Saturday, September 10, 2005

Comment on Wine Spectator Artcles from 10/15 Issue

Ther are two minor articles from the new Wine Spectator (10/15/05) that I wanted to comment on: First, new AVAs; Second, Major Changes Proposed for Labels. To begin with there is reported in this issue three new AVAs (American Viticultutal Areas) - one (Horse Heaven Hills)in Washington State covering 6,000 planted acres within an approved region of 570,000 acres! - one in California (High Valley - 14,000 acres) in Lake County and the last in Minnesota called Alexandria Lakes and containing only one winery. The problem that I find myself dwelling on whenever I read about new AVAs is why do we need these AVAs and what are their distinguishing characteristics that seperate them from the region next door. Why should they be considered so special that they are elevated to a status level worthy of of an "approved" designation. I often hear stories within the industry that AVAs are approved because one or two grower/producers from that region want to capitalize on the improved status that an AVA designation might allow them, and so they get the "approval" passed through the USTTTB on what could be considered marginal data. Perhaps this is not always the case, but anytime a new region is created it should only be with the strongest eveidence and data and need. The United States is a long way away from having and appelation system that comes close to what is used in Europe, and I am not suggestingt that what is done in Europe is perfect - look at the number of successful wines that break the mold of the AOC or DOC systems - but it does create a standard and base of confidence for consumers to rely on when purchasing wine. There is no confidence in the US AVA system because there are no restriction on yields, grape varietals, sugar and alcohol levels, minimum aging, etc., within any US appelation. This leads me into the second article dealing with a recent move to drop the requirement for vintage wines to have a minimum of 95% from a specific vintage to carry that year. The Wine Institute want the requirement to be 85% for State County and multi-county appelation wines. This is nothing more that a ploy by the large industry producers to be able to even out their productions and make increasingly less interesting and stylistically centric wines. Wine should be a reflection of place and show some distinction - it should vary frome vintage to vintage (as should prices based on the quality of a vintage) otherwise it becomes boring and mundane and flavorless - just like what has happened with beer in this country: lousy, bland, flavorless and cheap. Big corporate just sees wine as yet another comodity to pump through the system. Keep the vintage requirement at 95% for all wine and let the consumer judge what they want to drink based on what tastes good.


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