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Josh Moser
 

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by Josh Moser
 
 
 

 

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September 2014
 

A Case for 'Suggested Restaurant Price'

 
Wineries and distributors exert little or no control over what restaurants charge for their wines, resulting in large price disparities from wine list to wine list. The phenomenon is potentially damaging to a wine brand, as customers may blame the winery rather than the restaurant for an overpriced wine.
 
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December 2013
 

AVAs Are Powerful Tools for Wineries  Access to this article requires a subsciption.

 
Nearly seven years after it was submitted, we received news in late September that the petition to establish 11 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) within the current Paso Robles AVA has been published for comments. This is the critical step at which the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has reviewed all the geological, climatological and historical information presented in the petitions and determined that they pass muster. It’s an important validation of the proposed AVAs and boundaries, and the last step before final approval. 
 
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November 2013
 

Alcohol, Cannabis and the Dawn of a New Era

 
When the U.S. Department of Justice announced in late August that it would not preempt state laws legalizing the regulated recreational use of cannabis, residents of Colorado and Washington state suddenly were transported to 1933. Now as then, states scramble toward regulatory control of a product still seen by many as taboo, clouded in stereotypes of abuse and criminality.
 
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September 2013
 

Melding Business and Wine Production  Access to this article requires a subsciption.

 
Over the years, I’ve attended a few individual sessions of the University of California, Davis, Wine Executive Program and found them very interesting. This year I got a chance to immerse myself in the whole program. Although it was a big time commitment, I jumped at the chance.
 
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April 2013
 

Is There a Market for Sulfite-Free Wine?  Access to this article requires a subsciption.

 
Consumers are increasingly seeking out natural food products, a trend that stems from a growing suspicion of additives and chemical preservatives. Because natural foods are commonly linked to good health and being better for the environment, products marketed in this way are often priced at a premium. Within the wine industry, these marketing campaigns are sometimes manifested through the fast-growing organic sector that, among other things, forgoes the use of added sulfites.
 
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February 2013
 

Massachusetts Laws Not Improving With Age  Access to this article requires a subsciption.

 
Today, 39 states representing 89.5% of the wine market allow for legal, regulated direct shipping of wine from wineries to consumers—but not Massachusetts. In fact, the Bay State holds a special place in our rankings of states on this issue.
 
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November 2012
 

What Ralph Kunkee Gave to Our Industry  Access to this article requires a subsciption.

 
Compared to the standards of some universities, Dr. Ralph Kunkee was a failure. After all, he did not bring in multi­million-dollar research contracts, nor did he publish five or more original research articles per year during his long tenure as an enology professor at the University of California, Davis. But if Dr. Kunkee was a failure, then why have so many people attended tribute events that honor him? What did he really accomplish?
 
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October 2012
 

A Wager About Corks Vs. Screwcaps

 
The number most closely related to cork closures for wine bottles is three. Natural corks can taint a wine with TCA, and for most consumers it’s apparent (when measured in parts per trillion) at 3 ppm. At the wine competitions I coordinate, the percentage of TCA-tainted wines in cork-sealed bottles is also about three. At my company Riverside International, some 20,000 bottles were opened during the past decade, and we calculated that 3% were corked.
 
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May 2012
 

Old World Lessons for Winemakers  Access to this article requires a subsciption.

 
At age 10, Aaron Pott made the decision to become a winemaker. It was on the heels of a trip to Europe with his parents, when a French waiter told him, “Milk is for babies” and offered him a watered down red wine instead. His curiosity piqued, Pott says he began conducting fermentation experiments in the garage, making use of yeast and grape juice concentrate.
 
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April 2012
 

Deconstructing Wine Myths

 
Wine is a subject obscured by myths, and in “Myths Challenge Industry Growth” (Wines & Vines February 2012 issue), Paul Franson provides a very useful service by highlighting several egregious examples. The suggestion that “the wine business” is the guilty party is itself a myth—or, at the very least, an oversimplification of a far more complex phenomenon. The origins of the myths Mr. Franson rightly decries are far more nuanced, and many involve perceptions and actions of trade and consumer alike. Journalists as well should plead mea culpa for endorsing certain myths.
 
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March 2012
 

Imagining No TTB

 

In many industries, the term “government regulation” is almost a swear word. But the wine industry got a chance recently to imagine life without the TTB, and many found it dark and uncomfortable.

 
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February 2012
 

Myths Challenge Industry Growth

 
Many years ago, California winemakers convinced wine lovers that fine wines come in bottles and use corks. That campaign has come to hamper efforts to reduce costs, widen the market and even arguably improve some wines as increasing evidence demonstrates that inexpensive screwcaps are at least the equal of expensive corks for sealing wines.
 
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December 2011
 

Wine Absent From Health Conference

 
At this year’s fifth International Conference on Polyphenols and Health in Sitges, Spain, the words “antioxidant” and “wine” were hardly mentioned by the 700 participants from 47 different countries. This modern resurgence of interest in polyphenols was launched by the antioxidant hypothesis from the University of California, Davis, which proposed to explain the French Paradox, how wine could prevent cardiovascular disease, back in 1993. But today’s cutting-edge work has moved beyond the general concept of antioxidants, now finding exactly which biological pathways are affected, and instead of wine, the foods studied are olive oil, tea, juice and supplements, among others.
 
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November 2011
 

The Experts Weren't California Dreamin'

 
The instrument was new, but the lyrics were familiar: California vintners aren’t making high-value wines, which is to say wines of individuality and authority, for $12 or so.
 
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October 2011
 

The Sorry State of the Wine Business

 
In his Editor’s Letter “U.S. Economy vs. Wine Economy,” (Wines & Vines, September 2011), Jim Gordon conveyed some of the upbeat news for the U.S. wine business. While it’s true that things are better than they were, it doesn’t mean things are good. That applies with special force to small businesses in general and small wineries in particular. The recession created a perfect storm for the small winery, one that can’t help but change the landscape of the wine business. In fact, it already has.
 
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September 2011
 

Making the Most of Winemaker Dinners  Access to this article requires a subsciption.

 
As I eyed the elegantly dressed table and my glass of 1990 Château Lafite Rothschild, I felt like a guest at Buckingham Palace—only with better wine. A few months ago in Pauillac, France, dinner at Château Lafite Rothschild progressed into a most memorable evening.
 
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July 2011
 

Washington's Strengths Are Diversity and Value  Access to this article requires a subsciption.

 
The highly competitive state of the wine market has producers from every region of the globe searching for their own varietal niche. For Oregon it’s Pinot Noir. In Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon. New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc. For a growing region as diverse as Washington’s Columbia Valley, hanging our collective hat on a single varietal is a challenging and questionable proposition. Some industry insiders have criticized Washington for not being identified with a single variety (Washington Wines Seek Identity,” winesandvines.com Headline, March 30), but they miss the point. Washington’s strength is its diversity, not its specialization.
 
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June 2011
 

What Visitors Want From Winery Websites

 
As a wine educator, I spend a lot of time on winery websites researching wines for classes and private tastings. Some websites are quite good; too many are almost worthless. I realize winery websites are not created for the benefit of wine educators; however, the more educators know about a winery’s wares, the better equipped they are to form partnerships with that winery and introduce its wines to the public.
 
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May 2011
 

China Waits for the Sleeping Tiger

 
Today’s U.S. wineries face constant challenges to compete in a mature market against an onslaught of domestic and foreign competition.
 
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April 2011
 

Why Reporting Units Should Be Standardized

 
The subject of standardized units must be one of the driest and most tiresome topics in the wine industry. Or so it would seem, until a winery experiences a dramatic and expensive unit-related misunderstanding such as a massive over addition of SO2, refermentation in bottles of “dry” wine or unanticipated spoilage in the barrel room. These situations are extraordinarily common, and repeatedly hearing these stories can produce unit-standardizing activists and advocates.
 
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March 2011
 

Last Straw for Direct Shipping Holdouts?

 
Direct shipping will almost certainly come to Maryland consumers in 2011. However, the bigger story out of the Old Line State is the Direct Wine Shipment Report released by the comptroller Dec. 31, 2010. Peter Franchot’s comprehensive 257-page report will have a lasting (and for wineries, favorable) impact on the industry for years to come.
 
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February 2011
 

Decision Threatens Winery Privileges  Access to this article requires a subsciption.

 
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia recently issued a decision, Freeman v. Corzine, which represents a substantial threat to the status quo for state winery tasting room, self-distribution, event, festival, restaurant, farmers market and other local winery privileges. As a representative of wineries in 48 states, and knowing how central these privileges are to thousands of successful businesses, I find Freeman more than a little disappointing. Whether the decision ultimately proves the law of the land will depend largely on the industry’s ability to articulate why the decision is wrong.
 
