WineInk: The New Wine World
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Villa Antinori Toscana Rosso 2016 IGT
The time is right to drink Italian and this affordable, under $20 red gem from the house of Antinori is an easy one to savor. Sangiovese, Cabernet , Merlot, and more make up the blend that will be a perfect sipper on a spring evening. Dark red and lush in the glass, it is a bit of a trip to the Italian boot sip by sip.
With information coming so quickly and changing so fast for all of us, it is important that we stay up to date. This column, over the next few weeks, will endeavor to provide you with both information on what we can all do to get our wine and an escape from our day-to-day. Please, if you have any information on what is happening with local liquor stores, at wineries, or with mail order options, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is both personal and global.
As this column was about to go to press last week, I received notification of the postponement of an Italian wine dinner at Aspen’s The Little Nell hotel’s Element 47 restaurant, scheduled for March 13.
Though the markets were in turmoil and the state of Washington was already fully engulfed in the madness and Italy was closing its borders, the reality of how it could affect us here was not something that I had fully reckoned with. Perhaps I was naïve and a bit selfish, living in my own little bubble, but it took a personal experience to bring home the global implications of what we are going through.
Over the next 48 hours the news came hot and heavy. The NBA shutdown seemed like the big brick in the crumbling wall, especially since it was quickly followed by the NHL, the MLB, the XFL and — perhaps most depressingly — the entire NCAA spring sports schedule. Even if you are not a sports fan, these are significant American happenings and to suddenly, unequivocally, have them gone so quickly was mind-bending.
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News that a group of Australian tourists had tested positive in Aspen, the closure of school districts and finally, the shuttering of Colorado ski resorts all in just a few days’ time showed how fluid the situation was (and still is) for us here in the Rockies.
My wife and I made an early morning trip mid-week to shop for essentials in the event that we would be “hunkering down” for more than just the weekend. And yes, we made a stop at the wine/liquor store on the way home. While we stocked up on some beer, a few bottles of quaffable wine and a spirit or two, I noted that the shop I was in was empty.
“Been pretty slow,” said the proprietor with a grim shake of the head.
Personally, that all seems like a long time ago.
Then there is the global side of things.
Australia was the first wine-exporting country to fall victim as the virus caused the shutdown of much of China in January and February, including the important Lunar New Year. Over the past decade China has become far and away the largest export market for Australian wines, with wines from Australia trailing just France in Chinese imports. China, as of yet, does not produce and export much wine, but their factories produce many goods like labels, closures, bottles and parts that are important to not just the wine industry, but just about all industries. Luxury French wine producer LVMH, owner of Maison Veuve Cliquot, Moët & Chandon and Dom Perignon also saw dramatic drops in the Chinese marketplace
Italy was the next wine producer to be hit by the coronavirus and, as of this writing, is still in total lockdown. It was just March 3 that VinItaly, one of the largest wine shows in the world and arguably its most important, announced that it was moving the event in Verona from April to, hopefully, June. That now seems unlikely.
This is the time of year when Italian wines like prosecco and rosé are in the process of being shipped to export markets for summer sipping. The effects on the wine industry in Italy are, at this point, closely tied to the progress of the nation’s recovery from the virus. It is impossible to predict what will happen in either the short or long term. Day by day, or perhaps giorno per giorno, is the best way to approach it.
And if you think it’s hard for Americans to be without March Madness, imagine the French without their cafés. As of last Saturday, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has decreed that all “non-essential” commerce be closed. This includes bars and cafés.
While the southern hemisphere is in the midst of the 2020 harvest in countries like Argentina, Chile and South Africa, if there is a silver lining for those vineyards in the Northern Hemisphere it is that they are very early in the stages of the next vintage. While workers are in the process of preparing the vines for the coming vintage, there is not the pressure of a harvest to complicate things at this time.
However, last Sunday, Gavin Newsome, governor of California and a man who has a long history in wine as both a retailer and producer, shut down tasting rooms at all California wineries. This comes as the spring tourist season begins and the wedding schedule in the Napa Valley is chock full. The disappointment will be personal.
Looking for a sunnier note? The first “bud break” of 2020 in the Napa Valley occurred last Friday in the Carneros appellation. A dry February in the region led to the mid-March break in the southernmost part of California’s most famed wine region. Nature maintains its rhythm.
May it herald brighter days ahead. Both globally and individually.
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