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Worldbeat – wine making

Worldbeat – wine making – Brief Article

Larry Walker

Earlier this year, the Regulatory Board of the Rioja DOC held a series of events to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the denominacion. One of the key discussions was a roundtable on the global wine market. The discussion, titled Typicity Versus Standardization, was chaired by Luis Gusmao, president of the Market Analysis Group of Experts of the International Wine Organization. The panel reached some general conclusions, which were outlined in a paper issued by the Consejo Regulador of Rioja:

“The global economic and trade imbalance have led to the agreements of the Uruguay Round, with the creation of the WTO and the breaking down of tariff barriers and a general reduction of customs duties to activate trade between signatory countries. This has given rise to greater competition in products from countries which were not previously present on the market, and has encouraged a rush of concentration and mergers between companies, at national and international levels, to be able to adapt the policy of costing and pricing to the new situation.

“This renovation of structures has considerably affected the wine sector, given the atomization of vineyards and wine cellars and the multiplication of brands with little commercial image. However, the wider range of products is one of the distinguishing factors of the sector. There is greater competition from other drinks, such as beer, with a very highly concentrated production and marketing sector, whisky, soft drinks, etc., which are standardized products, manufactured on an industrial scale.

“The way to save this situation in the winegrowing sector preserving the diversity that the consumer demands, is through strategic cooperation, improving the communication provided to consumers in a coordinated way, and establishing appropriate alliance through wide-ranging programs which make up for the structural weakness of the sector.

They do bureau-talk real good in Rioja, don’t they? Or maybe something (a great deal) was lost in translation. At any rate, once you puzzle it out, the statement could have been stronger, but it is a definite step in realizing that the best wines are unique products of a particular place and that story must be told. When wine becomes simply another global commodity, the marketing edge is lost.

New Zealand Harvest 2000

It was the biggest-ever harvest for the New Zealand wine industry, according to the Wine Institute of New Zealand (WINZ) There were 88,100 tons of grapes, a slight increase over the 87,700 tons of 1999. Despite the record level, the harvest fell below the forecast. A larger harvest had been anticipated because of new plantings in the last few years.

There were large increases in Chardonnay (32%), Pinot noir (31%) Merlot (26%) and Riesling (18%). Cabernet Sauvignon was almost flat, up 2% while Sauvignon blanc tumbled by 25%. A full statistical report on the harvest is available at nzwine.com.

New World/Old World Riesling

Chateau Ste. Michelle has just released Eroica, a dry Riesling made in collaboration with Ernst Loosen, a leading German winemaker. Eroica started as an idea of Loosen’s after he tasted a Ste. Michelle Riesling. He later visited the Washington winery and met with white wine maker Erik Olsen.

Loosen directed viticultural practices in eastern Washington and he worked with Olsen on the harvest and winemaking. Yields were cut to 70% of normal. In June, shoots were thinned; in July, leaves were stripped. At harvest, the berries went direct to press and slow acting yeasts were added to intensify the aromas.

In the blending, Loosen and Olsen tasted dozens of small lots, before arriving at the final blend.

Skalli Adds AOC Wines

Skalli, the giant French vintner that owns St. Supery in California, has made its first move into the AOC sector with appellation wines from Coteaux du Languedoc, Minervois and Corbieres under the Robert Skalli label. The wines are all from the 1998 vintage and the target markets are France, Scandinavia, Germany, Canada and Japan, according to Drinks International, a U.K. trade journal. The new wines will retail at about U.S. $10 or under.

The vintner has also extended its range of Vin de Pays d’Oc wines, with a Chardonnay, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Meanwhile, Back in Rioja

The European High Court in Luxembourg has ruled that the Rioja regulation requiring compulsory bottling of wine in the region of origin is justified to protect the quality of the wines and the rights of consumers. The question was originally brought to the court by the Rioja Consejo Regulador in 1993, after Rioja banned the export of bulk wines.

Rioja was backed in its argument by Spain, Portugal, Italy and the European Commission and opposed by Belgium, Great Britain, Holland, Finland and Denmark. Hmmm. Let’s see now, those favoring bottling at origin are all wine producers. Those against… well, to be fair, there is a small amount of wine made in Great Britain. But no one wants to ship it anywhere in bulk and bottle it, do they?

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