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Burgundy Sales Increase, Producers Hope For Continued Growth

Burgundy Sales Increase, Producers Hope For Continued Growth


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Time to put down the Bordeaux and pick up some Burgundy

Burgundy wine sales have increased in the United States and France for the first time in five years.

For the first time since the 2008-2009 campaign, Burgundy sales are raking in revenue.

The Burgundy Wine Bureau (BIVB) has reported export sales of €214.5 million (or nearly $275 million) between January and April 2013, according to Decanter.com. sales are up 4.3 percent in volume, while French sales are stronger at a five percent increase in volume.

Michel Baldassini, vice president of the BIVB, told La Vigne that the figures increased because of strong performances on export markets and because of the pressure a series of small vintages put on stocks. He warned that consumers would suffer if the Burgundy region does not see a normal volume of wine this vintage. Consumers are not only looking to big names, but also smaller producers.

Burgundy producers are hoping for a steady growth in the upcoming months.


The Secret to Domino's Pizza Inc.'s Success

On a list of top restaurant stocks, most investors would probably be unlikely to name Domino's Pizza (NYSE:DPZ) , but the delivery chain has quietly returned an eye-popping 5,000% since the recession.

While many of its fast-food peers have struggled to fend off the rise of fast-casual competition, the pizza-delivery leader bucked the trend by expanding internationally, improving operations, and leveraging its brand through franchising. The following chart shows the strong earnings and soaring stock price in recent years.

That turnaround didn't happen by accident. Here are the keys to Domino's surprising comeback.

Improving the product
Domino's is ubiquitous today, with 12,500 locations in 80 countries, but with falling profits, the company and the menu often maligned, it decided to relaunch the brand in late 2009. The company reformulated its pizza recipe and has changed most of its menu since then, introducing new items such as Handmade Pan Pizza and Specialty Chicken.

Customers noticed the improvement in the pizza quality, and in a memorable ad campaign, Domino's CEO Patrick Doyle admitted that customer criticisms, including that the old pizza tasted like cardboard, were valid. He encouraged disappointed customers to give Domino's another chance, lending credibility to the company's new recipe.

Domino's isn't the only restaurant chain to revitalize sales by reformulating its product. Under the auspices of activist investors, Darden Restaurants enhanced many of the company's recipes by doing things as simple as adding salt to the pasta. The results have been impressive, with steadily improving same-store sales and a resounding gain in the stock price.

Enhancing operations with technology
As technology has proliferated further into daily life, Domino's Pizza has used innovations such as digital ordering to make the user experience easier and more convenient. Today, 50% of sales come through online platforms like the Domino's app and website. The company launched online ordering in 2008, and took operations in-house in 2010, introducing mobile apps and later a voice-ordering application. The company also created the Domino's Tracker, which allows customers to follow their pizza from the oven to their doorstep.

A new rewards program started last year complements the company's digital platform. Domino's also has a new point-of-sale system, called PULSE, that has added operational efficiencies. PULSE is now in use in almost all domestic stores and 60% of international locations.

Adding new stores
With the momentum from the menu reboot in 2009 and 2010, Domino's began rapidly adding new stores, opening nearly 3,000 new locations in the past four years, the vast majority of which were overseas. Though over the past decade quick-service pizza has been a slow-growing market in the U.S., Domino's sees opportunities internationally. The company believes the international pizza delivery market is underdeveloped and lacks strong competition.

Domino's now has 7,330 stores outside of the U.S. The company's presence is particularly strong in India, the U.K., and Mexico which all have more than 500 locations. Domino's international stores are operated through master franchisee agreements in which one franchise controls a large territory and often sub-franchises to other operators. One such franchisee, Domino's Pizza Enterprises, controls 1,561 restaurants in six countries. The franchise model also benefits the company as franchisees are a guaranteed customer of its supply chain, the source of a majority of the company's revenue, along with royalties.

Will the winning streak continue?
Domino's Pizza stock jumped again in its most recent earnings report as adjusted earnings per share increased 26% and domestic same-store sales grew 12% for the year. The key sales metric has improved steadily as Domino's has invested in product and technology improvements. Same-store sales growth has been better than 5% in each of the last three years, and increased each time. That kind of track record is rare in the restaurant industry and points toward continued growth for the pizza chain. International same-store sales have improved for a remarkable 22 years in a row, another sign of the brand's strength.

The market has caught onto the company's steady growth, pumping the stock's P/E ratio up to 40. However, with ample room for expansion abroad and impressive same-store sales growth momentum, Domino's stock could easily continue to buck the odds and keep moving higher.


South Dakota producers continue to be affected by drought conditions

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– South Dakota farmers and ranchers continue to be impacted by drought conditions.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions for South Dakota, as of last Thursday, reported 89.1% of the state is under moderate drought (D1) and 49.9% is affected by severe drought (D2). 1.5% is under extreme drought conditions (D3), in the southeast corner of the state, including Lincoln County and parts of Minnehaha County, Turner County, Union County and Clay County. All of the state is abnormally dry (D0), this year and none of the state is experiencing exceptional drought (D4).

This is the most area of drought across South Dakota since April 23, 2013, when were coming out of the drought in 2012, Laura Edwards, Extension State Climatologist for SDSU Extension said. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released their winter summary, which covers December through February. Over those months, South Dakota had a state average of one inch of precipitation, Edwards said. This was the driest winter since 2005 and 21st driest since 1895.

In the D0 category, grain and pasture growth is stunned, according to the drought impacts by state.

D1 means that the topsoil is dry grain crop yields decline and pasture and water supplies decline cattle industry under stress.

Under D2 conditions, planting begins early irrigation use increases, hay is short cattle sales are early, fire season is extended fire season is early grass fires are common and water quality for agriculture operations is low stock ponds are low.

D3 means that row crop loss is significant, producers haul water for cattle and provide supplemental feeding cattle sale increase, burn bans begin, deer and pheasant populations are low and river flow in major rivers is low small surface water bodies are dry.

“It’s been a long time since we had this kind of severity, at least at this time of the year,” Edwards said. “We are starting to think about how this is going to impact us in the spring season.”

Edwards said these conditions are certainly drier than normal. She said this winter has seen extremely dry conditions. Since early November, especially in the northern and northwestern parts of the state, they have seen less than 25% of average precipitation.

Over next couple weeks, we are going to see a system come across the state, mostly hitting the southwest and some parts of the east central, but in general the next couple of weeks look pretty dry and maybe a little cooler than average, Edwards said.

“So, pretty limited chances for getting any more moisture,” Edwards said. “As we look ahead in the spring season, it looks like some part of South Dakota, maybe the south first, but then moving toward the western part of the state, are continued favored to be drier than average.”

Not only that, but the outlook for the next few months shows warmer than average temperatures. Putting all these factors together is kind of a “recipe for drought”, Edwards said.

What will this look like for area producers?

Looking at farming and ranching for this season, producers are carrying over pretty dry soils from last year, Edwards said. Producers typically rely on the fall precipitation to get the soils wet, winter freezes and locks it in and then they can use that moisture in the spring season. However, last fall was very dry and this winter was very dry and warm, so the soil is starting off dry. She said they are going to rely on the spring rainfall much more than they have in recent years.

Edwards says the upside is that spring planting will go well, compared to the flooding we have experienced in recent years. She said she has already heard of some producers talking about planting small grain crops.

April, May and June comprise about 40% of the annual total precipitation, Edwards said. Missing out on spring rainfall would be tough on producers to get a high yield. This could also lead to poor emergence and germination, smaller plant size and not as many seeds may come up.

The last time we saw conditions like this, at this time of year, was in 2012, which was a really tough year, Edwards said.

Small grain crops and grasses require less moisture than crops such as corn and soybeans, Edwards said.

“I know a lot of folks are looking at the market right now and there’s a really good price on corn and soybeans so it’s kind of a trade off there on what you can handle and what risk you are willing to take out on the farm,” Edwards said.

Something that farmers will want to look at heading into this planting season, is there tillage methods, Laura Broyles, NRCS Acting State Conservationist said.

“If we continue with the drought how we are right now, and there’s not additional snowfall and there’s not additional and rain and moisture, one of the things they will need to look at is there tillage methods,” Broyles said. “Whether they’re a no-till or they’re a reduced till, you know if you have someone that’s still conventional tillage and they are continuously tilling, they are losing some of that soil moisture. That’s definitely one of those things they will need to look at and maybe that reduced tillage in those areas so you can hold more of that moisture in the areas that they are cropping.”

Broyles said one of the things they may want to look at if they are using cover crops, maybe use additional cover crops in their mixes.

One effect of the drought and colder weather that producers are already starting to see is possible damage to the wheat crop, Broyles said.

Edwards also said that these conditions increase fire hazard, which is also a problem on operations.

How to prepare your operation for drought:

NRCS provides farmers and ranchers with resources to prepare their operations before a drought strikes. Their strategies are organized in categories of water management, land management and crop management.

When it comes to water management, they recommend evaluating all types of irrigation systems appropriate for you operation and choose the one that will help you lose less water to evaporation, percolation and runoff. They also suggestion looking for ways to make your existing irrigation system more efficient, build a water storage system that holds water for use during irrigation season, store water in ditches along fields, install water measurement devices that track water use and use water from deep aquifers instead of surface water.

NRCS’s land management ideas include use conservation tillage, implement conservation practices that reduce runoff and encourage infiltration of water into the soil, monitor soil moisture, maintain and establish riparian buffers, filter strips, grassed waterways and other types of conservation buffers near water sources, know your livestock’s forage needs, raise animals that do not consume large quantities of water and cull herds according to a schedule to maximize your profits.

Their crop management tips to incorporate are planting crops that withstand dryness, hold water and reduce the need for irrigation, practice crop rotation that increases the amount of water that enters the soil and shift to cropping systems that are less water-dependent.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Meet 10 Trailblazing Women Leading the Wine Industry Forward

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Wine Enthusiast profiled 10 stars of the wine industry, both rising and established. From South Africa to Chile and Vermont, these are the intrepid women inspiring future generations of grape stompers.

To take the temperature of the industry, we asked them about their experiences working in a male-dominated field. Have things changed in recent years? What challenges have they had to overcome? One message prevailed: progress towards inclusiveness and parity is underway. Click through to meet 10 women blazing a path into the future of wine.

Krista Scruggs, Owner/Winegrower, ZAFA Wines, Vermont

Originally from California, Scruggs entered the wine business on a lark. On the verge of becoming a firefighter, a friend helped her land a position at Constellation Brands in 2013 as a bulk shipping coordinator. She then worked for growers in Washington, Italy, Southern France and Texas. She recently left her position as assistant winemaker La Garagista Farm & Winery in Vermont to become vineyard manager of Ellison Estate Vineyard and owner/winegrower of ZAFA Wines.

What is it like to be a female in a male-dominated industry?

First off, I’m proud to be a woman diversifying this industry. I know for a fact I would not be asked the questions I’ve been asked if I were a man. To be a female is to have your ability questioned. Beyond that, I’m excited to be part of the lineage of Deirdre Heekin at La Garagista. I was her first protégé. She’s now working with other women, and it’s exciting that Vermont landed on the world’s wine map because of a woman. People are taking Vermont seriously and coming here to make wine because of that. It’s inspiring.

As a female in the wine industry, have you dealt with gender-related challenges?

I don’t think the wine industry is so different from any other male-dominated industry in that until it isn’t homogenized, being a woman will always have its challenges. That being said, at consumer wine fairs in major cosmopolitan cities—New York, London, etc.—I’m frequently questioned about my role in the vineyard. And the question comes 100 percent of the time from men. They can’t imagine I’m getting my hands dirty, know my way around a tractor and aren’t just standing inside the winery with my hands on my hips. Because I’ve been marginalized most of my life, I’m embracing it as an opportunity to face this challenge head on.

Is there one woman, in the industry or outside of it, who has inspired you throughout your career?

Deirdre Heekin, or “Queen D.” Mentorship has been and will forever be the most important role in my life as a winegrower/farmer, because I feel I will always be a student. Having the opportunity work beside Deirdre in the vineyard and winery has been life changing. To taste beside her and constantly learn and grow via talking about the big things and the little things, including navigating being a woman in this industry, has been transformative.

Viviana Navarrete, Chief Winemaker, Viña Leyda, Leyda Valley, Chile

Navarrete studied agricultural sciences at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, where she also specialized in winemaking. In 2007, she was named chief winemaker at Viña Leyda, where she aims to produce the best cool climate wines in Chile. She’s considered an innovator, and she’s one of the country’s few winemakers to produce Sauvignon Gris and Riesling, for which she’s received many accolades.

As a female in the wine industry, have you dealt with gender-related challenges?

In the beginning of my carrier in my first job, I had to prove that female winemakers could be as efficient as men. I had to show my strength, work long hours and put in extra effort to prove my value. Back then, when I started at Leyda, only a few women worked as chief winemakers at Chilean wineries. But time has shown that we are as good as men at the job. Plus, we are detailed-oriented, committed to our work and overall very passionate. So, we could prove that we do have something special: more caring in work and with our people, we are able to transmit and communicate our passion to them and we are good team leaders.

How have things changed, or not changed, for women in your region?

Leyda is a small region and things haven’t changed too much in terms of numbers. After 11 years, there are only two female chief winemakers. The rest of the wineries are managed by men. However, I see more women involved in different areas of the wine industry throughout the country. Nowadays, I see far more women working as export managers. Years ago, that role was impossible, because it demanded a lot of time on the road visiting markets. There are also more women leading marketing departments, communications, working in quality control. It’s interesting and exciting to see this movement. The only area where we are not growing as rapidly is on the viticultural side.

Do you think women make wine differently, or make different wine from men? If so, how?

I am sure that women make wines of different styles than men. I think we make less extracted wines. Rather than big blockbuster styles, we look for more finesse. Personally, I make wines with more minerality, freshness, vibrancy and identity rather than big structured wines. And that fits perfectly with Leyda Valley’s grape varieties, which are Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. So, both my style and what I want to express from this terroir matches perfectly: wines with elegance and finesse.

Andrea Mullineux, Owner/Winemaker, Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines, Swartland, South Africa

Mullineux developed her passion for wine growing up at the family dinner table near San Francisco. After she studied viticulture and oenology at UC Davis and completed harvests in the Napa Valley, Mullineux worked in Stellenbosch, and then Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where she met her husband, Chris. They moved back to South Africa to start their first winery in the Swartland. Under her guidance, Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines was awarded the 2014 and 2016 Platter’s South African Winery of the year. In 2016, she was named Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast.

What is it like to be a female in a male-dominated industry?

When I was younger, I used to overcompensate for the fact that I was a bit smaller than my male counterparts and would work extra hard to command respect in the cellar. That has helped me to get where I am today. I still come home with wine stains and rogue grapes in the folds of my shorts during harvest. It is important to show that nothing is a challenge that cannot be overcome in the cellar, and as a woman, I sometimes have fresh ideas on how to get things done and notice things that others may have missed because I am coming at it from a different angle, literally and figuratively.

Is there one woman, in the industry or outside of it, who has inspired you throughout your career?

The hardest part is thinking of only one woman. I am definitely drawn to and inspired by strong women in the wine industry: Zelma Long, Norma Ratcliffe, Cathy Corison, Heidi Barrett and Carole Meredith, to name a few. Outside of the industry, one of the first “woman in a man’s world” individuals who inspired me was an astronaut named Millie Hughes-Fulford. I called and “interviewed” her as a 13-year-old. Her inspirational words and work ethic profoundly helped shape the way I have approached challenges in my life from that point forward.

Do you think women make wine differently, or make different wine from men? If so, how?

Women have an instinctive nurturing side that I truly feel goes together with winemaking. We can look at the vineyards, fermentation and maturation in a holistic way to help a wine develop through its life, from the first formations of grapes to a balanced wine in the glass showcasing its origin. I do not think there is a stylistic difference to wines made by women, but I think that the extra attention to detail shows up in the final product.

Gabrielle Bouby-Malagu, Deputy Cellarmaster, Champagne Gosset, Champagne, France

Bouby-Malagu joined Champagne Gosset in June, a logical progression for someone raised in a Loire Valley farming family and who worked the last 17 years in sparkling wine. She earned a degree in enology at the French Wine and Vine Institute (IFV). Most of her career has been focused on Champagne, notably as cellarmaster at the Hautvillers cooperative. For more than a decade, Gabrielle worked to institute quality and sustainability initiatives, revitalizing the wine program and launching premium brand Hélène Delhéry.

As a female in the wine industry, have you dealt with gender-related challenges?

I was raised in a family of farmers, an industry which is male-dominated, so I’ve always known this environment. It’s true that on our production team in Gosset’s cellar, there is only one other woman. Once your technical skills and professionalism are acknowledged by the team, however, the rest is just coping with ordinary human relationships. As a manager, “iron fist in a velvet glove” is a necessarily tool I use every day. However, the wine sector is evolving. Ten years ago, I was the only female member in the cellarmaster association. Now there are 10.

How have things changed, or not changed, for women in your region?

Champagne has always had women running houses, and not just famous widows. Suzanne Gosset, for example, successfully ran the business when her husband was a prisoner during World War II. Later, in the ’50s, she launched her own Champagne Rosé, originally in a clear bottle. It remains one of our most successful cuvées.

Is there one woman, in the industry or outside of it, who has inspired you throughout your career?

There are many. Simone Weil and Marie Curie. [And] more recently, Claudie Haigneré, Christine Lagarde or even Philippine de Rothschild, to name a few French characters.

Andrea León, Technical Director/Winemaker, Lapostolle Wines, Colchagua Valley, Chile

León first studied wine in college in the agriculture engineering program at Catholic University of Santiago, where she double-majored in economics and oenology & viticulture. After graduation, she worked at vineyards in the United States, Europe and New Zealand. León returned to Chile for a position at Santa Helena Winery, part of San Pedro Wine Group in Colchagua Valley. From there, she joined the Lapostolle team as the on-site winemaker for Clos Apalta in 2004. She spent five years in that role and continued to work her way up through the company, which resulted in her current position.

What is it like to be a female in a male-dominated industry?

At the vineyard and winery, I always feel at ease, particularly because I have many female co-workers. I have always felt comfortable, even when I was pregnant—I did two harvests while pregnant. There’s a stereotype that people in the countryside are old-fashioned, especially in South America, which has a reputation for being “very macho.” But honestly, it’s rare that I’ve encountered difficulties. Just the occasional resistance to a female boss. For me, I find issues occur more often on the trade side of the business or when visiting a market. That’s when, as a woman, I’m in the minority. These visits often require a social component that can make being the only woman a bit lonely. And in some markets, because of cultural barriers, being a woman can be quite challenging.

How have things changed, or not changed, for women in your region?

In Chile, there are positive cultural changes afoot regarding the role of women in society, not just in the wine industry. But there are still issues to overcome. A big one: the appalling gender wage gap, which was around 30 percent based on last year’s statistics. The worrying part is that it’s not decreasing but increasing. That is a huge problem that needs to be addressed. Also, flexibility and innovation are very important vessels for change, especially for encouraging more women to work in wine, stay in the industry and work their way up.

Do you think women make wine differently, or make different wine from men? If so, how?

It is a bit of a generalization, as I think more than gender related, there is a very important cultural aspect of making wine that can lead to differences. Like the wines we are used to drinking, the food, the landscape where we grow up, for example. In general, I think women are more aware of the environment and can adapt quickly to changing conditions. We tend to think in longer terms. We are very detail-driven, perfectionists, and in a practical sense, that leads to making different wines.

Stephanie Jacobs, Winemaker, Cakebread Cellars, Napa, CA

Stephanie Jacobs rose to winemaker last year, after she began with the brand in 2004 as an enologist. Jacobs became interested in wine while she participated in an exchange program in France. She decided to turn this passion into a profession while she studied at UC Davis. Upon graduation, Stephanie began her winemaking career working at a small winery in the Sierra Foothills, where she learned about cellar operations and lab analysis. In 2001, she went to work for Bogle Vineyards as an enologist before she landed with Cakebread.

As a female in the wine industry, have you dealt with gender-related challenges?

