Fall tends to be my favorite time of year, a sentiment many wine lovers apparently share. After a long, hot summer, temperatures are finally dipping—and lower temperatures bring happy boxes to my door. When the weather cools off, wineries I order from can ship bottles to my New Orleans home without fretting that summer heat will turn their Merlot into Madeira. A new study finds that October is the busiest month for direct shipping orders from U.S. wineries.
More than seven years have passed since the Supreme Court's Granholm decision, which said that state governments cannot prohibit out-of-state wineries from shipping to residents while allowing in-state wineries to do so. Today, 39 states allow some form of direct shipping, up from 27 before the 2005 ruling.
The new report, authored by Ship Compliant, measured the direct shipping market from August 2011 to July 2012, surveying every U.S. winery in Wines & Vines' comprehensive directory about their direct shipping sales. They found that consumers ordered 2.98 million cases of wine in that time. With a value of $1.35 billion, that wine represents 8.6 percent of the total wine market in the United States by value. (Tasting room sales that were shipped to customers' homes were not included, which would make the growth even bigger.)
Getting "good" at wine is not necessarily just about being good at tasting wine. A lot of non-drinking homework is involved too. And the crazy volume of places, names and vintages tends to reward those with a good memory for facts (or those who work at memorizing facts).
But is it possible to get better at remembering data? Certainly, suggests author Joshua Foer, in his 2011 book Walking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, which chronicles his rise from regular guy to winner of the 2006 U.S.A. Memory Championships. His experience shows that we all have the ability to improve our memory, with effort. I called Foer to see if he had any memory tips regarding wine specifically. Below are three of his suggestions.
I remember, four years ago, seeing the headline "Obama Clinches 'Joe Cabernet Sauvignon' Vote" in a humor magazine. It's a send-up of both the "Champagne liberal" stereotype and that of coveted, mythical voter Joe Six-Pack.
But is wine really a Democrat's game? I decided to ask Greg Martellotto, owner and winemaker at California-based Wine Dreamer. In 2010, the company launched a wine called Let The People Decide, a Tempranillo-based red blend from Santa Ynez bottled under two labels, Progressive and Conservative. One label is blue, with a donkey silhouette; the other red, with an elephant. Martellotto says, "We had high aspirations-could this be a straw poll for divining upcoming elections?"
I also spoke to Chris Trebilcock, who, half a country away, in Michigan, makes wine at The Political Winery; using Lodi, Calif., grapes, he blends "Jack Blue," "Ron Red," "Jackie O'Rouge" and "Elie Blanc."
The Northern Hemisphere harvest begins this month, and in the vast, vast majority of the world's vineyards, it starts with a heavy machinery operator turning the ignition on a mechanical grape harvester.
Many wine lovers might imagine—or might prefer—a scenario that involved skilled harvesters gently selecting the very best bunches of grapes, all by hand. But the half-dozen experts I polled—including industry insiders, vintners and mechanical harvester operators—conceded that 90 percent or more of the world's wine grapes are likely harvested mechanically.
If you're interested in the intersection of quality and value, you should be grateful.
It was 87 degrees inside my house. The doors, which we had opened in a futile effort to circulate the stagnant air, were now too swollen from the humidity to shut properly. The power had been down for about 48 hours.
"Honey, I'm opening the Mouton-Rothschild 2000. Grab a glass," I said.
I knew when I moved to New Orleans that hurricane season was a fact of life. After Katrina, my wife's parents came home to find that 3 feet of floodwater had ruined much of their ground floor. Thankfully, Hurricane Isaac did not severely challenge New Orleans' newly strengthened levees. Neighboring parishes outside the levees suffered far more and need our help and prayers.
Still, the local utility spent days after the storm trying to bring New Orleans back to the 21st century. (We spent 60 hours without power; other neighborhoods were out for nearly five more days.) Residents could decide quickly what in the fridge needed to be eaten or tossed, but for restaurants, retailers and collectors around the city, wine was a bit of a concern. The experience prompted me to open a few of my best bottles rather than risk letting them spoil.
When the Nielsen Company surveyed members of different age groups in late 2010 on how many of their wine shop purchases topped $20 a bottle, Boomers averaged 12 percent. For Generation X, the number crept to 14. Millennials, however, paid more than $20 for one in every four bottles they bought.
"Young people have absolutely no problem coming in and buying a bottle of Le Nez de Muse for $25 on a Monday night," Justin Chearno, the wine buyer at Uva Wines, told me, referring to an organic cuvée from small Burgundy producer Les Faverelles.
Another fun fact, from the Simmons National Consumer Study: In 2010, 24 percent of Krug drinkers in America were between 21 and 24 years old; another 20 percent were 25 to 34. If you are in the business of selling wine right now, you may be very interested indeed in learning more about this demographic of "impressionable young people who are easily parted with their money."
From Sideways to Bottle Shock to A Walk in the Clouds, there are movies about wine aplenty. But could the best movie about drinking wine—like the real experience of drinking and learning about wine—actually be a surfing movie?
In the mid 1960s, filmmaker Bruce Brown took two young Californian surfers and a camera around the world, following the summer season across hemispheres in search of warm water and perfect waves. The result, Endless Summer—the documentation of their epic year-long surf trip to Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and Hawaii—introduced a nation to surf adventure tourism. Forty years later, yes, parts of it are a little dated, but as a longtime surfer myself, I find it still holds up as one of the best mashnotes to surfing ever put to celluloid.
Tucked within the docu-style narration are some gem lessons about surfing and traveling and, if you look at it with the right mindset, plenty of things that apply equally to learning about wine. Watching surfing will always be more interesting than watching someone drink wine (sorry!), but if you can get in the right frame of mind, here are six scenes that transfer well.
You may have noticed it's an election year, not just here but around the world. Of all the recent campaigns, I was particularly captivated by the one in Russia. The return to power of Vladimir Putin-who remains a regular headliner in the news-got me thinking about the wines of the old Soviet Bloc.
The former U.S.S.R. once had a booming wine industry, much of it in what is now the Republic of Georgia. Even after Georgia declared independence in 1991, almost all of its wine was exported to Russia, but that ended in 2006 when Russia placed an embargo on Georgian wine and mineral water. Russia claimed the Georgian products were of such poor quality that they could no longer be accepted. However, the embargo also happened to coincide with Georgia's announced intentions to join NATO (which doesn't exactly always share Russian interests) and a 2006 espionage controversy, in which Georgia very publicly arrested four Russian officers and charged them with spying.
That all turned out to be a good thing for those of us who love undiscovered—and undervalued—wines.