At first glance, saying that grape growers – being one link the overall supply chain that provides wine to consumers – would feel the pressure of the economic downturn and its negative impact on wine sales would seem like a no-brainer.
“Well… duh!” you’re probably thinking, “If the economy sucks, and fewer people buy wine, wouldn’t suppliers naturally suffer in terms of selling less of their product to wineries?”
Sounds reasonable, my astute friend. You’re one of those people that paid attention in Economics class. I can tell.
But apparently that view is missing some of the complexity of the situation, at least according to recent stories in two major wine publications.
In July, Wines & Vines featured a cover story called Growers’ Reality Check, which detailed the outcomes of a June Vineyard Economics Seminar held in Napa. The picture was, in a word, glum.
Of the surveyed attendees, a meager 44% predicted an upswing in wine sales – down from 78% one year ago.
Last week, Wine Spectator’s Tim Fish (who has yet to publicly attack me so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt!) reported on a glut in the wine grape-growing market in California.
The big swing was due, of course, to the economic downturn, which has seen consumers shift their wine buying patterns away form the $20 and up range and towards value wine brand territory.
“Wait a minute,” you’re probably saying, “if consumers are still buying wine, doesn’t it mean that grape growers can still sell, maybe just at lower prices?”.
Not quite, my economically-astute friend… not quite…
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At a new, small California winery, an ethnically diverse pair are making low production Cabernet Sauvignon. Very, very good Cabernet, that is.
For those of you who are playing along at home, I’m going to introduce this article with a bit of background, because it’s several months in the making. Also, if I don’t start out with some preliminaries, it’s going to confuse the hell out of me.
Also, since we’re going to end up connecting Oaxaca (that’s in Mexico), Napa Valley, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Opus One, Mario Bazán Cellars, and ethnic diversity, we need to make sure we’re all on the same page before we start.
Bear with me, you’re probably smarter than I am, ok? Here’s the recap:
- During a recent Twitter Taste Live event featuring St. Supery wines, I railed a bit on my overall disappointment with Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. This led to a challenge of sorts from Opus One winemaker and friend-of-the-Dude Michael Silacci, who dared me to compare Napa SB wines like Toquade against their counterparts from France or New Zealand, or at least to try Toquade.
- During a recent jaunt to the Left Coast for the American Wine Bloggers Conference, I did just that (tried Toquade, I mean, not just jaunted), along with some other great Napa wines (more on that in a few minutes) when I visited Michael for dinner (he didn’t pour any Opus, by the way… jerk…!).
- In the meantime, I’d opened up a fairly sizeable barrique of worms when I highlighted the fact that there is an incredible lack of ethnic diversity in winery ownership and in winemaking in general, and discussed with you fine readers the value of writing about very small-production wines (like Toquade).
Right… that’s Twitter, TasteLive, Napa Valley SB, Opus One, the Wine Bloggers Conference, Toquade, ethnic diversity in winemaking, and my coverage of small-production wines. Crystal clear, right?
Anyway… at that same dinner with Michael, I was introduced to another (very) small-production wine. A red this time, from a winery owned by a Mexican-born immigrant who employs a young African-American female winemaker.
In other words, I’d hit the serendipity synchronicity jackpot. Which means that this is the one chance I may have to piss off everybody in a single post… I cannot screw this up!
[ Editor’s note: for those who are humorless, the preceding statement is a joke; in fact, those who are humorless are probably reading the wrong blog and should leave immediately for the sake of preserving their own sanity. ]
Background setup complete – now, let’s get talking about the wine…
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A very quick blurb to let you know that the latest edition of Chester County Cuisine & Nightlife has hit the stands. This month’s issue (August 2009) includes a piece that I wrote in late 2008 on Penns Woods winemaker Gino Razzi.
CCC, masterminded by WCDish.com co-founder and irrepressible Philly-area foodie Mary Bingham, continues to improve with every issue and seems like it’s really starting to hit its stride. And best of all, it’s FREE.
So if you happen to find yourself in visiting, living in, or mysteriously waking up somewhere in Chester County, PA, be sure to grab yourself a copy or two, or hit the PDF after the jump for a tree-friendly version!