Personally, I haven’t experienced gender as a challenge. I went to UC Davis with both men and women, and everyone was very supportive of each other. Growing up in the industry, it didn’t even occur to me that it could be difficult to get a job because I was woman. And I was fortunate to find a winemaking home at Cakebread Cellars, where I worked for a female winemaker, Julianne Laks. However, I may be part of a younger winemaking generation. Looking at some other female winemakers, such as my predecessor Julianne, they very well could have helped paved the way to this non-gender issue environment. However, when I first attended UC Davis, I planned to study beer making, and that absolutely was more male-oriented. I was one of only two women in beer fermentation class, but it was a non-issue for me. I just wanted to pursue what I was interested in, and everyone was welcoming. My parents always stressed that “a successful career started with a good college education” and passion. And that’s how I intended to approach my career.

What is it like to be a female in a male-dominated industry?

It’s all perspective. I don’t see it as “male-dominated.” Going back to what I said before, it’s very possible others helped pave the way to create this welcoming and balanced environment.

Is there one woman, in the industry or outside of it, who has inspired you throughout your career?

Absolutely: Julianne Laks. She’s been my mentor for the past 14 years and provided a special opportunity here at Cakebread Cellars. She’s was very technical and detailed, all while keeping her cool. She’s extremely knowledgeable in the field, and we worked very closely together.

Melissa Burr, Director of Winemaking, Stoller Family Estate, Willamette Valley, OR

Burr was raised in the Willamette Valley. After completing her Bachelor of Science degree, Burr intended to practice naturopathic medicine before discovering her passion for wine. She studied winemaking and fermentation science at OSU and interned during harvest for several local wineries before becoming production winemaker for Cooper Mountain.

In 2003, Burr joined Stoller Family Estate as the winery’s first dedicated winemaker. At Stoller, she’s helped grow production from 1,000 cases to 60,000. In 2013, Burr partnered with Stoller to launch History, a brand dedicated to paying homage to historic vineyards in the Pacific Northwest.

As a female in the wine industry, have you dealt with gender-related challenges?

I have not had too many gender-related issues. However, I do recall occasions when I first started making wine at Stoller, sales reps would come by and ask to talk with the winemaker. Once, a man didn’t believe I was the winemaker and had to ask several times. No sales made for him that day. On other occasions, people would talk primarily to the other male members of the production team rather than me, which was annoying.

How have things changed, or not changed, for women in your respective region?

There are certainly more women in the wine industry, compared to 10 years ago. There are so many opportunities for women to learn, travel and do vintages, take educational courses and get involved. Our wine team aims to have equal amounts of men and women on our harvest crew each year. At Stoller, there are more women than men employed across departments.

Do you think women make wine differently, or make different wine from men? If so, how?

Generally, women are more aware of their surroundings and see the bigger picture, are nurturing and can sense what needs to happen without it being obvious a lot of the times. Women can pick up on subtleties and nuances in wines, allowing them to craft wines with complexity and layers. Of course, men can do many of these things as well, but the feminine energy lends itself to naturally to be successful.

Kelly Urbanik Koch, Winemaker, Macari Vineyards, Long Island, NY

Koch, originally from St. Helena, California, leads the winemaking team for this Long Island producer. Her love of wine stems from early childhood, when she forged a connection to vineyards in her hometown and made homemade wine with her father and grandfather.

Koch earned a B.S. in viticulture & enology from UC Davis. She worked at several prestigious wineries that include Beringer and Bouchaine Vineyards in California, and Maison Louis Jadot in France. She moved to Macari in 2006, and her work has been honored with multiple awards and recognitions.

As a female in the wine industry, have you dealt with gender-related challenges?

The biggest challenge has nothing to do with day-to-day work or how I perform, but rather others’ perception of me. I was in my mid-twenties when I got my first head winemaker position. A lot of people imagine winemakers as older men and are surprised to see a young female in a winemaking position. Also, I think that it tends to be harder for females to get their foot in the door when starting out. It can be a physical job, and as women, we must prove ourselves. Fortunately, it is not just brute strength that makes a great winemaker.

How have things changed, or not changed, for women in your respective region?

When I moved to Long Island, I was lonely as a woman in the winemaking world here. Louisa Hargrave founded the industry in the late ’70s. As far as I know, after her there weren’t any women in winemaking positions besides Chilean winemaker Paola Valverde, who worked for the Macari family as [its] consultant winemaker for a few years. When I started out here, I joined monthly dinners with the local winemakers, and I would be teased in a loving way about being the only woman. Now there are more women in the cellar out here, and it makes me so happy to see. The North Fork wine industry has a lower percentage of woman winemakers than other regions in the world. I hope that number will continue to increase as our industry evolves.

Do you think women make wine differently, or make different wine from men? If so, how?

That is hard to say. I think that winemaking is such an individual thing and that many differences can be attributed more to personality than gender. But at the same time, I think women tend to be a bit more intuitive with their feelings, which translates well for artistic endeavors such as winemaking. Science can only go so far—your gut must carry you the rest of the way.

Elena Pozzolini, CEO/winemaker, Tenuta Sette Cieli, Tuscany, Italy

Born near Florence, Italy, Elena Pozzolini received a degree in viticulture and enology from the University of Pisa. Elena started her career working two harvests in Argentina for Bodega Renacer. She also worked a harvest in Mornington Peninsula, Australia and two in Santa Ynez Valley, California. While in California, Elena Pozzolini worked alongside winemaker Sashi Moorman, learning to listen to the vineyards and honing her approach to a balanced wine. Back in Italy, Elena worked for Bibi Graetz before joining Tenuta Sette Cieli in 2013.

As a female in the wine industry, have you dealt with gender-related challenges?

After graduating in viticulture & enology, I specialized in vineyard diseases. I collaborated with some wineries, but when I tried to teach the “old men” how to do it right, they didn’t accept my advice. I was young and female, so no one listened. I was disappointed, because I didn’t expect an old man’s world, full of narrow-minded thinking. In a way, I’m thankful for that initial shock. It led me to travel the world, where I discovered open-minded people interested in my opinion.

How have things changed, or not changed, for women in your respective region?

Before, we rarely saw women in charge of wineries, or with roles of responsibility. Things have changed significantly, but it still isn’t easy. Many men relate to women not as co-workers, but as females to approach in a bar.

Do you think women make wine differently, or make different wine from men? If so, how?

I don’t think women make different wines from men. I think women have a different approach, are perhaps more detail-oriented, but everyone has their own style that contributes to great, unique wines. When I make a wine, there are no recipes or protocols. Every year is different. The grapes are different, so it’s important to do what’s best at every phase of the wine. What I want is not a wine people like, but a wine that speaks of a place, and has personality and balance.

Alexandra Boudrot, Cellarmaster, Pierre Sparr, Alsace, France

Born into a winegrowing family in Nuits-St-Georges, Boudrot was exposed to vineyard work at a young age. She focused on science and viticulture before she studied winemaking at the University of Dijon. After she earned the Diplôme National d’Oenologie (National Diploma of Oenology), she moved to Alsace. She started at the Oenological and Winemaking Council, and then transitioned in 2003 to a position at Cave de Beblenheim. There, Boudrot helped growers develop environmentally sustainable growing methods. Boudrot started at Pierre Sparr for the 2015 vintage.

As a female in the wine industry, have you dealt with gender-related challenges?

After my studies, I took a job as a vineyard consultant, providing the best advice on producing beautiful grapes to the growers supplying wineries. The first years were challenging, but not due gender. Rather, because of my youth. It can be difficult explaining to experienced professionals that what they’ve done for decades could be done better, differently.

How have things changed, or not changed, for women in your region?

In Alsace, most wineries are run by men, but things have changed over the past few years. Today, we have more women heading wineries or becoming oenologists than ever before. Of course, there is still a lot to do, but I’m encouraged by this growth in female leadership.

Is there one woman, in the industry or outside of it, who has inspired you throughout your career?

During my studies, I had the opportunity to visit the Domaine Joseph Drouhin . That’s where I met the first female oenologist of Burgundy, Laurence Jobard, who was quite amazing.


Spring Hazards

Spring may be a season of regrowth, but it also presents hazards for tender plants. Late-season frosts are particularly threatening.

Over the last decade, Burgundy drinkers, especially devotees of Chablis, have witnessed frost’s devastation. Vines are sensitive to injury, or even death, from freezing temperatures once growth restarts. Lethal temperatures range from 26°F for swollen buds to 30°F during the leaf stage.

In the spring, some winemakers must modify the temperature in the vineyard to fight frost / Photo by Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Aside from site selection and delayed winter pruning, active spring measures to fight frost come down to modifying temperatures in the vineyard. Wind machines and fans can stop colder air from settling around vine trunks.

Another tool is smudge pots, which are oil-burning heaters with chimneys once common in Europe. Smudge pots generate air currents that disrupt cold air from settling around vines. Modern versions include candles that burn biofuels.

Aspersion, or sprinkling water on vines before a temperature dip, protects the plant. Though it seems counterintuitive, this layer of ice shields it from colder temperatures.

Frost events have gotten more intense and erratic, which some experts attribute to climate change. Places that seldom or never saw late spring or fall frosts, like Lebanon, have suffered unexpected and damaging events.

Faulconer says climate scientists predict an increase in snow and frost events in the Andes Mountains near the Maipo Valley.

“While it is positive to have more snow, as it secures our water supply, the frosts are a negative,” she says. “We are improving our frost alert system to be able to react faster. We have also planted with taller trellis systems.”

For every three or so feet that buds are lifted off the ground, the temperature increases almost 1°F. The benefit “is quite considerable,” says Faulconer, given the small temperature margins in which frost can injure vines.

Nevertheless, for all winemakers, spring remains a season of hope.

“Spring is a beautiful time of growth for the vines, and for humanity and life, too,” says Biyela.


Digitization will enable the creation of highly functional customer portals that feature order management, documentation, and history—ultimately lowering customer service and purchasing costs.

Digitization will enable the creation of highly functional customer portals that feature order management, documentation, and history—ultimately lowering customer service and purchasing costs. We already see ongoing investments by several mid- and large-sized distributors in providing information and other support to customers, all aimed at enhancing the customer experience. Digitization can also transform the role of sales representatives by freeing them from transactional tasks, allowing them to focus instead on relationship development and working with customers to develop joint formulations, ideas for business expansion, and innovative solutions.

