The [Sometimes Slow] March of the Kiwi Terroirists

slowhorseLast week’s column looked back to the concerns about terroir and geographical designations a few years ago when Sue and I visited New Zealand to gather material for my book about globalization, Globaloney. There was frustration and anxiety about how to delimit the Kiwi vineyards and concern that things weren’t moving fast enough.

The people in Hawkes Bay were so frustrated that they took  matters in their own hands, creating and trademarking the Gimblett Gravels region! Well, the good news is that progress is at last about to be made on the policy front although the promise of progress hasn’t stopped winemakers from trying to speed things along through their own branding strategies. Here’s a quick report.

The Slow Horse Theory

My friend Woody says that justice rides a slow horse and, if that’s true, then the new Kiwi geographical indicator policy must be just indeed. It certainly has been slow in coming!

I was struck by a recent Decanter article about New Zealand geographical indicators for wine.  “Ministers said …that they would put into practice the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act – first passed as long ago as 2006 but yet to enter into force.” The  reason for the rush to get the law implemented is a concern over international competitiveness.

‘The act will set up a registration scheme for wine and spirit geographical indications, similar to the trademark registration scheme,’ said New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser.

‘Being able to register wines and spirits geographical indications here will make it easier for their users to enforce them in New Zealand.
‘It will also make it easier for our exporters to protect their geographical indications in some overseas markets.’

Since the New Zealand industry is very dependent on exports, it makes good sense to bring Kiwi practices into line with the global rules of the game.

The move was ‘warmly welcomed’ by generic body New Zealand Winegrowers, whose CEO Philip Gregan said: ‘It will equip the industry with the tools to protect its premium brand from misappropriation or misuse, as well as help secure market access in some regions.

‘It’s a big step forward for the industry.’

A Bill to amend the Act will be introduced to New Zealand’s Parliament later this year, and the Act is expected to be passed by the end of 2015.

Paul Goldsmith, New Zealand’s Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister, noted that some consumers are prepared to pay a significant premium for wines from certain New Zealand geographic regions.

“The reputation of New Zealand wines must be jealously guarded if we are to continue growing our wine exports.

“The ability to register geographical indications under the new Act will help our wine industry promote and protect its premium brand from misappropriation or misuse by overseas producers, as well as secure access in certain markets which require government-recognised geographical indications.”

Good idea. But what took so long?  I found an analysis of the situation on the Baldwins intellectual property law website which provided useful background. Apparently passing the geographic indicator act back in 2006 wasn’t enough — it is also necessary for the Governor General to issue an Order in Council, which was not done (as was the case with a previous geographical indicator act from 1994).

I have not been following this situation, so perhaps there have been very good reasons for the long delay in implementing the GI act. As I noted last week, some think that it might be premature to set down strict boundaries or worry that appellations in general have gotten out of control.  But clearly the NZ wine export sector’s needs are now being given priority. With a little luck they can begin to use the new system next year. Slow justice I suppose. I’d appreciate comments from those in New Zealand who are directly affected by the change. Are there issues here that don’t show up in the news stories?

Marlborough Pioneer Brancott Estate

I hope the geographical indicator law, when it is finally implemented, will provide New Zealand producers with the protections and processes that they need. But in the meantime terroir grows in importance every day in the global market as upscale consumers look for markers of integrity and authenticity in everything they buy. Wines of origin designations don’t guarantee these qualities, but they are a way to signal intent to buyers.

Smart Kiwi producers are doing their best to exploit terroir both in bottle and as brands, a fact that was clear when we were invited to participate in a digital wine tasting of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc organized by Pernod Ricard’s Brancott Estate.

Brancott Estate is the pioneer Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc producer. The photo at right shows Frank Yukich planting the first Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc vine at the Brancott vineyard in Marlborough in 1975. If  you look closely you can see he is “fertilizing” the vine with a silver coin and irrigating it with Champagne.

The Yukich family’s company, Montana Wines, eventually changed hands and current owner Pernod Ricard rebranded it globally as Brancott Estate a few years ago. I suppose the Montana brand wine was never going to be an easy sell here in the U.S. where a wine from Montana can have more than one meaning, but Brancott Estate is a hit, hence our digital tasting.

