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Uncorked: The Wine Trade Newsletter
The top news stories this week for the wine trade. From a groundbreaking USDA Grapevine insurance program to France’s costly wine dilemma, we’re uncorking stories that matter this week. Explore a family feud in Napa Valley, the rise of Winters Highlands, E. & J. Gallo’s expansion, exceptional Champagne grapes, and tasting room trends in North Coast wineries. Sip on knowledge and stay connected to the wine world. Cheers to your wine journey!
France Faces Costly Wine Destruction
France is grappling with the challenging task of destroying a surplus of wine, amounting to over 100 Olympic-size swimming pools’ worth, at a cost of approximately $216 million. The surplus has arisen due to various factors, including rising production costs, decreased wine consumption, and global events such as the pandemic and disruptions from the war in Ukraine. While it’s a significant challenge, the French government is committed to finding long-term solutions to support the wine industry’s transition to a more sustainable future.
Family Feud Leads to Kelham Vineyards Bankruptcy
A family dispute over the Kelham Vineyards & Winery in Napa Valley has led to a bankruptcy court trial scheduled for October. The conflict began when Ronald “Ron” Nicholsen II sued to gain access to financial records after his mother, Susanna Kelham, the managing partner of the winery, forced him out in May 2021. The legal battle involves disputes over access to records and alleged mismanagement, creating a complex family and financial conflict.
Winters Highlands Earns AVA Designation
Winters Highlands, located in Northern California, has received the coveted designation of American Viticultural Area (AVA) from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). This new AVA covers 7,296 acres on the inner slope of the Coastal Range, providing ideal conditions for growing a diverse array of grape varietals. Winemakers in this AVA are gaining recognition for their innovative and sustainable practices, producing wines that capture the unique essence of the land.
E. & J. Gallo Winery Acquires Massican
The E. & J. Gallo Winery, the world’s largest wine company, continues its expansion with the acquisition of Massican, a boutique producer specializing in white wines in Napa Valley. While Gallo recently acquired Rombauer, known for its buttery Chardonnay, Massican offers a different approach, focusing on expressive and complex white wines made from Italian white varieties. The acquisition aligns with Gallo’s vision for a new style of American white wines, emphasizing the joy of sharing wine at the dinner table.
Champagne’s Exceptional Grape Bunches
Winemakers in Champagne are anticipating an extraordinary vintage with exceptionally heavy grape bunches, setting new records for weight. The grapes are plump, with deep colors, promising a unique harvest. This phenomenon challenges previous models, leading to a need for further understanding. The 2023 Champagne vintage is expected to be of exceptional quality. Stay updated here.
North Coast Winery Tasting Room Trends
Tasting room visits at North Coast wineries, a vital revenue source, have experienced fluctuations after a strong rebound in 2021. While Napa Valley saw an increase in visits, Sonoma County witnessed a decline. Experts predict that this decline is temporary, resulting from the extraordinary growth in 2021. Direct-to-consumer revenue has become increasingly important, with experts recommending a continued focus on digital marketing efforts. Discover more about the trends here.
USDA Launches New Grapevine Insurance Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has introduced a Grapevine insurance program to protect against natural hazards like freeze or fire damage to grafted vines. This program expands crop insurance options and complements the existing Grape crop insurance, focusing on safeguarding the vines themselves. With coverage for losses caused by natural perils, such as freeze or fire, this initiative aims to provide crucial support to grape growers. Read more here.
News from National
We have just launched our online Advanced Sommelier program nationally this week. This is the second phase of our movement into the professional sector of the wine trade. Before this, these programs were largely offered via SCORM programming to universities and colleges.
In 2021, we released our Level One Wine Program as an online course and then our Core Sommelier programs (L2 and L3) in 2022. The first round of Advanced Sommelier programs will be live-streamed starting this semester and offered as an asynchronous programming later in 2024.
National Wine School