VINE CUTTINGS September 2004

California wine: A $45 Billion business
Wine institute reports beverage’s economic impact

For the first time since 2000, California’s Wine Institute has measured the wine industry’s economic impact on the state’s economy, and it’s bigger than anyone thought.

The report, "Economic Impact of California Wine: 2004," was released in late June, in collaboration with the California Association of Grape Growers. The actual numbers were crunched by the Napa-based wine business consulting firm MKF Research.

Despite the recession and sluggish economy of the past four years, the impact of the wine industry on California’s economy has grown by nearly 40 percent. The total cash value to the state—including everything from winery jobs and tourism to trucking, nurseries, barrels and distributors—exceeds $45 billion. That figure is only about 3.5 percent of California’s $1.3 trillion economy, but it’s still a hefty chunk of change.

Among the report’s findings are:

    • More than 207,000 people are employed full time in the industry, and they earned $7.6 billion last year.
    • More than 3 billion bottles of wine (750-ml equivalent) were produced in California in 2003, at a retail value of $15.2 billion, excluding exports and on-premise sales.
    • Nearly 15 million tourists visited California’s wine regions, where they spent a cool $1.3 billion on purchases.
    • The fastest-growing market segment is "premium" wine, defined as over $15 a bottle. Sales of wines costing less than $8 declined.

    • At least a third of the state’s 1,049 bonded wineries are participating in the Wine Institute’s Code of Sustainable Wine Growing Practicies.
    • Wine is increasing in popularity among the so-called "Millennium Generation," or people born since 1980. Since 1997, per-capita wine consumption among 21- to 27-year-olds has increased by 40 percent.

The news prompted Wine Institute President and CEO Robert P. Koch to observe: "Wine is not only an economic engine but a wonderful ambassador for our state and nation, and the report helps convey this message to policy leaders and regulators whose daily actions affect the future of thousands of wineries and growers."

— Steve Heimoff



In Genova, the question is: Which fish dish?

The port city of Genova, in northern Italy, has dedicated a weeks’-long festival to the 70-75 percent of the earth’s surface we know hardly anything about. Sapore di Mare ("Taste from the Sea") kicked off at the beginning of June with fish cook-offs, wine and seafood pairing events and seminars dedicated to fishing practices and the protection of Mediterranean species and their natural habits.

Moreover, the occasion was designed for those who wanted to dig into the tastiest treats of the Mediterranean Sea: branzino (sea perch), calamari (squid), dentice (a vertically flat fish similar to bream), merluzzo (codfish), orata (bream), pesce spada (swordfish), rombo (flounder-like sea fish), sardine (sardines), scorfano (scorpion fish used in soups), sogliola (prized horizontal fish), spigola (sea bass), tonno (tuna) and triglie (red mullet).

Thousands of bottles of Italian white wine such as Greco di Tufo, Vermentino and Pinot Grigio were uncorked for the occasion. But what caught the imagination of sea-loving gourmands was the attention paid by local restaurateurs during the event to "near-extinct" seafood recipes. Long preparation times and an over-fished Mediterranean waters make some dishes near impossible to find on Italian menus. A case in point is the following incredibly intricate vegetable and fish extravaganza from the region of

Liguria: Capon Magro (4 servings)
Ingredients: Olive oil
Lemon juice
Finely chopped parsley
1 clove garlic
2 tb pine nuts
1 round loaf of bread
2 eggs
1/2 chopped onion
1 bay leaf
5 peppercorns
4 tb red wine vinegar
1/2 lbs long green beans
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
4 trimmed hearts of small artichokes
1 beet
1 potato
2 lbs fresh cod fillets
8 crayfish
2 lobsters
4 anchovy fillets
handful green olives
handful capers
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Slice off dome of bread loaf and remove inside to create a bowl of bread crust. Put in oven and bake until hard. Separately, take the bread innards and soak in vinegar.

Heat onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and vinegar with about 2 cups of water until boil. Add codfish, cook for about five minutes and remove from heat. Blanch beans, carrots, celery and artichokes and set aside. Squirt lemon juice and dribble olive oil on top. Boil beets and peeled potatoes for about ten minutes and set aside.

Steam crayfish and lobster and allow to cool.
To make the sauce, remove pits from olives and place into blender. Add capers, garlic, anchovies, eggs, chopped parsley, pine nuts, vinegar-soaked bread innards and about 1/2 cup olive oil and blend until thick and creamy.

To assemble the dish: Layer about one third of the beans and vegetables at the bottom of the bread "bowl" and top with mashed cod fish. Top with the sauce and add another layer of vegetables, mashed codfish, sauce, and the final layer of vegetables. Top everything with the lobster and crayfish and dabbles of sauce and lemon juice.

Capon Magro is traditionally served on holidays such as Christmas and Easter and the word magro, or "thin," is a play on words for what is really a very filling dish. The above recipe was given by chef Alessandro Zane of the Ristorante Toe Drue (Sestri Ponente, via Carlo Corsi 44/r, Genova, tel: + 39 010 6500100).


Wigging out about Champagne

All dressed up and no place to go? Not so with these 19th century-garbed Champagne fanatics, in New Orleans June 23 for "Charles-Camille Heidsieck: His Life in Antebellum Louisiana." Inspired by the Champagne giant’s midcentury stint in The Big Easy, the party was one of many nationwide fêtes celebrating what would have been James Beard’s 100th birthday (and, as long as we’re talking birthdays, the 182nd birthday of Charles-Camille Heidsieck). Seven New Orleans chefs, including host Chef Erik Venéy of Muriel’s Jackson Square, put together a 7-course feast for just over 160 participants. Why so intimate a gathering? Ladies’ "hoop skirts restricted the number of guests we could fit in the dining rooms," explained Charles Heidsieck brand manager Christian Holthausen.

Charles-Camille "himself" and Heidsieck chef de caves Regis Camus led an entourage of horse-drawn carriages from The Omni Royal Orleans through Vieux Carré in time for dinner, and some of Heidsieck’s best vintages, at Muriel’s. Proceeds from the event will benefit the James Beard Foundation.

Pictured, center, is Regis Camus, chef de caves of Champagne Charles Heidsieck; at far left is "Champagne Charlie" himself. Charles Heidsieck marketing and public relations staff, left to right: Ali Schwartz, Joanna Sucharski, Christian Holthausen and Alexandra Rendall.

— D. T.


Published on September 1, 2004
About the Author
Dylan Garret

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