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July 2010, Volume 16, Number 3

Wine, Food

California had 843,000 acres of grapes at the end of 2009, including 531,000 acres of wine grapes; 219,000 acres of raisin grapes; and 93,000 acres of table grapes. There were 95,000 acres of Chardonnay wine grapes and 76,000 acres of Cabernet.

The final crush in 2009 was almost 4.1 million tons, including 500,000 tons of grapes crushed to make concentrate (natural sweetener). The average grower price of wine grapes was $575 a ton; $670 for red wine grapes and $535 for white wine grapes. About 2.7 pounds of wine grapes are crushed to make a bottle of wine. Given the average grower price of $0.29 a pound, the value of the grapes in a typical bottle of California wine was $0.77.

California had 2,700 bonded wineries in 2010, including 55 percent in the North Coast (mostly Napa and Sonoma counties) and 25 percent in the Central Coast (from Monterey to Santa Barbara counties). Most of the wine grapes crushed in the Central Coast are used to produce wine that retails for about $10 a bottle? one rule of thumb is that the retail price of wine should be about one percent of the grower value of grapes. Monterey vineyards sold for about $35,000 an acre in 2010? most vineyards get up to seven tons an acre; vineyard prices rise toward $40,000 an acre in Santa Barbara.

California wineries shipped 564 million gallons (237 million cases of wine) in 2009, including 82 percent to US consumers.

Constellation Brands is the world's largest wine seller, selling 39 million cases in the US. Most Constellation wines sell for relatively low prices. Woodbridge wines account for 18 percent of Constellation's US wine sales; Arbor Mist, nine percent; and Vendange, eight percent.

US. US consumers in 2009 bought 767 million gallons (323 million cases) of wine worth $29 billion, down from $30 billion in 2008. About 60 percent of this wine was produced in California. Almost 25 percent of California wine was Chardonnay and almost 20 percent was Cabernet and Merlot.

Most wine is sold in supermarkets for less than $7 a bottle; three-fourths of the wine sold in US supermarkets costs less than $7 a bottle. However, supermarket scanner data reported rising sales of higher-priced wine in 2010 compared to the same period in 2009.

The 10 most valuable wine brands in 2010, according to Power 100, were Gallo, Concha Y Toro, Robert Mondavi, Yellow Tail, Hardy's, Beringer, Jacob's Creek, Sutter Home, Lindemans, and Blossom Hill (

Closures. About 70 percent of wine bottles are closed with cork, most of which is from trees that normally require 20 years to produce a first crop, and are subsequently harvested about once a decade; cork trees can live for hundreds of years. Cork's cellular structure makes it easy to compress into the neck of a bottle, where it expands to form a tight seal.

The chemical 2-4-6 Trichloroanisole or TCA can get into wine through contaminated cork and render the wine in a bottle undrinkable, encouraging a search for alternatives, primarily plastic corks and screw tops. Plastic corks with a hard core and a flexible outer layer are used to close about 20 percent of wine bottles, while the screw tops are used to cap about 10 percent.

France. Claret is the most common red wine exported from Bordeaux, a province in the southwest of France with almost 300,000 acre of vineyards. There are five "premier cru" or first-growth vineyards established by the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855? Chƒteau Lafite-Rothschild, Margaux, Latour, Haut-Brion, and Mouton-Rothschild, which was moved from second- to first-growth in 1973.

Bordeaux produces both red and white wines made from several varieties of grapes. There are about 660,000 residents of metro Bordeaux, including 230,000 in the city, which is divided by the Garonne River.

Some wine enthusiasts have shifted their attention from Bordeaux to Burgundy in eastern France, which produces red wines from Pinot Noir grapes and whites from Chardonnay. Burgundy has more appellations d'origine contr“l‚e (AOCs) than any other French region, and is the most terroir-conscious French wine region. Beaujolais lies just to the south of Burgundy.

Italy. Italy in 2000 had about 770,000 wine grape growers with 770,000 hectares of vineyard. Most of Italy's wine is made by coops, and the wine they produce is classified into four categories:
?Vino da Tavola (VDT), table wines, were 37 percent of wine produced in Italy in 2008;
?Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT), a category created in 1992 to indicate higher quality than VDT, were 30 percent of Italian wine in 2008; there are about 120 IGT zones;
?Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC), a category created in 1963 to indicate where the grapes were grown; there are about 324 DOC appellations, and a third of Italian wine in 2008 was DOC or DOCG;
?Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), satisfies DOC rules and passes a blind taste test; there are about 48 DOCG appellations; most produced limited quantities. The sparkling Asti Spumante, made in the Piedmont from the Moscato Bianco grape, is an exception?a DOCG wine produced in large quantities.

Italy is famous for red wines made from the Sangiovese grape, such as Tuscan Chianti. Nebbiolo grapes are used to make Barolo and Barbaresco in the Piedmont, Barbera grapes make red wines in Lombardy, and Montepulciano grapes make red wines in Abruzzo.

Food. USDA issued new Dietary Guidelines for Americans in June 2010 that urge reduced consumption of salt, sugar and saturated fats and more consumption of fruits and vegetables. USDA acknowledged that its past guidelines have not changed eating habits.

For example, Americans consume an average 3,500 mg of salt a day, with 80 percent coming from processed foods that range from soups to prepared dinners to crackers. The new guidelines lower then maximum salt recommendation to 1,500 mg a day; too much salt can lead to hypertension and other diseases.

The Food and Drug Administration in April 2010 announced plans to work with food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in processed food over a decade; if voluntary efforts fail, the amount of salt in processed food could be regulated. Under current law, food manufacturers can use as much salt as they like in processed food, although they must report the amount of salt on the food's label.

Food manufacturers are allegedly engaged in a "delay and divert" strategy to defeat federal regulation of the amount of salt in processed food. Salt is a low-cost ingredient that adds taste and texture to food.

First lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move!" campaign to reduce childhood obesity gained the support of major food makers Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft Foods and PepsiCo in May 2010. The firms, organized as Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, promised to reduce the calories in their packaged foods. The White House Childhood Obesity Task Force in May 2010 outlined steps to reduce obesity among children.

Safety. E. coli O157:H7 is the most common bacterium that sickens people who consume it in food, but six rarer strains of toxic E. coli are appearing more frequently. The toxic E. coli bacteria originate in the guts of cattle; regulators want beef packers to test for all E. coli strains and not sell meat with any of them, a proposal resisted by meatpackers.

It is not clear how E. coli is transferred from cattle to produce; some speculate that wild animals track manure into fields with lettuce or that the E. coli are transferred via irrigation water. Earthbound Farm, the largest US producer of organic salad greens, screens for the full range of toxic E. coli, and found some in one of 1,000 tests in 2009.

A rare strain of E. coli, O145, sickened 29 people who ate romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona in April-May 2010. The more common E. coli O157:H7 has been associated with outbreaks linked to ground beef, leafy greens and other foods that lead to mild to severe diarrhea.

Michael Moss, "The Hard Sell on Salt," New York Times, May 29, 2010. Gleick, Peter. 2010. Bottled and Sold. The Story Behind Our Obsession With Bottled Water. Island Press.

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