A Shot Heard Round the (Wine) World

Above: Josh Greene at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium.

Over the last few days, wine writers, bloggers, and pundits have published a number of posts and articles about Wine & Spirits ed-in-chief Josh Greene’s “State of the Industry” talk last Wednesday morning at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento, CA.

Some, like Sacramento Bee writer Jim Downing, seemed to interpret it almost as an affront to the California wine world.

Others, like Alice Feiring, were enthused by Josh’s “bravery” in suggesting that Californians consider natural winemaking.

Some took a more clinical approach to the much-talked-about talk, like this round-up in Pressing Matters (clever name for a wine blog, no?).

One of the more controversial points of Josh’s talk was his observation — based on hard data collected by his publication — that Californian wine is lagging behind European imports in “on premise” (restaurant) sales. He attributed this to the new generation of twenty-something sommeliers who are looking for wines “with a story” and made an analogy to the recent green-market phenomenon, whereby sommeliers — like chefs — want artisanal as opposed to commercial products. He also noted that for the first time you have “25-year-old sommeliers selling wine to 55-year-olds,” where in the past, sommeliers were generally 40+ in age. This younger generation, he said, looks for unusual, exotic wines to “hand-sell” to patrons. (The previous day, Food and Wine chief wine writer Lettie Teague — who moderated a panel on European imports — pointed out that steakhouse wine lists are invariably dominated by Californian wine.)

The polite 800+ crowd seemed to react positively to the presentation but I didn’t see anyone running out the door to shut down their reverse osmosis machines.

Check out Pressing Matters for a number of quotes from the talk.

Click here to read Josh’s notes from his address.

Here’s my post on Josh’s (and Darrell Corti’s) talk.

2 Responses to A Shot Heard Round the (Wine) World

  1. Terry Hughes says:

    Thanks for the reportage, Jeremy. I read all the linked posts and articles too; Alice F. really ran with it.

    Based on my anecdotal evidence, many conversations with these juvenile sommeliers and so on, Josh was right on the money. And the upshot is that, for the first time since the Judgment of Paris, California wine is no longer Fashionable. It’s a generational swing that’s oddly in sync with what we see happening in the world of politics in our blessed nation. About high time too.

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