Around the World in Eighty Wines: Racing to the Finish Line

51ppzy7bwzl-_sx332_bo1204203200_Sue and I spend so much time travelling to visit the world’s wine regions and speaking to wine industry groups that we sometimes feel a bit like Phileas Fogg and Passepartout, the characters in Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days.

That feeling and the experiences that go with it are one of the inspirations for my next book, Around the World in Eighty Wines, which will be released on November 1, 2017. (You can already pre-order it on Amazon.com!).

Although our travels continue (we are off to Spain next week and then to Cyprus in May), at some point it is necessary to draw a line and declare the book itself finished. And that’s what I did today, when I finished proofing the copy-edited manuscript and sent it in to my production editor at Rowman & Littlefield right on deadline.

The Wine Economist will take a break for a few weeks while we are in Spain for the FEV General Assembly meetings and visits with winemakers there. Circle back in a few weeks to see what’s new at The Wine Economist. Cheers!

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I asked a few friends to read the manuscript and write brief “blurbs” for the book cover. Here is what we have so far. Enjoy!

This captivating book is about more than just wine—it’s about human nature, travel, and enjoyment. As the Rick Steves of the wine world, Mike’s talents as a writer and storyteller transport the reader to a new territory to explore as each of the eighty wines are opened.
Howard Soon, Master Winemaker, Sandhill Wines

Mike Veseth takes the reader on a Phileas Fogg–inspired odyssey in search of the answer to the question: why wine? The solution is a true global adventure—a mosaic of stories that illuminate wine beyond the glass to embody the enduring human spirit through controversy, love, endurance, loss, and hope. I was packing my bags to join the journey before the end of part one. A must-read for all who love wine and life.
Michelle Williams, freelance writer and author of the Rockin Red Blog

Like a master blender, Mike Veseth stimulates the mind’s appetite with a wonderful balance of illusion and substance, as complex as a fine wine.Structured with cultural nuance and imagination, this delightful book is a must-read for serious wine enthusiasts and neophytes alike. Circumnavigating the world in eighty wines should be enjoyed with a glass of your favorite origin in hand.
George Sandeman, Sogrape Vinhos, Portugal

Mike Veseth has deftly captured the magical worldwide journey of wine. This is a great rollicking educational roller coaster of a ride that the global fraternity of wine enthusiasts will embrace.
Robert Hill-Smith, vigneron, Yalumba, Australia

Wine Economist World Tour Update: Valladolid, Spain and Paphos, Cyprus

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The “Wine Economist World Tour” is on the road again and I thought you might want to know about the upcoming stops.

FEV General Assembly / Valladolid, Spain

Sue and I will be in historic Valladolid, Spain on the 28th of March. I’m giving a keynote address on the dynamics of the global wine market and how they apply to Spain at  the Federación Española Del Vino General Assembly.

I am honored to be invited to address this important group and am looking forward to meeting everyone and learning more about Spain and its wines during our visit. Sue and I have immersed ourselves in Spanish wine research, revisiting old friends and seeing what is new on the market here. Can’t wait to continue this work in Spain!

Cyprus Wine Competition / Paphos, Cyprus

We will attend the 10th Cyprus Wine Competition in Paphos, Cyprus on May 2-6. I will give a seminar on “Secrets of the World’s Most Respected Wine Regions” with lessons that might be useful to the Cyprus wine industry.

Many people think of Cyprus as a great place for a sunny holiday — and it is — but it has a rich culture, an amazing wine history, and a bright wine future, too. Its distinctive dessert wine, Commandaria, was once one of the most prized wines in the world. It just might be the particular wine with the longest history of continuous production.

Cyprus today is making the transition from an industry dominated by  bulk wine exports to a focus on high quality bottled wine and we will be interested to learn more about the industry, meet the wine industry leaders, and taste the progress they have made.

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There are several more World Tour stops on the horizon, including Napa Valley, Romania, Colorado, and I few more I can’t talk about yet. Watch this space for details.