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January 2011
 

Labels That Exploit Grandpa's Traditions

 
Osgood is my alter ego. He comes with me wherever I go just in case one of us has a bright idea that needs debating.
 
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December 2010
 

'Pneumonia's Last Syrah' Reframes a Debate

 
Most followers of wine are aware that Syrah faces a challenging marketplace. Even articles that are complimentary of Syrah (as nearly all of them are) feel compelled to begin with a story about how hard the wines are to sell. A recent article by Eric Asimov in The New York Times began, “There’s a joke going around West Coast wine circles: What’s the difference between a case of Syrah and a case of pneumonia? You can get rid of the pneumonia.”
 
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November 2010
 

Will Napa Cabernet Become a Commodity?

 
As the clock ticks, Napa Valley’s Cabernet Sauvignon wines will become increasingly susceptible to commoditization. A commodity is a product for which there is demand, but it is bought and sold without qualitative differentiation.
 
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October 2010
 

Prop. 23 Needed To Sustain Business

 
A bill on the California ballot in November will challenge the populace either to make a logical decision or an emotional one. The focus of Proposition 23 is Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), a law passed in 2006 that established anti-greenhouse gas standards. Starting in 2012, AB 32 requires that emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. If Proposition 23 passes, it temporarily will suspend AB 32 until California businesses can afford the cost.
 
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September 2010
 

Make the Name Mean Something

 
Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard told me this: “What’s the difference between a case of the crabs and a case of Syrah? The crabs go away.”
 
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August 2010
 

A Simple Solution For California Water

 
If California does not provide an adequate water supply at a reasonable cost to its agriculture industry, competition from globalization will soon turn the state into a third-world country.
 
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July 2010
 

Why Fine Wine Is Not Fine Art

 
I have always wanted to be an artist. I greatly admire talent that can morph a concept into visual allegory, or capture a natural detail and evoke emotion and wonder for days on end. I don’t have a favorite medium (OK, maybe sculpture, photography and literature), but I thoroughly enjoy pieces that seem to delve into the depths of human nature. However, early in adulthood I realized this talent evaded me.  It’s OK, you can’t be everything.
 
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June 2010
 

Back to the Future With HR 5034  Access to this article requires a subsciption.

 
On May 16, 2005, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion in the case of Granholm vs. Heald that significantly altered the way state laws are created and challenged. By concluding that the states of Michigan and New York could not discriminate by allowing in-state wineries to ship directly to consumers while prohibiting out-of-state wineries from doing the same, the court affirmed that the “dormant” part of the Commerce Clause trumps the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. In other words, states have every ability to regulate alcoholic beverages within their borders, but only if the laws treat in-state and out-of-state suppliers evenhandedly.

Exactly five years after the landmark Granholm ruling, the industry is grappling with what could be another seismic shift. HR 5034, crafted by the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) and supported by the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), would “reaffirm and protect the primary authority of states to regulate alcoholic beverages.”
 
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May 2010
 

Wine Wholesalers Get Congressional Hearing  Access to this article requires a subsciption.

 
In response to lobbying by the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), a Congressional subcommittee held a hearing March 18 to receive testimony about “Legal Issues Concerning State Alcohol Regulation.” The purpose was ostensibly to decide whether federal courts should have the power to prevent states from enforcing protectionist and discriminatory state alcohol laws. There was virtually no advance notice of the hearing, which made it extremely difficult to respond to the complex issues under consideration.
 
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April 2010
 

Making Premium Wine In Baja California

 
In the northwest corner of Mexico, Baja California is home to nearly 40 wineries, but even international enophiles seem largely unaware of the region’s rapidly emerging wine industry. In 1521, Mexico became the first country in the New World to be planted to grapes. Despite the nation’s early start in viticulture, the industry laid dormant until the late 1800s and early 1900s, when James Concannon and Antonio Perrelli-Minetti introduced several French varieties, as well as Zinfandel.
 
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March 2010
 

Allow Vintage Dating

 
A winery might have plenty of reasons to use a vintage date on an “American” or other country appellation wine. But under longstanding federal regulations, wineries don’t have the option, since country appellation wines are prohibited from bearing a vintage date. As with many technical rules in the wine business, it’s a case where the purpose of a once-coherent policy restriction has been lost through a combination of market and regulatory changes. It is time for the federal Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) to revise its policy.

