The Top 10 Wine Stories of 2012
Only a few days remain in 2012 and that means it’s as good as time as any to look back at the biggest wine stories of 2012. Some years produce lots of monumental events in the wine world. Some, not so much. I’d have to characterize the import of 2012’s wine news as middling to average. Still, there were developments that were of great importance whether measured by the talk they generated or the economic impact they will have.
Here, in no particular order, are the Top 10 Wine Stories of 2012
1. EUROPE EXPERIENCES A SHORT HARVEST, LEAVING A WANT FOR WINE
Pretty much across Europe the 2012 harvest was significantly down in numbers and many say quality. The primary impact will be a significant reduction in supplies of wine leading to higher prices and the big producers looking around for wine anywhere they can get it to serve the marketplace.
2. CALIFORNIA EXPERIENCES BIG, HIGH QUALITY 2012 HARVEST
Coming in somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.7 million tons and up over 3 million tons from 2011, the 2012 wine grape harvest in California will provide the marketplace with a bevy of juice. On top of the generous harvest is word that the quality is outstanding also. After the short 2010 and 2011 harvests, 2012 was welcome new for wineries as well as growers who not only brought in more grapes but started to get higher prices for them.
3. ROBERT PARKER’S WINE ADVOCATE SOLD
Though it is unknown just how much ownership Robert Parker gave up for the $15 million he got from Singapore investors who bought a stake in the venerable Wine Advocate, the news of the December sale sent shock waves through the wine industry. Robert Parker and his Wine Advocate newsletter has been among the most power wine criticism publications for more than two decades, helping make brands with good reviews. The world of the sale sparked great speculation on the future of the publication and wine criticism in general.
4. WINE COUNTERFEITING MAKES HEADLINES
The arrest of Rudy Kurniawan by the FBI for crafting and selling counterfeit Burgundy brought to light to the entire world the inherent risks in the high end wine marketplace and made for salacious reading in the early part of 2012.
5. THE DEADLY CARE ACT DIES
Sometime around March, America’s beer, wine and spirit wholesalers decided to give up on trying to pass H.R. 1161, otherwise known as The Care Act. Originally introduced at H.R 5034 in 2010, the bill introduced in the House of Representatives would have given the states nearly unprecedented power to restrict consumer access to wine. The bill failed to move thanks not only to radical nature of power grab by wholesalers but also due to the near total opposition among all aspects of the liquor industry.
6. CRUSHPAD GOES DOWN
Crushpad, the ambitious start-up that gave hobby winemakers and budding professional winemakers a place to grow from tiny to a bit larger than tiny, seemed to go under in 2012, a victim of expansion and the poor economy. Crushpad had been a potent symbol of the power of wine to inspire wine lovers to try their hand at something they had admired and coveted: the art of making wine. The assets went on the auction block in August.
7. AMAZON AND FACEBOOK FOCUS ON WINE
Amazon.com’s long attempt to gain a foothold in the wine industry finally, after many attempts, found footing when Amazon Wine was launched in November. The very next month, Facebook announced it had begun marketing wine via its new Facebook Gifts program. The move by two of the Internet’s most important players has the potential to profoundly impact online wine sales in the United States.
8. DIRECT WINE SHIPPING ON A ROLL
In September, a Wines & Vines/ShipCompliant study showed that the value of the winery-to-consumer wine shipping marketplace was worth upwards of $1.4 billion. The huge number highlights just how far winery direct shipping has come, how important it is to the industry and suggested that the total direct-to-consumer wine sales channel is extraordinarily vibrant. Add to this New Jersey opening its borders to direct shipping and you have direct shipping again being a key story in the wine industry.
9. TTB SURVIVES THE BUDGET AXE
At the beginning of 2012 there was considerable reason to believe that the TTB, the federal agency that regulates wine would be folded into the Food and Drug Administration, a prospected that scared the bejesus out of the alcohol industry. Word was that Obama, in budget cutting efforts, would knife the agency and leave wine in the hands of those that determine what goes on food labels. It didn’t happen. However, word of the possibility so struck the wine industry that when it didn’t happen, it was big news.
10. THE PUBLISHING OF “WINE GRAPES”
You wouldn’t expect the publishing of a wine book to make the top ten biggest wine stories of the year. Wine books are dime a dozen. However, “Wine Grapes”, published in November and written by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and Jose Vouillamoz, represents a singular academic achievement. By far the most important wine book published in years, “Wine Grapes” provides extensive background on over 1,400 different types of wine grapes and is important not only for the achievement it represents, but for its symbolism. We, as consumers, have access today to a huge array of different kinds of wines from across the globe, produced from a huge number of different grapes.