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Ron DiLauro

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Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Ron DiLauro » Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:48 pm

Here I am, a shade past 60 and then some. I started in the Wine/Liquor industry in the early
1970s, then embarked on a career with IBM from 1974 until I retired in 2009. During my IBM days, I was kept up to speed with Wines, running wine dinners, having wine parties, working at retail shop to run their wine tastings. Plus, I never stopped drinking wine for wine’s sake to better understand the terrior, the vine, the grape , the winemaker and finally the wine.

Back in the early 1970’s wine consisted of the fabulous French Bordeaux and Burgundies, the outstanding Italian noble wines, the famous Rhine’s and Mosel’s from Germany , and then of course the American Jug wine

I was fortunate enough to be trained by an aging sommelier. He spent hours with me discussing wines, tasting wines, classifying wines and much more. At the age of 24, I was very adept in my wine skills. I became president of the Long Island Chapter of Les Ami dVin and hosted countless number of large and very private expensive tastings.

Back then, it was also the cocktail era, so that the Gin’s, Rye’s and Scotch’s (Vodka was still a number of years away from being a mainstay) made their impacts. Of course you need to have a wide selection of cordials to satisfy any cocktail request.

Beer, your choices were Pabst, Schaffer, Miller and Rheingold. Several years later Anheuser-Busch started to become a household word.

Social drinking back then was divided into two major groups. The wine buffs who wouldn’t blink an eye at spending $45 for a wine just for the evening. And as always, the cocktail lovers made their presence.

So, from a retail point of view, inventory was concentrated in those areas. To round things off, a few jug wines from California, by a new company called Gallo, and from some of the New York State Finger lake sweet wines. Depending on where you owned your Liquor store, you would decide on what the ratio breakdown would be for all of these items.

FAST FORWARD…………. to the California Explosion!!

I think no one person had a greater impact on wines from California, and then Robert Mondavi had.
In the ‘60s, and the ‘70s California made its mark on the big jug wines. The ones you bring to picnics or at large family gatherings. Robert Mondavi in many ways was the pioneer who blazed the California wines on to the face of the earth. So many other wine masters followed his lead. I think it all came together when Chateau Montelna (California Chardonnay) won first prize in the 1976 International wine taste off. Before then, the Europeans looked down their noses at American wines. How, could a California vineyard top all the great French Chablis! Impossible, but it happened!

Wine had made it to the USA! Over the next 20 to 30 years there was an explosion of Californian wines, in fact wines from New York, Oregon started to hit the retail market. These wines were good, they were made in small batches, hand crafted wines, the love of a winemaker and its land.
This trend continued through the millennium and into the 201x’s. Nothing is going to stand in the way of the American consumer wanting the best wines at the best value. Wine bars opened up, Wine Forums and Blogs started to crop up everywhere. Magazines were filed with every type of wine advertisement of review you could think of.

When you went to dinner, the waiter would bring you the “Wine List” People wanted to know more about wines. Online classes started to crop up to satisfy the public’s thirst for the knowledge of wines.

The wine shops of the 20xx were classy, made to feel elite. The high priced wines were held up on pedestals or behind iron gates. There was a certain ambience that was felt in every store.

Stores began in house wine tastings. Not only to educate the consumer’s palate but to expose them to so many different wines. Wine Clubs cropped up everywhere. You could join any one of those online clubs and have different wines sent to your house.

The Corkscrew, The Bottle, The Wine was it is heyday in the USA!

People who think outside the box began to envision something so much more. Sam Adams brewery from Boston, MA made a bold stand in creating ‘crafted’ beers for the knowledgeable consumer. Sam Adams brewery opened the door for crafted beers just as Robert Mondavi did for Califironia wines.
Tthe wine drinkers in the ‘70s, ‘90s and more could speak about each grape, its characteristics, is bouquet,etc. Today, the avid beer enthusiast talks about Water ,Hops and Malt. After all, beer was so simple, German laws would allow beers to be brewed ONLY containing those 3 simple ingredients, nothing more. Today there are so many variations of Hops, Dry-Hopped, Wet-Hopped, what kind of malt to use and how much. The list of beer styles is longer than the list of wine styles.

That was ONLY the beginning. Small crafted breweries started to crop up all over the states. Each had a brewmaster who knew exactly what he/she wanted to make. Today, most Wine/Liquor/Beer stores have cooler space for new and upcoming beers. Its an explosion that still has not reached its peak.

In the overall scheme, making beer is easier to do then making wine. But that scheme is beginning to narrow. Why, because today’s brewmasters want to develop something different, more exciting than before. They are on a quest. Each week, we hear about new beers, new styles, etc. The correct glassware is also becoming standard when it comes to drinking beers. Today, we are a far cry from just opening a can of ice cold Coors.

Not to allow the ‘suds’ to take front lines, the liquor industry has expanded in every possible direction. Some of it being silly as in all the flavors of vodka there are today, along with every possible taste. One such liquor was a PB&J. Yes!, at the first sip it was peanut butter and on the way down, you could taste jelly.

Let’s put those ‘gimmicks’ aside and look at the serious art of distilled liquors. Just walk into any liquor store and browse over their spirits section. The days of 4Roses, Seagram’s and J&B have exploded just as beers have. Everyone is turning in various types of hand crafted whiskeys. It could be bourbon, a single malt scotch, a French whiskey, a white whiskey and so much more. There are so many different types of whiskeys out there now. There are new and innovative ways in distilling and aging liquor. Many sprits today are aged in wine oak barrels. This allows the whiskey to develop additional flavors. Just as the wine master formulated his style of wine, the spirit master does the same. We are a long way from the days that it was only 7&7s or Scotch and water.

Just like today’s beer drinkers, there is a huge following for different types of spirits. The Whiskey Advocate publication concentrates on all the new spirits and rates the products very much the way Wine Spectator rates the wines.

You can’t help but be caught up in this new wave. Its moving so fast and everyone wants a piece of it.
The age groups varies, from the mid 20’s to those in their 50’s and older.

People have always appreciated fine art works. Today, people are appreciating the efforts being put into making hand crafted beers or spirits. The labor of one persons vision on making a product is so very evident today. Almost every week, you will read about a new beer being made, a new type of whiskey being produced. Who would even think that Single Malt Scotch is now being made in Texas!

I have never seen so much enthusiasm and eagerness to learn . Today’s consumer wants to understand how one wine/beer/liquor master produces high quality products. They want to learn and know more and more about the various products.

We are experiencing sort of a new revolution in terms of alcoholic beverages. This era is growing rapidly and right now I do not see any end to it.

I’ve been associated with wines now for over 45 years. I still am a wine geek, I love wines. But, I have not seen any new exciting products to come out. Winemakers play with their blends, tweak this or that, but in reality nothing really new.

California has its Cabernet Sauvignon today as it did 40 years ago, just as Italy has their Chiantis.

“Blends” have been the more common new wines being produced. Its really just a twist on what the French have been doing for decades. Understanding French Bordeaux can be a long term project, but so very worthwhile. The French Bordeaux is a Blend. Depending on the winemaker and what they want to see, their wines have the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot grapes in various percentages. So, todays blends are doing what has been successfully done since the 1800’s

Stil, your wine shop will have the standards. The Cabernets, the Merlots, Red Zinfandel, Pinot Noir,
Chardonnay, etc. Those grapes have been around for a long time. What you might see is how a country becomes the ‘popular’ on in wine production. After the USA, Australia opened a new range in products, then Chile, now Argentina…… But the wines are basically the same.

Are people going to get stale because there is nothing new and exciting in the wine market?

I hope not, wine is an art; it is something that should be appreciated and enjoyed. Pairing a wine with a specific meal creates a heavenly environment. I cannot think of anything more special that opening a fine bottle of wine, allowing it to come into the world and provide you with so many different senses, that it comes close to perfection


Hand crafted Beer and Liquor are now starting to do the same. I have been lucky enough to be part of this explosion. There have been beers and whiskeys that I have tasted over the past 18 months that I could never have imagined existed. The flavor, the boldness, the subtle taste, the lingering aftertastes, and so much very more.

