Saturday, April 01, 2006

Wine, wine everywhere.... and too many drops to drink!

The world of wine is in a turmoil. Competition around the world is changing how governments, wine organizations and vintners think about how to compete in an ever-expanding wine market. The wine glut discussed in a previous post, has resulted in a variety of responses. To complicate matters, scientists will soon be able to genetically manipulate grapes. This will not only affect the quality of grapes but also their production levels. And how will that impact the influence of "terroir"? Will it give the big corporate wine companies an increased stonghold on the world wine markets? Scientists at the San Michelle all"Adige institute in Trentino have begun mapping the genetic make up of the Pinot Noir grape. Once the genome project is complete, alteration of the grape's genetic make up will become a reality. At the University of California, Davies, researchers are looking at ways to make wines an even more healthful drink by genetically altering grapes to increase their vitamin C content.
Meanwhile the EU is bowing to US demands to allow wines finished with oak chips to be sold in Europe. It is eassy to understand why. US wine exports to the EU were worth $325 million in 2005, while EU exports to the US were valued at 2.6 billion. The market is dictating what is acceptable and the EU is now allowing the use of oak chips. The French government has created quite a stir among traditionalists everywhere by legislating the use of oak chips. Just to add another wrinkle to wine sale worries, China's Changyu Group Co.,the oldest and largest wine producer in China has set its sites on becoming one of the top ten international producers in the next decade. Well there is another way of dealing with the competition. Just close your borders. Russia has effectively done that with wines coming from Georgia and Moldova. Is this a new form of cold war? This seems to be a politically motivated event and understandably Georgia and Moldova are outraged. Is the Russian Bear just rattling its saber or will sanity prevail?
Ultimately, quality is where it will be at. Germany is using a quality, as well as innovation approach. A new glass stopper is attracting some attention. Spain as well is clamouring about quality and some excellent wines from Spain are now available. Just to keep the cork versus other closures debate going, Spain has just legislated that all DO wines have to be stoppered with a real cork.
As the old hymn implores us "Let there be Peace in the Valley", all the great grape valleys in the world. Its time for me to open a bottle of wine, grab my favourite glass and partake of "the fruit of the vine". As Galileo said: "Wine is light, held together by water". And I am ready to enjoy one of the lights of my life. Till next time and remember: God in His goodness sent the grapes, to cheer both great and small; little fools will drink too much, and great fools none at all.-Anonymous.

1 comment:

Sanjoy said...

Wilf,
Interesting thoughts on various wine subjects. Your article is well written and informative. I liked the subject matter and the ease of linking to the various articles.
The things that I think can be improved are.
1. I found the white font on the black background hard to read, especially the fainter print near the top (About the Author section). Maybe this is just my eyes getting old ???
2. The article is too long for a blog and may not hold people's interest for the entire length. It is a good article, but more like one you would find in a magazine or newspaper.
Several short blogs each on a focussed subject may be better, for instance,
--- one on cork vs glass vs plastic vs screwtop stoppers. Does the wine really taste different? Can wine really age in these other "non-breathable" closures?
--- one on the innovations and changing labels and marketing around the world as winemakers and countries try to handle global competition
--- one on the changes to traditional winemaking with the advent of wood chips/stainless steel vats in place of oak barrels.
I myself am very curious if any of these modern techniques produce wines that double-blind professional tasters would rate highly.