Having grown from 1,600 wineries in 1990 to more than 6,000 today, the U.S. wine industry has evolved at a rapid rate. Regulatory policy has gradually adapted along with it, slowly improving with a lot of hard work by our industry’s dedicated policy minders. In a general sense, the regulatory environment for wineries is pretty good. But there’s significant room for improvement, particularly in areas where outmoded policy hinders winery marketing and development.
 
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February 2010
 

Sans Soufre  Access to this article requires a subsciption.

 
Sans soufre. Without sulfur. Everything sounds more profound in French. The average consumer has a vague fear of sulfites anyway, along with nitrates and MSG. Winemakers always point out that some sulfur is produced naturally during fermentation, but we all get nervous when free sulfur dips below 25 ppm. A little at the crusher keeps bad bugs away, while reductively made whites swallow hundreds of grams per ton. Sulfur is the most important additive in preserving wine quality. It is predictable and benign. Is it even worth debating?
 
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January 2010
 

Does Social Media Sell? No, But Use It Anyway

 

In early November, I sat on an industry panel in Paso Robles, Calif., to share ideas about the possibilities of social networking. The three of us on the panel were chosen because we were early adopters of blogs, Facebook, and/or Twitter. An hour-long discussion included a flurry of statistics showing the seismic shift in marketing away from traditional media toward social networking sites and lots of “best practices” tips.

 
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December 2009
 

Blaufrankisch, Rkatsiteli, Are You Kidding Me?

 

As a kid trolling the Atlantic City boardwalk, I’d pause at the huckster’s spiel on vegetable slicers. In those pre-Martha days, I was mesmerized by the pitch for the bonus radish flower-maker, a nifty implement destined for back-of-drawer uselessness.

 
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November 2009
 

Wine Packaging For Leaner Times

 

At Astor Wine & Spirits in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, boxed wines from the Rhône, Bordeaux and Argentina are nestled next to bottles on the shelf. “There’s a slew of great offerings in larger alternative formats,” says head buyer Lorena Ascencios. And consumers are seeking them out—if not always in droves at Astor, certainly out of curiosity, she says. More generally, year-over-year sales of premium box wines have increased nearly 30%, according to IRI Scan Data.

 
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October 2009
 

Prepared to Be Banned in 'Bama

 
Two years ago, I embarked upon the goal at Hahn Family Wines of becoming the wine industry's leader in social media marketing and viral marketing. We invested in training regarding blogs, Twitter, I Flips (Integrated Flight Prediction Systems), Facebook, Flickr and many other programs and ideas too numerous to mention. In the beginning, many were skeptical of the direction I was pursuing.
 
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September 2009
 

Winning With Megaphones

 
In today's web-driven world, customers have more power than ever. Thanks to "consumer-generated media"--blogs, social networking pages, message boards, product review sites and now Twitter--even a single customer can broadcast his brand testimonials or complaints to millions.
 
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August 2009
 

Are Screwcaps Still an Issue?

 
One thing I can say about screwcaps without fear of contradiction: They're much easier to handle than corks.
 
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June 2009
 

Grapes: They Are Varieties, Not Varietals  Access to this article requires a subsciption.

 

Varietal is the spice of life. I know; it should be: Variety is the spice of life. Judging by the way the wine industry uses the term varietal, you would think the term variety has outlived its usefulness. At the risk of bringing back unpleasant memories of your high school English teacher, I have a bone to pick with the wine industry.

 
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May 2009
 

Updating the Supply Chain

 
If the current economic downturn has demonstrated any one key point, it is that good economic times mask the shackling effect that archaic regulations have on commercial activity.
 
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April 2009
 

What Chardonnay Taught Me About Site Selection

 

'Great wines are associated with particular vineyards,' Tom Jordan told me in 1976. I agree. When I was a student at the University of California, Davis, my enology professor, Dr. Harold Berg, suggested that 85% of the quality of a wine is associated with grape origin.

