California hardly conjures up an image of a wine region struggling with an identity crisis. But there are areas of the Golden State that have never fully defined a winemaking niche.
There’s a reason that the Italian Trade Commission has held an annual wine fair in New York since 2009. Imports of Italian wines to these shores have increased enough that in 2010 Italy surpassed France to reach a market share of 30.3 percent compared to 24.5 percent for France, a country whose position at the top of the import heap was unsullied for decades. No wonder that the phrase often repeated during VINO 2011, held at the Waldorf Astoria the last week of January, was that we are in “a golden age for Italian wine.”
Driving around the enigmatic, fog-shrouded Piedmont region of Italy, I saw steep vineyards that fall away from the winding, mountain roads, and medieval castles looming out of the haze on every other hilltop. I recalled the great Barolo and Barbaresco wines from this region are made from the nebbiolo grape—and nebbia is the Italian word for fog. Why was I wending my way through this misty part of northern Italy? To learn about wine and terroir—and sales, too.
Common wisdom often has it that to make its mark in the wine world, a region has to have a specific wine—often, a specific variety—that will be easily recognizable by average wine drinkers. A wine that provides a signature, a distinctive beacon on the ocean of wine that rolls around the planet. Think California Cabernet, Australian Shiraz, Argentinian Malbec or Alsatian Riesling. That signature grape, it is thought, will act as a locomotive for the rest of the regional or national production. Try telling that to the vignerons of Jura.
Sherry consumption and sales have been on a decline for the last thirty years. Some might believe that the day of Sherry is over, or that it will never return to its previous heights. However, looking at 3,000 years of history in the Sherry region of Spain, known as Jerez locally, gives me faith to exactly the contrary.
In 2002, the year PS I Love You executive director Jo Diaz began keeping records, there were some 60 growers and producers of Petite Sirah (PS) in California. Now, owing in part to her tireless efforts, Ms. Diaz may proudly count in excess of 126 growers and a staggering 723 producers in the state.
Every new Internet development comes with a hyperventilating promise to change the way a winery does business by revolutionizing how it interfaces with its customers by creating a new type of community around the brand. Yet, these innovations rarely become the ubiquitous life changers they are touted to be.