What’s Ahead for the Wine Economy? 2017 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium

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Sue and I are looking forward to the 2017 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, which is set for January 24-27, 2017 in Sacramento, California. The Unified Symposium is the largest wine industry gathering in North America, drawing as many as 14,000 people for the sessions, trade show, and gatherings.

This year’s conference features a number of interesting sessions, some of which are presented in both English and Spanish. I will paste the program below for your inspection. Three sessions particularly caught my eye this year.

And Now For Something Completely Different200x200

Eric Asimov, the New York Times‘ wine critic, will give the luncheon address on Tuesday January 24. I am thinking that Asimov’s talk will be a bit different from the 2016 lunch speaker — Fred Franzia!

Fred didn’t pull many punches in challenging his audience and gave us a lot to think about. I expect Asimov’s take to be completely  different, but equally challenging.

Stephen Rannekleiv of Rabobank and Damien Wilson of Sonoma State University will present an analysis of “The Global Market for Wine” on Wednesday afternoon and I will certainly be in the audience. What a big topic! I’m looking forward to seeing what particular trends they pick out and how they see the wine economy developing given all the economic and political changes going on.

State of the Industry

The “State of the Industry” session will go live at 8:30 on Wednesday morning and I will be back as both moderator and speaker. The program is always interesting and draws a huge standing-room-only crowd as the photo above shows.

Joining me this year are three terrific speakers: Nat DiBuduo of Allied Grape Growers,
Danny Brager from The Nielsen Company and Glenn Proctor of Ciatti Company. I’ll be interested to hear what Nat, Danny and Glenn have to say about the wine industry in 2016 and what’s ahead for 2017 and beyond. They really know their stuff — should be a terrific session. Hope to see you at the Unified. Cheers!

Unified Wine & Grape Symposium Program

Tuesday January 24

7:30 am – 6:30 pm Registration

11:30 am – 1:30 pm Keynote Speaker Luncheon
Eric Asimov, New York Times, New York
Separate Registration Fee Required

2:00 pm – 4:00 pm Sauvignon blanc: Vine to Bottle (includes tasting)
Joint Grapegrowing & Winemaking Breakout Session

2:00 pm – 4:00 pm Focus, Focus, Focus: Listen to Learn
Marketing/Public Relations Breakout Session

2:00 pm – 4:00 pm Finding Value in Sustainability
Business/Operations Breakout Session

4:30 pm – 6:30 pm Welcome Reception

Wednesday January 25

7:30 am – 5:30 pm Registration

8:30 am – 11:00 am State of the Industry
General Session

9:00 am – 6:00 pm Exhibits Open

1:00 pm – 2:15 pm Not Your Ordinary Yeast: Using Innovated Strains and Fermentation Techniques to Increase Wine Quality and Drive Wine Styles
Winemaking Breakout Session

1:30 pm – 3:30 pm Looking Forward: How Grapevine Clean Plant Strategies Can be Improved
Grapegrowing Breakout Session

1:30 pm – 3:30 pm The Global Market for Wine
Business & Operations Breakout Session

1:30 pm – 3:30 pm Making the Most of Your Message: Building a Bridge Between Winegrowing, Marketing & PR to Effectively Reach Today’s Consumer
Marketing/Public Relations Breakout Session

2:30 pm – 3:45 pm Eggs, Uprights, Puncheons and More: Making Your Best Wine in Unusual Containers
Winemaking Breakout Session

4:00 pm – 6:00 pm Regional Wine Tasting

6:15 pm – 8:00 pm UC Davis Viticulture & Enology Alumni, Students, Faculty and Friends Reception

Thursday January 26

8:00 am – 4:00 pm Registration

9:00 am – 4:00 pm Exhibits Open

9:00 am – 11:30 am Adapt or Go Extinct: Removing Barriers to Our Industry’s Success
General Session

9:00 am – 10:30 am Presentada en español (Presented in Spanish)

Tecnologías de vanguardia para la producción de uva y elaboración de vino
Sesión General en español

Leading-edge Technology in Grapegrowing and Winemaking
Spanish General Session

10:45 am – Noon Presentada en español (Presented in Spanish)

La decisión inteligente de utilizar material de propagación limpio
Sesión en Español de Viticultura

The Smart Decision of Using Clean Plant Material
Spanish Grapegrowing Breakout Session

10:45 am – Noon Presentada en español (Presented in Spanish)

El Arte de Encontrar el Balance Ideal de un Vino
Sesión en Español de Enología

The Art of Finding a Wine’s Ideal Balance (Sweet Spot)
Spanish Winemaking Breakout Session

11:30 am – 1:00 pm Hosted Buffet Luncheon

1:15 pm – 3:15 pm Cooperage Alternatives
Winemaking English Tour

1:30 pm – 3:30 pm Presentada en español (Presented in Spanish)

Alternativas de Tonelería
Tour en Español de Enología

1:15 pm – 2:15 pm FSMA – Food Safety Modernization Act
Winemaking Breakout Session

1:15 pm – 3:15 pm Beyond the Tasting Room: Marketing Your Wines Today
Marketing/Public Relations Breakout Session

1:15 pm – 3:15 pm Vineyard Mechanization: Moving to the “No Touch Vineyard?
Grapegrowing Breakout Session

1:15 pm – 3:15 pm To Grow or Not to Grow: While the Common Wisdom Is That Growth is Good, is it Really? And if it is Good for You, How to do It?
Business & Operations Breakout Session

1:15 pm – 3:15 pm Mechanization
Grapegrowing English Tour

1:30 pm – 3:30 pm Presentada en español (Presented in Spanish)

Mecanización
Tour en Español de Viticultura

2:30 pm – 3:30 pm Beyond the Bottle:  Packaging Innovations for Winemakers
Winemaking Breakout Session

A Sneaky Preview of a Work in Progress: “Around the World in Eighty Wines”

80daysI am busy working on the third draft of my next book, which will be released at about this time next year (lots of work left to do!). It is called Around the World in Eighty Wines and I am sure you have already guessed that it is inspired by the famous Jules Verne adventure story.

It is too soon for details, but I thought I would tease you just a bit with a pair of maps. The first map (above) is my lame attempt to plot out the route of Jules Vernes’ hero Phileas Fogg. He started in London and worked his way from east to west around the world and back to London again.

My quest, which also starts in London, is to travel the world in eighty wines, not eighty days. Each individual wine needs to represent something important about wine and the places and people and cultures that produce wine. Since there are thousands of wines in the world, you might think this is an easy task. But you would be wrong (or at least that’s the premise of the book).

Telling the story of wine and its world with just eighty bottles — that’s insane. But I think it will be fun and I promise that the readers who come with me for the ride will find much to learn, love and laugh about along with (as in the Jules Verne story) some inevitable challenges and confounding frustrations.

80winesThis map (above) is my obviously amateur attempt to plot out the route that my book seems to be taking us (books have minds of their own — sometimes it is the story not the author who calls the shots).

If you compare the two maps you will see that circumnavigating with eighty wines is obviously much more difficult than doing it in eighty days. Just look at how much more complicated our route is than Phileas Fogg’s!

My maps are terrible, but that’s OK with me because I don’t want to give away too much just yet. Maybe you can guess where the journey will take us and perhaps you can even channel some of the wines. But I guarantee some surprises even for the most clairvoyant readers!

Where would you go on this adventure? Which wines would you choose to fill the eighty spots in your wine case? What fun we will have together finding the answers and the wines to go with them!

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BBC presenter Michael Palin took on the 80 day version of this challenge in 1989. Here’s a snippet of the 7-part television series that recorded his adventures. Enjoy!

