Uncorkings for 4/19/2010

Top industry stories of the week.

Members of Congress last week introduced a bill that could end direct shipping of wine and other forms of alcohol in the United States, or at least put roadblocks in front of lawsuits by consumers and wineries trying to reduce restrictions on direct shipping.

Counterfeit wine is threatening to take some fizz out of the industry. However, an increasing number of wine houses are using “proof tag” technology to help consumers authenticate wines online. To date, 28 wine houses have bought into the technology, including Bordeaux’s Château Latour, Burgundy’s Domaine des Comtes Lafon and Hartwell Estate in Napa.

Japan’s Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology debuted a voice- and motion-sensitive Power Assist Suit, a robotic exoskeleton that enables farmers and field workers to expend 62% percent less physical effort. A newer model of the suit may include special grape-vision goggles that would allow the wearer to measure the ripeness of clusters on the vine.

The “natural wine” movement, already popular in France, is picking up speed in the U.S. However, one critic argues that taken to extremes, the minimalist approach of the natural-wine movement can be an excuse for bad winemaking. Read the editorial here: (and response from natural wine advocate Alice Feiring here.

Chrysalis Vineyards hired Alan Kinne as winemaker, while CedarCreek Estate Winery announced that Darryl Booker has become their new winemaker.

UK-based Gerard Basset won the World's Best Sommelier Competition in Santiago, Chile. The competition is organized by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) and sponsored by Moet et Chandon. It takes place every 3 years.

Exports of Scotch whisky reached record levels last year despite the global recession. The Scotch Whisky Association said sales volumes of both blended and malt whiskies had increased by 4% in 2009, with sales buoyant in France, the United States, Brazil, Venezuela and South Africa, despite a slow start to the year blamed on weak consumer confidence and "destocking" by retailers.

The Australian wine industry is heading for one of its smallest harvests in a decade as drought and poor grape prices make it unviable for many growers to carry on. However, Wine Grape Growers' Australia Executive Director Mark McKenzie predicted the lower harvest would be good for the overall industry.



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