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The Wine Business Year in Review - Fascinating, Surprising, and even a little Strange

December 26, 2013

If you want some interesting stories to take to your next wine tasting event or holiday party read on.  This collection of facts, stories and vignettes all occurred in the world of wine in 2013.  Well-known to wine enthusiasts, most of what follows failed to make world headlines.

  • Treasury Wine, one of the world's largest wine producers of wine in the world reported in June that it will be destroying nearly $34 million dollars of low cost mostly white wine.  The glut results from Treasury overestimating the market for low cost whites and White Zinfandels that cannot be aged.  The company took a $145 million write down resulting in shares of Treasury Wine falling 12%.  The bizarre part of the story?  The wine, nearly one million bottles, will reportedly be destroyed by running a steam roller over the bottles.  This is being done so that Australian government agents can certify the product was destroyed, and Treasury will be eligible to receive a rebate on taxes already paid on the product. Treasury brands include Castello di Gabbiano, Beringer, Chateau St. Jean, Lindeman's, Meridian, Etude, Souverain, St. Clement, Greg Norman Estates, Pepperjack, Stags' Leap Winery, Penfolds, Wolf Blass, and Rosemount.


  • China is on the move. Now the fifth largest wine consuming country in the world, China increased their domestic production considerably in 2013 in an effort to meet demand.  At the current growth rate, total consumption will double by 2016 making China the largest wine consuming nation in the world. Source: Business Insider


  • Through the first half of 2013, a mere 4% of U.S. wine sales were for bottles costing more than $20.  More than half, 52%, were for bottles costing less than $8! Source: The Wall Street Journal.


  • The saga of Andrea di Gisi, the disgruntled employee who single handedly emptied 84,000 bottles worth an estimated $20 million dollars of Case Basse di Soldera Brunello di Montalcino onto the winery floor, continued as an Italian court sentenced him to four years in prison.  Mr Gisi was apparently angry that he had not been afforded lodging on the estate while working there as an employee. The strangeness of the event continues to grow however as the winemaker, Gianfranco Soldera announced that he had withdrawn his estate from the Consorzio del Brunello di Montalcino, a consortium of Brunello wine producers.  The withdrawal apparently came after other wineries offered, to produce a “wine of solidarity” to help provide financial relief for the Soldera estate.  Soldera construed the offer as “unacceptable and offensive, a fraud for the consumer”.  Somehow I think this saga is long from being over.

 

  • Counterfeiting of wine, like any valuable, continued to be alive and well in 2013.  In June, Chicago based, award-winning chef Charlie Trotter was sued by two New York wine collectors.  The two alleged that Trotter knowingly sold them a 1.5l bottle of 1945 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Burgundy in June of 2012 for $46,000.  After inspection by a wine collection appraisal firm, it was determined that DRC did not produce a 1.5l bottling in 1945, the bottle was most likely a champagne bottle, the capsule was cut and had the DRC markings removed, and the two labels on the bottle were photocopied, glued on the bottle and were not equally aged. Whoops!  Resolution of the case is uncertain as Trotter tragically died of a stroke in November.


  • The Japanese know how to celebrate the new release of Beaujolais wine.  The Yunessun resort and spa featured a weeklong event in November dubbed the “Beaujolais Bath”, a unique bath filled with the new release of Beaujolais.

As they say, you can't make this stuff up!  2013 was a fun filled and fascinating year for the wine industry and 2014 promises to continue the trend.

Cheers

Brian Gurnham
Chief Cork Officer




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