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Food & Dining // Vino Sense
Roberto Viernes

Frightening News In The Wine Industry

Halloween is here, and I was thinking about the bloodiest, gutsy red wines that I could recommend.

But that sounded too ordinary and run-of-the-mill. Any blogger has their favorite recommendations this time of year, from Vampire wines to wines with “scary” names.

Instead, I started thinking about what really scares in the wine business today. You may be frightened, but don’t let it stop you from having a fun and safe Halloween.

1) The price of wine is creeping back up again.

The price of energy has not receded – just look at your electric bill or how much you pay at the pump.

And there has been a shortage of grapes in major growing regions in the past couple of years.

California’s 2010 and 2011 vintages were very short. They were off by 40-60 percent, by most accounts. France has seen short vintages for both 2010 and 2011, and so has New Zealand.

This creates a confluence of low supply and high demand, leading to higher prices. They are not going to skyrocket, but price increases of between 5 percent and 10 percent will not be uncommon.

2) Beware of counterfeit wines.

Just when the name Harvey Rodenstock was starting to disappear from the blogosphere, now we have Rudy Kurniawan as the poster child for top counterfeiters. But the effects are still being felt around the wine world.

Collectors who may have bought shady bottles will be trying to recoup their money from auction houses, or even less-scrupulous individuals may try to just “unload” those questionable bottles at auction houses or any online auctions. I can’t even talk about a bottle of DRC without the person asking about its provenance. Moreover, there must be more to this story. Kurniawan’s aides and co-conspirators are still to be found, and the pipeline they built needs to be completely ferreted out and dismantled. And this is just one man. Imagine all of the other international counterfeiters out there from Italy to China and everywhere in between.

3) More sweet red wines. Red wines that have residual sugar in them are not uncommon, but some big corporations see them as a niche that is growing and want to get their share of that pie. So they are purposefully creating red wines that are sweet. I personally cannot drink them and find little to no enjoyment in them. Some are so obviously sweet that they are bitter and unpalatable. They remind me of sour candies that I ate as a kid. They were pucker and sweet, but we ate them anyway. That same sensation today makes me want to spit.

4) And perhaps the scariest thing of all: higher taxes on alcohol.

The state Legislature tried to levy higher taxes on alcohol earlier this year, but thankfully it was averted. As sure as I sit here, the wine industry will once again be targeted for fiscal farming.

Recommendations: 2009 Trerose Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ($24) This is like Brunello di Montalcino at half the price. A beautiful example of Sangiovese replete with sweet cherries and spices galore. 2010 Stonecap Chardonnay ($9) OK, I admit, I was stunned to see how tasty a sub-$10 bottle of Chardonnay could be. Plump, fruity, fun and more than easy to drink.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. Email rviernes@southernwine.co m or follow him on Twitter @Pinotpusher.

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