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July 2019, Volume 25, Number 3

Wine, Food

Vinexpo reported that there were 7.6 million hectares of vineyards worldwide in 2017, including a million hectares of vineyards in Spain, 800,000 hectares in France, and 700,000 hectares in Italy. Europe has four million hectares of vineyard, 53 percent of the world total.

China has almost 900,000 hectares of vineyard; Turkey and the US 450,000 hectares each; and Argentina and Chile, 200,000 hectares each. In most countries except China and Turkey, most vineyard area is devoted to wine grapes rather than table or raisin grapes.

By volume of production, the leading wine producers are Italy; France; Spain; and the US. The US has been the leading consumer of wine since 2012, and in 2016 consumed almost a billion gallons, a third of which was imported. About 70 percent of US wine is purchased in supermarkets.

Gallo, the world's largest winery, in April 2019 bought 30 wine and spirits brands and six winemaking facilities from Constellation Brands, including Clos du Bois, Black Box and Ravenswood.

A survey of 250 wine leaders for the Vineyard Economics Symposium in May 2019 found that labor was the top issue for over 70 percent. Walsh Vineyard Management in Napa said that, despite hourly wages of $18 to $20, many workers avoid Napa because of high housing costs.

China buys about 20 percent of Bordeaux wine, prompting Chinese investors to buy 200 of the 6,000 Bordeaux wineries or chateaux, often buying family-owned wineries that are sold after owners retire or die. Some French residents complain that Chinese-owned Clos des Quatre Vents flies the Chinese flag near Ch?teau Margaux in the Medoc.

Wine has long been associated with wealth and sophistication, but most consumers lack clear preferences for particular wines, and find expert measures of quality confusing. Consumers often use characteristics of wine bottles, including labels and closures, as proxies for the quality of the wine.

Among wines bought in US supermarkets that cost less than $30 a bottle (the average cost of the wine in the study was $12.60), consumers paid extra for bottles with corks (an average $12.95) rather than screw tops ($11.55), apparently in the belief that corks signify better wine. Three-fourths of these supermarket wines had corks and a quarter had screw tops.

Only five percent of regular wine drinkers frequently spend more than $30 for a bottle of wine. Half of regular wine drinkers say they never spend more than $30 for a bottle of wine.

Consultancy IWSR estimated that $1 trillion was spent on alcohol around the world in 2018. Spending on spirits rose in 2018, led by gin, while spending on beer and wine each fell by about two percent.

Food. Burger King in April 2019 introduced a vegetarian burger from Impossible Foods; White Castle and Carl's Jr. restaurants began to offer vegetarian burgers from Impossible and Beyond Meat. The Impossible burger has as much protein as a meat burger but 15 percent less fat and 90 percent less cholesterol.

Oakland-based Impossible aims to reduce the ethical, health and environmental costs of meat with heme, an iron-rich protein that gives meat its distinctive flavor. Impossible cultivates heme from the roots of soybean plants and mass produces heme with yeasts.

Privately owned Subway, with 24,000 US stores, franchises 30 percent to 50 percent of its stores to immigrants by charging an initial $15,000 fee, a third of the $45,000 required for a McDonald's. Subway franchisees pay eight percent of gross sales to Subway, higher than most other franchisees. Subway uses store owners to evaluate other franchised stores, leading to conflicts of interest that have prompted complaints from franchisees whose franchises were cancelled and sometimes taken over by the evaluator.

Most food waste occurs in consumer homes. USDA and other estimates say that 133 billion pounds of food worth $160 billion a year is wasted, including over 40 percent in private homes, 30 percent in restaurants and 10 percent each in supermarkets and food service.

British food historian Bee Wilson argues that people today eat more than ever before, much of what is eaten is not healthy, and the culprits include food marketers who persuade us to eat too much of unhealthy foods. Chile is praised for requiring food companies to reduce sugar and salt in processed foods, and Wilson wants other countries to follow Chile's example and require firms to change the ingredients in processed foods.

Over 40 percent of Americans are obese, up from 30 percent in 2000, defined as having a body-mass index of 30 or more. Polygenic risk scores predict the body-mass index of people based on their genes, especially genes that regulate appetite and feelings of pleasure. The so-called genetic version of a credit score assumes that multiple genes determine complex diseases.

Celery juice is the miracle food of 2019, replacing turmeric in 2018, extolled by Anthony William and many celebrities. Celery prices increased as demand for celery rose; 12 ounces of organic and cold-pressed celery juice sold for $7 in New York City in June 2019.

Wilson, Bee. 2019. The Way We Eat Now. How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World. Basic Books.
William, Anthony. 2019. Medical Medium Celery Juice: The Most Powerful Medicine of Our Time Healing Millions Worldwide.