In addition, digitization can sometimes tighten the bonds among all three players by providing greater access to technical documentation and case studies, enabling digital product-demonstrations, and improving product selection and usage.

Quality Counts

Whatever the benefits of digitization for individual distributors, success or failure will inevitably be linked to the quality of the business. Only distributors that truly add value in the analog world will be successful in the digital one, and this is true no matter what plays out in the market. We therefore expect those with a clear competitive advantage in terms of quality to be able to expand the value of their analog platform business into the digital world and increase that value.

In fact, a poor business model that adds little value will not be saved by digitization—rather, the opposite is likely. Many of the industry’s failed startups, for example, were simply focusing on matchmaking and did not provide relevant further benefits, such as application navigation and transaction and logistics support.

When we say that only the highest-quality distributors survive, it is important to define what we mean by “quality.” Exhibit 2 offers a set of KPIs for evaluating the quality of a third-party distribution business that go beyond the value typically added by the distributor. They include the share of multiple-product, multiple-principal customers the number of unique customers whether the business has a differentiated or exclusive product basket and the share of “solution sales” (based on the ability to offer meaningful support to customers) instead of purely transactional ones. These KPIs therefore count as make-or-break factors for distributors. Those that score highly can transform their traditional analog business platform into a successful digital platform and avoid the risk of being disintermediated.

Transforming Distribution

Given the possibilities for increasing value through digitization, what do individual distributors need to do to transform their existing analog business into a highly scalable digital one? Depending on the segments served—and the business models pursued—the degree of transformation required for the business may be small or large. Distributors will need to approach the process with their unique segments and models in mind, as each will provide different opportunities and have varied requirements.

Leading distributors typically have several different business models and will need a tailored approach for each:

  • Supplier-Driven Businesses. Some suppliers outsource their marketing and sales to the distributor, often through contractual arrangements and sometimes through mutually exclusive relationships. This model is typically most relevant in specialty chemical distribution. Digitization efforts tailored to this model should focus on the supplier interface and provide first-class market information back to the supplier.
  • Customer- and Best-Source-Driven Businesses. Distributors often source multiple products from the global marketplace to make sales. This model, which is specifically relevant for standard or commodity products, as well as for formulated (specialty) products, is often linked to breaking down bulk packages as well as repackaging, and sometimes to the subsequent formulation of several different products. In this model, digitization efforts should focus on the identification and qualification of the best suppliers on a global scale, the steering of each respective global supply chain, and product navigation for customers. Distributors should work closely with logistics partners in this process.
  • Value-Added Services and Formulation Businesses. Distributors often combine different—frequently standardized—products into application-specific formulations. Some distributors handle the physical formulation, while others develop recipes for formulations and sell the ingredients to their customers, who handle it themselves. In this model, digitization efforts should support recipe and formulation development (creating "digital labs") as well as joint formulation-development and testing with customers.

Nevertheless, distributors can take several no-regret actions regardless of their business model. For example, all distributors should identify and strengthen their cross-selling opportunities. They should take stock of their business quality to understand which parts of the business, if any, have the potential to be disintermediated in the medium and longer terms by suppliers or digital startups. They should also be sure to use their unique corporate advantages with suppliers and customers—including established relationships, a solid track record, and technical know-how—to defend against any digitally native startups. We recommend three explicit steps for all distributors to take:

1. Evaluate. Distributors should begin by undertaking an honest and unbiased view of the current strengths and weaknesses of their business while also considering how far they want to take their digital transition. They should build on the quality KPIs outlined in Exhibit 2 to understand the state of specific markets. They should carefully evaluate their IT infrastructure, as well as internal and customer pain points. Once armed with this information, they can extrapolate the digitization efforts needed to make and develop a strategy and roadmap for the transition. In chemicals, the amount of direct sales by suppliers is still extremely high compared to other industries. We can therefore envision a game-changing increase in indirect sales within specific segments.

2. Modernize. Next, distributors will likely need to perform some degree of IT modernization. This is a precondition for any fully digital platform and should be scoped in a very focused manner, using agile methods, as opposed to a top-down, large-scale transformation with little scope for change. In fact, we’ve noted that many companies can even fund a portion of the digitization journey by first implementing IT fixes that address very focused digital use cases.

Distributors should additionally structure and clean their data to unlock all the potential value behind their core supplier-management, commercial, and operational activities. Many still neglect the importance of this step. They should start by prioritizing their data’s relevance from a business point of view to determine which data is most critical instead of attempting to cleanse all data. Once they’ve reaped the benefits of using clean data, they should reallocate the reclaimed costs toward carrying out their broader digital strategy.

3.Digitize. Distributors can then embark on creating a fully digitized business model. The appropriate approach will be determined by the respective business strategy of each distributor. Those with a dominant share of repeat purchases, for example, will want to digitize their supply chain to generate orders that are both “no-touch” (received, processed, and shipped without human involvement) and “perfect” (on-time, in full, and undamaged). Distributors with a high share of the formulation business, in contrast, will need to differentiate themselves through a digital customer-collaboration portal.

Note that the necessary digitization efforts and resources will likely lead to a further wave of consolidation in the chemical distribution industry, as many small and mid-sized companies may not be able to unlock the necessary resources independently. In essence, the strategic imperative to digitize the chemical distribution value chain is likely to boost the size required for distributors to be able to remain in business, thus increasing industry M&A.

Suppliers and Producers, Take Heed

As distributors gradually digitize their business models, suppliers and producers, too, will need to choose where and what to digitize. They should begin by reviewing their channel strategies, as conventional wisdom on serving customers may no longer be valid. In addition to measuring their channel options by lowest product cost and complexity, they should also consider which channels are the most customer-centric, easiest to do business in, and provide the highest levels of transparency. In addition, suppliers and producers may want to take stock of the new breed of digitally native distributors that tend to focus on outsourcing suppliers’ marketing and sales activities.

Next, they should connect their various systems to give them an end-to-end view of customer engagement. Multichannel and omnichannel interactions will become increasingly common suppliers and producers must be prepared to serve customers wherever they may be.

Finally, these players should avoid the temptation to build an imitative web shop that simply takes their products online. Instead, if they choose to build a customer portal, they should ensure that the portal is consistent with their overall channel strategy. In addition, they will need to anticipate all the typical challenges they may experience in data connectivity, data governance, and other areas—and budget accordingly.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the need to digitize the chemical distribution value chain has become even more pressing. Distributors must review how best to integrate digital technology into their businesses, challenge how it fits into their strategic goals, and develop the appropriate funding and business cases accordingly. By taking these steps, distributors with high-quality business strategies can propel themselves into a period of sustained growth.


A GENERATION AGO THE United States was little more than an afterthought in the world of wine. America certainly had a long history of grape growing and winemaking, but that history hardly mattered. Nor did the wine itself much matter. Large producers, led by E & J Gallo, made gallons of innocuous jug wine, but only a handful of small, largely unknown American wineries produced anything resembling fine wine from Europe. Then, seemingly overnight, American wine took a huge leap in both quality and prestige. The country that had been an afterthought suddenly became an obsession. All at once the world discovered American wine, and all at once America discovered that it had the potential to make wines that could compete with the world’s best. This is the story of those two discoveries— first the story of why it took so long for the United States to produce truly great wine and then the story of how America was able to rise so quickly to its current position of prominence, if not preeminence, in the world of wine.

As with most discoveries, the story be- gins with a crucial moment of realization, an eye-opening instant filled with the awareness of new possibility. In this case the moment came twenty years ago, in Paris, where a young Englishman named Stephen Spurrier ran a wine school called L’Arcadé mie du Vin. In May of 1976 Spurrier invited some of the most respected French wine experts of the day to a formal tasting of prestigious classified-growth Bordeaux and grand cru white Burgundy. Spurrier included a number of California Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays in the tasting—in part because of his admiration for these then-obscure wines and in part because of his characteristically British desire to deflate Gallic pretension. This was not the first head-to-head comparison of French and American wines, but it was the first competitive tasting to be held in France with French professionals serving as judges. And it was blind, meaning that the judges had to evaluate and rank the wines without knowing which were which. To everyone’s surprise, including Spurrier’s, the winning wines turned out to be American—the red a Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973 Cabernet and the white a Château Montelena 1973 Chardonnay, both from the Napa Valley. (In second place came two very famous French wines, Château Mouton-Rothschild 1970 and Domaine Roulot 1973 Meursault-Charmes.) The press, which Spurrier had been sure to invite to the tasting, jumped on the story. In France the reaction reflected anger and disbelief, but in America it was pure glee. Writing in The New York Times , Frank Priai noted that Europeans frequently had denigrated American wines by denigrating American tastes. “What,” he asked rhetorically, “can they say now?” Time magazine put the case more succinctly: “Last week in Paris the unthinkable happened—California defeated all Gaul.”

Of course nothing of the sort had really happened. One event cannot by itself determine supremacy in a field as subjective and changeable as that of wine. Spurrier himself insisted that the Paris tasting should be thought of less as a competition than as a vehicle for discovery—”an opportunity to acknowledge that a young vineyard area can produce top-quality wines, given the same love, interest, skill and money that has been lavished on European vineyards for centuries.”

Yet the Paris tasting had farreaching consequences. It demonstrated to Europeans and Americans alike that the United States (and possibly other New World countries) actually could produce world-class wines. In America it inspired the wine industry to raise its standards and to begin thinking of “world class” as a goal. In Europe it led winemakers to look to American wine with a new appreciation and respect. The realization that great wine could come from vineyards that did not have centuries of grape-growing history behind them suggested to people on both sides of the Atlantic that they had to rethink what great wine was all about. In short, the Paris tasting woke everyone up. It presaged radical change, in the Old World as well as the New.

Plenty would change in Europe over the next twenty years, but the most radical change of all was the rise of American wine—both in terms of quality and in terms of influence and renown. In one sense the rise was meteoric, so much so that the United States today has become arguably the most important winemaking country in the world. Yet wine had been produced in North America ever since the late 1600s, so in another sense the rise was a long time coming. For more than three centuries American wine had seen success only in fits and starts, with small victories almost invariably followed by large defeats. Then, seemingly all of a sudden, came the dizzying achievements of the last quarter-century. How did everything change so quickly? The answer is paradoxically but quintessentially American. On the one hand, the winemaking entrepreneurs whose work inspired the rise advocated individual self-reliance. Like so many Americans in so many fields before them, they believed that their present success had little, if anything, to do with past accomplishment. On the other hand, those same winemakers wanted nothing more than to create a tradition and establish a legacy. They believed that no accomplishment was too great for American nature, and they considered it their mission to make history from the fruit of that nature—American wine from grapes grown in American vineyards.