“Money, Taste & Wine” Honored as 2016 “Best in the World” Wine Writing

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My new book Money, Taste, and Wine: It’s Complicated received this  year’s prize for “Best in the World” Wine Writing from Gourmand at the awards ceremony in Yantai, China on May 28, 2016.

My University of Puget Sound colleague Prof. Pierre Ly (shown above) accepted the award on my behalf, speaking in both English and Chinese. Pierre is in China lecturing and gathering material for the book that he and Cynthia Howson are writing about the Chinese wine industry.

Congratulations to all the winners, especially Gerard Bertrand (Le Vin à la belle étoile) and Andrea Zanfi (Prosecco on the Road) for best wine book and Suzanne Mustacich for best digital wine book (Thirsty Dragon).gourmand

Congratulations and a personal shout-out to Beate Joubert. Her book Taste of the Little Karoo won the “best in the world” bronze medal in the Local Cuisine cookbook category. We had a delicious lunch at Beate’s restaurant at the Joubert-Tradauw winery in Barrydale when we visited South Africa. Her husband Meyer and son Andreas are featured in the final chapter of Money, Taste, and Wine.

Thanks to Gourmand International for this honor. Thanks to my publisher Rowman & Littlefied and my editor Susan McEachern their valuable contributions to Money, Taste, and Wine. Special thanks to Pierre Ly for teaching me so much and representing me at the awards ceremony and to Édouard Cointreau for his encouragement and support.

Money, Taste, and Wine Short-Listed for Two Gourmand International Awards

gourmandMy recent book Money, Taste, and Wine: It’s Complicated has been short-listed for two Gourmand International awards.. The winners will be announced in ceremonies in Yantai, China later this month.

The awards are for best wine book and best wine writing. I’ll paste the list of finalists in these categories below.Click on this link to see all the award listings.

Thanks to Gourmand International for this honor. Congratulations and good luck to all the finalists.1442234636

Best book of the year

Australia – Varietal Wines, James Halliday (Harper Collins)
Belgium – All Belgium beers, Stichting Kunstboek
France – Le Vin a la bonne etoile, Gerard Bertrand ( La Martiniere )
Germany – Deutsche Wein und Deutsche Kuche ( Callwey )
Italy – Prosecco on the road, Andrea Zanfi ( S & B )
South Korea Korean Wines and Spirits, Jeff Koehler ( Seoul Selection )
Spain – Economía del vino en España y el Mundo ( Cajamar Valencia )
Sweden – Whisky Rebellion, Richard Lundborg ( Bladh by bladh )
USA – Money, taste and wine, Mike Veseth (Rowman & Littlefield)

 Wine writing

Australia – True stories, Barossa winemakers, Bernadette Kaeding
Bolivia – Diccionario Enciclopedico universal Del vino, Roberto Arce
Chile – Patrimonio vitivinicola ( Biblioteca Nacional )
France-Grainsensible, Olivier Humbrecht, ( Tonnerre de l’ Est )
USA – Money, taste and wine, Mike Veseth (Rowman & Littlefield)

Flashback Friday: Malbec World Day

Wines of Argentina has designated Sunday April 17 Malbec World Day 2016. That’s only a week away, so you had better get started thinking about how you will celebrate this holiday. Please use the comments section below to share your Malbec World Day plans.

Malbec World Day is a good excuse for a Flashback Friday column since Malbec has appeared frequently in these pages in the context of the Argentinean wine industry. Malbec was, for example, the subject of an award-winning  documentary called “Boom Varietal: the Rise of Argentine Malbec”  (see video trailer above) that provided my first (and so far only) opportunity to be a supporting character in a film.

Here is a column from back in 2011 that honors all Malbec producers by revisiting Mendel Wines (a bottle of Mendel Malbec is on the short list of possibilities for our Malbec World Day celebration along with a “flashback” tribute Malbec from Colomé called Auténtico).

