaghan has been serving North Carolina cuisine for 15 years, with a wide-ranging wine list. He grew up in Charlotte, about 135 miles to the southwest, and recalls a time when people rarely went to fine restaurants, and hardly ever accompanied a meal with wine.

“People might have ordered wine as a cocktail, then the food would arrive and they’d order coffee to drink with the food — that’s the South,” he said. The sea change, Mr. Callaghan believes, came from overcoming a lack of regional confidence and embracing Southern culture, in which agriculture has always been important. The connection to wine, he suggested, came from the realization that the best sort of winemaking was itself an expression of agriculture.

“There’s been a real renaissance of the South as a place that’s proud of who it is, reconnecting to its rural farming past, and proud of farmers whether in the Willamette Valley or the Loire Valley,” he said.

Craig Heffley, the owner of Wine Authorities, a Durham shop devoted to removing intimidation from the business, attributes much of the new local interest in wine to changing demographics. “You see far more young people drinking wine because of the Internet and social media,” he said. “It’s really dramatic.”

A fair amount of anxiety still clouds wine drinking, and many here are content with the mass-market bottles they can find in supermarkets. Still, the affinity for farmers, grape growers and vignerons is palpable. Éric Texier, who makes wine in the Rhône Valley and the Mâconnais, has visited the region not just with the Louis/Dressner group but also to see Mr. Rosati, his distributor, and French friends who work for biotech companies.

“I would say I find there the same spirit as in my village in southwest France: love for fresh food, eating and talking for hours,” Mr. Texier said. “It’s a laid-back kind of culture. Wine has to be part of this, of course.”
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Food Matches with Cocktails over Wine

Celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge has joined a growing group who argue cocktails are easier to match to food than wine. He says a cocktail's ingredients can be changed to match or enhance the flavours on the plate, unlike wine, which is already made. "With a cocktail you can adjust to the actual dish," he tells AAP from his two-hatted restaurant the Four in Hand Dining Room in Sydney.

"So say you've got pork. You can have a cinnamon cocktail or a vanilla cocktail and you can match it a lot easier than wine because you can isolate flavours."Fassnidge will see this first-hand on May 17, when he takes part in the Noosa Food and Wine Festival's Diageo Reserve World Class cocktail matching dinner.
Along with two other chefs - Wayd Bailey and Eric Pernoud - Fassnidge is creating two of the six courses for the event and its 140 guests. Each dish will be paired with its own unique cocktail created by the world's best bartender Tim Philips - a title he earned after taking home top honours at the Diageo Reserve World Class cocktail competition in 2012.

Having previously worked at Hemmesphere, Philips now keeps busy mixing drinks at his own Sydney bar, Bulletin Place, and travelling the world to talk cocktail-making to the like-minded. Philips isn't in the World Class competition this year, although just a few hours before the cocktail dinner, 12 bartenders will be vying for a place in the finals by mixing drinks for attendees to the festival.

Philips says the cocktail matching dinner will come with its own challenges.

"I (want to) make sure people walk away from this event going, 'wow that was incredible'. Literally an all-out assault on the senses," he says.

There's also the logistic issue of serving around 900 cocktails in one night.

Philips joked that the chefs are "slack, basically" by comparison.

"They're only doing 280 dishes each, so it's easy for them. They're just going up to Noosa for a holiday."

Fassnidge says two courses are definitely enough.

Known for his meat dishes at the Four in Hand and new venture 4Fourteen, the Irish chef says he's sticking to what he knows.

"There's no point in going and doing something I don't do and looking like an idiot," he says, adding he will be making chicken and pork for his two dishes.

Philips says the dinner is exciting because it's a step in the right direction for the future.

Cocktails are traditionally seen as a before or after dinner drink, but Philips envisages diners one day looking at a menu and ordering a main meal and a cocktail to accompany it.

"Without a shadow of a doubt," he says, adding it's already happening in places like Scandinavia.

"Restaurants in New York have water sommeliers, why shouldn't we start looking at cocktails and spirits as a way of bringing out the best in our food."