WITH WILD GRAPES growing in profusion all up and down the Eastern seaboard, America must have looked like a wine lover’s Eden to the first European settlers. John Smith’s Virginia Company made nearly twenty gallons during its first year of settlement, wine that Smith later remembered being “neere as great” as “our French Brittish.” His memory must have been playing tricks. All the other early settlers who tried to make wine from these native American Vitis labrusca grapes quickly concluded that the European Vitis vinifera grapes back home did a much better job. Nonetheless, Smith’s comment can be said to have raised the questions and initiated the debate that has dominated American winemaking for more than three centuries: Should American wine be fashioned on a strict European model? Or should it have a style and character of its own? For a long time the issue concerned the basic grape species, and so long as it did, the answer seemed simple enough. North American labrusca grapes were delicious to eat, but the wines made from them tended to smell and taste rank—something like wet fur. Obviously the thing to do was to import vinifera cuttings from Europe.

LORD DELAWARE MADE THE first attempt, establishing a plantation of French grapes in Virginia in 1619. His plants all died. The same fate befell the vines imported by William Penn, Lord Baltimore, Thomas Jefferson, and the many others who in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries dreamed of making New World wine from Old World grapes. Jefferson, who thought of wine as a mark of civilization, wanted American wine to serve as an antidote to his young country’s “bane of whiskey.” He believed that “no nation is drunken where wine is cheap,” and he wanted Americans to make “as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe”—wines that he knew might taste different but that he insisted would be “doubtless as good.” For nearly thirty years Jefferson planted French, German, and Italian vines at Monticello. Every one of them died. Finally, by 1809, he was forced to conclude that for the time being American winemakers would have to use the inferior native grapes. The resulting wine might not be as good, but it seemed clear to him that foreign vines “will take centuries to adapt to our soil and climate.”

Others kept trying. One of the most dedicated attempts was made by an Ohioan named Nicholas Longworth (1782-1863), who experimented with all sorts of imported vines in all sorts of soils and locations. He too failed. “I have tried the foreign grapes extensively for wine at great expense,” he admitted in 1843, “and not a single plant is left in my vineyards. I would advise the cultivation of native grapes alone.” Longworth certainly took his own advice. He planted extensive vineyards in the Ohio Valley near Cincinnati, concentrating on the Catawba grape, a hybrid cross between pure labrusca and vinifera . There he produced America’s first commercially successful wine, a sweet “Sparkling Catawba” that developed a considerable following. Comparisons with European wine were inevitable, and some Americans went so far as to judge Longworth’s wine superior even to Champagne. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gave voice to this vinous version of manifest destiny in an 1854 poem titled “Catawba Wine,” part of which reads:

It is worth noting that Longworth himself did not claim this sort of superiority for his “wine of the West.” He planted plenty of native grapes and made plenty of money, but he never planted “native grapes alone.” For despite his success with Catawba, he knew in his heart that even hybrid labrusca varieties could never make wines equal in quality to the best from Europe. Hence he kept trying, and failing, to grow Vitis vinifera grapes. But like Jefferson and all the others before him, he could never figure out why those grapes kept dying in his vineyards.

THE EASTERN CLIMATE, WITH its high summer humidity and severe winter cold, didn’t help, but the real problem was phylloxera, a small yellow aphid that kills grapevines by attacking their roots. Although native American vines had become resistant to phylloxera through centuries of evolution, imported vinifera vines, which had no resistance, inevitably withered and died when planted in American soil. (Phylloxera eventually found its way to Europe see the sidebar on page 89.) Not until the 1960s did anyone succeed in growing European grapes in the Eastern United States. Yet phylloxera was not native to all of North America. Until transported by man, it had never crossed the Rockies. So while Easterners either drank imported wine or made do with native grapes, the potential existed out West to produce wines on a European model. As a result, two very different wine cultures emerged in nineteenth-century America. The first, centered in the large cities on the Eastern seaboard, distinguished sharply between imported and domestic wines. Unlike Longfellow’s patriotic muse, it tended to view American wine, which came from places like Middle Bass Island, Ohio, and Hermann, Missouri, as second-rate if not lower-class. The other culture saw things differently. Centered in California, it considered American wines at least the potential equal of European imports. Yet since the metropolitan East dominated and indeed dictated so much of the national culture, this second view never seriously challenged the first. In most of the country, wine was enjoyed by aristocrats or immigrants, not by the population at large. By the end of the century, California was producing wines that could hold their own with Europe’s finest. Ironically, they were better known in London than in New York.

The first Western vineyards belonged to Spanish settlements along the Rio Grande in New Mexico and Franciscan missions in California. The wine was made for religious purposes, but secular pleasures could not be ignored for long, and by the early nineteenth century vinifera vines were being grown commercially near Los Angeles. The grape of choice, called the Mission, came from Spain via South America, and by all accounts the wine made from it tasted simple and dull. Things remained fairly dull until the 1850s. Then, following the Mexican-American War and the gold rush, came the first California wine boom. It was led by immigrants—for example, the Hungarian Agoston Haraszthy, the Germans Charles Krug and Jacob Beringer, the Frenchman Charles LeFranc and his Burgundian son-in-law, Paul Masson. These viticultural pioneers planted vines all up and down the California coast, concentrating mostly on the valleys north and east of San Francisco Bay. First in Sonoma and then in Napa, they experimented with every Vitis vinifera grape variety they could get their hands on. (Haraszthy alone brought back some three hundred varieties from a European trip in 1861.) Not surprisingly they made wines on a strict European model. One of the best accounts is Robert Louis Stevenson’s in The Silverado Squatters , published in 1883. Stevenson, who knew fine wine from his youth in Edinburgh and his travels on the Continent, lived for a year or so in an abandoned miner’s house in the Napa Valley. “Wine in California is still in the experimental stage,” he wrote. “So, bit by bit, [the Californians] grope about for their Clos Vougeot and Lafite.” Stevenson especially admired the wines made by Jacob Schram near Calistoga. In Schram’s cellars, “earth’s cream [is] being skimmed and garnered,” and one “can taste, such as it is, the tang of the earth.” Some of the Schramsberg wines were being shipped to London, and Stevenson noted with approval that “Mr. Schram has a great notion of the English taste.”

By the 1880s California had surpassed Ohio to become the leading wine-producing state in the Union. Phylloxera arrived in force that same decade, but because the remedy of grafting onto resistant rootstock had been discovered, what could have been agricultural disaster ended up as little more than a financial downturn. Soon California wines started winning medals in international competitions, including more than thirty at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. They were being exported to Australia, Asia, and South America, in addition to Europe. Even more important, they were beginning to gain some small measure of acceptance in the East. The stage seemed set, then, for domestic wine to begin shedding its image as second-rate and inferior. After almost three centuries American wines finally were becoming “neere as great [as] our French Brittish,” and a culture for their appreciation seemed to be on the rise.

But another, stronger culture also was ascendant—that of temperance and then Prohibition. In 1851 Maine became the first state to go dry. By 1914 some thirty-two others had followed suit, and then in 1920 the national “noble experiment” began. Americans certainly did not stop making or drinking wine during the thirteen years of Prohibition. In fact they produced more wine than ever before. Some was sold for medicinal use, some went to bootleggers, but even more was homemade. The Volstead Act permitted each citizen to manufacture up to two hundred gallons of (supposedly nonintoxicating) wine or cider “exclusively for use in his home,” and farmers immediately started growing grapes specifically for this purpose. These grapes had to be extremely hearty. They often were shipped thousands of miles across the country, either in open railcars or in packages of concentrated juice known as wine bricks. Business boomed, and by 1923 some California vineyard prices had risen from five hundred to twenty-five hundred dollars an acre. But quantity, not quality, was all that mattered. No one cared anymore about the differences between wine grapes and table grapes, Vitis vinifera and Vitis labrusca , European-style and distinctly American wines. Grapes were grapes, yeast was yeast, and alcohol was alcohol. So while American wine survived and in raw numbers even prospered during Prohibition, what died was any culture for its appreciation.

When Repeal came in December 1933, the country was in the depths of the Depression. A few adventurous entrepreneurs tried to jump-start the California wine industry, but the vineyards all needed to be replanted, the banks had no money to loan, and most important, virtually everyone now thought of American wine as something made in a bathtub. The old East Coast image of American wine as secondrate was back with a vengeance, and some forty years would pass before it was seriously challenged.

This was Prohibition’s long legacy: wine viewed as just another form of alcohol, and American wine as little more than cheap booze. The quality of American wine plummeted. Regulations imposed after Repeal linked wine with other alcoholic beverages, and the liquor industry at large made the bulk of its money selling beer and whiskey. The few producers still making wine usually sold it in bulk, shipping it by rail or truck to wholesalers often a continent away. In order to survive such treatment, the wine had to be tough—which usually meant sugared or stabilized with brandy.

The public, whose taste had been nurtured on thirteen years of roughedged Prohibition wine, lost what little interest it had in dry table wines, and by 1940 well over 80 percent of Amer- lean wine was either sweet or fortified. Then came world war, and by midcentury it had been almost a lifetime since anyone outside Northern California had drunk high-quality American vinifera wine.

The generation that came of age in the great wave of prosperity that followed the Second World War thought of fine wine as something foreign and of American wine as something that belonged on skid row. The debate over American wine’s identity no longer concerned grape species. Instead it concerned quality, and there really was little left to say. Almost all “premium” wines were imported, almost all “bulk” and “pop” wines domestic. This was the era of Thunderbird, Ripple, and Cold Duck—wines that made no pretense of emulating either a European model or an international standard of quality. American culture, in the form of film, music, fashion, and the like, was enjoying unprecedented influence and prestige all across the globe. But in the world of wine, the United States had hit rock bottom.