P1090870There were five wines in the tasting flight, starting with a low alcohol Sauvignon Blanc called Flight Song and moving on to the mainstream Brancott Estate wine that is widely distributed here in the U.S. Then we climbed up the wine ladder from Stoneleigh Latitude (Stoneleigh is a sister winery to Brancott) to Brancott Estate Letter Series and ending with the Brancott Estate Chosen Rows (tiny production — not currently available in the U.S. market).

We tasted the wines in the company of Sue’s parents Mike and Gert with Brancott winemaker Patrick Materman as our virtual guide via a web link. The low alcohol Flight Song, made from early-harvest grapes, was not a favorite, but the popular Brancott Estate bottling was well received with its classic Marlborough flavors and aromas. A good reference point for the wines that followed.

The Stoneleigh Latitude Sauvignon Blanc is made from vines planted in Marlborough’s “Golden Mile,” where river rocks carpet the vineyard floor capturing the sun’s heat. Stoneleigh focuses exclusively on wines made from this one vineyard area. This wine, my favorite of the flight, displayed unexpected minerality on first taste and rich fruit when re-tasted an hour later and then the next day.

The Letter Series wine came exclusively from vines in the original Brancott vineyard (and not a regional blend) while the Chosen Rows (my second favorite) was sourced from a selection of the best rows of vines from Brancott. It was noticeably more serious and elegant — and more expensive. It’s s shame that it is made is such limited quantities because it might change some minds about Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I hope I have an opportunity to taste it again.

Strengthening Brand Marlborough

Together these wines demonstrated, just in case anyone had doubts, that Marlborough’s particular terroirs show themselves in the wines and that Pernod Ricard and the Brancott team are committed to making these wines and telling terroirist stories to go with them.

Focusing on the vineyard level with a particular brand isn’t the only way to tell the story, but it’s one way to do it until a more formal system of geographic indicators is in place. And even when sub-regional designations are improved, the vineyard-level story will be powerful and relevant.  The time is ripe for a terroirist take on New Zealand wines and producers are ready to rock and roll.


Here is a march to accompany the [slow] implementation of the New Zealand legislation. Perhaps you have heard it before?

Kiwi Wine Wars: Terroir and Its Discontents

When Sue and I visited New Zealand in 2004 we found a wine industry experiencing tremendous success, but worried that the good times might not last. It seemed like New Zealand’s wine production was doubling every few years — could global markets continue to absorb so much Kiwi wine?

Eleven years later the conclusion is that global consumers still love Kiwi wine, but the concern is still there for the future.

A Kiwi Variant of the Dutch Disease? 

There were lots of worries back in 2004. One was a kind of Kiwi variant of the “Dutch Disease” — the concern that tremendous success in one part of the wine industry would put a curse on the rest of it. Would the triumph of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc crowd out other regions and winegrape varieties and leave New Zealand uncomfortably reliant on a single type of wine?

But that wasn’t the only problem people saw then. Ironically, we met with one very successful Marlborough producer who was worried about Pinot Noir messing up Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand’s brand is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, he told us. Giving more attention to Pinot Noir risks confusing consumers about the Kiwi wine identity and killing the goose that lays the golden egg.  Put all the chips on Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and make sure that very successful and profitable wine doesn’t fade away, he advised.

Eleven years later I think the concern about reliance on Sauvignon Blanc is  still around, but I’m not hearing much talk about Pinot Noir getting too much attention for the industry’s good. And that producer who wanted to deemphasize Pinot is now proud to make some highly-regarded Marlborough Pinot Noir in addition to his Sauvignon Blanc!  So a lot has changed even if some things stay the same.

 It’s Terroir Time

One concern that is still on the agenda is terroir and its importance in marketing the wine by telling an authentic terroirist story. As I have suggested in previous columns, terroir designations have morphed from a protective tool in Europe (an attempt to control fraud, for example, and protect geographical trademarks) and a brand issue here in the U.S. (brand Napa Valley) to an indicator of authenticity in the story-telling necessary to effectively sell wine today.

It’s terroir time in wine world. Upscale consumers want to have authentic stories to go with the products they buy — this is true for wine and other products — and a specific geographic designation is one way (but not the only way) for winemakers to tell that story.

Some of the people we talked with in Marlborough back in 2004 were thinking in terms of protection and brands and they were worried by New Zealand’s lack of a stronger geographic indicator system for wine. Marlborough is a very large designation, one producer told me, and it is a powerful brand for Sauvignon Blanc. But it is such a big and diverse area, he said, and the wines are so diverse in terms of style and quality.

