Wine Wars: The Curse of the Blue Nun, The Miracle of Two Buck Chuck, and the Revenge of the Terroirists

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Overview

Writing with wit and verve, Mike Veseth (a.k.a. the Wine Economist) tells the compelling story of the war between the market trends that are redrawing the world wine map and the terroirists who resist them. Wine and the wine business are at a critical crossroad today, transformed by three powerful forces. Veseth begins with the first force, globalization, which is shifting the center of the wine world as global wine markets provide enthusiasts with a rich but overwhelming array of choices. Two Buck Chuck, the ...
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Wine Wars: The Curse of the Blue Nun, the Miracle of Two Buck Chuck, and the Revenge of the Terroirists

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Overview

Writing with wit and verve, Mike Veseth (a.k.a. the Wine Economist) tells the compelling story of the war between the market trends that are redrawing the world wine map and the terroirists who resist them. Wine and the wine business are at a critical crossroad today, transformed by three powerful forces. Veseth begins with the first force, globalization, which is shifting the center of the wine world as global wine markets provide enthusiasts with a rich but overwhelming array of choices. Two Buck Chuck, the second force, symbolizes the rise of branded products like the famous Charles Shaw wines sold in Trader Joe's stores. Branded corporate wines simplify the worldwide wine market and give buyers the confidence they need to make choices, but they also threaten to dumb down wine, sacrificing terroir to achieve marketable McWine reliability. Will globalization and Two Buck Chuck destroy the essence of wine? Perhaps, but not without a fight, Veseth argues. He counts on "the revenge of the terroirists" to save wine's soul. But it won't be easy as wine expands to exotic new markets such as China and the very idea of terroir is attacked by both critics and global climate change. Veseth has "grape expectations" that globalization, Two Buck Chuck, and the revenge of the terroirists will uncork a favorable future for wine in an engaging tour-de-force that will appeal to all lovers of wine, whether it be boxed, bagged, or bottled.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a book at turns fascinating and frustrating, political economist and blogger Veseth examines the wine world and analyzes its historical and present-day factors from the small to the large along with their potential impact on wine's future. He structures his overall argument into three major "flights," or selection of wines for tasting, the first being the effects of globalization. Looking at expansionist politics and economics, he examines retailing policies in domestic markets such as England, Germany, and the U.S. Veseth turns to the wine drinking market and its evolution, and the ever-expanding influence of wine criticism on both in the face of the rapid changes in bulk production. The last part of his analysis looks at terroir and the potential effect of climate change. While Veseth's analysis is provocative, he often takes a tone that is all too clever, such as following each "flight," or tasting argument, with additional enological evidence to support his argument. (June)
Library Journal
Seeking to view the global wine trade through an economist's lens, Veseth (international political economy, Univ. of Puget Sound; Globaloney: Unraveling the Myths of Globalization) takes readers through an engaging examination of international wine markets and the impact of consumers. Veseth carefully explains the construction of stores' wine walls, including the psychological, physiological, and economic impact of the placement of wines on them (think of reaching up for the "top shelf"). Also included is an analysis and breakdown of the wine consumer market into distinctive groups, such as "Satisfied Sippers," "Image Seekers," and "Wine Enthusiasts." Veseth's basic premise is that the modern, globalized market now pits mass-made bargain wines against stuffy, epicurean standbys, creating limitless choices for certain types of consumers and turning the traditional model for what drives industry sales on its head. VERDICT This book will interest not only oenophiles but also general readers following the global economy or market analysis.—Carolyn M. Schwartz, Westfield State Univ. Lib., MA
Good Reads
Written by a wine economics expert who lives in Washington, this book provides fascinating history on the globalization of the wine industry—and why that is not necessarily a bad thing. Veseth convincingly makes arguments for why inexpensive wine is not a problem and why the wine world is unlikely to collapse on itself. All in all, it is a comprehensive, well-written and glass-half-full book. Frankly, I learned a great deal about wine, how it is made and the history of many wine regions. I learned a great deal about the Chinese market, as well as the problems going on in France and Australia. This was a hugely entertaining and valuable read.
Good Grape
A clear-eyed and expansive take on globalism and big business in wine. It's a welcome addition to the wine book shelf. . . . For many writers, the wine business is handled as a dry, academic subject, but in the hands of Veseth (like Perdue before him) it's interesting and zippy reading (bordering on a fun vacation read) and an incredibly helpful primer for not only the newly wine interested to help them understand the wine wall at their grocery store, but also savvy veterans who have, perhaps, focused their learning in specific regions, not looking at the wine world in totality and from a business perspective.