THE RISE BEGAN IN THE 1960S when, as part of the country’s restless reaction against the staid homogeneity of the postwar years, Americans began experimenting with new tastes and experiences. Wine became one of them. Some people tried it as an alternative to whiskey and cocktails others drank it because doing so seemed exotic or refined still others, especially young drinkers on college campuses, turned to wine because it was natural and “of the earth.” Between 1965 and 1975 national consumption increased by nearly 150 percent. As telling, because it suggests that wine was beginning to shed its image as cheap hooch, the amount of money Americans were willing to spend on it went up even faster—doubling, for example, from 1968 to 1972. For the first time since Prohibition the sale of table wines surpassed that of fortified and dessert wines. American producers responded to this new interest in wine in two quite different ways. The first and more common approach was the time-honored one of trying to give customers what they wanted. Ernest and Julio Gallo were masters of this strategy, pioneering consumer research on American taste preferences, and for more than half a century anticipating just about every trend in wine consumption. But the second approach, championed most prominently by Robert Mondavi, paid little attention to consumer preferences. It proceeded from the assumption that people new to wine had not yet developed firm likes and dislikes, and it set as its goal educating the American palate with wines that, in Mondavi’s words, “belong in the company of the truly fine wines of the world.”

The story of American wine over the next thirty years is the story of how Mondavi’s approach carried the day. The British wine writer Oz Clarke describes it as a matter of both vision and ambition. What distinguishes American wine, he says, is that winemakers from California to New York “all take ‘the best’ as their goal, the top wine as their role model… . Sometimes sheer ambition is their downfall. But more often their efforts sing with the excitement of a new industry turning the tables on old, revered institutions, and the whole world has cause to be grateful for that.” The world has cause to be grateful because the rapid rise of American wine gave producers all across the globe the confidence to adopt a similar approach. They too began to think that “the best” need not come from centuries-old vineyards and be made in time-honored ways. This was true in New World countries like Australia and Chile, where growing international markets led to the creation of new wines in new styles. But it also was true in Europe, where America’s success inspired a revolution in the quality of wines from such traditional areas as Piedmont in Italy and Burgundy in France. The issue is not just competition a good Burgundian négociant has never had much trouble selling his wine. Instead the more significant issue is quality. Both in the vineyard and in the winery, California, with the rest of the United States in tow, has changed how the world makes and appreciates wine.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? How did a country and a state with virtually no tradition of producing world-class wine become a world leader? Many different, often slowly gathering forces came into play, but two factors stand out. First, it was precisely the absence of tradition in California and the United States at large that enabled visionary winemakers and entrepreneurs to blaze new trails and take American wine to a new level. As Matt Kramer observes in his Making Sense of California Wine , the winemakers of the 1960s and 1970s “had no memory of prior efforts.” They knew that others had passed their way before, but they knew too that any pre-Prohibition path, “if discernible at all,” led nowhere. Three centuries of American grape growing and winemaking, from John Smith to Nicholas Longworth to Jacob Schram, had nothing to do with the future of American wine, and in the 1960s, for Robert Mondavi as well as for Ernest and Julio Gallo, the future was now. The second factor was the realization that if American wine really was going to take “the best” as a goal, American winemakers were going to have to try to redefine “the best.” They could go only so far by emulating the finest wines from Europe, wines that traditionally defined excellence in historical terms that they did not and could not share. Thus the old questions still resonated: Could American wine develop a style and character of its own? Or would a vinous declaration of independence actually prevent American wines from being “neere as great” as their stylistic models, the great French wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux?

The laboratory was one place to look for answers, and the winemakers whose work fueled the rise of American wine in the 1960s and 1970s relied heavily on science and technology to tell them what to do. Many studied in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California at Davis, and they approached their work like NASA engineers, trying to control nature in order to attain consistent and predictable results. Davis-trained viticulturists pioneered such agricultural methods as mechanical harvesting, drip irrigation, and field grafting, all designed to control more effectively what happens in the vineyard. The winemakers had similar goals. Some worked by recipe and formula as much as by taste, their heads filled with figures and equations—pH balances, fermentation temperatures, Brix levels, and so on. For them, making wine was less an individual art than a repeatable science. All this systemization had a definite downside, for many of the wines ended up tasting sterile. But the upside was far greater. More than anything else, this emphasis on science and technology is what enabled American producers to catch up to their European counterparts in such an amazingly short time. What had taken centuries of trial and error to learn in the Old World was being put into practice almost instantaneously in the New, as experimentation and innovation took the place of inheritance.

THE MOST IMPORTANT American innovation of all was the emphasis that winemakers began to place on a wine’s present composition as the crucial measure of its quality. This involved technical data having to do with such things as acid levels and degrees of residual sugar, but it began and ended with something far more basic: the grape itself. The professors at Davis taught that both grape growing and winemaking could be reduced to mathematically verifiable rules. The critical variable, what separated one wine from another, was the grape, the species— vinifera as opposed to labrusca , and, even more important, the varietal within the species, and then the clone within the varietal, all of which could be studied, analyzed, and even improved upon in the laboratory.

This was not at all the traditional emphasis in Europe. There far more attention was paid to location, what the French vigneron called terroir . To some degree terroir is quantifiable. Factors such as soil composition, drainage, and vineyard exposure can be analyzed scientifically and at least partially controlled by human labor. But terroir involves more than present location. To the winemaker in Burgundy or Bordeaux, the quality of a great wine does not come simply from the grapes being grown in a specific vineyard. Instead it comes from grapes having been grown in that same vineyard for a very, very long time. That is, it comes at least in part from history. This aspect of terroir cannot be quantified or analyzed in a laboratory, and at first American winemakers distrusted it intensely. They did so because it was the one aspect of great wine as it traditionally had been defined that they did not and could not have. So long as history played an important role in defining quality, American wine would have to remain a notch below “the best.” But if “the best” could be redefined in wholly present terms—that is, in terms of the grapes whose juice is the wine—then there was no reason why American wine could not aspire to the very highest level. Physiologically, American grapes were the best in the world. Why then, ran the argument, shouldn’t the wine be the best as well?

When American winemakers began to define quality analytically rather than historically, they also began to look at the great wines of Europe anew—as points of departure rather than as models for slavish imitation. Robert Mondavi’s Fumé Blanc provides one of the earliest and best examples. First released in 1968, this dry white wine was inspired by the crisp, tart wines from the Loire appellation of Pouilly-Fumé. But being oak-aged, it was not made like Pouilly-Fumé —and certainly did not taste like it. Mondavi felt free to innovate and experiment when making (and naming) it because his goal had not been to create an Old World clone. Instead he wanted to make a wine that could match the best of Europe on its own terms.

Much the same was true of the Cabernets and Chardonnays that eight years later triumphed in Stephen Spurrier’s Paris tasting. Although inspired by Bordeaux and Burgundy, they tasted, in Oz Clarke’s words, “startlingly, thrillingly different.” That is, they had a style all their own, one marked by an intense, mouth-filling quality and rich, sun-drenched fruit flavors. Over the next twenty years that style would come to define American wine. In turn, it would become America’s greatest gift to the world of wine at large—an exuberant, ripe style of wine that comes from the grapes as much as, if not more than, from where they are grown.

THE EARLY 1970S WERE HEADY days for American wine. New vineyards were being planted in unlikely places: Illinois, Georgia, Maryland, Texas, Washington, and Oregon. Old vineyards were being restored in Virginia, Ohio, and New York. And every day seemed to bring the opening of a new winery in California. Money flowed freely, as plenty of fortunes made in other fields financed the ambitious dreams of American winemakers. Soon big corporations like Coca-Cola, Pillsbury, and Nestlé got into the game, sometimes buying established vineyards and wineries, sometimes starting their own brands. All this optimism and enthusiasm was based on the seemingly logical assumption that wine consumption in the United States would continue to increase. Americans drank an annual per capita average of 2.5 gallons of wine, a far cry from the French (29 gallons) or Italians (30 gallons). Surely this would go up. In November 1972 Time magazine ran a cover story titled “American Wine Comes of Age.” A picture of Ernest and Julio Gallo appeared on the cover, and the article declared it “inevitable that more Americans will become wine drinkers.”

IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. SALES OF TABLE wine continued to rise, but overall wine consumption in the United States actually declined slightly over the next twenty years—in large measure because of the anti-alcohol movement of the 1980s. Yet something extremely important had changed. For the first time in American history, a small but significant percentage of the population was enjoying wine as part of daily life. Back before Prohibition only high society or immigrants drank wine regularly. Now it had become part of middle-class life. What had changed, then, at least for an important segment of the population, was American taste, moving from sweet to dry (or drier) and from tough to smooth. The United States was not destined to become a wine-drinking country on the French or Italian scale, but Americans increasingly had little use for the sort of wines that many French and Italian wine drinkers consumed every day—rough, cheap vin ordinaire . Of course, plenty of Americans still had no interest in wine at all. Some continued to think of it as just another form of alcohol and regard all alcohol as the devil’s handiwork. As a societal force, then, Prohibition’s legacy was still alive. Still, those Americans who were interested in wine focused more on the pleasure than the effect it provides. They cared about quality, and in this respect Prohibition’s legacy had just about run its course. These wine drinkers approached wine with a distinctly American consumer mentality. Led by a Maryland lawyer named Robert Parker, who behaved like Ralph Nader and rated wines critically on a 100-point scale, they searched for the best bottle in whatever price category, no matter its origin. Unbound by tradition, they felt free to try wines that themselves had little tradition. But being unbound, they also had little loyalty, and they seemed always to be on the lookout for something new or better. In order for American wine to keep their interest, its quality would have to rise even more.

