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2016: A Year in Wine in Review

Remember when 2016 was shiny and full of potential? Well, now it’s the end of December and 2016 is about to be a not-too-distant memory. But before it goes, let’s take a look at what happened in the world of wine this year.

Wine: A Year in Review 2016Gold star if you recognize the bottle label used to create this image. –Madeline

Just 365 days ago, 2016 was a glint in our eyes and now it’s already over. Let’s take a look at what happened in the world through the lens of our favorite beverage: wine.

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What Happened in Wine in 2016?

This year was an amazing time for wine and science. Here are some of the highlights:

There is now a Star Trek replicator wine.

A winery in SF called Ava Winery made a 100% synthetic Moscato using the building blocks of wine: water, ethanol, amino acids, and aroma compounds. Their site says, “Your favorite wines created from scratch on a molecular level.” Unfortunately, Ava winery is not as fast as a replicator, they’ve been “brewing” their second batch for months.

Open-source genome project sequences Cabernet.

A high-quality map of the Cabernet Sauvignon genome was drafted with an open-source genome assembly process. This study is particularly exciting for viticultural scientists who are working tirelessly to create new disease-resistant and climate-change-tolerant grape varieties that wine drinkers actually like.

Don’t judge me based on the color of my wine.

A blue wine was created in Spain this year using anthocyanin-based dyes (the same pigment in wine grapes). The wine made such a splash in the news that there is already a slew of knockoffs. My question is: what’s wrong with rosé?

We’re one step closer to decoding “terroir.”

As it happens, microbes turn out to be one of the key indicators of terroir in wine! We actually reported on this in 2015, but then a more detailed study came out further detailing the importance of local microbiomes. #microbiologistlove

Another amazing reason to practice active tasting.

A group of Master Sommeliers was tested and they appear to have a much thicker zone in the part of the brain associated with smells and memory. Scientists theorize that developing these olfaction senses (smell and taste) may affect the onset of diseases Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Wine does indeed, make you happy.

Duh. A deductive scientific study produced by the London School of Economics has determined that wine does indeed make you happy. On a scale of 1 to 100, wine will increase your happiness by 10.79 points, particularly when doing unenjoyable activities including traveling, commuting, and waiting.

Wine grapes have beat you to outer space.

Included in the launch of Tiangong-2, China’s newest space lab, were a selection of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir vines. The hope is that being exposed to radiation in a space environment will cause the vines to mutate and become more resistant to climate change. Ironically, we had made an April fool’s post about vines in outer space just one year ago… #isthisforreals

Idaho digs for gold.

Idaho had a big win this year with the creation of the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA. Even though there are only 80 acres planted so far, the region is on the up and up.

Say goodbye to cork taint.

Cork giant Amorim announced that after sinking $15 million into R&D they have developed a cork that won’t cause cork taint (aka TCA–smells like wet dogs). This is great news for those of us who love the natural products like cork and cotton t-shirts.

Can wine stop cow farts from heating up the planet?

Grape pomace is the stuff leftover after the wine is made and it includes the skins and seeds of grapes. When it’s dried and served in a cow’s meal, it greatly reduces their gas and burps. Cow farts/burps have been noted to producing at least 1/5 of the world’s greenhouse gasses.

White wines are about to get a lot more aromatic.

What you might not know is that a huge number of the delicate floral and fruit aromas in white wines “burn off” during fermentation. This year, a former professor of pulmonary medicine has developed a special filter that will retain these precious aromas. The device is called AromaLoc and it should be available to white wine makers next year.

If you’re in the wine business, things were pretty hairy:

You can trade wine on eBay now.

The e-commerce site eBay launched a wine portal with thousands of wines up for auction/buy. The site includes features like wine pricing trends so you can see if you’re getting a good deal. We went online and found a bottle of 1988 Château Haut-Brion for $440 with free shipping. Do we trust it entirely? No, but it does offer hope for collectors trying to off-load their wines.

The great consolidation is happening now.

While we were all freaking out about elections several large scale business acquisitions were being made. Here are some of the highlights:

  • E&J Gallo made many purchases in 2015 including Talbott and J Vineyards and in 2016 added Orin Swift to their holdings.
  • Diageo sold off the majority of its wine holdings to the Australian wine group, Treasury Holdings which included Beaulieu Vineyards, Sterling Vineyards, Acacia, Provenance and Hewitt.
  • Jackson Family continued to round out its collection of fine wine estates by acquiring Copain, Penner-Ash, and Willakenzie Estate (among others).
  • Constellation bought Meomi and Charles Smith Wines.
  • Constellation sold its entire Canadian wine portfolio (including Inniskillin) to the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. #teacherslovewine
  • The distributor Southern Wine & Spirits merged with Glazers and is now the largest US distributor, Southern Glazers.
  • In the beer market, a $100 billion-plus takeover occurred with the merger of Anheuser-Busch InBev with competitor SABMiller making them control the world market share. This sounds like 1904 all over again!
  • Who owns who? We created a pdf of many of the top US multi-label wine brands.

Money is made from wine investing (but you might want to start as a billionaire).

Bill Koch (of the Koch Bros) sold off some of his fine wine collection with a 20,000 bottle sell on Sotheby’s and made $21.8 million (over $1k per bottle!).

Wine haters still exist.

The Indian state of Bihar (in the Northeast) decided to ban all wine consumption. This is a serious bummer.

China is not a wine hater.

The China wine import business grew by 20%. Go China!

The 2016 vintage in France was a serious bummer.

This year, France did not please the gods. Inclement weather caused so much damage that the production of the country was reduced by at least 10%. Here were the lowest moments:

  • Severe frosts in Burgundy in April
  • 30% of Loire harvest lost due to frosts in April
  • Hail in Chablis, Cognac, and Bojo in late May “etat de Catastrophe”
  • Hail in Bojo in June, some places have 70-80% crop damage
  • Major hail in Pic-St-Loup in August

The 2016 vintage in China has France beat for challenges.

We thought the weather could get bad in France, but it’s nothing compared to what China saw:

Yes, we’re headed into a strange new world in 2017. Some of you might be nervous but don’t worry, there are some things to look forward to:

The Wine Show launched in the UK

It was hailed as a great success. Don’t take our word for it, you can watch series one on Hulu!

Connoisseur is currently in development.

The show will star John Cho (of Harold and Kumar and Star Trek fame) and is about “a brilliant con artist who dupes the wealthiest, most powerful people in the country into paying millions for fake wine.” The plot sounds strikingly similar to what happened with Rudy Kurniawan.

Boston lifted its BYOB ban.

Unlike other cities, it can cost a restauranteur in Boston about $450,000 for a liquor license (compared to about $2500 in Seattle). Fortunately, with the lift on BYOB, more restaurants can offer diners the option of bringing in a bottle.

It’s Time To Say Au Revoir 2016, and Salut to 2017!

Have any amazing stories to add, or comments on the ones above?

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