The Top 4 Wine Stories of 2021

From supply chain challenges that delayed the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau to the lingering impact of wildfires on two continents, 2021 was a challenging year for many people who depend on wine to make their living.

But there also was positive news mixed in with the not so, as our highly subjective list of the “Top 4 Wines Stories of 2021” reveals…

4. Steven Spurrier passes away.

One of the greatest Bicentennial gifts America received in 1976 came from this Paris wine shop owner.

In May of that year, Spurrier put together a blind tasting of French and California wines, and invited top French critics to assess them. When the results were revealed, two Napa Valley wines were the winners: the 1973 Stag’s Leap Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.

The wine world was aghast — in particular, the French judges. But just that quickly. American wines were legitimized on the global wine stage.

Spurrier died this year on March 29. He was 79.

3. Sycamore Partners acquires Chateau Ste. Michelle for $1.2 billion.

It was the largest private equity purchase of a United States wine company in history, and demonstrated that the wine business definitely has become big business.

Yet on the opposite end of the spectrum…

2. Dry Creek Vineyard marks its 50th harvest.

And what makes that achievement even more remarkable than the longevity factor is that the Sonoma County winery has been privately owned by the Stare family for that entire half-century.

But back to the No. 3 story on our list. What made Chateau Ste. Michelle so valuable? Certainly, in part, it has been the winery’s success over the years, especially with its popular Riesling wines.

However, there is another factor in play, whether stated or not. Chateau Ste. Michelle is among the West Coast’s most northerly wineries, situated in a much cooler region than California’s more famous Sonoma County and Napa Valley appellations.

And that’s a big part of our No. 1 story of the year…

1. Climate change continues to “remap” the wine world.

As reported recently on the CBS news program, “60 Minutes,” rising temperatures in the Bordeaux and Champagne regions of France have been wreaking havoc with the ability to grow world-class grapes there.

Spring frosts, higher summer temperatures and hard fall rains have combined to severely limit yields in recent years.

Ironically, as a result of this weather shift, some of the best wines in Europe are now being made in a country best known for its room-temperature beer: England. As time marches on, a bottle of wine with the name “Kent” printed on the label may become just as coveted as one labeled “Champagne.”

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Posted in Editor's Journal, Wine and the Environment
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