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April 2020, Volume 26, Number 2

Wine, Food

Too much wine is chasing too few US consumers. Some 250,000 tons of California wine grapes were not harvested in 2019 due to excess wine in storage from the record 4.5-million-ton harvest of 2018. California growers received an average $790 a ton for 4.1 million tons of wine grapes in 2019, down five percent from the 2018 price.

One rule of thumb is that one percent of the grower price for a ton of grapes should be the average retail price of a bottle of wine made with those grapes. This suggests that the average bottle of wine made from 2019 grapes should sell for $7.90.

Grape prices vary around the state. District four Napa growers received an average $5,800 a ton for their 78,000 tons of wine grapes in 2019, including $3,000 a ton for Chardonnay and $8,000 a ton for Cabernet Sauvignon. District 13 growers around Fresno received an average $300 a ton for their 1.3 million tons of wine grapes in 2019.

California has 590,000 bearing acres of wine grapes, which are at least 30,000 too many for the level of current demand for California wines. One result of California’s wine glut is that the price of Bronco’s Charles Shaw wine was reduced to $1.99 a bottle at California’s Trader Joe stores in 2020. Two-Buck Chuck was introduced in 2002 during an earlier wine glut for $1. 99 a bottle, but the price was raised to $2.49 a bottle in 2014, and was higher outside California.

The US had 10,500 wineries in 2019, including 45 percent that produced less than 1,000 cases a year, 36 percent that produced 1,000 to 5,000 cases, and one percent that produced 500,000 or more cases. Given the surplus of wine, many experts are predicting a proliferation of new labels to offer lower-cost wine from wineries that do not want to reduce the price of their established brands.

About 11 percent of wine is sold directly to consumers who visit tasting rooms or who belong to wine clubs as well as retail buyers who purchase from wineries online. So-called DTC wine tends to be more expensive than supermarket wine; two-thirds of the US value of DTC wine in 2019 was from Napa and Sonoma wines.

Stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus increased sales of alcoholic beverages, especially 1.75 liter-sized bottles of spirits. Online sales of wine and spirits rose, which may presage a shift in purchasing habits. Almost all of the 62,500 US bars, taverns, pubs and night clubs were closed in April 2020.

Food. The obesity rate, the share of adults with a body mass index of 30 or higher, topped 40 percent for the first time in 2017-18. Obesity rates vary by race and ethnicity. Half of Black adults are obese, followed by 45 percent of Hispanics, 42 percent of whites and 17 percent of Asians.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that salmonella bacteria cause about 1.35 million US infections, 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths each year. A third of these cases involve meat, especially chicken, with USDA issuing up to five meat recalls a month after salmonella is detected.

Bill Marler, the lawyer who represented many of the victims of Jack in the Box who were sickened and killed by E. coli bacteria in 1993, petitioned USDA in January 2020 to ban 31 salmonella strains from meat. About 10 percent of chicken pieces are believed to be contaminated with salmonella, which the meat industry says cannot be eliminated at reasonable cost. Marler was a leading voice to persuade USDA to ban E. coli from meat in 1994 and 2011.

Coffee, native to Ethiopia, was first brewed by Sufi monks in Yemen in the 1400s, and spread throughout the Islamic world and to Europe after the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683. Employers quickly realized that coffee made their employees more productive, which was explained in 1900 by applying thermodynamics to human physiology, explaining the body as a machine that converts energy from one form to another. Coffee in the 1920s was deemed a stimulant that made humans work better and faster.