There’s a global wine shortage coming…or maybe not

Last week, The Atlantic reported that there is a forthcoming global wine shortage. They cited research by Morgan Stanley and had a nice little graph to boot. Even CNN picked it up. As you can imagine, the wine world sort of freaked.

But fear not! Just days later, reports emerged debunking the Morgan Stanley report. The SF Gate and Reuters both cranked out articles claiming just the opposite. The Reuters article that’s linked there explains a lot. Go on, click it. Click that link. If you don’t want to though, here are some telling paragraphs from it:

But if you look closely at the Morgan Stanley report, it starts to look less like a dispassionate analysis of supply and demand dynamics in the wine world, and more like an aggressively-argued attempt to put forward one particular investment thesis as strongly as possible. What’s more, the investment thesis is not, particularly, based on the existence of any present or future wine shortage; it’s simply trying to present the idea that demand for Australian wine exports is likely to rise, and to justify the fact that  a company called Treasury Wine Estates is the bank’s “top Australian consumer pick”. (The report was written by Morgan Stanley Australia.)

To create the first chart, Morgan Stanley just took the second chart, added 300 million cases to the red line, and then — this is pretty cunning — simply deleted 2013 altogether, so that the uptick at the end disappears. (The 300 million number is Morgan Stanley’s estimate of the annual demand for “non-wine uses” of wine.)

If you like charts though, check out that link. It’s pretty good. So it seems that, for now, we’re in the clear. Plenty of wine for all. Clearly I’m still laying down a few bottles either way though. And besides, there’s always whiskey.

Chinese slowdown

You may recall a handful of posts I wrote in years’ past about the huge rise in Chinese wine buying. Around 2008, the Chinese government cut tariffs on wine imports by 80%, so you can imagine how things took off. But now it seems the Chinese government is putting some brakes back on. Wine-searcher.com reported recently about new austerity measures that have been imposed after “…estimates for spending on banquets and entertainment were made public by researchers in early 2012, the figure was put at $50 billion to $145 billion per year.” Big time money, and not a lot of austerity there, huh?

In 2013, these measures (I’m not quite sure what the measures entail) took effect. Feel free to read the linked article above to the details, but here are the key figures they’ve seen so far:

  • “…more than 50 percent of China’s medium- to large-sized companies have slashed their corporate spending.”
  • The same vintage of Chateau Lafite was trading at $1,930/btl now trading at $970
  • Average price per bottle of local spirits baijiu dropped to $164 down from $323
  • 60% to 80% of all Chateau Lafite bottles in China is now counterfeit.

I can’t say I’m shocked by the drop. The good times can’t always roll that hard. Given the philosophy of the government, it seems like there will be a bit of a roller coaster for the foreseeable future, albeit hopefully with slightly less steep drops.

Natural Wine

The idea of natural wines is a tricky subject. Mainly because the term really doesn’t mean anything specific. In general though, it means a wine that’s been as un-touched by a winemaker’s technology and techniques as possible. So what’s that mean? Things like chemicals in the vineyard (e.g. pesticides, or chemicals that keep the grapes from rotting or molding), or sulphur in the winemaking process. Sulphur sounds bad, but really it’s totally fine. It’s typically used very sparingly, and it keeps the wine from spoiling, so it’s essential.

So now we get the push for “natural” wines, which certainly comes from a good place and is something that I generally agree with. But in reality, there is NO way to know what is “natural” and what isn’t, or where in the spectrum of “natural” a wine may fall. It ends up being a little silly to my mind. The easiest way is to get to know a winery that you like a lot, and learn the winemaker’s philosophy. Easier said than done, yes. Your best bet is to find a great wineshop and talk to the folks who work there. They’ve often visited the places themselves.

If you want to learn more, and you’re an extreme wine nerd, check out this blog post that I came across. It’s a long read, but it’s interesting if this type of thing gets you going. I don’t know the blog well, but it looks like a smartly written piece so it may be worth checking out more.

Vintner’s entire crop missing from vines

Been a while since I’ve posted, so let’s get back into this with some news, shall we? September and October are big months for harvest in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s normally a splendid time of year, so long as the weather holds in your favor – nobody wants grapes plump with rainwater right at harvest. For once French vintner however, it would have been nice to even have grapes. It seems that another winemaker goofed and picked the wrong vines. There’s a phone call I’d rather not make.

I am a Supertaster: paying taxes in Bittertown, USA

Indeed, I am a supertaster. Don’t be confused though, I am not a super taster – I’m not the Michael Jordan of tasting or something. No, I’m a supertaster. It’s a bad thing, mostly. To put it simply, a supertaster is one who has greater than average fungiform papillae on their tongue, and therefore a much lower tolerance to bitter tastes. Supertasters often find things like black coffee, green leafy vegetables, and hoppy beers unbearable. Women, Asians, Africans, and South Americans are more likely to be supertasters (so I’m big time in the minority here). Read all about it on Google, or check out Wikipedia’s info on it right here.

Yours truly finds all of these things bitter. I load up my coffee with cream and sugar. I wince when I drink a really strong IPA. This now explains why people have looked at me funny when I say I don’t like the taste of most vegetables.

So how does one find out for sure that they’re a super taster? I had read all sorts of home tests, like dropping blue food coloring on your tongue, and then counting the number of taste buds you see in a hole punch-sized area. Not very scientific. Finally I heard about a chemically treated paper test strip that proves it. It’s safe, it’s easy, it’s cheap…it’s available on Amazon. Clearly, I snapped these up (if anyone wants to try it, I might have 99 strips left). The “For use in medical genetics” was particularly enjoyable to read right before sticking a chemical in my mouth.

PTC test strips
PTC test strips

The day they were delivered, I dove right in. The test is incredibly easy. Take one strip, pop it in your mouth, get it wet with saliva, and wait to see if you taste anything. If you taste nothing at all, you’re a “nontaster” – one who tastes less than average. If you only notice a slight amount, I’m told, you’re normal. If it’s disgustingly bitter, well, guess what you are?

At first, I thought it just tasted like paper. Then the paper got wet and the chemical spread throughout my mouth. And onto my gums. And onto the inside of my cheeks. Welcome to Bittertown, USA. Ding ding ding! Supertaster. The good news is, for those of your worried about the taste, it took a few swishes of water to get rid of the taste.

For your blog reading entertainment, I was sure to have my phone ready for a mid-tasting experience reaction shot. I think you’ll enjoy the photo below. No need to thank me. Just go have a strong IPA for me, please. Now who needs 99 PTC test strips? Cheers.

Paying taxes in Bittertown, USA.
Paying taxes in Bittertown, USA.