 
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March 2009
 

Seven Key Actions to Ride Out the Economy

 
All the economic forecasts I read for a global turnaround vary from eight months to 18 months or more. The wine industry is showing that it is not immune to the impacts of this recession. While we all tend to get wrapped up in the operations of our businesses, now more than ever it is important to step back and take key actions to grow cash. Understanding how to protect and enhance your cash position will give you the flexibility to ride out this downturn. On the brighter side, when the turnaround comes, you'll be in a better position to take advantage of the rebound. Here are a few of my thoughts on this:

How to grow cash and equity

Run a new profit scenario that forecasts volume down from last year. You can decide the decrease, but I recommend down 30%-50%. If this sounds doomsday-ish, that's my intent. Scenario planning will give you an idea of just how bad the bad news could really be.
 
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February 2009
 

Keep the Green Light On

 
What happens when you put five gods of green on one panel to talk about business? At the Green Wine Summit in December, you got a standing-room-only audience, unexpected humor and a reality check about the famous triple bottom line of sustainability. It was inspiring in unanticipated ways.
 
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January 2009
 

Sustainable Growing Starts With Pricing  Access to this article requires a subsciption.

 
The surplus of winegrapes in California appears to be over. Due to drought, frost, spring winds and heat spells, the 2008 winegrape crop is estimated to be smaller than 2007's statewide. I expect the 2008 crop will come in below 3 million tons--significantly lower than the 3.4 million tons estimated by California Agricultural Statistic Service. This drop should complete the market-balancing trend needed since the bumper crop of 2005. The crop size can be categorized as a below-average crop overall, with the interior regions producing slightly below average, and the coastal regions producing well below average.
 
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December 2008
 

Was Prohibition About Drinking or Taxes?

 
On April 16, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany. A vital part of Wilson's plan was a food control bill designed to direct vital food materials to aid in the war effort. The Anti-Saloon League and temperance movement that had been agitating against alcohol for decades saw an opportunity. Because hard liquor production required grain, sugar and other items, they used strong patriotic arguments to push legislation against liquor.
 
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November 2008
 

Merchandising Made Simple

 
Consumers find wine at their local retail shops by varietal, flavor intensity, price, country of origin and food pairing. Some retailers group wine in an indiscernible way that leaves consumers muttering, "I have no clue how to find anything here."
 
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October 2008
 

The Downside of Granholm v. Heald

 
The Granholm v. Heald decision in 2005 sparked impromptu consumer celebrations around the country, stories in national media about how the Supreme Court had sided with wine lovers and struck down restrictions on interstate wine shipment, and general euphoria among small and medium-sized wineries that rely on direct shipping. Slightly more than three years later, more people in more places can receive wines direct from wineries, but the impacts have been far from uniformly positive for wineries and their customers.
 
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September 2008
 

Sharing Information For the Good of All

 
This June, the French government's Agronomic Research Institute (INRA) hosted the Oxygen Management in Wines Conference at its Montpellier, France, campus. The one-day meeting was organized to help winemakers better understand how to control oxygen in winemaking.
 
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August 2008
 

Perfect Closure Remains Elusive

 
The battle pitting corks, screwcaps, plastic corks and glass stoppers against each other continues. In fact, recently in a wine store in Connecticut I even saw a bottle of Austrian Grüner Veltliner with a crown cap!
 
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July 2008
 

Faulty Logic on Oak Alt

 
I recently dug into some recommended reading published in ASEV's summer/fall 2007 "Platform" newsletter, written by Dr. G. Stanley Howell, recipient of the 2007 ASEV Merit Award. In the article, Howell remarks about the value of grasping the difference between "unanswered questions versus unquestioned answers." Howell points out: "We are more hindered in the pursuit of understanding by the 'unquestioned answers' than its alternative."
 
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June 2008
 

The World's Best Job

 
Son, you need to get a job.

I applied at Starbucks. They don't need help right now.
 
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May 2008
 

Remember GWSS? You Bet We Do

 
I just finished reading the March 2008 Wines & Vines article, "Anyone Remember GWSS?" While the glassy-winged sharpshooter has dropped from the headlines, few winegrape growers need reminders that GWSS is still a threat to California's grape and wine industry. Although the article was pretty complete, it's important to look at two other related issues.
 
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April 2008
 

'Serving Facts' Serve Whom?

 
The Tax and Trade Bureau of the Treasury Department (TTB) is currently reviewing comments on a rulemaking proposal to mandate a "serving facts" information panel on all alcohol beverage labels, in type larger than two millimeters, set off in a box, and specifying alcohol content by volume, calorie and nutrient information (carbohydrate, fat and protein).
 