So, are we seeing the fall of wines in the USA in favor of Beer and Liquor?

Ask me and I will just say, “NO……. We are just beginning to see an era where craftsmanship is a key word. Wines have always been there, now Beer and Spirits are exploding onto the market for everyone to enjoy.
Ron - Lets Talk Wine!
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Jon Leifer » Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:23 am

Ron: thank you for the wonderful and nostalgic post..Am a shade past 70 and then some, moved Upstate NY back in 1983(corporate re-lo) but fondly remember attending a number of Les Ami dVin tastings in the NYC area back in my single days, ..
If memory serves, I probably subsecribed to their magazine as well ..get to taste some craft beers from time to time..Its been a while since I sipped any bourbons , still have some bourbon languishing in my cellar from the old days, don't drink the hard stuff anymore....With the exception of an occasional beer, I am primarily a wino who is drinking down his cellar..
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Rahsaan » Mon Apr 08, 2013 9:24 am

Ron DiLauro wrote:Stil, your wine shop will have the standards. The Cabernets, the Merlots, Red Zinfandel, Pinot Noir,
Chardonnay, etc. Those grapes have been around for a long time. What you might see is how a country becomes the ‘popular’ on in wine production. After the USA, Australia opened a new range in products, then Chile, now Argentina…… But the wines are basically the same.

Are people going to get stale because there is nothing new and exciting in the wine market?


In broad strokes I think something like the natural wine movement has been 'new and exciting' and attracted many young people. Orange wine has also been quite trendy. There are also more specific categories that have become more popular (e.g. dry German riesling, Austrian GV) with wines that definitely do not taste the same like the industrial wines that you reference above. There are also all those 'cute' and annoying ways of selling wine by taste profile or emotion, that may be sacrilegious to someone like me but may work with the casual consumer.

Of course I'm not in the industry and I don't have any hard data on the direction of these trends (Hoke?), but from what I see and from the places I go it seems like wine is spreading its influence in American culture. Whether that spread is as rapid as the spread of other products is another question.
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Mark Lipton » Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:04 pm

Rahsaan wrote:
In broad strokes I think something like the natural wine movement has been 'new and exciting' and attracted many young people. Orange wine has also been quite trendy. There are also more specific categories that have become more popular (e.g. dry German riesling, Austrian GV) with wines that definitely do not taste the same like the industrial wines that you reference above. There are also all those 'cute' and annoying ways of selling wine by taste profile or emotion, that may be sacrilegious to someone like me but may work with the casual consumer.

Of course I'm not in the industry and I don't have any hard data on the direction of these trends (Hoke?), but from what I see and from the places I go it seems like wine is spreading its influence in American culture. Whether that spread is as rapid as the spread of other products is another question.


I have no data, either, Rahsaan (unlike Hoke) but from my vantage American consumers have shifted from consumption of jug wines to an increasing interest in "fine" wines, often what we used to call the "fighting varietals," 750 mL bottles selling for under $10. More sophisticated consumers have been drawn to e.g. NZ Sauvignon but there's still a huge market out there for cheap, palatable wines that aren't particularly character-filled.

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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Tom N. » Mon Apr 08, 2013 9:41 pm

Ron,

Interesting short history of the evolution of wine, beer and liquors into the modern world. From my perspective an American living in Canada for the last 20+ years and a shade over 60 also, I think the revolution of beer and liquor is catching up to wine and starting to be on equal footing, quality wise with more and more consumers demanding quality beers and liqours. I happen to have a son who is brewer at a craft brewery in Toronto and he keeps me up to date with all the latest beer trends. HE claims making beer is more complex than wine and asked me what wine has such a process as complex as making beer and I answered him - sparkling wine! He said, yes that is true because it is most like beer (I detect a beer bias here). I think that Rahsaan's point about organic and biodynamic wines is relatively new territory for wine. The other trend in wine I have noticed is the use of more relatively obscure grape varieties for blending and varietal wines, adding something new to the wine offerings. In Ontario we have quite a few wineries that offer chardonnay musque wines as well as one wine maker who offers his own specially selected clone of gamay called gamay droit. I have tasted both varieties and really liked their taste profiles.