The News Tribune
Wine Wars provides some terrific insights into how and why the wine you see in your local grocery store got there, and why you buy (or don’t) the wine you do.
Booklist
Should wine be a beverage for everyone, or should it be an artisanally nurtured nectar, whose pleasures are available only to those with sophisticated noses and the deepest pockets? Veseth documents how these two contradictory approaches dictate what wines appear on shop shelves. The apotheosis of wine-for-all is the famous 'Two Buck Chuck,' a wine made ubiquitous in America by a German-owned chain of stores. At the same time that a mass market for wine has burgeoned, newly knowledgeable consumers have become increasingly aware of 'terroir,' the unique characteristics that come from wine grapes grown in specific soils and carefully bottled and aged to bring out their most distinctive and subtle qualities. Nevertheless, outsize profits lure vintners to make their products attractive to consumers of average taste. The appearance of new markets in China and elsewhere challenges small winemakers to expand or disappear entirely.
Appellation Beer
Veseth takes a sideways look when discussing The Curse of the Blue Nun, The Miracle of Two Buck Chuck, and the Revenge of the Terroirists (the sub-title of the book and the three sections in which is it divided). The first two parts help understand what’s different about shopping for wine at Trader Joe’s and Costco, and that was enough to keep my attention. Veseth is an economist and that’s one of the reasons I subscribe to his blog feed. . . . I wish there were more books like this focused on beer.
I-Winereview Blog
Mike Veseth’s latest book gives an economist’s perspective on the globalization of wine. The conflict he writes about is that between the globalists and the terroirists; between mass-produced and handcrafted wines; between the large multinational corporation and the small, family winery; between the wines that critics love and those that consumers purchase. . . . Fortunately, he doesn’t write like an economist. Anyone familiar with his blog, The Wine Economist, already knows that he writes about wine markets in a way that non-economists can easily understand. Reading the book, I kept thinking about Freakonomics, another popular book [that] uses the principles of economics to explore and explain a variety of social phenomena in a way that anyone can understand. Mike Veseth does the same thing but focused on the wine industry.
Wine Berserkers
Bottom line . . . this is an informative, well-written, and interesting book that I would recommend to any wine lover interested in what a wine economist has to say.
CHOICE
This is a serious book about the future of the wine industry that does not take itself too seriously. The writing of wine experts has long been lampooned for its pretension and incomprehensibility to the layperson. Veseth (economics, Univ. of Puget Sound) avoids these traps, although readers disdaining puns may wish he had not. He has produced an accessible, insightful book that shows he obviously has both intellectual understanding of and emotional attachment to the topic. His main intent is to address the potential benefits and dangers of various developments in the wine industry. Has globalization meant more choices at affordable prices or the homogenization of the choices facing consumers? How will climate change impact the traditional wine centers in Europe and the newly established regions in the New World? Will competition divide the market into a broad base of cheap wine in cardboard boxes for the masses and traditional wines costing thousands of dollars per bottle for a few elites? Veseth maintains his optimism, even if the prevailing mood is more dismal, and his optimism should be infectious for both wine lovers and those simply looking for an informative, entertaining book about the economics of a particular market. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels.
The Winesights Reader
Mike Veseth has applied his economist’s perspective, his understanding of global affairs, his clear understanding of the business of wine and his crystal clear writing style to assemble one of the best wine books of 2011. . . . Veseth's analysis is thorough, sound and matter-of-fact. This is a well and tightly woven story, well-told by a creative thinker. . . . A fascinating read, this book has pace, humor and insight.
Decanter
Economist Mike Veseth is an authority on the global wine market and here presents his view of the three forces shaping the wine world today. . . . Ultimately, his view is optimistic. . . . Any consumer keen to understand how the wine world works—and may develop—will find this a highly readable, comprehensive account.
Kitsap Sun
This book is a lively, globe-trotting treatise. To sum up using wine reviewers' parlance: Wine Wars opens with a witty bouquet and a note of didacticism. On the palate it is well-balanced and juicy, and it has an optimistic finish that lingers. Cheers!
Wine Spectator