He was afraid that as production was ramped up the lack of consistency would undermine Marlborough’s credibility. Private efforts to stress particularly excellent sub-regions did not seem to be getting traction and official actions looked slow in coming. Would Marlborough’s success ultimately undermine its credibility? That’s the pattern that I called “the Curse of the Blue Nun” in Wine Wars.

NZ-based wine writer Rebecca Gibb recently wrote about the movement to identify key Marlborough zones for Pinot Noir, concluding that as appealing as the idea is it might be premature. Maybe Kiwi winemakers are still learning where the the best places are to grow particular varieties, Gibb says. If she’s right then it was certainly too soon back in 2004, when the zones might have been crafted with SB, not Pinot, in mind. And Jamie Goode has recently cautioned about the movement to adopt geographical indicators in general.

Gimblett Gravels: Seizing Control

We visited Hawkes Bay on the North Island in 2004 and some of the winemakers there were impatient with Kiwi geographical indicator policies. Growers in the Gimblett Gravels knew that they had special terroir and, having saved it from exploitation as a gravel quarry, wanted to both protect it and brand it. But how?

They did both in the most direct way available to them, forming an association, registering “Gimblett Gravels” as a trademark and rigorously regulating its use. In essence I guess they “privatized” their terroir designation because they were frustrated with the lack of a clear public path.

Here is an explanation from the GG association’s website.

GIMBLETT GRAVELS is the registered trademark of the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association. The Association and registered brand were developed to define and then name a winegrowing district using principles that are not catered for within New Zealand’s proposed Geographic Indications Act legislation.  … The Association and designation of the area was formed at a relatively early stage in its winegrowing life to ensure that the purity and integrity of its designation was not compromised by political issues outside its control. … To the best of our knowledge this is the first viticultural appellation in the New World where its ultimate boundary is defined by a distinct soil type boundary, no compromises, no politics.

The approach taken has determined that a carefully planned and professional branding program was required to promote the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowing District as a viable sub-region within the Hawke’s Bay region. The lack of any legal Geographic Indication status for Gimblett Gravels Winegrowing District has determined this approach. The branding program has developed a strong logo and branding platform that controls the use of the name “GIMBLETT GRAVELS” and “Gimblett Gravels Winegrowing District”.

Kiwi Terroir Today

I suspect my friends here in the U.S. who are caught up in various aspects of AVA and sub-AVA politics will look at the Gimlett Gravels initiative with respect, admiration and even a bit of envy. What a bold move! And I think it has been very successful, too.

Terroir and geographical indicators have grown and changed in their significance. Where does New Zealand stand today? Come back next week for a quick look at progress on this front both in private sector branding  and in Kiwi wine policy.

Natural Cork vs Alternative Closure Wars: Race to the [Wine Bottle] Top

At the end of my review of To Cork or Not to Cork, George Taber’s informative 2007 survey of the wine bottle closure wars, I vented some frustration. Not with the book, which is great, but with the closures themselves. Taber taught me that no wine bottle closure was perfect, although he had high hopes that competition among closure producers would make the future brighter. Here’s the conclusion of my 2007 column.

[Taber writes that]  … finding a solution to the wine closure dilemma is a worldwide problem and global market competition is forcing the stopper makers to innovate and make better and better closures and forcing winemakers to get better, too, since they can no longer automatically blame any flaws in their wines on bad corks. “Unfettered competition,” he writes, “remains a powerful driving force for good.”

I think Taber is right, but for now I’m just standing here in the basement, looking with suspicion at the wine in my little cellar, trying to guess what is going on beneath the lids. Having read Taber’s book, I now know enough to be anxious about each and every bottle!

A Wealth of  Closure Choices

Eight years have passed and the closure wars continue. Perhaps the single most-asked question when I speak to consumer groups is about what’s at the top of the bottle, not the contents. “What do you think of screw-caps?”  Well, what should I think?

The question continues to haunt the wine industry. Recently two U.S. wine industry monthlies featured cover stories on the closure wars. “Alternative Closures Go Upscale” was the headline on the May 2015 issue of Wine & Vines. while the June issue of Wine Business Monthly featured their 2015 “Closure Survey Report.”

Jane Firstenfeld’s Wines & Vines article “Unconventional Toppers for Top-Shelf Wines” takes the form of a series of brief interviews with premium winemakers who report their use of screw-cap closures (including Van Duzer, Chehalem, Meoimi, Silverado and Sonoma-Cutrer) or synthetic closures (Schug and Eberle).

