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Whose Citizens Drink the Most Wine?

Plus, German officials dump 1.3 million liters of watered-down wine, exiled Ukraine Pres. Viktor Yanukovych's wine stash, and red blotch poses a new threat to Washington vineyards

Posted: February 27, 2014

• Unfiltered learned a surprising-until-you-think-about-it bit of wine trivia this week. Have you ever wondered which country consumes the most wine per capita? You probably know it's not the U.S. by a long shot. Perhaps France, Spain, or Italy? Nope. Think smaller: it turns out that size matters when conducting a study like this, which is why the tiny sovereign city-state of Vatican City wins the top spot. Vatican City consumes on average 62.2 liters of wine per person per year according to California's Wine Institute. That's almost 83 bottles. France comes in fifth with 45.6 liters of wine per person each year. Italy, at ninth place, consumes a modest 37.6 liters per capita. The United States, you ask? Just 10.5 liters per person. In the case of the Vatican’s consumption rate, one has to expect that no small portion of that annual figure is related to communion wine. But as any statistical analysis professor will tell you, the smaller the group, the greater the chance for distortion. With a reported population of just 836 in 2011, coupled with a full calendar of entertaining visiting dignitaries, the aforementioned communion wine, and a largely older, educated, single white male with no kids demographic … well, those numbers actually make a lot of sense. Have fun stumping your tasting group at its next gathering!

• German officials have pulled 1.3 million liters of organic Italian red and white wines off the market because it was found to have been watered down. And it is feared that even more wine will be involved. “We’re talking about a big-time consumer fraud,” said Kerstin Stiefel, press spokeswoman for the Investigative Office of the State of Rheinland-Pfalz. The probe had been underway since August. The Trebbiano and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wines were shipped in bulk to Germany for bottling in at least two cellars in the Mosel, and some of the adulterated wines had already been sold when the fraud was discovered, but officials have assured the public that it's not dangerous. State officials say the cellars that bottled the wine knew nothing of the manipulation, which Stiefel said would have been difficult to detect. Unfiltered is left to ask, did they try tasting it?

• In Ukraine right now, the taste of the moment is for slinging cocktails of the Molotov variety, but reports from AWOL president-until-five-days-ago Viktor Yanukovych's vacated compound reveal he had a taste for drinks with a bit less heat. He popped up today, reportedly in Russia, to proclaim, "I still consider myself to be the legal head of the Ukrainian state," but when protestors are taking iPhone shots of each other sitting on your toilet while you're hiding out in the favored destination of people who can never, ever return to their home countries again, it just looks like you're not really in control of the situation. With Yanukovych out of town, protestors, opponents and regular gawkers invited themselves into his estate, Mezhyhirya. According to pictures from Reuters and the AFP, the deposed president stocked his cabinet and set his table with a tasteful array of liquors like Jack Daniel's, Bacardi, Hennessey and other Cognacs, a brandy bottle with the prez's grinning mug on the label, as well as wine bottles that appear to be mostly red Bordeaux and rosé. The Guardian also reported Cristal, which was of course created for Russian Tsar Alexander II … five years before his assassination by political opponents. These revolutionaries have kept things civil at the palace so far, with looting forbidden. After all, who's to say the next president doesn't have a taste for pet ostriches, gold-trimmed bidets, vintage cars, white Steinways, a fake grotto, a fake life-size Spanish galleon on a fake lake containing a fake restaurant where they can perhaps enjoy some fake wine themselves in true oligarchic fashion?

Red blotch may sound like an amorphous alien blob from a 1960s sci-fi flick, but it's actually a serious threat to winegrowers everywhere, and it's now making inroads into Washington state. The disease, which mimics the symptoms of leaf roll, minus the curling of the leaf’s edges, manifests as irregular blotches on leaves, with veins turning partly or fully red. The real issue comes at harvest, with grapes that are typically lower in sugars, higher in acidity and duller in appearance. “We probably didn’t catch red blotch because we misdiagnosed it as leaf roll," said Bob Betz, of Betz Family Winery in Woodinville. "There is, to date, no concrete identification of the cause of the infection. Before we can do anything, we need to identify cause, effect, prevention and cure. Until then, there isn’t much we can do.” Betz is optimistic, though, as the industry, both academic and professional, is taking the issue seriously and actively investigating affected vineyards.

Robert Nolte
Kittanning Pa. 16201 —  March 3, 2014 12:39pm ET
It would be interesting to see what the number is for Wine Spectator subscribers per person per year.

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