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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wine News for 2015

The top wine stories of the year as seen from a California perspective.

California Drought
The biggest news item for the year has been the drought and its effect on farm crops.  Coastal wine grapes have seen several years of early harvests and large crops. Stress on the vines from the years of drought and crop size may have played out with 2015's smaller crop and hit-or-miss quality.

Promise of El Nino
A return to normalcy is everyone's hope. So far in late 2015 northern California rains and mountain snows have been good though this precipitation is from colder Gulf of Alaska storms. A real El Nino is from sub-tropical moisture and generally happens about February. Even with a very wet winter all of the state's water issues won't be solved. North Coast grape growers should be fine if we continue to get decent rain; other areas of the state maybe not.

Direct to Consumer Sales
Sales or wine directly to the consumer (rather than through retail channels) increased significantly over 2014 partly because of the improving economy, but also as more consumers see this as a better way to get what they want. Rather than depending on the outdated and sometimes corrupt three-tier system they go right to the producer to get their wine.

Wine Growth
Wines like Rosé and Moscato get the press. Meanwhile, Sparkling Wines and Sauvignon Blanc are growing in popularity. Why these two? They are relative bargains compared to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet.

Arsenic in Wine
A scare by a company that happens to sell lab testing to check for arsenic in wine. Hmm. Yeah, once the source of this was discovered it kind of blew over.

The Wine Train
A stain on Napa Valley and its touristy wine train when a group of black ladies were kicked off for making too much noise. Was it racism? Was it playing the race card? I don't know; I wasn't there. Doesn't matter as the damage was done.

Small Wineries Selling to Big Companies
Many smaller wineries were sold to larger companies. Gallo has been on quite a buying spree. Among the smaller family wineries a lot of it is older owners wanting to retire. In Sonoma County BR Cohn, Benziger, and J wineries all sold.

Prices Trending Upwards
The economy has improved and people are buying premium wine. The prices of many of these wines has gone up significantly in 2015. When will it stop? When people balk at paying $65 for Pinot Noir or $50 for Zinfandel.