I also think the line between wine and beer is blurring significantly. Cherry beer aged for a year in pinot noir barrels a la supplication from Russian River brewery, sour fruit beers in the Belgian style from Cascade brewery in Portland and gorgeous cherry and raspberry fruit beers from New Glarus brewery. All craft breweries at the top of their game producing wine-like craft brews.

The same could be said for the line between beer and liquor with bourbon barrel aged stouts gaining in popularity with craft brew geeks. Some of the best scotch I have tasted was aged in sherry casks for the blurring line between wine and liquor.

I will admit that wine makers tend to be more conservative in general but there are pockets of creative innovation all around. You just have to search for them.
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Rahsaan » Mon Apr 08, 2013 10:01 pm

Tom N. wrote:HE claims making beer is more complex than wine and asked me what wine has such a process as complex as making beer...


It depends where you start the analysis. Compare growing high-quality wine grapes to growing wheat for beer.
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Brian K Miller » Mon Apr 08, 2013 10:29 pm

Tom N. wrote:
I also think the line between wine and beer is blurring significantly. Cherry beer aged for a year in pinot noir barrels a la supplication from Russian River brewery, sour fruit beers in the Belgian style from Cascade brewery in Portland and gorgeous cherry and raspberry fruit beers from New Glarus brewery. All craft breweries at the top of their game producing wine-like craft brews.



Sour Belgian ales (and amazing cherry lambics) have been one of my BIG DISCOVERIES of the past year. Just love them.

A new brewery is opening in Berkeley this year making only Belgian-style sour ales!
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Tom Troiano » Tue Apr 09, 2013 7:27 am

Ron,

The data doesn't appear to suppport your claim.

http://www.wineinstitute.org/resources/statistics/article86

My sense is that the price of the stuff that interests you - the fabulous, outstanding and famous wines you speak of - are so high priced today (largely driven by new demand in Asia/BRIC) that YOUR interest in those specific wines is less.

Among my demographic (40-60 years old) I see a huge increase in wine consumption but its not Classed Growth Bordeaux, Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Brugundy and Brunello its brand names that you see in grocery stores.
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Brian Gilp » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:02 am

Rahsaan wrote:
Tom N. wrote:HE claims making beer is more complex than wine and asked me what wine has such a process as complex as making beer...


It depends where you start the analysis. Compare growing high-quality wine grapes to growing wheat for beer.


While I agree with Rahsaan, I don't think one has to start at the growing to argue that making quality wine is more complex than making quality beer.

Beer is a recipe product. Once you have a recipe you like and have mastered sanitation, it is easy to replicate. The quality of the ingredients do not significantly change year to year.

Wine is different every year. The winemaker needs to adapt yearly to pH, TA, Brix, YAN, tannins, color, and presence of rot. What the winemaker does one year to adapt to what nature gave him will probably not be what he does next year. I doubt a beer maker has had to address the equivanent of a low pH, low TA must.

While not directly related to the complexity, the learning curve wth beer is much steeper. Ingredients are available for a longer period of time than just once a year and fermentation and finishing times are shorter such that a beer maker can get a number of ferments under his belt in a year while the winemaker gets one chance and he may not be able to judge the ultimate success for many years. Beer making can easily be optimized over a shorter period with more scientific methods - keep all vaiables except one the same, test results, iterate again until perfect. The winemaker does not control his variables - nature does.
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Rahsaan » Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:24 am

Brian Gilp wrote:Wine is different every year..


