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01.29.2007

The Great Winery Boom of 2006

In case you haven't noticed, dear reader, there are a lot of Big Wine Headlines that never make their way here onto Vinography. In addition to my desire to present you with the sorts of stuff that I would want to read were I in your place, I also try to filter out a lot of the stuff that is more industry marketing than real news.

There's been a lot of hype in the last 12 months about the growing market for wine in America: how Americans are drinking more wine than ever; how Americans are drinking more wine than beer; how wine is gaining a foothold on American tables; etc. etc. Most of these headlines trumpet some new study or other (usually initiated by a wine industry group) whose statistics triumphantly proclaim one more giant step towards a United States of Wine.

You know what Mark Twain said about there being "lies, damned lies, and statistics" ? Well that's a pretty good description of my opinion on these sorts of headlines. Never trust a study whose results can be interpreted as benefiting the people who paid for the research.

But wouldn't it be nice if some of these things were actually true? Well, thanks to my friend Jack over at Fork & Bottle, I now have the first piece of news of this sort that I think is really interesting and may be relevant to those hopes.

2006 saw the most number of new wineries started in the United States since anyone started tracking such things. In 2006 over 1000 new labels sprung up across the country, a spike of 28%. California added 465. Washington, 65. Oregon, 49.

The real question, is what does this mean? Or more specifically, why is there such a rush to make more wine? The answer is not simple and I won't even attempt to tease out the social and market forces that are in play. But I do take some comfort from a belief in how the market functions overall. This flurry of activity is not some remarkable coincidence of personal dreams of winery ownership all acted on in a single year. These numbers are evidence of a market reacting to some sense of demand or opportunity.

Simply put, there are a lot of people out there who are putting time, energy, and most importantly, money behind the idea that wine is going to be a hotter product in America ten years from now, than it is today.

I sincerely hope they're right.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.