The Most Interesting Wine News of 2013
Every year certain wine-related stories provide particularly interesting distractions, implications and impact. This year was no different, though I’d argue that the number of really big stories declined this year. Nevertheless, I offer the following as my most interesting wine stories of 2013. I invite you all to leave your comments letting me and other readers know your reaction to these stories as well as your own most interesting stories of 2013.
1. The Counterfeit Wine Trial
The Story: Man who mingles in the upper echelon of the wine world, where collectors and obsessives hang out, is indicted and convicted of “forging” investment grade wines in his home, then selling them to (mostly) unsuspecting buyers for millions.
Why It’s Interesting: While illegal, unethical and immoral in the extreme, it was a ballsy play. But the story also raises some pretty interesting issues and questions. Just how does one fake a great old wine? What tools are necessary? Is it that hard to do? And the real interesting question raised by this episode is the obvious one: just how much counterfeit wine IS being produced, sold and held in various collections?
2. The Kendall-Jackson Purchase of Oregon Vineyard Land and Winery
The Story: In 2013, KJ quickly became the largest owner of vineyard land in Oregon. All told, the winemaking giant purchased upwards of 12,000 acres of both planted and unplanted vineyard land in the Willamette Valley, along with the former Soléna Estate winery.
Why It’s Interesting: It’s a land rush in the Oregon wine industry with KJ leading the charge. And this land rush indicates the value of the Oregon wine industry as well as its place as one of the preeminent wine making locales in the world.
3. The Disaster in Bordeaux
The Story: Bordeaux vintners experienced what some have called the worst vintage in two decades with both quality and quantity way down from what is normal. In particular, an early August hailstorm devastated much of the region.
Why It’s Interesting: The most famous winegrowing region in the world experiences a terrible harvest, which in turn will open the doors for competing countries, particularly given the terrible results in Entre Deux Mers, the work horse region in Bordeaux.
4. The Bogus World Wine Shortage Report
The Story: Morgan Stanley releases a report suggesting that there will be a global wine shortage, and in the process notes that this bodes well for their top Australian consumer stock, Treasury Wine Estates. This in turn leads to huge coverage in the media touting the implications of a shortage before a number of reporters suss out the truth, the problems with Morgan Stanley’s numbers and the connection to the firm’s promotion of Treasure Wine Estate stock.
Why It’s Interesting: It’s interesting for a whole host of reasons. On the one hand it demonstrates just how far and wine a bogus story can be retold as long as a fantastic headline is attached. In this respect, it’s a commentary on the nature of news reporting in an era of News Repackaging masquerading as real news. Finally, it’s a reminder that “news” is too often created in the service of big business. It just so happens that this time the world of wine was center stage.
5. How A New Wine Device Is Changing Consumer Access to Wine
The Story: The new Coravin device allows one to access wine in a corked bottle without pulling the cork and thereby exposing the wine to oxidation. It’s a major step in the effort to preserve wine.
Why It’s Interesting: It was rare to see very expensive and very high-end wines served by the glass in restaurants because generally diners pass at the possibility of paying large amounts of money for a wine that may be oxidized. With the introduction of the Coravin, a bottle of wine can be served out of the bottle for months without the possibility of oxidation. This already is leading to a far greater array of wines (many rare and expensive) being offered “by-the-glass”. This is big deal for wine geeks. A very big deal.
The Story: Moscato, the sweet and often spritzy wine, continues to soar in popularity, in part due to its acceptance and promotion within the hip-hop community. In 2013, we saw retail sales of Moscato grow larger than Sauvignon Blanc sales and even move close to overtaking Pinot Noir in total sales..
Why It’s Interesting: The common wisdom is that the promotion of Moscato within the Hip Hop community is a primary factor in pushing up Moscato sales. This makes Moscato one of only two categories of wine that appear to have reaped huge popularity due to pop culture (Pinot is the other, given a healthy boost by the movie Sideways). It is also interesting that Americans continue to confirm their affinity for sweet stuff, something wine sellers in the U.S. have long known, despite the much greater attention given to dry “fine” wine. It will be very interesting to see to what kind of increase Moscato logs in 2013.