* The Noosa Food and Wine Festival runs from May 16-19. Visit for more information.

* Until April 5, you can vote for your favourite cocktail or bartender at and at

- Voting in Australia is down to its top 100 bartenders

- You can vote via Facebook for your favourite bartender until April 5

- The Noosa Food and Wine Festival will select four for the finals

- A winner for Australia will be chosen in June

- Philips won the entire competition in 2012, making him Australia's and the world's best bartender

Tim Philips' World Class winning cocktail: 248 Ways To Drink Johnnie Walker

• Johnnie Walker Blue Label 40ml
• Sugar Syrup 5ml (choice of mandarin, raisin, clove, popcorn, cinnamon, honey, orgeat, sugar, hazelnut)
• 2 dashes bitters (choice of angostura, peychaud's, absinthe, orange, cherry chocolate)
• 2 cubes flavoured ice (choice of sweet tea, smokey tea, sherry wood tea and american oak)

Method - Stirred, served up
The serve will showcase 248 ways to have a Johnnie Walker Blue Label blended scotch whisky old fashioned. Drinkers will be asked to roll a dice, spin a roulette wheel, and pick a poker chip out of a hat to create their cocktail. The serve is inspired by Bill Murray, and the chances he has taken in his movies and his love life.
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wine can help women in middle-age

While it is said an apple a day can keep the doctor away, a new study has suggested a couple of glasses of wine a day for middle-aged women to keep diseases at bay.

A major study, which was launched in 1976, and involved 14,000 female nurses found the women, who took alcohol regularly throughout the week instead of on any single occasion, benefited the most.

The study has shown that by drinking between 15.1 gm and 30gm of alcohol a day - as much as two shots of spirits or nearly three small glasses of wine - women can improve their odds of "successful ageing" by 28 percent, a newspaper reported.
The US scientists behind the study have defined "successful ageing" as living to at least 70, being free of cancer, heart conditions and other chronic diseases, and suffering no significant mental or physical impairment.

Study authors, led by Qi Sun, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, found that moderate drinking had "profound" positive effects on the body, reducing inflammation, cholesterol and other harmful processes.

Compared with non-drinkers, women who drank 5.1 to 15 grams of alcohol a day had a 19 percent greater likelihood of successful ageing. Those who drank 15.1 to 30 grams increased their odds by 28 percent, but those who had more reduced the benefits.
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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Treasurer puts cork back on wine-tax proposal

Treasurer puts cork back on wine-tax proposalTAXING wine in the same way as beer would earn the government an extra $1.5 billion. At the same time, it would cut sales of cask wine 61 per cent, boost sales of beer, and cut overall alcohol consumption 9 per cent.

The plan, tested in economic modelling by the Allen Consulting Group, will be unveiled at a forum in Parliament House today designed to pressure Treasurer Wayne Swan in the lead-up to the October tax summit.

Allen Consulting has told the Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation that taxing wine on the basis of price, while beer is taxed per unit of alcohol means men can use cask wine to exceed health guidelines for "a little over a dollar" while women can drink to excess for 50¢.

''The existing wine tax arrangements allow individuals who are seeking to consume alcohol irresponsibly to do so cheaply,'' the Allen report says. ''Incongruently, the regime also applies tax more heavily to individuals looking to purchase quality wines for the purposes of responsible consumption.

''The consequence is that irresponsible drinkers contribute little to the taxation revenue necessary to address alcohol-related harm in the community, whilst responsible drinkers do.'' The change proposed by Allen would double the price of cask wine and lift the price of premium bottles 17 per cent. It would remove the rebates enjoyed by small wineries, which Allen says larger wineries rort, ''turbo charging'' the wine glut.
The Allen proposals are similar to those put forward by the Henry Tax Review. Mr Swan rejected the recommendation, saying his government would not change alcohol tax ''in the middle of a wine glut and where there is an industry restructure under way''. Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation chief executive Michael Thorn said the report showed Mr Swan's argument to be hollow.
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