I was not surprised to see that a couple of wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands made the WS Top 100 list. This is one of the most exciting regions in California, and is home to some of the best Pinot Noir vineyards in the world.
Wine publications have a tremendous amount of influence in the wine industry. Over the years, casual wine consumers have developed a following because of their insightful articles, wine ratings and recommendations.
Chardonnay is often considered California’s ubiquitous white varietal, and there are many ordinary wines made with this grape. But the Shafer Vineyards 2004 Carneros Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay and Aubert 2004 Sonoma Coast Lauren Chardonnay are two wines that stand apart from the masses.
Three Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley were awarded coveted spots on the Wine Spectator Top 100 List. The variables used to create this hierarchy include, “quality, value, availability, and excitement.” 13,500 wines were reviewed by the magazine this year.
Even premium Napa Valley wineries are not immune from the difficult realities of the wine industry. Share Cast recently reported that shares of publicly traded Cosentino Signature Wines (MCOZ) have plummeted over 67% since June. Despite their premium quality wines and excellent tasting room location, (west of Highway 29 in Oakville), Cosentino’s distributors are not selling wine fast enough.
Vines and Wines recently posted an interesting article entitled Phenolics and Oxidation in Wine . Andrew Waterhouse of The American Journal of Enology and Viticulture has been studying the effects of oxidation on wine for quite some time and recently released new research on the subject. Waterhouse contends that it is inorganic compounds in wine such as iron that form “reactive oxygen species.” This leads to browning and other symptoms of oxidation.
Several new sub-AVAs will soon be proposed within the large Paso Robles wine region. But as AVAs get more and more specific, there is a real risk that all of the new names will be unrecognizable to consumers.
Geographical distinctions have always helped to sell wine, and the American Viticultural Area, or AVA system, is a useful marketing tool for wineries. As AVAs get more and more specific in California, the biggest question is whether or not the average wine consumer will see these smaller regions as meaningful.
The Paso Robles AVA has built a very strong geographical brand in recent years. But because the region is so large, and its climate and terrain so varied, several applications for sub-AVAs are in the works. While I completely agree that these new sub-AVAs are justified based on their unique characteristics, I question whether or not this is a good move from a branding point of view.
Famous critics wield enormous power in the wine industry. Luminaries like Robert Parker can literally make or break a wine based on their professional opinion.