It's said that wine is bottled poetry, but Mike Veseth knows it is also big business. Veseth, a professor of international political economy at the University of Puget Sound in Washington, has pulled together his love of wine and economic sensibilities to write a book that is an interesting, accessible read. Veseth is clearly enthusiastic about both wine and economics, and as a self-proclaimed 'wine economist' he explains the intersection of these interests with verve. It's a quick tour of the field, and for the purposes of his discussion, he sticks to big names and describes the successes of Yellow Tail, Charles Shaw, Blue Nun, Costco, Tesco and even Olive Garden with admiration. As an economist he sees the benefits of globalization, including more choices for consumers and a stabilizing effect for an industry that reacts slowly to changes in supply and demand.
Santa Barbara Independent
Globalization, corporatization, and terroir-ization of the fermented grape juice industry are all uncovered in this unveiling of the dark business side of winemaking by the market-minded yet engaging writer behind WineEconomist.com. . . . [A] gift your wino will love.
The Wenatchee World
Spritely written, easy to read and full of information about the history and growth of the global wine industry. . . . While dozens of fine new wineries start up in the U.S. each week and hundreds of wines can now be found on the wine wall of every large grocery store, Veseth worries that most wine drinkers never get past the few McWine makers that rule the industry. . . . He pins his hopes on winemakers he calls terroirists—those who care about the idea that wine should embody the unique tastes, aromas and characters of the place where it was made and the winemakers themselves. He believes many of those new wine drinkers will eventually graduate from lower priced bulk wines to higher priced hand-crafted local wines. Hopefully enough to support a rich and diverse market of wines for every occasion.
Vinography: A Wine Blog
Money makes the wine go round, and Wine Wars helps to make sense of it all. . . . Not to spoil the end of the story, but Veseth remains hopeful in the end about the mix of wine dynamics. Despite the seemingly crushing power of global price-cutting and homogenization, he thinks distinctive, even quirky wines have a bright future—in other words, something for everybody. . . . Along the way, his overview of economic forces that have shaped wine's career take the reader on a number of historical excursions and international visits. The treatment is breezy and easygoing. . . . Nonetheless, Veseth does get to some fundamental economic realities behind the surface of wine, and even readers who pay attention to the ups and down of the wine market will learn something. This kind of information may not change the way your next glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc tastes, but it surely will help you understand how it got there. And that, to go back to wine's many wondrous properties, gets us back to the lure of enlightenment.
SunBreak
There’s never a dull moment in its 225 pages. . . . Certainly if you’re a wine drinker—'oenophile' makes me visualize a trilobite-looking creature—this book provides a valuable education about what you think you’re buying, and who you’re buying it from. Veseth pulls back the curtain on an ongoing 'bargain wine revolution,' talking about the provenance of Trader Joe’s beloved Two Buck Chuck, and how conglomerates without house brands have bought their way into an assortment of once-local brands.
Revue d'économie régionale et urbaine
Jubilant. [Mike Veseth] possesses the art of expression: 'Wine Wall,' 'DaVino Code,' 'McWine Conspiracy' and, without doubt one of the best, 'Château Cash Flow.' He is swimming in a palette of colors, which he delights in dampening: Gallo’s famous Red Bicyclette, Yellow Tail, Blue Nun, his favorite White Zinfandel. . . . [His] work involves a veritable global framework and gives one the chance to visit Australia, [or] New Zealand, for example, in great depth. . . . The reality, which Veseth is right to underline, is that behind all the discourse, all the lyrical flights of fancy about the fabulous year, the involvement of generations of vintners and producers, there is always the fundamental question of money, of revenue and of power.
New York Journal of Books
Mike Veseth’s Wine Wars is broader than simply a book on the economics of wine, but it definitely looks at the trends that shaped the global wine industry as it has become today from an economist’s perspective. . . . These stories are fascinating and informative. . . . Anyone with an intellectual curiosity as to how all the factors came together to produce the wines available to us today will find much in Wine Wars to satisfy that curiosity.
Journal of Wine Economics
Wine Wars nicely captures the essence of [the] factors affecting the evolution of wine and the agenda for wine economics. The running theme throughout this book is a search for the future of wine. Writing in a brisk and non-technical style, Veseth uses this theme to focus on the competing forces vying for wine’s future. . . . The interrelationships that bring wine to the world are truly international in nature today, and will only become more so in the future. Veseth infuses Wine Wars with stories about these connections and conflicts, and in the process we learn much about the business aspects of wine—in addition to enjoying the narratives that inform the economics. . . . Anyone with an interest in wine and wine economics will enjoy reading Wine Wars.
The Seattle Times