The article gives a sense of the great variety of alternative closures available (gone are the days of one-size fits all) and the research and trials necessary to assure the best possible fit between wine, winemaker and closure. It’s a good piece of reporting if you have a dog in this fight!

Natural Cork is #1. So are Synthetic Closures. Discuss.

Curtis Phillips presents the results of the Wine Business Monthly survey of winery closure use in his article “Natural Closures Rated Highest.” One colorful graph caught my eye — it showed the results of the survey for five years where respondents were asked which closures they used for their $14-$25 red wines? Options (more than one choice allowed) started with natural cork and moved on to technical cork, synthetic closures, screw caps and an “other,” category that includes Zork and Vino-Seal.

The graph suggests that natural cork is used by about 50% of the wineries surveyed, down from nearly 70% a few years ago. Technical cork is shown rising from about 20% to 30%, while ynthetic closures are roughly stable at a little more than 10% and screw caps are shown rising from about 10% to 30%.

The devil is in the details in surveys like this and to their credit WBM provides details that clarify the picture. The unit of analysis for the survey is the winery whether it is big or small, which changes up the conclusions you might otherwise draw.

Many more wineries use natural cork, but many more bottles of wine here in the U.S. are sealed by synthetic closures. The 10% of wineries that use the synthetics such as Nomacorc include some boutiques (Oregon’s Ken Wright Cellars, for example) and some giants (Gallo), so that about half of all wine bottled in the U.S. comes with a synthetic closure even though only about 10% of wineries surveyed use it.

There is more to the WBM story than this, of course. Winery respondents were asked to give their ratings of closure alternatives and the result is a rising tide — all of the closures were rated higher than they were a few years ago. When it comes to quality in wine closures, the trend seems to be up and up.

Creative Destruction in the Closure World

This did not surprise me because closure manufacturers keep me well-supplied with press releases about their newest innovations and I have been impressed with the way that they have responded to criticisms and invested in improved technology giving wineries higher quality and greater choice. There has also been something of a shakeout taking place over the years, with some producers dropping out of the market, increasing the scale of the others, which further increases the return to new investment.

The race to the top is true for natural cork, as Antonio Amorim and Carlos de Jesus made sure I appreciated when I met with them in Porto last year.  Natural cork producers made a terrible mistake when they did not recognize problems in past years, and they paid a high price in lost market share as a result, Amorim told me.

But better consistency, higher technical quality and strong consumer acceptance makes natural cork a competitor in every market, he said. And of course better natural corks force the other closure makers to raise their game, too. Winemakers and wine consumers certainly gain.

If there’s one area where cork closures would seem to have an unavoidable disadvantage over screw-caps, however, it would be convenience. Screw caps are just easier to handle and, with rising technical quality, that would seem to give it a big advantage in some markets at least. Even wine guru Hugh Johnson thinks so. His  May 2015 column in Decanter magazine proclaimed that “I am faintly irritated now when I come to open a bottle of wine and find I need a corkscrew.” Gosh! The screw-cap is “incomparably better” than natural cork, he says.

Do the Twist — Like This!

Well, Amorim doesn’t want to lose Hugh Johnson’s business (or anyone else’s) so last year they released a screw-cork closure called Helix.  That’s right — screw-cork (see the image above). The cork and specially-made bottle are designed so that the cork screws into (and out of) the bottle slick as can be.

Screw-cork? Amazing.Probably not as important in the grand scheme of things as the technical improvements in cork production at Amorim, but still a great example of how innovation occurs even in centuries-old industries like cork closures.  Is this an example of Taber’s idea that unfettered competition is a driving force for for good? When it comes to closures, it sure seems to be true. Here’s to the race to the top!

Best in the World? Gourmand International Wine Blog Award!

gourmandAs I mentioned back in January, everyone at The Wine Economist was delighted and just a little surprised to learn that we were short-listed for a major award.  The Gourmand International “Best in the World” awards are given annually to recognize excellence in food and drinks writing.  My 2011 book Wine Wars was honored by Gourmand International in one of the specialized categories when it was published.

This year there is an award for best blog. Here are the finalists.


Best Wine and Drinks Blog:

The results were announced on June 8 in Yantai, China. I wanted to be there along with the other nominees in all the food and wine categories, but I was already committed to being in Conegliano, Italy giving a pair of talks at the famous wine school.

