Sunday, December 30, 2012

BRAMBLES; Tis' the Season

Winter Vineyard in the Loire
Short days, long nights and the wet chill of Winter now blankets the vineyards of the northern hemisphere.  Bundle up and you can offer yourself a few layers of comfort against these elements so that vineyard workers can maintain and cellar rats can dance with hoses and barrels.  It is the time to access the most recent harvest and to place it into a historical perspective, as has been done for millennium. Too, it is the time to look forward to the brighter, warmer days of the Spring.  With a renewed perspective(isn't that what a New Year is about?), I will again attempt one of the final chapters of my Wine Educator certification mid-February, with the eternal hope that this will be the time I get over the hump.  Honestly, it takes a while for many of us to get over the disappointment of not being able to achieve our important personal goals after we've invested so much time and money into them. A new season or a turn to a new calendar page can then give us the perspective we need.

"And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A peoples dream died there. It was a beautiful dream..." (Black Elk)
Pain and tragedy are an unfortunate part of part of life. But, so too is change. Life, I think is also the increasing loss of innocence.  Perhaps then in this Season of the Winter Solstice, we come to celebrate the joy of innocence before it changes and we become calloused adults hardened by the world's realities. So in speaking of things that give our hardened souls hope, a few news items recently caught my attention in this this Season of hope:

  • New research, reported recently in Wine Spectator, reaffirms that the origins of cultivating grapes for wine most likely began in southeastern Anatolia of modern day Turkey. Part of the 'Fertile Crescent'. this melting-pot region, along with Stone Age neighbors Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, has long been considered the beginnings of western-style villages and civilization. Within the same region about two years ago, archeologist discovered a 6,000 year old Neolithic winery in an Armenian cave, with clay fermenting vats and even a rudimentary wine press!

Perhaps demonstrating how far we have evolved(or not), the nearby village of Sirince, Turkey, long known  for its apple and berry fruit wines, is where a local businessman, Erkan Onoglu, has created a 'Wine of the Apocalypse', or 'Vino dell'Apocalisse'. It was further reported that across the 'Crescent' in the vine growing Ukrainian Crimea, the New World winery has shored up with two weeks of provisions and has set-up 400 beds and five(5) suites in their winery caves to serve post-Apocalyptic consumers. Just in case...

  • Wines delivered direct to domestic consumers (DtC) continue to increase. Wine and Vines reports a 13% greater volume in wine sales compared to12 months ago, topping $224 million in revenue. Off premise sales grew as well, with a reported 6% increase in the last 52 weeks. Reasonably, I think, more American wine consumers have more purchase options than ever before to the economic benefit of the entire segmented industry.

  • New first-time consumers coming into the market constitute the growing segment of the 'millennials'  and the wine industry knows that they represent an engine of growth.  New York Times Business pages recently reported that new 'eco-friendly' containers, out-of-the-box packaging(some literally in a box), and emerging social media tools are increasingly new ways to attract these new buyers. "Beverage packaging is not purely functional, but a way of reaching your buyer"' said David Turner of Turner Duckworth, a prominent design agency. Matt Zimmer, chief executive of Stacked Wines, echoed "we see an industry trend to more convenient packaging". As a result, wines in packaged in eco-friendly boxes, pouches and even plastic bottles are securing more room on retail shelves and growing dollars for retailers. 

  • AP reported recently that Napa winegrowers cannot find enough nursery stock vines to replant their aging cabernet sauvignon vines.  Most of the vines were replanted in the early 90's following an outbreak of that vineyard malady,  phoxllera, that greatly impacted many of the nation's preeminent vineyards. Evolving environmental concerns, increasing sales volumes with steadily increasing bottle prices and the term life replanting of aged vineyards have created a perfect storm that continues to challenge these high end growers. It probably means that Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon is not going to get any cheaper or easier to find as consumer values.  But, it is farming after-all, and farming is cyclical.
Our lives, like that of the vine and the vineyard are a long cycle.  Throughout, there are the peaks and valleys of joy and despair, of inspiration and reward.  Looking forward to the Spring and its cyclical rebirth, we will again be inspired to achieve what is long held in our hearts.  Hopefully, with a glass of wine in our hands and a little Peace on Earth and Good Will Towards Men. Tis' the Season!


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