I don't even like wine, and I found Veseth's book lively and engaging.
ForeWord Reviews
Veseth expertly presents the economic forces that are shaping wine consumption, and he frets about the beverage's future, particularly with the pushback seen by 'terroirists'—people who are obsessive about a wine's 'terroir,' that its identity reflect its unique growing conditions and place. The battle for wine's future isn't only about money, he posits, but also about power struggles between vintners, retailers, and governments. . . . In his artful and sometimes amusing analysis of the 'wars' taking place within the wine world as a result of all these skirmishes. Veseth untangles a complicated issue and provides a cogent summary of an industry's challenges. For anyone who appreciates a good glass of wine—or who's been disappointed by a bad one, despite a high sticker price—Veseth's insights will prove tantalizing.
Revue d'economie regionale et urbaine
Jubilant. [Mike Veseth] possesses the art of expression: 'Wine Wall,' 'DaVino Code,' 'McWine Conspiracy' and, without doubt one of the best, 'Château Cash Flow.' He is swimming in a palette of colors, which he delights in dampening: Gallo’s famous Red Bicyclette, Yellow Tail, Blue Nun, his favorite White Zinfandel. . . . [His] work involves a veritable global framework and gives one the chance to visit Australia, [or] New Zealand, for example, in great depth. . . . The reality, which Veseth is right to underline, is that behind all the discourse, all the lyrical flights of fancy about the fabulous year, the involvement of generations of vintners and producers, there is always the fundamental question of money, of revenue and of power.
Paul Gregutt
Wine is, first and foremost, a business, though the nuts and bolts of economic survival rarely make for good reading. Enter Mike Veseth, who brings the mind of a trained academic and the writing talent of a veteran blogger to this fascinating exploration of the macroeconomic forces shaping the global wine industry. He knows his subject inside and out, and after reading Wine Wars you will have a deeper understanding of the major trends that are shaping not only the business of wine but the actual flavors of the wines you drink.
Sasha Issenberg
If we are what we drink, Mike Veseth knows the reasons have as much to do with market forces as mouthfeel. He is as at home with a winery's annual report as a vintner's tasting notes, and this delightfully unstuffy tour of the modern wine industry will fascinate anyone who wants to understand how business works today.
Jeff Lefevere
In the fine tradition of insightful and accessible bestsellers like Freakonomics and The World Is Flat, Wine Wars provides a valuable service to wine enthusiasts everywhere. By combining a clear-eyed economist's point of view with globalization expertise, Veseth offers an insightful and accessible survey that will give readers an understanding not only of what's in the glass, but also how it got there, and what the future may hold as the borders of the global wine village draw closer. This is an important work and a fun read, too.
Wall Street Journal Lettie Teague
Of all the wine blogs in the wide, wide blogosphere, one that I look forward to reading the most is Mike Veseth’s Wine Economist. There’s nothing else quite like it. . . . As of this month, Professor Veseth’s thoughts are available in long form. He’s just published a book entitled Wine Wars in which he tackles economic forces as diverse as Two Buck Chuck (he’s a fan), the oft-debated descent of 'real' wine into 'McWine,' and much else. It’s more business book than guide to wine—but students of wine as well as the economy will find much to enlighten and even entertain, thanks to Professor Veseth’s readable style.
Paul O'Doherty
From the get-go you just don't want to put this book down, slaloming as it does informatively through economic and social history, the wine industry, the future, and observations setting the scene for the great battle between the market forces redrawing the world wine map and, as Veseth puts it, 'the terroirists who are trying to stop them.' Veseth . . . writes authoritatively and clearly. . . . This is undoubtedly a fascinating read that will be a treat to most tastes and is one of the books of the year.
Meg Trauner
In his insightful and amusing new book, Wine Wars, author Veseth explains the complicated world of wine, analyzing its past and predicting its future. . . . This rich volume with peppery overtones is the perfect match for anyone wanting to know more about the business of wine. Recommended.
Nooga.com
Wine Wars by Mike Veseth is a fantastic, witty read that tells the story of wine market trends, like Two-Buck Chuck and Costco. Also, the book discusses globalization and how this affects wine enthusiasts with a ‘rich but overwhelming array of choices.’
Project Sunlight—A Winemaker's Education
[A] superb book about the forces shaping the modern wine industry. . . . [R]eplete with interesting tidbits about economic theory, including the way that protectionist policies have led to the production of plonk, while free markets have forced producers to raise the quality of the wine they sell. These are matters that Mr. Veseth devotes considerable time to, and that he explains in clear and elegant prose. He is an economist, to be sure, but he is a writer of considerable skill and his book is not just educational, but engaging and entertaining as well. It’s not just a great book about the wine industry, but a great business book, period.