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Balance is the key to great wine (and profitable wine business, too). I was reminded of this truth many times during our visit to Mendoza, where wine makers are trying to chart a course between and among several extremes:

  • Competitive export sales versus the challenging domestic market;
  • Reliable value wine sales versus potentially more profitable premium products;
  • Popular and successful Malbec versus TNBT — The (speculative and uncertain) Next Big Thing.

The key to long term success involves finding the right balance in this complex economic environment.

I want to use this post to consider three types of balance that I think are particularly interesting in Mendoza – the balance between crisis and opportunity,  local and international winemaking influences and the simple tension between the old and the new.  We learned about all three dimensions during our brief visit to Mendel Wines in Lujan de Cuyo.

Crisis and Opportunity

Mendel is both very old and quite new.  The vineyards are old, planted in 1928. Somehow these Malbec vines survived the ups and downs of the Argentinean economy. The winery is almost as old and has a certain decaying charm. It stands in stark contrast to Salentein, O. Fournier, the Catena Zapata pyramid and the many other starkly modernist structures that have sprung up in this part of the world.

The winery project is quite new. Mendel is a partnership between Anabelle Sielecki and Roberto de la Mota and is the result of a balance between crisis and opportunity. When economic crisis struck Argentina ten years ago, opportunities were created for those with vision and entrepreneurial spirit. Anabelle and Roberto seized the moment and purchased these old vines and well-worn structures for their new super premium winery project.

That their impulse was timely and wise may not have been obvious at the time (crises are like that), but it is perfectly clear now. Wine Advocate named Mendel one of nine “Best of the Best” Argentinean wineries in a recent issue.[1]

Old and New

The winemaking that goes on in Mendel is also a combination of old and new. The technology is modern, of course, with stainless steel and French oak very visible. The setting, however, constantly reminds you of the past and the vineyard’s and winery’s history. Walking through the winery, for example, I was struck by the big original concrete fermenting tanks – a blast from the past for sure.

No, we don’t use them to ferment the wines anymore, Cecilia Albino told us, but we put them to good use. Peek inside. Sure enough, the tanks were filled with oak barrels full of wine aging quietly in the cool environment.

Mendel also illustrates the balance between local and global that characterizes wine in Argentina, where much of the capital and many of the winemakers come from abroad.  Roberto de la Mota, partner and chief winemaker at Mendel, personifies this balance. Roberto is the son of  Raúl de la Mota, who is sometimes said to be Argentina’s “winemaker of the [20th] century” so important was his work in developing quality wine in this country.

Roberto naturally grew up in the wine business both here and in France, where he sought advanced training on the advice of Emile Peynaud. He was the winemaker at Terrazas, Chandon’s still wine project in Mendoza, and then at Cheval des Andes, a winery with connections to Château Cheval Blanc. I think it is fair to say that Roberto’s resume represents a balance between local and global, between deep understanding of Mendoza terroir and knowledge that perhaps only international influences can provide.

Local and Global

I asked Roberto if it was important that Mendel is an Argentinean project and not owned by a foreign multinational. Yes of course, he said, but he hesitated a bit and I think I see why. Many of the influences and markets are international, but people, vines and inspiration are  purely local. Not one or another, but intertwined, balanced.

And this thirst for a complex balance defines the future. Talking with Anabelle over coffee in Buenos Aires, she was ambitious to break into new markets – Hong Kong, China, and so forth. Anabelle is an architect — another field where global and local intersect.

Meeting with Roberto at the winery in Mendoza, he was interested in learning even more about his vines and terroir so as to better develop their potential. And to bring more of the classic Bordeaux grape varieties (like Petit Verdot) into the mix.

Mendel has charted its balanced course quickly, purposefully and well.  It is a perfect illustration of both the tensions that define wine in Argentina and the potential for success if a clear but balanced path is boldly taken.


[1] The other “Best of the Best” wineries in Wine Advocate issue 192 are Achaval Ferrer, Alta Vista, Catena Zapata, Viña Cobos, Colomé Reserva, Luca, Tikal and Yacochuya.