Yes, while these arguments can be a bit neverending, from the perspective of the person consuming the beverage, the vintage differences are what make wine much more 'interesting' and 'complex' for me. But, I can see how some people might like the broad flavor spectrum you can get from beer and all its additional ingredients.
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Dave Erickson » Tue Apr 09, 2013 11:47 am

I don't understand the complaint. There is more wine from more parts of the world available now than ever before. How many of you were drinking Poulsard from the Jura ten years ago? You may have known about the Valle d'Aosta back then, but it is only recently that you could saunter into one of the better shops and snag a Fumin to take home. Organic Pinot Noir from Patagonia, organic sauvignon blanc from South Africa, Listán Negro from the Canary Islands...just saying.
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Rahsaan » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:17 pm

Dave Erickson wrote:How many of you were drinking Poulsard from the Jura ten years ago?


There may be more options available now, but 10 years ago it was a lot easier to buy Overnoy's poulsard! :wink:
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Florida Jim » Tue Apr 09, 2013 4:23 pm

Ron,
Come visit us in Sonoma. If you let me know in advance when you are coming I will make arrangements to take you to wineries where the new, different and never before (or seldom before) done is the standard. And I might have a few of my own that would surprise you.
Yep, right here in Amerika.
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Kelly Young » Tue Apr 09, 2013 4:38 pm

I can only speak from my perspective as someone who goes three ways.

The biggest hindrance to getting into fine wine is economic. Quality wine just costs more than beer or spirits at the same relative level. If I want the latest thing from Dogfish Head, Russian River, Williams Brothers or even tried and trues from Westmalle, Schneider, DeDolle, St. Peters, I'm out under $15, we'll forgo the exact of the per unit cost of six packs, bombers, etc. $15 is the price point were fine wine starts in my experience. I know there are cheaper quality options but they are fewer and farther between and usually not nearly as interesting as what is in the next price block up ($20-$30). I understand why wine is more expensive, there's almost no way it couldn't be, but the degree to which it cost more can be inhibiting for many. I drink much, much more beer than wine (it is changing somewhat) but I spend much, much more on wine than beer.

As far as spirits, sure at bottle of High West Bourye, Caol Isla 12, Clear Creek Kirschwasser, Compass Box Peat Monster, etc. is going to run me around $50-60 but I'm getting about 17 shots out of a 750ml. That 750ml bottle which by the way is for all intents and purposes impervious to all but the most extreme ravages of time and storage.

Some other odds and ends. In spite of all the sampling of wine that is supposedly out there in liquor stores and restaurants it takes some doing to get tastes of things one is interested in. Most restaurant's by the glass lists are culled from completely different worlds than the bottle list at the same establishment. I'm lucky here in DC that some places have put together BTG lists that are actually interesting as opposed to the obvious profit maximizers that fill out many lists out there. BTW I am shocked at how many restaurants that supposedly care about wine still server 75F glasses of red. I almost cry every time I see the recorked decent reds sitting on top of the BevAir in a heaving hot bar. WTF? Also drinking wine in restaurants really is financial death for many.

Wine is a tougher sell portion control wise too. Come home from work want a drink or two? Beer set up for that. Spirits, no problem. Wine, well I know it will keep more or less but, rare 375s aside, wine is not as well set up for this.

I don't know how much this figures into it, but most major towns have a brewery/brewpub, brewing being a very urban experience, oddball farmhouse brewers notwithstanding, where as wine is mostly from out there in the wild agricultural zones. It's easier to get to know who is making one's brew than one's wine. Certainly for those of us not resident in the major wine growing regions.

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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Tom N. » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:01 pm

Brian K Miller wrote:
Tom N. wrote:
I also think the line between wine and beer is blurring significantly. Cherry beer aged for a year in pinot noir barrels a la supplication from Russian River brewery, sour fruit beers in the Belgian style from Cascade brewery in Portland and gorgeous cherry and raspberry fruit beers from New Glarus brewery. All craft breweries at the top of their game producing wine-like craft brews.



Sour Belgian ales (and amazing cherry lambics) have been one of my BIG DISCOVERIES of the past year. Just love them.

A new brewery is opening in Berkeley this year making only Belgian-style sour ales!

Brian,

What is the new brewery in Northern California? All three of my sons are craft beer geeks and they would love to know of a new brewery that specializes in sour beer.