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March 2008
 

Our Skepticism of Science

 
People love the phrase "in vino veritas"--in wine there is truth. But I wonder sometimes whether "in vino scientia" holds as well. Is there any true knowledge with wine?
 
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February 2008
 

Direct Packaging Is Lame

 
I'll get this out of the way right up front: Direct-to-consumer wine packaging is lame. Minimalist. Underwhelming. Thoughtless. Cheap.
 
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January 2008
 

Wine Label Marketing Babble: When will it end?

 
If I want to read a book, I don't pick up a bottle of wine, but so many labels nowadays carry elaborate narratives and back-stories that are supposed to make the wine more "interesting" or "enticing" or "hip" (especially hip) that buying wine is like reading the back of the cereal box at breakfast. I mean, isn't the idea of marketing the quick sale, rather than bogging down a potential consumer with a chapter of War and Peace printed in teeny-weeny type?
 
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December 2007
 

Ohio's Direct Shipping Law

 
The ongoing debate over direct shipment recently took an interesting turn in Ohio. Beginning Oct. 1, direct shipment from wineries to consumers became legal, but only as long as the winery in question produced less than 150,000 gallons of wine annually. The new regulations are ostensibly non-discriminatory, in the sense that they apply to both in-state and out-of-state wine producers. As a matter of fact, however, the overwhelming majority of Ohio wine producers fall well below the 150,000-gallon cap, so in practical terms, the law clearly discriminates against out-of-state producers.
 
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November 2007
 

Viewpoint

 
While single life has its advantages--none come to mind--it was time for me to start dating again. It was a warm Friday night back in July. I showered, shaved, put on a pair of big-boy pants, and hit the town like it had never been hit before. My destination was a new seafood restaurant near the courthouse called Squid Pro Quo. With any luck I would meet the woman of my dreams--a woman with low self-esteem looking to settle.
 
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October 2007
 

The Grower's Challenge

 
I am a winegrape grower--a proud California farmer producing the raw product going into the state's most recognized agricultural treasure: California wine! The buyers of my crops, my many vintner friends, transform my grapes into wine, thus preserving that which my land has provided.
 
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September 2007
 

The Overblown Alcohol Issue

 
During a recent seminar on high elevation winegrowing, a marketing panel sparked a lively, interactive discussion on a topic that seems to be front and center in the wine world: high alcohol wines. Why is this such an issue? Is it because of health factors? Does it come under the heading of eating and drinking lighter? Is it just about taste? Or is it just plain uncool to enjoy drinking big, robust wines?
 
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August 2007
 

Cork and Sustainability

 
When Willamette Valley Vineyards (WVV) in Oregon became the world's first winery to commit to using cork from a cork forest certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Rainforest Alliance, it didn't make much of a splash in the wine press.
 
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July 2007
 

Vinifera Obscura or: I Guess I Just Wasn't Made for These Times

 
ML: Doc, I feel like a three-legged dog in a four-legged world.
 
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June 2007
 

Sticks & Stones

 
Remember Rhine wine, Mountain Chablis and Hearty Burgundy? When all fizz was Champagne, and Sherry and Madeira could be found in the cooking aisle?
 
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May 2007
 

Points: A Winemaker's Take on Critics

 
His cellar was new. From the vintages, it looked like he had collected wine for about a decade. I spied a couple of my wines on the rack, so I commented facetiously, "It's obvious your wines are well chosen." Missing my drift, he replied, "Yes, every wine in this cellar has at least 95 points from either the Wine Advocate or the Wine Spectator." To this collector, it was all about points.
 
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April 2007
 

Slipping Into Darkness, or: The Gospel Truth of Pinot Noir

 
"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been 40 years since my last confession."
 
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March 2007
 

A Warning Label About Nothing

 
If the U.S. government gets its way, wine bottles could well have four information labels imposed on them--and one of them would be a fraud.
 
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February 2007
 

The Press Release

 
A dialogue between PR pro and prospective client.
 
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January 2007
 

Defending the Sommeliers

 
In the September issue of W&V, I read a thought-provoking editorial by Bryan Garbutt, "Getting Past The Millennial Gatekeepers." In a nutshell, Garbutt argued that many of the young sommeliers and wine buyers, 21-29 years of age, are basically too adventurous in their selections of wines and out of the loop about the concept of brand loyalty. In short, it was a fascinating market-driven opinion, but also very one-sided.
 
