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Thursday Trick or Treat
Scary Thoughts I Have Overcome

By Charles Olken

You may have noticed a brief flap in winewriting land last week when the New York Times published an interview with wine importer Kermit Lynch, and some rather important people took umbrage at part of what Mr. Lynch had to say. Indeed, the controversy spilled over into this blog with my associate, Steve Eliot, writing an interpretation of the Lynch remarks that was fairly supportive of Lynch and then yours truly commenting that Lynch, while free to drink what he likes, had himself admitted that he spent decades ignoring California wine and had only now come to realize, although he did not say how he had come to this realization, that he had missed out on an awful lot of good California wine.

In the midst of this debate, some ferocious anti-California commentary appeared in the comments section of the blog, Fermentation*, and while I have done my best to ignore what I consider to be rampant stupidity, I was reminded of it again today. You see, there is another hot button issue about to become big news, and it is this. During the worldwide economic turndown of the previous decade, wine sales also slowed and some vineyards were pulled from production without being replaced. Now, we are seeing signs of increased winedrinking around the world, but we are also seeing that the supply of wine has shrunk, and the result, according to some wags, is that the world is going to run out of wine.

Whether we will or we will not is, however, not the concern of this blog. Today, during my typical late lunch, I was watching a political talk show somewhere and mostly following the healthcare debate and the less noticed but potential hot immigration reform debate. At the end of the program, and just as I was about to go back to work, the host asked his guest to name trends in the world that were going to burst in the headlines. And one of the commentators brought up the subject of the “impending” wine shortage.

Now here is why her comments are so important. It is because they put the lie to the notion, somewhat propounded by Lynch over the years, that CA wines are no longer important. First, a couple of comments from Fermentation*.

-- “A lot of people like American cheese too, that doesn’t make it St. Andre.”

-- “Maybe people in the hinterlands are still interested in big Napa Valley wines, and I’m sure that they’re still selling like hotcakes at country clubs in Omaha or steakhouses in Reno. In the major cities, they are deader than fried chicken. Nobody wants big, overblown Cali juice, and what is happening in these markets eventually will start filtering down into those Omaha country clubs”.

Okay, I get the picture, but the picture is one that is seen through a very narrow lens. The commentator on TV, a person with plenty of money and living in a major city, complained that she did not know what she was going to do without her Chardonnay. And it is Chardonnay that makes all of this whinging worth less than the internet paper on which it is not printed. Chardonnay is selling like hotcakes. It has and it continues to sell, and for one reason. People like the way it tastes.

The TV commentator bit may be anecdotal but the 90,000+ acres of Chardonnay here, and the sizzling sales of the wines that those vines produce, show the truth painted in broader terms. Ultimately, it is the market and not a few biased folks, whether from Kermit Lynch or a couple of comments on a blog that control what folks drink, not a few geeks in major markets.



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