Top Wine Stories of 2007

Top Wine Stories of 2007

by Courtney Cochran

As the year winds to a close, many of us find ourselves anticipating what lies ahead in '08: the election of this nation's 44th president, Beijing's hosting of the 29th Olympic Games, and - we hope - the wine world's continued waning of interest in White Zin. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's take a moment to reflect on the top wine news stories of 2007.

Frank Gehry Comes to Napa

Each year brings a new harvest and a new vintage in wine country, but 2007 was the first that brought Frank Gehry. The man known for the groundbreaking Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the breathtaking Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain unveiled his plans for a state-of-the-art new winery at HALL Wines in St. Helena. Gehry plans to incorporate a dramatic light-filled trellis into the design that will meld with existing winery buildings and the natural landscape. We cant wait to see the results.

Wine Consumption Grows Among US Youths

Watch out, beer: A Nielson poll this year found that the 70 million-strong Millennial Generation (folks between the ages of 21 and 30) has a growing fondness for wine. While beer still claimed the highest share - 47% - of the group's first choice of alcoholic drink, the share represented a slide from 59% 10 years ago, while wine rose to 27% of the group’s choice and spirits clocked 26% of the vote. Research shows that Millennials take up wine earlier than previous generations and spend more on beverages and socializing.

California Gets its First Zero-Carbon Winery

Mendocino's Parducci Winery was awarded the prestigious Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA) this year for its pioneering work in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change. Parducci - the first certified carbon neutral winery in the US – achieved reductions through the use of solar power, wind energy and bio-diesel fuel before offsetting its remaining carbon footprint through partnerships with PG&E and a tree replanting program.

Wine Gets a Facebook App – Er, Make that 15

The ubiquitous social networking site started by a Harvard student some three years ago continues to up the online ante, most recently with its decision to allow outside programmers to create their own Facebook applications. A number of tech-inclined winos have leaped into the fold, some with truly innovative apps. One of our favorites is Ask Gary (http://apps.facebook.com/askgary/), which allows you to get quick answers on all things wine from funny wine guy Gary Vaynerchuck of Wine Library TV.

Vintners Campaign for Place-Name Protection

Proposals by the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) that would limit the ability of vintners to list extensive geographic information on labels and allow some established wineries to continue using place names that may not correspond to the provenance of their wines have the wine industry in an uproar. Several extensions on the comment period have been requested by vintners and granted by TTB, with final word on the proposals slated for early 2008. Expect the hoopla to continue.

Rare Wine Fraud Allegations on the Rise

The FBI art and antiquities fraud unit is busy these days as the counterfeit wine scare continues to elicit allegations of fraudulent wine sales. Targets of the complaints are for the most part dealers and auction houses, who collectors accuse of selling bottles they suspect may be counterfeit or failing to adequately prove their provenance. To wit, oil billionaire William Koch recently sued a German dealer over several $100,000+ bottles of claret the dealer claimed were once owned by Thomas Jefferson.

Climate Change Comes to the Fore

You didn’t have to look far in 2007 to find news of climate change, and the wine industry was no exception. In a July presentation to local vintners and industry leaders at Sonoma's Gloria Ferrer, Pancho Campo – President of The Wine Academy of Spain and expert on climate change in the wine world – shared his findings with a packed room. The gathering was a precursor to 2008’s World's II Congress in Climate Change and Wine, which will be held in Barcelona in February with Al Gore as keynote speaker

China Poised to Become World Wine Power

Reports released this year by VinExpo predict that the Chinese market for wine will grow by 70% between 2006 and 2011, making China and Hong Kong the world's eight biggest wine consumer by 2012. As if to underscore their enthusiasm for wine, the Chinese are building a sprawling Palace of Wine in the city of Qingdao in Shangdong Province, the site of the 2008 Olympic Games sailing competition. The facility will encompass shops, restaurants, a social club and wine storage facilities for local residents.

Wine Mogul Charged with Fraud

Michael Domecq, the millionaire former owner of New York’s Domecq Importers, was finally arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for theft and tax evasion relating to his drinks business after more than 5 years on the lam from authorities. Domecq, 59, allegedly stole more than $14 million from his own company through a complex scheme involving false purchase orders and offshore bank accounts. He was arrested in 2006 when he was spotted an airport in the UK with a false passport.

Investing in Wine Pays Off in '07

In news that surely has many a wine collector grinning, fine wine as an investment bested a popular UK stock index, the Indy 100, for the year 2007. Recognized as an indicator of general economic health in Britain, the index tracks shares of a diverse group of 100 British companies. Experts claim that skyrocketing demand for Bordeaux is largely responsible for wine's overall gain of 39% for the year, as the value of bottles from the famous region in France has climbed by more than 90 percent over the past 12 months.