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July 2016, Volume 22, Number 3

Wine, Food

The top-selling wines in the US in 2015 accounted for 68 million nine-liter cases, equivalent to 18 percent of the 383 million cases of US wine shipped in 2015. By volume, Franzia sold 23 million cases; Barefoot 18 million; Sutter Home 10 million; Woodbridge nine million; and Yellow Tail (imported from Australia) eight million. Franzia wine is often sold in boxes rather than bottles.

In 2015, three wineries accounted for about half of US wine production: Gallo 21 percent, Wine Group 14 percent, and Constellation 11 percent. Gallo has sales of about $4 billion a year. Bronco is the fourth largest US winery, producing about 20 million cases a year from 35,000 acres of owned vineyards plus grapes bought from growers. Washington's Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, the seventh largest US winery, owns several wineries in California, including Stag's Leap.

The 1,300-acre Trump Winery in Charlottesville, Virginia ( calls itself the "largest winery on the East Coast." Donald Trump, who says he does not drink alcohol, bought the winery from John Kluge's widow in 2011 and turned it over to his son Eric.

California has 555,000 bearing acres of wine grapes producing an average 7.2 tons per acre, for a total of over four million tons of wine grapes. California in 2016 had over 180 of the US's 235 American Viticultural Areas, fewer than the 300 appellations in France, but an all time high. AVAs vary greatly in size, and some areas can be included in several AVAs. If an AVA is on a wine's label at least 85 percent of the grapes must be from that AVA.

Paris-based L'Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin reported that world wine production was 275 million hectoliters (7.3 billion gallons) in 2015, while world wine consumption was 240 million hectoliters. Over a third of the world's wine, 105 million hectoliters, crossed national borders. One hectoliter is 26.4 gallons.

Italy produced 50 million hectoliters or 18 percent of the world's wine, followed by France, 48 million hectoliters; Spain, 37 million; US, 22 million; Argentina and Chile, 13 million each, Australia, 12 million; and South Africa and China, 11 million each.

Half of Spain's wine is produced in the Castile-La Mancha region, and most is exported in bulk for blending abroad. Virgen de las ViĀ¤as is the largest producer in Castile-La Mancha, where drip irrigation and mechanization predominate and bulk wine is produced at half of the cost in France and Italy, as low as E$0.40 a liter. The average price of Italian wine was E2.5 a liter in 2014, while the average price of Spanish wine was E1.2 a liter.

The US consumed the most wine, 31 million hectoliters, followed by France, 27 million; Germany and Italy, 20 million hectoliters each; China, 16 million; and Spain 10 million. About 35 percent of US wine is imported.

Germany's Reinheitsgebot or purity law in 1516 allowed only hops, water and barley in beer; yeasts were permitted in the 1600s. Germany has 1,250 breweries, half in Bavaria.

Food. Vermont's genetically engineered crop labeling law went into effect July 1, 2016, requiring packaged foods made from corn, soybeans, canola and sugar-beet sugar to include GMO information on their labels, such as "may be produced with genetic engineering." The law excludes meat from animals fed GMO feed and cheese. After a six-month grace period, violators can be fined $1,000 a day for each product that is not labeled correctly.

The National Academies in a May 2016 report concluded that genetically engineered crops are safe to eat and do not harm the environment. A previous report in 2010 concluded that genetic engineering provided environmental and economic benefits to US farmers. Over 100 Nobel laureates sent a letter to Greenpeace in June 2016 asking it to stop opposing Golden Rice, which has been modified to include Vitamin A.

There is a gap between scientific and mass opinion on the safety of GMO foods, with 90 percent of US scientists agreeing they are safe but only a third of US adults.

The 2016 report focused on soybeans, corn and cotton that have been modified to make them resistant to insects and herbicides, and concluded that foods made from these crops are safe to eat but that genetic engineering did not accelerate trend increases in crop yields.

Vertical farming, growing food in cities where it will be consumed, is seen by some as better than flat-earth farming. Newark, New Jersey-based AeroFarms says that producing indoors gives farmers more control of many variables, including light and food safety. AeroFarms, which is planning what it calls the world's largest indoor farm, says that productivity is much higher because it uses light-emitting diodes to stimulate plant growth.

Skeptics say that, with free lighting outside, artificial light is too expensive for farming. Japan has over 150 vertical farms, and there are others in Taiwan and Singapore.

Freight Farms ( sells 320-square foot shipping container reefers outfitted with 128 LED strips for light and an eight-gallon tank for fertilizer to farmers who grow organic greens and other vegetables to local restaurants. Freight Farms says that one farming reefer that costs $80,000 can produce the same amount of greens as two acres of land, and expects to sell 150 farming reefers in 2016. Most of the produce is organic; total sales of organic produce in 2014 were $15 billion.

Salt, Sugar, and Fat. Humans crave salt, sugar and fat. Nutrition guidelines have consistently recommended that Americans consume less salt, sugar and fat, but new studies suggest that somewhat more salt, sugar and fat than previously recommended is fine for health, and these changing messages affect food companies.

Salt, sugar and fat were added to food products to improve taste, and some firms say that efforts to reduce their content are unraveling as new studies show that saturated fat may not increase heart disease and that skim milk does not prevent obesity in children. Full-fat ice cream sales are up, while reduced-fat sales are down. Meat jerkies are heavily salted, but changing their name to protein snacks has made them seem healthier.

The FDA recommends a maximum 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. Americans consume an average 3,400 milligrams a day, including three-fourths from salt that is already in the food they eat, that is, not added by the eater at the table.

Philadelphia in June 2016 approved a 1.5 cents per ounce tax on sweetened beverages following the example of Berkeley's 2014 one cent per ounce tax. Soda prices could rise up to 30 percent, and Philadelphia says it will use the tax monies to support kindergartens. The three major US bottlers, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple Group, vowed to challenge the tax in court. US soda consumption has been falling for the past decade.

Michael Moss's book, "Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us" argues that food manufacturers have found our bliss points for sugar, adjusted fat levels to maximize mouth feel, and use salt liberally to disguise bad tastes and augment good tastes. Moss says that the average 33 pounds of cheese consumed by the average American are the number one source of saturated fat, and that high levels of salt, sugar and fat help to explain by 33 percent of US adults, and 20 percent of children, are obese.

Processed foods expanded in the 1960s, when working women sought foods that were fast and easy to prepare as well as tasty. Children have a higher bliss point for sugar than adults, which is one reason that children's breakfast cereal can be two-thirds sugar. There is no satiation point for fat, and sugar and fat are nirvana (think s'mores).

Moss devotes particular attention to companies' efforts to appeal to heavy users, including those who consume sugary drinks and those who eat entire bags of chips. Philip Morris bought Kraft, the largest cheese maker, and Kraft pioneered the addition of cheese to a wide range of processed foods.

The book contains many factoids. Kellogg spends twice as much on advertising as on ingredients for its cereals. The 64-ounce Big Gulp has 41 teaspoons of sugar. Three-fourths of the salt we consume is from processed food.

Moss considers whether salt, sugar and fat should be considered drugs that addict consumers and should be regulated like nicotine. Sugar is considered the methamphetamine of processed food and fat the opiate, suggesting that these ingredients should be regulated like addictive drugs.

Moss, Michael. 2013. Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Random House.

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