Well, the results are in and, to make a long story short, the winner is …

The Wine Economist? Yes! We at the Wine Economist are surprised and deeply honored by this recognition. Many thanks to everyone at Gourmand International for this award and personal thanks to Edouard Countreau for his support and encouragement.



Book Review: Oz Clarke’s History of Wine in 100 Bottles

Oz Clarke, The History of Wine in 100 Bottles: From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond. Sterling Epicure, 2015.

It was a brilliant idea. Select 100 items from the massive collection of The British Museum and then present them, one at a time and in chronological order, to create “A History of the World in 100 Objects.”

Simply Irresistible

It was an instant hit with history-hungry Britain. Never have the artifacts of the British  Museum’s collection been so closely studied and appreciated by millions! And of course the use of physical objects of various sorts was perfect because, as we all know, we are living in a material world and so telling the story of civilization through material goods is simply irresistible. You can see a list of the objects here and briefly view each one in the 5 minute video below.

In another brilliant move, the organizers did not present the series on the television or the internet as you might expect but via one-hundred short  15-minute BBC Radio 4 broadcasts starting on January 18, 2010 and ending on October 22 of that year. Neil MacGregor, the museum’s director, wrote and narrated all the episodes.

The combination of rich language plus fertile imagination inspired listeners to seek out information about the objects  through all available means including visits to the British Museum (which must have been one of the goals of the enterprise). Watch the video and click on the website link — maybe the hundred objects will fascinate you as they have so many others.


100 Bottles of Wine on the Wall

Oz Clarke takes something of the same approach to the history of wine in his new book and the result is very appealing indeed. Clarke’s challenge is to tell the story of wine in 100 short, punchy, chronologically-ordered episodes. Some of the chapters are about actual bottles as promised by the book’s title (1964, for example, is a jug of Gallo Hearty Burgundy), but most are the stories of people, events or forces that shaped significantly the world of wine.

Thus 1855 is the Bordeaux Classification of that year and 1863 is Phylloxera. 1965 marks the invention of bag-in-box containers and 1976 the famous Judgement of Paris.  The story begins with the invention (or was it a discovery?) of wine in about 6000 BC and concludes with Rudy Kurniawan’s wine fraud conviction in 2014.

I think there is something here for all wine-lovers to enjoy and appreciate, although I understand that some will criticize the entries for being too brief  (more of the 2-page landscape given to each entry goes to images than to text) and others will find fault with the particular entries chosen and not.  Regarding the depth of analysis, I think you have to accept this for what it is and, like the BBC/British Museum project, see this as an invitation to further study rather than a much too brief final chapter.

Regarding the topics the Clarke included versus those left out, I think it is inevitable that people disagree about what’s most important — and maybe there’s fun in arguing about it a bit. I was pleased that many of the people, events and forces that I have written about here on The Wine Economist and in my books were important enough to be included in Clarke’s book.  I’ll gladly defer to him where we might disagree because after all it is his book not mine, but I was happy that we agree in so many areas.

For example my chapter on “Extreme Wine People” in Extreme Wine highlights a number of individuals who transformed the idea of wine in one way or another. Almost all of them make Clarke’s list including Robert Mondavi (1966), Angelo Gaja (1968). David Lett (1975) and Nicholas Catena (1994). I highlighted Montana’s Brancott Estate in Wine Wars because that’s where the first Sauvignon Blanc vines were planted in Marlborough, New Zealand. Sure enough, that’s Clarke’s entry for 1983,  And world’s highest vineyards (in the Salta region of Argentina) appeared in the first chapter of Extreme Wine and as the entry for 2006 here.

Here’s a selection of other chapter entries to whet your appetite and give you a sense of the variety of topics presented: Pompeii (79 AD), Tokaji (1571), Constantia (1685), Dom Perignon (1690s). Chianti (1716), Louis Pasteur (1860), Vega Sicilia (1915), Mateus (1942), Emile Peynaud (1949), Robert Parker (1978), Canadian Ice Wine (1991) and China (2011).

The History of Wine n 100 Bottles is fun and informative — a great gift for your wine enthusiast friends and a colorful addition to any wine bookshelf.

By the way, if you are interested in projects like these, you might also want to read Tom Standage’s 2006 book A History of the World in 6 Glasses. The glasses, in chronological order, are filled with beer (in Mesopotamia and Egypt), wine (in Greece and Rome), spirits (in the Colonial Period), coffee (in the Age of Reason), tea (the British Empire) and Coca-Cola (in the American Century). There’s a seventh glass that represents the future. What does it hold? Water, of course.

