The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2018

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Page 18 of 96

18  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2018 I constantly receive an abundance of industry PR materials that lay out in detail which wines and spirits are hot in the marketplace . . . and which, of course, are not. In a way, it's kind of like watching the stock market. In 1976—the year I started writing about wine—Eastman Kodak, Sears Roebuck, and F.W. Woolworth were powerful and proud members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Today all three have been banished from the Dow; in fact, they're barely limping along as they desperately try to avoid extinction. I've been observing the ebb and flow in wine and spirits since that time, and one thing has remained consistent: changing tastes. The market is in constant flux. Remember when bourbon was almost dead? Remember Ipana Toothpaste? I've been around long enough to remember when the most popular white wines were called "Chablis"—a purloined term used to describe a blend of French Colombard and Thompson Seedless—and the red star was named "Burgundy," another term stolen from the French used to describe a wine that was mostly Zinfandel. But I don't need the sales figures, really. I have my own way of reading the market: All I have to do is monitor the samples sent to me each week. For example, I sang the praises of rosé for years, but it was like a tree falling in the wilderness. Now my bins are overflowing with them. And back in the '80s, when consumers discovered and fell for Merlot, everybody began producing the variety. It was overplanted, often in places where it shouldn't have been cultivated in the first place. Business was booming . . . until it wasn't. Thanks to one line in Sideways, the Merlot movement stopped dead. My samples dried up and were replaced by Pinot Noir, the variety touted in that same seminal movie. If I got three or four Pinots in a year before 2004, it was a lot. This year I've already received and tasted more than 100, and 500-plus since the beginning of 2017. Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon have been mainstays through- out my career, but when I started getting lots of Prosecco, I knew something was afoot. The same goes for tequila and now mezcal. I could go on and on, but I won't. All I'm trying to say is that if I want to put my finger on the pulse of the "latest thing," all I have to do is ask my UPS and FedEx guys—saving me time I'd much rather spend tasting, of course. My Own Personal Market Survey LETTER FROM THE EDITOR PHOTO: JEREMY BALL

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