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December 2006
 

Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the 100-point Scale

 

I love the 100-point scale. Of course, it hasn't always been that way. Years ago, when I wore the hat of a retailer (plaid propeller beanie), I hated the system and the publications that supported it.

 
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November 2006
 

The Problem With On-premise Pricing

 
The "new paradigm" Bryan Garbutt described in his October "Opinion/Analysis" piece is certainly not new to this retired industry veteran. The "gatekeepers" are not new, just younger. For more than four decades, what I ran into went something like this:
 
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October 2006
 

Genetically Modified Yeasts: Time for a Ban

 
I'm going to make a prediction. I reckon the next battleground in the wine world will be the controversial use of genetically modified (GM) yeasts in winemaking. Plenty of these genetically modified strains already exist in laboratories around the globe, but they haven't previously been commercialized because of the negative reactions of consumers to GM food products. Scientists are engineering beneficial traits into wine yeasts, even though they know they won't be useful for commercial winemaking for the foreseeable future, for two reasons. First, they're betting that public opposition to GM technology will one day recede, at which point they'll be in a good position to move. Second, they can learn a lot of useful information from using these introduced genes, which will then inform conventional breeding and selection programs.
 
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September 2006
 

Getting Past The Millennial Gatekeepers

 
The fine dining industry is possessed of a small but powerful group of wine buyers--gatekeepers if you will--who control access to some of the most prestigious wine-list real estate in America. These are wine lists that any maker of world-class wine would love to be a part of; wine lists that can make a defining statement about quality, prestige, discriminating taste and current fashion among wine labels.
 
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August 2006
 

Winning A Battle, Losing A Culture

 
If ever there were an admission that something's rotten in Denmark (and a lot of other countries as well), it was the statement a few weeks ago by a European Union official that proposed a radical change in the way European wine is made.
 
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July 2006
 

Biodynamics In The U.S.: A Mere Marketing Ploy?

 
Not too long ago, I crawled between my sheets with some exciting reading material--the new wine regulations for the United States branch of Demeter Association. I was particularly struck to learn that Demeter owns the trademark for the word "biodynamic" in the U.S. So, unless your winery is Demeter-certified, "biodynamic" cannot appear on your label. Getting deeper into the reading, I underlined furiously and then got out of bed and blogged.
 
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June 2006
 

Nothing Is Revealed

 
The international conference on terroir held earlier this year at UC Davis was a stimulating and, at times, provocative meeting.
 
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May 2006
 

Label Talk: Let's Make It Meaningful

 
Like so many of the wines being produced today, wine terms themselves are becoming homogenized and, as a result, obsolete. The term "boutique" is a great example.
 
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Viewpoint

 
April 2006
 

Have Intrastate Wine Competitions Outlived Their Usefulness?

 
Many states, such as New York, Missouri and Illinois, still have "closed" yearly wine competitions that out-of-state wineries are barred from entering. This is in sharp contrast to states such as Indiana, where the competition is "open" and entries are encouraged from all 50 states and foreign countries. Indiana's competition has become one of the largest and most highly respected in the nation, with 3,685 entries in 2005. Wineries winning medals there boast of them in the national media.
 
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March 2006
 

Look for the (Global) Black Cloud

 
The optimism was so thick in the aisles of the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento a few weeks ago that you could scoop it onto your apple pie and have Good News du Jour a la Mode.
 
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Viewpoint

 
February 2006
 

Another Hot Topic

 
Be it fashion, cars or food, American consumers are seemingly obsessed with fads, and the wine trade is no exception. Each and every year sees the emergence of a darling new buzz word that's bandied about by our nation's retailers, restaurateurs, distributors and wine press. Canopy management, terroir, brettanomyces and TCA have all had their day in the sun. Last year gave rise to yet another--pardon the pun-- hot topic: alcohol content.
 
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Viewpoint

 
January 2006
 

GM Vines: Is The Price Worth Paying

 
The possible introduction of genetically modified (GM) grapevines into California vineyards is currently causing heated debate. At one extreme, scientists are so familiar with the use of genetic modification as a research technique, they can't see what all the fuss is about. At the other extreme, tree-hugging environmentalists see GM crops as a threat to be resisted at all costs.
 
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