Great Wine News
If a glass of wine followed by a discussion of economics gets your blood boiling, Mike Veseth’s Wine Wars is the book for you. Writing with wit and verve, Mike Veseth, the wine economist, tells the compelling story of the war between the market trends that are redrawing the world wine map and the terroirists who resist them. . . . Veseth has 'grape expectations' that globalization, Two Buck Chuck, and the revenge of the terroirists will uncork a favorable future for wine in an engaging tour-de-force.
Forbes Magazine
Mike Veseth write about globalization and its effects on the wine industry, citing the popularity of cheap, branded products (Two Buck Chuck, most notably) and the subsequent backlash from “terroirists”- those who believe that a wine should reflect its local soil, culture and climate […] He takes a look at China’s emerging wine business (its output recently surpassed Australia’s) and samples a few glasses from two of its vintners, one the country’s oldest in existence, the other a relative newcomer.
Project Sunlight-A Winemaker's Education
[A] superb book about the forces shaping the modern wine industry. . . . [R]eplete with interesting tidbits about economic theory, including the way that protectionist policies have led to the production of plonk, while free markets have forced producers to raise the quality of the wine they sell. These are matters that Mr. Veseth devotes considerable time to, and that he explains in clear and elegant prose. He is an economist, to be sure, but he is a writer of considerable skill and his book is not just educational, but engaging and entertaining as well. It’s not just a great book about the wine industry, but a great business book, period.
Wine Country BC
Veseth then recounts his own experience on a trip to Friuli in northeastern Italy, a place brutalized by the two world wars, where they have planted a special vineyard of peace using grapes varieties from all around the world. Interestingly, Veseth found that the wine produced from this vineyard, Vino Della Pace (Wine of Peace) wasn’t 'especially distinctive' on the palate, but was memorable for its 'optimistic symbolism.' . . . A few sentences later, 'We longed for the taste of peace when we didn’t have it. Now that we do, we find it a little bland. So we seek out terroir, even if it threatens to divide us once again.' It’s an astoundingly simple way to say something so profound and Veseth nails it perfectly. . . . Maybe there is more to economics than just money.
Yahoo Lifestyle
In Wine Wars, Veseth discusses the different forces that shape the world of wine today. If you want to talk about and understand wine markets, this book is essential.
Goodreads
Written by a wine economics expert who lives in Washington, this book provides fascinating history on the globalization of the wine industry—and why that is not necessarily a bad thing. Veseth convincingly makes arguments for why inexpensive wine is not a problem and why the wine world is unlikely to collapse on itself. All in all, it is a comprehensive, well-written and glass-half-full book. Frankly, I learned a great deal about wine, how it is made and the history of many wine regions. I learned a great deal about the Chinese market, as well as the problems going on in France and Australia. This was a hugely entertaining and valuable read.
Choice
This is a serious book about the future of the wine industry that does not take itself too seriously. The writing of wine experts has long been lampooned for its pretension and incomprehensibility to the layperson. Veseth (economics, Univ. of Puget Sound) avoids these traps, although readers disdaining puns may wish he had not. He has produced an accessible, insightful book that shows he obviously has both intellectual understanding of and emotional attachment to the topic. His main intent is to address the potential benefits and dangers of various developments in the wine industry. Has globalization meant more choices at affordable prices or the homogenization of the choices facing consumers? How will climate change impact the traditional wine centers in Europe and the newly established regions in the New World? Will competition divide the market into a broad base of cheap wine in cardboard boxes for the masses and traditional wines costing thousands of dollars per bottle for a few elites? Veseth maintains his optimism, even if the prevailing mood is more dismal, and his optimism should be infectious for both wine lovers and those simply looking for an informative, entertaining book about the economics of a particular market. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels.
Harpers UK
Wine Wars takes us through the global wine business landscape highlighting many issues at play. He [Veseth] sees wine as a broad church, the future undetermined as the different forces battle it out.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742568198
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/16/2011
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 1,103,100
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Mike Veseth is the Robert G. Albertson Professor of International Political Economy at the University of Puget Sound and author of the blog WineEconomist.com. He is a widely quoted authority on global wine market trends. He lives in Tacoma, Washington.
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Read an Excerpt