My Hidden Agenda

I was keen to get a copy of Oz Clarke’s book when it was published because I’ve started work on a project that has something of the same flavor. Although  Money, Taste and Wine: It’s Complicated won’t be released until August, I’ve been at work for some time now on the next book in the series, which I’m calling Around the World in 80 Wines. Don’t you think that’s a great title? My challenge is to write a great book to go with it!

I wanted to see what Oz Clarke would do with his hundred wines and, while I can’t fault his use of the BBC/British Museum model, that’s not the way that I’m headed. Clarke and the BBC make a journey through time and I’m traveling through space — around the world, with 20 stops (chapters) and 80 wines. Some chapters search out and find a single most significant wine story wine while others reveal a treasure trove of different wines — or search and search and come up empty. How annoying!

But journey’s don’t reveal their significance all at once or in carefully measured doses. They ebb and flow like life itself and that’s what I’m going to try to capture. I’m sure that some will second-guess my choices and want more depth here and less there but, as with the BBC/British Museum’s series and Oz Clarke’s new book, I think you’ll find the result worth the effort. — fun, interesting. Maybe even irresistible!


Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

On the {Wine} Road Again: Wine Economist World Tour Update

Here at The Wine Economist we are counting down the days until August 4 when my  new book Money, Taste and Wine: It’s Complicated will be released. You can pre-order on, of course! The early feedback (see below) has been very positive, so I can’t wait for August to see the actual book and hear what you think of it.

In the meantime, the Wine Economist World Tour continues. Sue and I have recently returned from Southern California where I spoke about the “Secrets of the World’s Most Respected Wine Regions” to the winegrower audience at the Ramona Valley California AVA “A Grape Day in the Backountry” Symposium.

Later this week we leave for Italy, with the GPS pointed to the famous Scoula Enologica di Conegliano. I will be giving two lectures on June 9 and 10.  The first seminar is titled “Anatomy of the U.S. Wine Market” and the second “Wines of the Veneto: A SWOT Analysis of the U.S. Market.”  Watch this space for a report.

Closer to home,  at the request of good friends, I’m giving an “Extreme Wine” talk as part of the Senior University program at Franke Tobey Jones on Wednesday June 24 at 6pm. Looking forward to seeing familiar faces in the audience at Senior University and  tasting a few wines with “extreme stories.”

Then it’s north a few degrees of latitude to Osoyoos, British Columbia to speak at the BC Wine Institute’s annual meeting on July 6.  We had a great visit to the BC wine country a couple of years ago and look forward to returning and seeing what’s new.

Back home again, I will be on a panel of local bloggers discussing  the blogosphere and its discontents on July 15 from 7-8 pm at the Tacoma Public Library‘s Olympic Room.

The weather is great here in the Pacific Northwest in July so it is hard to get me to leave, but I couldn’t say no to an invitation to speak at the California Association of Winegrape Growers Summer Conference on July 22-24, 2015 at the Silverado Resort & Spa in Napa, California. I’ll be speaking with Wine Market Council president John Gillispie on“Wine Market Update and Insights” on Thursday, July 23.

And then? Several interesting trips in the planning stage. Who knows, maybe I’ll speak at a wine event near you?


In the spirit of “shameless self-promotion,” here are some of the early comments on Money, Taste and Wine: It’s Complicated. 

Mike has the unique ability to look at wine differently and discover facts beyond the mythology. In this fascinating book, he gives the poor consumer overwhelmed by choice and myth an eye-opening look at wine.
Paul Cluver, Paul Cluver Wines, South Africa

Written in Mike Veseth’s ineffable style, Money, Taste, and Wine goes down as easily as the finest pinot, will make you laugh, and will fatten your wallet. If you’ve ever suspected that wine’s pricing is rigged, fumed at stratospheric restaurant tariffs, or want to be amazed at how the revolution in global trade has affected your favorite drink, then look no further than this book. A must for any consumer of the fruit of the vine.

