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12.23.2008

American and Italian Wine: Movin' on Up!

I'm a proud papa, though I don't think myself at all unique in my position. When my little daughter figured out how to roll over this week and shake her head back and forth, I knew it was only a matter of time before she would get her MENSA membership card and first Olympic gold medal.

Nothing quite stirs our emotions like the successes of our own children, but I have to say I got a little verklempt last week more than once over happenings in the wine world.

I know, I know. I am a total and complete wine geek. But what can I say. I really did have a "moment" when I heard that for the first time ever in history British wine drinkers, those notorious Francophiles, were buying more American wine than French.

The implications of this are quite staggering when you think about it. What this means really is that California wine (95% of US exports) outsold French wine in the UK for the first time in recorded history.

Commentators chalk this up to "television advertising, big brands and cheap rosé" a claim that makes me scratch my head a little as I'm not entirely sure what TV and cheap rosé have to do with it. Rather, I think we've probably been aided more by the falling strength of the dollar and perhaps France's own difficulties in the wine department.

Speaking of which, my second moment of pride this month came when I heard that Italy was poised to become the world's largest producer of wine, knocking France out of a position it has held for the last decade.

Of course, judging success by purely the volume of wine produced is a tricky business as the French can tell you, having dealt with massive oversupply of wine in the bottom end of the market many times. But I have no reason to believe that this development results purely from growth in Italy's lowest quality wines. In fact, if statistics are to be believed, the number of Italian wines that receive some level of certified quality designation continues to rise at a greater rate than production. Which means Italy is not only making more wine, it's making more higher quality wine than ever.

So this month America and Italy get gold stars they can take home and hang up on their refrigerators. I'm damn proud of both of them.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise 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 Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud