Apr 25, 201309:38 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Don’t Believe Everything You Read or Hear

A vineyard in Napa, Calif.

Can you go for one minute while you are awake without being in communication, which includes communicating with and communicating to? Even if you wanted a private moment, you probably cannot have one.

 

We are literally bombarded from all sides with messages. Some of them we want, like phone calls from friends and family (sometimes). Some of them come to us uninvited, like commercials that say if we order something we did not even know we needed – right now! – they will double the offer, not including additional shipping and handling fees. Such a deal!

 

Sometimes we initiate those communications. Thank you, Facebook. And sometimes those communications just find us, whether we want them or not. Thank you, Facebook.

 

This rising tide of “let’s chat, all the time and everywhere” has also brought us more bloggers than most of us thought possible. Suddenly everyone is their own newspaper or radio station, and they all have things to say. Oh, and they want you to hear.

 

Often, those bits and tidbits of juicy information entice us into the web in ways that are not completely honest. The National Enquirer has been doing this for years as we wait our turn in grocery store lines to pay for milk, eggs, potato chips and thirty other items we did not know we needed. What, Burt and Lonnie are dating again? But I thought he had died. No matter. Good story.

 

When you read something, you tend to believe it’s true. And the way “facts” are bandied about today, your penchant to believe can be a very unfortunate, naïve trait.

 

Napa No More

It was noted just a few weeks ago in the news media and by web bloggers everywhere (except here) that a scholarly report released by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States indicated by 2050, Napa Valley would be one of the areas affected most by global temperature changes, and would likely be an area no longer able to sustain agriculture.

 

That report was quoted worldwide. You can see the actual report here.

 

Not many bloggers who quoted from the report actually read the report.

 

The Guardian, Great Britain’s stiff upper lip, pip, pip and all that, said on April 8, “The (NAS) study forecasts sharp declines in wine production from Bordeaux and Rhone regions in France, Tuscany in Italy, Napa Valley in California, and Chile by 2050, as a warming climate makes it harder to grow grapes in traditional wine country.”

 

And most of the media, along with the lack-of-fact-checking blog crowd, picked up The Guardian’s view without actually reading the original report from the NAS. Why bother with that little detail when The Guardian has done all the hard work, albeit from their perspective?

 

Actually, if you fashion yourself a writer/reporter/commentator, there are lots of reasons to know of which you write/speak. In this case, there are plenty of excellent reasons.

 

Reason No. 1 is that the NAS report never mentions the Napa Valley, one entity, being a prime recipient of global warming impact over the next 30 years. As anyone who has visited Napa is well aware, Napa is a long, narrow valley surrounded by two mountain ranges. There are a lot of areas where grapes are grown in Napa, and most of those areas have their own microclimate. If you are near the south, in the Carneros, you are close to San Pablo Bay, where it is cooler. If you are near the top of Howell Mountain, or Spring Mountain, or Diamond Mountain, or any of the elevated areas of the valley, none of that is the same as being on the valley floor. Not in climate, nor in soil types, nor in drainage or sun facings.

 

The earth is not a homogenous place, even at very close distances. Pockets of differences exist everywhere. Just because a place goes by one name, like Sonoma, does not mean all the places within those geographic boundaries using that name are alike. In fact, they most certainly are not.

 

Getting back to the report itself, even that document noted, “Current suitability (for agriculture) is projected to be retained in smaller areas of current wine-producing regions, especially at upper elevations and in coastal areas." 

 

Oh dear, that little piece of information actually ruins a pretty good headline and a dandy story. Can’t be bothered with those details. Run the headline. It’s snappier.

 

If you are interested in wine, you likely came across some article that noted the impending barrenness of Napa Valley agriculture by 2050. Now you know the truth. And now you can exhale.

 

More or Less

Rabobank, a self-described Dutch market leader, operating worldwide, analyzes many industries and then develops conclusions about where those industries are headed, what are important trends that investors should know and what they recommend you do with your money.

 

In a recent report about the wine industry, the essence of the commentary, stated in the headline, is that “Rising Wine Prices May Curb Consumption.” Some bloggers missed the “may” part and stated, “Rabobank Predicts Falling Wine Consumption.” Not quite the same thing.

 

Rabobank correctly noted that right now there is far more demand than there is product, a condition that cannot continue without rising prices (more demand chasing fewer products means the products will cost more, just in case your high school economics lessons were failing you) and ultimately the rising prices may turn off consumers, hence the falling wine consumption supposition.

 

They did not factor in the 2012 harvest in California, a record setting tonnage, which should meet and even exceed consumer demand. Granted, the 2012 harvests in Europe were not robust, but there is another side to consider.

 

Right near that story, on a wine and spirits trade website, was another story noting that Old World (Europe) per capita wine consumption was falling; 38 percent of French adults do not drink at all. Interestingly that percentage of the French population who doesn’t partake is about the same as the percentage of the American population who do not avail themselves of adult beverages, but that is a story about sociology, not exactly what we are covering here. However, and on the other hand, New World (U.S., South America, Australia and South Africa) per capita wine consumption was in a steep ascendancy.

 

The California wine industry alone, producing 250 million cases a year, including the 44 million cases exported around the world, is today worth more than $22 billion, up from $13 billion just a decade ago. The U.S. is consuming 360 million cases of wine every year, more than one for every man woman and child in this country, up from 250 million cases ten years ago.

 

Is the wine glass half-empty or half-full? Worldwide, the glass is pretty full. Often.

 

Again, it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. In some places, something is happening that cannot be applied to other places. One headline or a single story idea does not convey the facts of the situation.

 

But then that is not a very good story. The writer now has to begin to look for another story. Maybe something will come. Maybe it won’t within the time allotted. Maybe the sky is not falling.

 

Before you “buy” a news item, make certain it is true. The web, for the most part, has no fact-checkers to assure the veracity of a news story prior to posting. These important but unglamorous characters were in every newsroom before the digital revolution. Reader, beware. The “truth” you quote may be the furthest thing from that slippery concept.

 

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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

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In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.

 

Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; the Executive Editor and monthly features writer for Gulf Coast Wine + Dine Online; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.

 

Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.

 

Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.

 

They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.

 

Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.

 

Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.

 

Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.

 

It’s a good gig. 

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