William Bernstein, author of Birth of Plenty, A Splendid Exchange, and Masters of the World

In Money, Taste, and Wine, preeminent wine economist Mike Veseth teaches us how to be a rational, informed wine consumer by better understanding available wine choices, personal tastes and preferences, and common wine buying mistakes. Along the way, he provides fascinating insights into the workings of the wine industry in a fun and interesting way with his engaging and provocative writing style. A must read for anyone who drinks wine or has an interest in the wine market.
James Thornton, Eastern Michigan University, author of American Wine Economics

A remarkable blend of research, history, and examples straight from the heart of a genuine explorer makes this book a must read. Mike skillfully walks his readers through the multifaceted relationship of money, taste, and wine and leads them to a smart, optimistic, and enjoyable conclusion. A perfect fit for those who thirst for more.
Evy Gozali, CEO of Sababay Winery, Bali, Indonesia

With his usual wit, wisdom, and whimsy, the ebullient Mike Veseth (aka The Wine Economist) unravels the complexities of what he calls the ‘unhealthy love triangle of money, taste, and wine.’ For anyone with taste who is remotely interested in discovering hidden, undervalued vinous treasures and willing to learn a little about themselves along the way, this insightful book is a must read. Having fought the good fight in Wine Wars and tickled the imagination in Extreme Wine, Mike’s insights into the vexed relationship between Money, Taste, and Wine could be subtitled ‘choose your wine and those you share it with carefully.’

Michael Hince, HinceOnWine, Australia

I laughed out loud reading Mike Veseth’s Money, Taste, and Wine. He has such a humorous and down-to-earth style when writing about wine, and his new book involves hilarious romps through supermarket aisles, restaurants, and discount stores to find a good deal on wine. It also has its serious points, providing invaluable information for wine lovers in analyzing their own palates and expectations. A definite read for all wine enthusiasts, wine students, and wine newbies.
Liz Thach, Master of Wine, Professor of Wine Business & Management, Sonoma State University

Money, Taste, and Wine is a great read: entertaining, informative, and heartfelt. Like Wine Wars it is packed with economic and historic insights into the world of wine. At times I found myself laughing out loud and also reaching for my notebook to jot down facts and add (wine and non-wine) books to my reading list.
Caro Feely, Feely Wines and French Wine Adventures


World tour? Well, it’s a small world! Enjoy!

The Wine Economist 500

500This is the Wine Economist’s 500th column and a good time to reflect on the wine road that got us here.

The very first post, dated May 29, 2007, reported on “Bottling the 2005 at Fielding Hills Winery,” comparing the hand-bottling process to Adam Smith’s famous pin factory. The division of labor was very efficient, I concluded, and the payment (a picnic lunch overlooking the Columbia River and a bottle of wine signed by all the crew who bottled it with me) quite satisfying.

A lot has changed at Fielding Hills since that day. They remain one of Washington State’s outstanding wineries (and a personal favorite of ours), but 2015 is probably the last year they will bottle using friends, family and wine club volunteers and hand equipment. They’s grown, opening a tasting room facility in nearby Lake Chelan, and are expanding production beyond the level where hand-power makes sense.

Mostly Wrong

The Wine Economist has changed, too. Not many people tuned in for that first column compared with the global reading audience today. Total page views since inception are now more than 1.1 million and rising.

In terms of content, the columns posted here continue to do most things wrong, but a few things right. New columns appear only once or twice a week, which I’m told is too infrequent for a web publication. Gotta constantly post content, people tell me, because readers have short memories and will  wander off unless constantly pulled back.

And the columns are too long, too, averaging between 750 and 1000 words — about the same as a newspaper op-ed piece. Conventional wisdom dictates lots of short, punchy posts because of limited reader attention span. Incredibly, many people seem to read these relatively long  columns all the way through to the end, shattering the myth that no one actually reads anything on the web.

Partly Right

What does the Wine Economist get right? Well, I try to keep the tone positive and I don’t think that’s a bad idea. And I think the style, which is explicitly modeled on The Economist newspaper, is pretty effective, too.

There is also a modest Wine Economist social media presence, which is probably a good thing. You can “like” The Wine Economist on Facebook and follow @MikeVeseth on Twitter (@WineEconomist was already taken) or subscribe to the blog (it’s free!).

There would not be 500 Wine Economist columns were it not for loyal readers and their feedback. Thanks so much for your support. Looking forward to the next milestone. As Buzz Lightyear might say, “To 600 posts — and beyond!”


I was looking for a music video about writing 500 blog posts and the result was an epic fail. But I did find this! Just substitute “write 500 posts” in the appropriate places and sing along. Enjoy!


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