Wine Wars

The Curse of the Blue Nun, the Miracle of Two Buck Chuck, and the Revenge of the Terroirists
By MIKE VESETH

ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD PUBLISHERS, INC.

Copyright © 2011 Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7425-6819-8


Chapter One

A Tale of Two Glasses

It was the best of wines, it was the worst of wines (apologies to fans of Charles Dickens). The global wineglass it seems is both quite empty and full to the brim.

We live today in the best of times for wine if we evaluate the situation objectively as economists like me are trained to do. Never before has so much good wine been made and so many wine choices offered up to consumers. For someone who loves wine, the glass is very full indeed; it is hard to imagine better days than these. The global markets deliver a world of wine to your door. Drink up!

And yet many enthusiasts are anxious about the future of wine. The good news we find in our wineglasses and on the supermarket shelves is often accompanied by disturbing rumors, feelings, and forecasts.

It is the worst of times, too, you see—especially if you are a maker of cheap wine in France, Italy, or Spain, the largest wine-producing countries. Everything about wine is wrong for you. Consumption is falling, squeezing your market share, and import competition has increased. You find yourself making the wrong wine in the wrong style from the wrong grapes at the wrong price and trying to sell it in the wrong markets. You are betrayed at every turn by the markets that once treated you so well, and now betrayed as well by the European Union, which once bought up your surplus wine lake and now tells you coldly to "grub up" your worthless vines. You hold an empty glass, or so it must seem.

Times are troubling in Australia, too, where a wine boom has been followed by a wine bust as consumers around the world have seemingly turned away from the muscular Aussie wines they enjoyed so much just a few years ago. Recession, falling consumption, rising antidrinking lobbies, water shortages, global warming, and even raging brush fires all threaten the livelihoods of winegrowers and producers in many parts of the globe.

It is the worst of times for consumers, too, or so it is said, if they seek that special taste of a place that wine geeks like me call terroir. The wine in your half-empty glass is free of any technical flaw, but so what? Does it have a soul? Does it express any particular place or any producer's distinct vision of what wine should be? This is the age of McWine, I have heard people say: wine that is all the same. When everything is the same, then it is all nothing! And what's worse than that?

These are good times and bad ones, too, for the world of wine—what a contradiction! What about the future? Will wine's tale of two glasses have a happy ending? Or will our (excuse the pun) "grape expectations" be crushed? I'm an optimist about the future of wine, but as an economist I am trained to pay close attention to the "dismal" side of any situation. I wrote this book to try to find out just how empty or full the global glass really is and how the world of wine is likely to change.

The first thing to understand about wine is that it is many things, not just one, both in terms of wine itself and the economic forces that drive the wine industry, so the story of the future of wine will necessarily be a complicated one. Although hundreds of particular factors will come into play as the wine world evolves, three big forces will almost certainly shape the overall pattern: globalization, Two Buck Chuck, and the revenge of the terroirists. Globalization and Two Buck Chuck are economic push forces that are transforming the world of wine. The revenge of the terroirists is all about pushing back, but with a twist because global climate change is going to force us to change the way we think about terroir.

GLOBALIZATION: REDRAWING THE WORLD WINE MAP

Globalization comes first. It isn't something new, as we will see, but it is a powerful force that is becoming even stronger. It is quite literally redrawing the world wine map, pushing it out from the old World where most of the earth's wine is still produced to many New Worlds where both production and consumption are on the rise.

Wine has become a global or nearly global phenomenon, produced in a growing number of countries and widely consumed (except where religious edict forbids it). Most wine, however, is surprisingly local, produced and consumed in the same country and often the same region. There is enough wine traded internationally, however, to provide wine consumers with the impression of complete globalization.

Ironically, the most global wines live at the top and bottom of the "wine wall," my name for the various real and virtual spaces where wine enthusiasts (as demand) confront the vast and often confusing supply of available wine. The top shelf holds Champagne, of course, and iconic wines that can sell for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. These wines travel the world, reaching collectors, investors, connoisseurs, and upwardly mobile wine snob wannabes wherever they live. Asia is a hot market for these wines just now, but really they end up everywhere.

The bottom shelf of the wine wall holds inexpensive generic wines that can sell for as little as two dollars in the United States. In the European Union you can get a liter of this wine for a single euro coin (VAT included). Some of these wines are packaged in traditional 750 ml bottles, but most of them come in other sorts of packages—1.5 liter bottles, foil-lined cardboard tubes that look like exaggerated juice packs, and 3 and 5 liter "casks" of wine, cardboard boxes containing special plastic bags. You get to the wine through a spigot, not by pulling a cork, with these "box" or bag-in-box wines.

Whereas status and prestige pull iconic wines to the four corners of the globe, cost concerns drive the generic wine trade. Cost is key on the bottom of the wine wall and there is always cheaper wine somewhere in the world. With the advent of efficient bulk wine shipping (huge bags of wine in huge ocean shipping containers) even relatively small differences in price can unleash tidal waves of wine. Thus cheap wine in China (some of it even labeled "Chinese wine") makes a long journey from Chile while the Pinot Noir sold by a California-based brand might come from the South of France, Northern Italy, Chile, or somewhere else. It's a small world after all down there on the bottom shelf.

The vast majority of wines made today are neither top-shelf trophies nor bottom-bin bulk. These midwall wines, generally consumed closer to home than you might expect, are numerous enough to create a kaleidoscopic if slightly misleading image of wine globalization, especially if you live in Great Britain or the United States, the two most important markets for global wine today. (Germany, as we will see, is the third great international market, but Germans prefer their wine cheap and cheerful—they lap up that euro-a-liter stuff—so they are best seen as an important but special case.)