I agree, sour Belgian ales are great. I just had Belgian Red from New Glarus and it was delicious. Impressed my Scotch drinking friends also. They are dangerous though as they go down way too easy!
Last edited by Tom N. on Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Tom N. » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:21 pm

Brian Gilp wrote:
While I agree with Rahsaan, I don't think one has to start at the growing to argue that making quality wine is more complex than making quality beer.

Beer is a recipe product. Once you have a recipe you like and have mastered sanitation, it is easy to replicate. The quality of the ingredients do not significantly change year to year. (Tom N. True but there are many different recipes, seasonal beers, flavor additions as well as aging in wine barrels, whiskey barrels and bottle conditioning. Huge number of options.)

Wine is different every year. The winemaker needs to adapt yearly to pH, TA, Brix, YAN, tannins, color, and presence of rot. What the winemaker does one year to adapt to what nature gave him will probably not be what he does next year. I doubt a beer maker has had to address the equivanent of a low pH, low TA must.

While not directly related to the complexity, the learning curve wth beer is much steeper. Ingredients are available for a longer period of time than just once a year and fermentation and finishing times are shorter such that a beer maker can get a number of ferments under his belt in a year while the winemaker gets one chance and he may not be able to judge the ultimate success for many years. Beer making can easily be optimized over a shorter period with more scientific methods - keep all vaiables except one the same, test results, iterate again until perfect. The winemaker does not control his variables - nature does.


Brian, To a certain extent nature influences the beer making also. My son tells me that hops from the same place have some degree of terroir that changes with the year, although not as much as perhaps grapes do. The brewer has to account for this in his recipe as the flavor profile of the hops change somewhat from year to year, especially if the growing season weather is very different from year to year. Probably some difference in the barley crops from year to year also, but I doubt if it influences the beer much because of the changes caused by the malting process.

My son also told me that he considered going into wine making as well as brewing. He chose brewing beer, in part, because he wanted to be able to sample the results of his labor in weeks or months rather than wait years before a wine reaches its quality peak. So, I guess you could say the ultimate learning curve for wine is much longer if you are producing ageable wines. However, now that my wine cellar seems to be filling up with ageable beers (95% not mine) I am beginning to wonder whether the trend in making ageable beers is becoming similar to making quality wines.
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Rahsaan » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:41 pm

Tom N. wrote:To a certain extent nature influences the beer making also. My son tells me that hops from the same place have some degree of terroir that changes with the year, although not as much as perhaps grapes do...However, now that my wine cellar seems to be filling up with ageable beers (95% not mine) I am beginning to wonder whether the trend in making ageable beers is becoming similar to making quality wines.


True, but in all cases (terroir/weather/aging) I think the differences between beer and wine vastly outweigh the similiarities.
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Keith M » Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:34 am

Tom N. wrote:
Brian K Miller wrote:A new brewery is opening in Berkeley this year making only Belgian-style sour ales!

What is the new brewery in Northern California? All three of my sons are craft beer geeks and they would love to know of a new brewery that specializes in sour beer.

I'm not Brian, but it is called The Rare Barrel
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Paul B. » Fri Apr 12, 2013 11:55 pm

Great post...

Personally, I love the new creativity we're seeing. Here in Ontario, Canada, the (hard) cider scene has really taken off, and I'd say within the last five or so years. I'm really excited about it, given that cider is another one of those drinks that somehow got the short end of the stick for some time - even though it was part of the North American culture at one time.

Freedom to innovate is always a good thing. Hopefully, it will continue.
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Re: Is Wine Falling out of favor in the USA??

by Victorwine » Sat Apr 13, 2013 4:21 pm

Great post indeed, Ron!

Paul wrote;
Freedom to innovate is always a good thing. Hopefully, it will continue.

It better continue. “Freedom to innovate” is the only way the wine industry will survive. (The recent changes in EU wine laws and regulations (AOC/AOP; DOCG/DOC/DOP; I’m sure other wine producing countries that are EU members (and those that export wine into the EU market) will come up with their own “designations” for Quality Wines Produced from a Specific Region (QWPSR)) seems to me, to at least be in step with giving wine producers “freedom to innovate”).

Salute

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