If globalization simply meant that more of the world's people are drinking wine and more of the earth's surface is covered with vine, well it wouldn't be very controversial. But it doesn't; money and power are at stake. Money, of course, because vanity vineyards aside, people make wine to make a living. They may seek personal fulfillment or artistic achievement, of course, but they also need to pay the bills. It's hard to completely avoid the bottom line. So globalization is not an abstract concept to winemakers, it is a steely sharp double-edged sword: the prospect of new demand comes with the threat of new competition.

Money is an understandable issue, but power? Yes. The battle for the future of wine is all about power—whose idea of wine will dominate and whose tastes and interests will prevail. You don't have to take my word for it—you can see power politics at work for yourself the next time you go to purchase wine.

The wine wall has many political divisions, each with its own internal power structure. The French wine part of the wall, for example, is organized according to French geography, with Rhone here, Bordeaux there, and Burgundy somewhere else. Power resides (or is meant to reside) with producers in this part of the wine world, and the wine wall makes it clear. But if you move over to any of the New World shelves (California, for example, or Chile or Australia) you'll find a different political organization, dominated by branded varietal wines like Yellow Tail shiraz or Mondavi Woodbridge Chardonnay.

Globalization has brought these political systems into direct conflict. It's like the Cold War all over, only that it isn't just capitalism versus communism—it's more important than that. It's the soul of wine that is at stake. Who will call the shots in the wine market of the future? Who will set the price? Whose palate will prevail? To paraphrase the Chairman on Iron Chef, whose idea of wine will reign supreme?

TWO BUCK CHUCK: WINNING THE CONFIDENCE GAME

Many fear that power and taste will shift from the old World to the New and vin de terroir (wine from the earth) will be replaced with vin du marché (market wine)—wine designed by marketing executives and engineered to appeal to least common denominator palates shaped by long exposure to vast quantities of fizzy, sweet, ice-cold diet Coke.

This is the world, wine snobs say, of Two Buck Chuck—the simple, cheap wine sold in the united states at Trader Joe's supermarkets. Every country has its Two Buck Chuck (sometimes at prices significantly below two dollars!) and every wine snob worries that the global market has unleashed a race to the bottom, where taste and terroir are endangered species and Chuck and his even cheaper cousins will someday rule.

Two Buck Chuck (or TBC for short) is a phenomenon; Trader Joe's sells hundreds of thousands of cases of this low-cost wine each year. TBC is a classic element of the tale of two wines. It has drawn thousands of consumers to the wine wall, introducing them to wine as an affordable quotidian pleasure, but by focusing their attention on the bottom shelf has it encouraged an epidemic of arrested development? TBC has raised the floor on bulk wine in terms of quality, but has it simultaneously lowered the sensory or aesthetic ceiling?

The story of Two Buck Chuck as it is usually told is all about price, quantity, and quality—the economist's familiar playground—but there is more to it than that. The miracle of TBC is not that millions of bottles can be produced at low cost—that's surprisingly easy to do—it is that consumers are willing to buy it! You see, wine is a mystery to most consumers. They have little confidence in their ability to tell what's in the bottle as they stare at the wine wall or puzzle over a restaurant wine list. Some of them are adventurous and treat it as a treasure hunt game, but far too many buy the same thing over and over again (that arrested development problem again) or, worse, walk away in frustration buying nothing at all.

Just cut the price if you want to sell wine—that's what Econ 101 teaches us. Ah, but there is a problem. Insecure wine buyers often read price as a proxy for quality. They are afraid to pay too little for a bottle of wine because they are worried that it will be horrible. Paying more, they believe (falsely, as a general rule), guarantees a better product—but they are also afraid to pay too much. No wonder so many people don't purchase any wine at all! So selling cheap wine is trickier than you might think.

The miracle of Two Buck Chuck is that it has given millions of Americans the confidence they once lacked as they try to stare down the wine wall and make a purchase. The wine business is really a confidence game, if you get my drift, and the future of wine, and the money and power that it brings, will be influenced by how the game is played and who plays it.

THE REVENGE OF THE TERROIRISTS

for many people, globalization and Two Buck Chuck are wholly positive forces—more wine, better wine (or at least fewer bottles that are really, really bad): wine that is easier to understand, purchase, and drink. What could be better? But not everyone shares these happy thoughts. The terroirists sure don't.

Terroirists are people who see the new global wine map and shudder. Terroirists seek to preserve and protect an idea of wine that is more natural, more connected to the earth, more deeply embedded in culture. It would be easy to say that this is an Old World vision of wine, but nothing in wine is ever really as simply as Old versus New. Many of the forces that terroirists oppose most vehemently were invented in France, the Queen of old World Wine.

Do you oppose simple, maybe even stupid wines that exist only because marketing campaigns can sell them? Then you may oppose Yellow Tail or Two Buck Chuck, but you must first confront Beajoulais Nouveau, France's most successful vin du marché. Are you against wine that is highly processed and manipulated, wine that is almost manufactured? Then it is understandable that you may dislike many New World wines, since there are often fewer restrictions on winemaking techniques, but you should hold your greatest contempt for Champagne, a wine that is made underground (not in the vineyard), processed, blended, and sold for huge sums by French luxury goods conglomerates.

The Old World is home to both terroirists and the wines, winemakers, corporations, and critics they oppose. And the New World is too. It's hard to find Old World winemakers who are more committed to the idea of terroir than, say, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon or John Williams of Frog's Leap. In truth, you won't learn much about terroirism by looking at a physical map— mental maps or moral ones have more to say. But the physical map will tell you something, if you stare at it long enough. Terroir—the idea that wine is deeply rooted in a particular place—is now a moving target.

The problem is global climate change. Now, outside my window I know lots of people who are climate change doubters and think that Al Gore's contribution to world peace (he shared the Nobel Prize in 2007) is overrated. But I've never met anyone in the wine business who has the slightest doubt that climate is changing. The world is getting hotter and the weather more variable and extreme (which means, ironically, that some places are getting cooler, too). Global climate change makes set notions of wine terroir pretty problematic. Interestingly, it both undermines the terroirists' case and makes it stronger.

So the future of wine is up in the air. How can we tell how the battle for the soul of wine will be resolved? The answer, I propose, will be found by taking a sideways approach. Wine enthusiasts are trained to tip their glasses so that they can see how the color changes at the far edges. That's one way to know how a wine has developed and how it may change in the future. In the same way I want to tip the wine world sideways at the end of this book and look at its edges, the places where the change may be greatest: that means looking at China and how the forces of globalization, Two Buck Chuck, and the revenge of the terroirists are shaping that huge potential wine market.

HOW I STUMBLED INTO THE WINE WARS

People often ask me how I became a wine economist, an economist who studies the global wine markets. The answer is rooted in a particular time and place. Sue and I were still newlyweds, taking a low-budget vacation in the Napa Valley back in the day when that was still possible. We were headed north on the Silverado Trail late on our last day, pointed toward our economy motel in Santa Rosa, when we decided to stop for one last tasting.

The winery name was very familiar and I had high hopes for our tasting. If I had known more about wine back then I would have recognized this as one of the wineries that kicked French butt in the 1976 Judgment of Paris wine tasting. We pulled off the road and went in to find just the winemaker and a cellar rat at work. No fancy tasting room back then, just boards and barrels to form a makeshift bar. They stopped what they were doing and brought out a couple of glasses. If I knew more about wine back then, I would have been in awe of the guy pouring the wine, but I was pretty much in the dark. So we tasted and talked.

I started asking my amateur questions about the wine, but pretty soon the conversation turned around. The winemaker found out that I was an economics professor. Suddenly he was very interested in talking with me. What's going to happen to interest rates? Inflation? Tax reform? He had a lot of concerns about the economy because his prestigious winery was also a business and what was happening out there in the financial markets (especially to interest rates and bank credit, as I remember) had a big impact on what he could or would do in the cellar. Wineries, especially those that specialize in fine red wines, have a lot of financial issues.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Wine Wars by MIKE VESETH Copyright © 2011 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD PUBLISHERS, INC.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Prelude: Grape Expectations?

1 A Tale of Two Glasses 3

2 Old Bottles, New Wine 13

Flight 1 Globalization-Blessing or Curse?

3 The DaVino Code 27

4 Missionaries, Migrants, and Market Reforms 37

5 The Masters of Wine 51

6 Curse of the Blue Nun 67

7 America's Hangover 79

Globalization Tasting 91

Flight 2 The Miracle of Two Buck Chuck

8 Martians versus Wagnerians 95

9 They Always Buy the Ten Cent Wine 109

10 Everyone's a Critic 121

11 The McWine Conspiracy 135

12 The Future of Wine in Three Bottles 149

Two Buck Chuck Tasting 161

Flight 3 Revenge of the Terroirists

13 Mondovino and the Revenge of the Terroirists 167

14 The War on Terroir 183

15 The China Syndrome 197

16 The Best of Wines or the Worst of Wines? 213

Grape Expectations Tasting 223

Notes 227

Acknowledgments 237

Selected References 239

Index 243

About the Author 255

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