The first big jump in quality came with mass-produced wines designed for everyday drinking. In Europe vin ordinaire had virtually nothing in common with fine wine. Rough and dirty, it traditionally had been the province of the working poor, with its low price the only thing recommending it to anyone else (including backpacking American tourists). In the United States, however, bulk wine took its cue from premium wine. This was because a good-size American winery usually made both types, and more and more the style of the one followed the other. The changing direction at E & J Gallo provides perhaps the best illustration. This family-run company had prospered for years selling jug, dessert, and pop wines. In the table-wine category its different lines of generic blends, whether Chablis Blanc and Hearty Burgundy under the family label or the red, white, and rosé wines labeled as Carlo Rossi, were (and still are) perennial bestsellers. But beginning in the mid-1970s, Ernest and Julio Gallo began to shift the emphasis, if not the volume, of their production. In 1974 they released a line of varietals, their first wines to be closed with corks rather than screw tops. Later in the decade they built a massive underground aging cellar. Then, in the 1980s, they began buying more and more prime vineyard land in Sonoma County, much of which they bulldozed and shaped into the terroir they wanted. They built a new winery, purchased the finest equipment, and in 1994 released their first estate-bottled Chardonnay and Cabernet, priced respectively at thirty and sixty dollars a bottle. The Sonoma vineyards were capable of producing only one percent or so of Gallo’s annual output, but the wines made from those grapes set the standard for everything else. For by the 1990s Gallo, too, was aiming to make “the best.”

THIS MOVEMENT FROM GE- neric blends to varietally designated and vintage-dated wines was a logical extension of the philosophy that the grape functions as the key to a wine’s quality. It soon swept rapidly all across the globe. Chardonnay and Cabernet were the most popular grapes, and growers just about everywhere started planting them. Soon “fighting varietals” from Australia, Chile, Italy, and France, not to mention the Pacific Northwest, New York, and Texas, were competing with California wines in the global marketplace. A truly international style of wine, one that emphasized above all else the taste of fruit, had arrived. This style drew its share of criticism, much of it deserved. Too many growers in established viticultural regions had grafted over indigenous grape varieties, too many winemakers now were working by formula, and too many wines tasted alike. Yet at the level of moderately priced wine, the emergence of a global style was undoubtedly a good thing. The improvement in the quality of American wine was demonstrating to producers everywhere that bulk wine actually could taste clean and pleasant. The new emphasis on the grape provided standards of quality that could be measured scientifically, and modern technology produced both better grapes in the vineyard and better wine in the winery. To put it simply, bad wine at any price was becoming a thing of the past.

At the highest-quality level, however, the obsessive attention paid to the grape could take American wine only so far. The more talented American winemakers began to realize as much in the early 1980s. Many augmented their university studies with extensive work experience in Europe, and gradually the “us versus them” mentality that had accompanied the initial rise of American wine began to dissipate. Foreign concerns were investing heavily in American vineyards, and cooperation began to become as important as competition. Nothing better represents this changing attitude than the release of Opus One in 1984. Priced at sixty dollars a bottle, making it at that point California’s most expensive wine, Opus One was a joint venture between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton-Rothschild in Bordeaux. Initially controversial, it has gone on in subsequent vintages to win considerable critical as well as consumer acclaim (including a score of 93 from Robert Parker for the 1987 vintage). More important than the plaudits, however, is the wine’s very presence. Made from Napa Valley grapes, it was designed from the start to transcend both the Old World emphasis on region and the New World emphasis on grape variety. The baron’s participation signaled the Old World’s acceptance of the New, but Robert Mondavi’s participation signaled something else: a subtle but significant shift in direction for American wine, a final twist in the redefinition of “the best.”

BY THIS POINT AMERICAN winemakers clearly had mastered the craft of producing wine that could express a grape’s varietal character. Their wines were very good, sometimes even world-class, but nagging questions remained: Was varietal character really an appropriate end in itself? Could it actually define great wine? Might it not make more sense to think of both terroir and the grape as the means to a common and greater end? More and more winemakers began to ask these questions. One of the most thoughtful was Warren Winiarski, a former professor of political philosophy whose Stag’s Leap Cabernet had won the 1976 Paris tasting. Back then Winiarski had been committed to the ideal of the grape. Now he was unsure. Some wines, he speculated, are good because they conform to regional expectations. They have “charming, intimate associations with local circumstances, not only such as soil and climate but even steeples, church bells, trees, villages and history.” Other wines are good because they conform to the variety. They taste as wines made from a certain grape should taste. But the finest wines avoid excessively parochial associations of origin, whether the origin of place or the origin of grape variety. They certainly need those associations, but they take their bearings as “the best” from other considerations—in Winiarski’s words, “considerations such as harmony, balance, proportion, scale, magnitude and euphonic relationship of parts.” Any such considerations are themselves products of history, but they are neither confined to nor defined by any one particular history. Instead they represent an ideal to be pursued—not an international style but an international standard of quality.

Considering “the best” as a category of its own and not merely a modifier (as in “the best Bordeaux” or “the best Cabernet” ) marks the final stage in the rise of American wine. Today the American wine industry is filled with people attempting to graft tradition onto what is still very much a new enterprise. The graft can take odd forms, as, for example, in the architecture of Northern California’s wine country, where faux Italian villas sit beside sixty-year-old farmers’ barns. Yet in one sense this sort of oddity is only an outward manifestation of something more substantial —namely, the growing realization on the part of American winemakers that great wine needs history and tradition in order to be (and to remain) great. “The best” cannot be defined in exclusively present terms any more than exclusively historical ones. Thus, while American wine continues to be identified in terms of the grape, the finest wines increasingly are identified in terms of the grape in context—the context of the vineyard as well as the winery, their past as well as their present. California is leading the way, but the lessons are being adopted in the Pacific Northwest, New York, Virginia, and wherever in the United States someone dreams Thomas Jefferson’s old dream: to make wines “doubtless as good” as those from Europe.

THE STORY OF AMERICAN wine begins with the attempt to reproduce European wine in American vineyards. Over and over again for three hundred years, whether because of nature or human folly, that attempt ended in failure. The rise began only when American winemakers, with the help of science, technology, and often brazen ambition, started to make wine on their own terms. The results were impressive, so much so that the world beat a path to their door. But the terms were ultimately too simple. “At one time,” says Robert Mondavi, “I really felt technology gave us control. Here we were making these clean, fresh, fruity wines and I thought that was the acme of perfection. But what we forgot was that even though the wines were clean and well made, much more so than the general wines of the world, we didn’t know the heart or the soul of the wine.” The effort to know just that, to realize the ideal of the redefined “best,” marks the next and perhaps greatest challenge for American winemakers. But as a challenge it is not theirs alone. The finest winemakers throughout the world are taking it up as well, and today wine regions all over the globe are producing wines of unparalleled quality, both at the massproduced and at the artisanal level. The last decades of the twentieth century have become a truly golden age for wine, one inspired in large measure by the success as well as the ongoing promise of American wine.

How America Saved Europe’s Vineyards The Ten Most Important American Wines


The PC market just had its first big growth in 10 years

The PC was supposed to die 10 years ago, but it’s just experienced its first big growth in a decade. Market research firm Canalys reports that PC shipments reached 297 million units in 2020, up an impressive 11 percent from 2019. IDC puts the year at 302 million shipments, up 13.1 percent year over year. Gartner also agrees that 2020 was a big year for PCs and the biggest growth we’ve seen since 2010.

PC shipments are up thanks to demand related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Supply constraints made it difficult to buy a new laptop halfway through the year, and demand continued throughout 2020. “Demand is pushing the PC market forward and all signs indicate this surge still has a way to go,” says IDC’s Ryan Reith. While home working and remote learning have been big drivers, people are also turning to PCs and laptops for entertainment.

Apple’s MacBook Air with M1 chip. Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

“The obvious drivers for last year’s growth centered around work from home and remote learning needs, but the strength of the consumer market should not be overlooked,” says Reith. “We continue to see gaming PCs and monitor sales at all-time highs and Chrome-based devices are expanding beyond education into the consumer market.”

There were other signs throughout 2020 that PC shipments were surging. Microsoft declared “the PC is back” at the beginning of the pandemic, and the company also saw a big jump in Windows usage after reporting 1 billion Windows 10 users. Microsoft also adjusted its Windows 10X plans as a result of the pandemic and increased PC demand. 10X was originally supposed to launch on dual-screen devices, but Microsoft is now planning to launch the OS variant on single-screen laptop devices first.

PCs were central to how companies quickly went digital or allowed workers to continue remotely in 2020. “The digital transformation the world has undertaken over the past year is unparalleled, and PCs were at the heart of this change,” says Canalys research director Rushabh Doshi. “It is going to be extremely difficult to write off the PC as some of us did a few years ago. PCs are here to stay.”

I’ve long argued that there’s no such thing as a “post-PC” era, and 2020 certainly proved how valuable laptops and PCs are.

Canalys and IDC both agree that Lenovo was the top PC vendor in 2020, followed by HP in second place, and Dell in third. Apple also saw impressive growth with its shipments up 17 percent, according to Canalys, or as high as 29 percent based on IDC’s estimates.

Apple has also impressed reviewers and industry experts with its new Arm-based M1 chip. It puts the MacBook Air back at the top of laptop recommendations and will set the stage for a battle of laptop processors for years to come.

Update, January 11th 4PM ET: Article updated with Gartner PC shipment report.


Texas continues to lead US in raw population growth, Census Bureau estimates

Construction workers build a multi-family complex on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 in Missouri City. Texas continues to lead the United States in raw population growth, according to Census estimates released Tuesday. The state’s suburbs also continued swelling. Collin and Denton counties are projected to have larger population increases than Harris County, for example. Meanwhile, Fort Bend County is expected to record the sixth-largest population increase in the country. There were 373,965 more Texas residents in 2020 than in 2019 — marking the biggest increase since 2017 — according to the estimates, which don’t incorporate the 2020 Census results.

Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer Show More Show Less

Construction workers build a home that has already sold in the Sienna development on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 in Missouri City. Texas continues to lead the United States in raw population growth, according to Census estimates released Tuesday. The state’s suburbs also continued swelling. Collin and Denton counties are projected to have larger population increases than Harris County, for example. Meanwhile, Fort Bend County is expected to record the sixth-largest population increase in the country. There were 373,965 more Texas residents in 2020 than in 2019 — marking the biggest increase since 2017 — according to the estimates, which don’t incorporate the 2020 Census results.

Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer Show More Show Less

Construction workers build a model home in the Sienna development on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 in Missouri City. Texas continues to lead the United States in raw population growth, according to Census estimates released Tuesday. The state’s suburbs also continued swelling. Collin and Denton counties are projected to have larger population increases than Harris County, for example. Meanwhile, Fort Bend County is expected to record the sixth-largest population increase in the country. There were 373,965 more Texas residents in 2020 than in 2019 — marking the biggest increase since 2017 — according to the estimates, which don’t incorporate the 2020 Census results.

Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer Show More Show Less

Elijah Haskin helps his mother unload some landscaping bricks for the home the family recently moved into on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 in Missouri City. Texas continues to lead the United States in raw population growth, according to Census estimates released Tuesday. The stateís suburbs also continued swelling. Collin and Denton counties are projected to have larger population increases than Harris County, for example. Meanwhile, Fort Bend County is expected to record the sixth-largest population increase in the country. There were 373,965 more Texas residents in 2020 than in 2019 ó marking the biggest increase since 2017 ó according to the estimates, which donít incorporate the 2020 Census results.

Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer Show More Show Less

Construction workers build a multi-family complex on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 in Missouri City. Texas continues to lead the United States in raw population growth, according to Census estimates released Tuesday. The state’s suburbs also continued swelling. Collin and Denton counties are projected to have larger population increases than Harris County, for example. Meanwhile, Fort Bend County is expected to record the sixth-largest population increase in the country. There were 373,965 more Texas residents in 2020 than in 2019 — marking the biggest increase since 2017 — according to the estimates, which don’t incorporate the 2020 Census results.

Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer Show More Show Less

Construction workers build a home the Sienna development on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 in Missouri City. Texas continues to lead the United States in raw population growth, according to Census estimates released Tuesday. The state’s suburbs also continued swelling. Collin and Denton counties are projected to have larger population increases than Harris County, for example. Meanwhile, Fort Bend County is expected to record the sixth-largest population increase in the country. There were 373,965 more Texas residents in 2020 than in 2019 — marking the biggest increase since 2017 — according to the estimates, which don’t incorporate the 2020 Census results.

Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer Show More Show Less

Texas continues to lead the United States in raw population growth, according to Census estimates released Tuesday.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the Lone Star State had 373,965 more residents in 2020 than in 2019, a bigger increase in raw numbers than in any other state. Texas was followed by Florida, Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia.

The spike &mdash the largest for Texas since 2017 &mdash is believed to have pushed the state&rsquos population to 29.36 million. In terms of a percentage increase, though, Texas&rsquo 1.29 percent rise trailed Idaho, Arizona, Nevada and Utah.

The population estimates are released yearly and are not the results of the 2020 Census, the decennial count overseen by the federal government. The Census Bureau did announce last week that that count found the resident population of the U.S. was 331,449,281 as of April 1, 2020. Texas has gained the most residents numerically since 2010, entitling the state to two new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The estimates released Tuesday, meanwhile, identified more growth in metro areas and Texas suburbs. The Census Bureau said Collin and Denton counties were on track to have larger population increases than Harris County, with Fort Bend County recording the sixth-largest population rise in the country.

Much of the expansion is driven by migration, with Texas once again serving as the top destination for relocating Americans. It&rsquos expected to remain second to Florida in the number of arriving international migrants.

&ldquoEssentially, the difference between the last decade and this decade in terms of components of change was a larger proportion of our population change was from domestic migration,&rdquo said Dr. Lloyd B. Potter, the state&rsquos demographer. &ldquoDomestic migrants that are coming into Texas from out of state are tending to land in those suburban ring counties.&rdquo

The Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston metro areas had the biggest population gains from 2010 to 2020 of any American metro region, according to the estimates, which are calculated by using the 2010 Census as a base and analyzing current births, deaths and migration numbers.

Migration rates to Collin and Denton counties, north of Dallas-Fort Worth, continued to remain high even as Harris County&rsquos declined. But even with a net loss of domestic migrants, Harris County came in fifth overall in total net migration from 2010 to 2020.

Fort Bend County also registered high migration rates. From 2010 to 2020, the county added more than 255,000 new people &mdash a growth rate of about 43.5 percent, the 13th-highest in the country.

The highly diverse county west of Houston has proved especially attractive to people already living in the U.S., as the rate of domestic migration has increased. More than 18,000 Americans moved to Fort Bend County between 2019 and 2020, the seventh-highest increase in the country.

Sharon Parker, a real estate agent, recalled dirt roads by Texas 6, fewer schools and not many restaurants when she moved to Sienna nearly 20 years ago. Over the years, she said, she&rsquos seen the construction of subdivisions, more schools and the expansion of businesses, offering local residents more eating options and introducing jobs to teens and students home from college who previously faced a long commute.

And the housing market, Parker said, won&rsquot stop booming.

&ldquoIt&rsquos like we never run out of land,&rdquo Parker said. &ldquoIt seems like it.&rdquo

People moving to Texas from 2019 to 2020 comprised most of the state&rsquos population growth, 58 percent. Natural population increases &mdash that is, the number of people born minus the number of individuals who died &mdash made up 42 percent of the growth.

Potter, the demographer who also teaches at The University of Texas at San Antonio, said such growth was consistent with national indications. Part of the reason for domestic migration accounting for a greater portion of the population increase during the last decade may be due to Texas&rsquo recovery from the economic recession issues related to property value and economic recovery that could have encouraged individuals to leave other big states, like California and immigration restrictions in recent years.

And projections suggest the trend will continue, he said. But there are challenges: Texas has fewer children than it did five to 10 years ago, which will eventually mean fewer people aging into the labor force. A growing economy will require the import of labor.

The state is likely to see a decline in the percentage of growth happening from natural increases.

&ldquoIf that trend continues and if we continue to be an economically vibrant state &hellip we will continue to import domestic labor,&rdquo he said, adding there may also be more international migrants.

With more growth owing to arriving migrants and less to natural increases, how much can the state keep growing?


SPECIAL REPORT: S.D. dairy industry growing fast to meet needs of cheesemakers

This story is reported by South Dakota News Watch, a non-profit news organization. Find more in-depth reporting at www.sdnewswatch.org.

South Dakota dairy producers have undergone a rapid expansion over the past few years to meet the milk needs of the state’s growing cheesemaking industry, bringing a burst of economic prosperity to farm families and farming communities throughout the eastern half of the state.

Milk production in South Dakota rose by 12% from December 2019 to December 2020, and farmers added about 14,000 new dairy cows during that one-year period, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistic Service. The recent jump in dairy cows and milk production continues a trend of expansion that has evolved over the past decade.

The dairy industry expansion has come in response to South Dakota’s emergence as a major player in the burgeoning American cheesemaking industry, which has seen new plants come online and major expansions of existing plants in the state.

Industry experts say the increase in milking cows has come from expansion of longstanding dairies, the launch of milking operations at existing farms that have diversified, and also from the relocation of dairy operations to South Dakota from states such as California.

South Dakota officials have sought for years to strengthen the state’s presence in the American dairy industry, and those efforts have dovetailed with the recent expansion of milk-processing capacity at cheese plants and a welcoming regulatory environment to spur the ongoing rise in milk cows in the state.

“We’ve got a tremendous amount of interest in dairy in South Dakota right now and we’re growing to meet the need,” said Marv Post, a Volga dairy operator who is chairman of the South Dakota Dairy Producers Association.

Post said recent expansions have occurred throughout East River South Dakota, including at farms near Bryant, north of DeSmet and in Lake and Brookings counties.

The overall economic impact of the dairy industry in South Dakota is difficult to pinpoint, but it remains a relatively small portion of the state’s overall $32.5 billion annual agricultural industry.

An analysis by a professor at South Dakota State University using 2012 data pegged the direct revenue generation of the state dairy industry at $427 million a year, with about 2,000 full-time jobs, and estimated the total direct and indirect economic impact at about $650 million a year. Most dairy operators employ a mix of local residents and immigrant workers on visas.

That report put the value of each dairy cow in the state at about $7,100 a year, though other reports have estimated the overall economic impact of each dairy cow in South Dakota as high as $26,000 a year. The industry has grown by nearly a third since the SDSU figures were released.

A pair of milking cows take a break from eating silage to nuzzle shortly after being milked at the Drumgoon Dairy near Lake Norden, South Dakota. Dairy farmers in South Dakota have added thousands of cows to their operations in recent years to provide milk for the state’s growing cheese industry. Photo: Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News Watch

Even as the number of dairy cows continues to rise in the state, the number of dairy farms is on a steady decline. As in other agricultural industries, dairy farmers are increasingly using genetics, data monitoring, technology and robotics to boost the production of each individual animal while implementing an economies-of-scale approach to the size of their farms, raising the efficiency and profitability of their operations.

In 2013, South Dakota had 272 milking operations with about 92,000 cows, compared with 171 farms with 127,000 cows in 2020, representing a 37% reduction in farms and a 38% increase in number of animals. The amount of milk produced rose from 2.0 billion pounds in 2013 to 3.1 billion in 2020, a jump of 55% during that eight-year period.

The amount of milk produced by each dairy cow in the U.S. has risen by 11% over the past decade to almost 24,000 pounds per year, an increase attributed to improvements in breeding, milking technology and animal treatment.

Three major cheese producers in eastern South Dakota have created much of the capacity for the expansion of the dairy industry. The launch of Bel Brands in Brookings in 2014 and major expansions completed in 2019 at the Agropur cheese plant in Lake Norden and at the Valley Queen Cheese plant in Milbank created the need for roughly 115,000 more milking cows to meet the expanded production-capacity needs.

Some farms have sought new or expanded state waste-control permits that allow them to house and milk more animals. The KC Dairies farm operated by Edward Kavanaugh in Elkton, for example, has a concentrated animal-feeding operation expansion permit pending with the state to raise the farm’s animal limit to a maximum of 2,250 milking cows and 800 head of dairy calves.

The dairy industry supported a bill this legislative session to double the time period for renewal of concentrated animal-feeding permits from five to 10 years the bill passed and was signed into law in February.

The dairy industry’s efficient response to the expansion of cheesemaking operations is close to fully satisfying the current milk-processing capacity at the state’s largest cheese plants. But the ability of dairy operators to provide increasing levels of milk presents even greater opportunities for future expansion or diversification of cheese plants that are seeing no slowdown in the demand for cheese and other dairy products among consumers in America and in other countries around the world.

“The milk growth has certainly got our attention, and I can tell you that we’re not done growing yet,” said Doug Wilke, CEO of Valley Queen Cheese.

Source: South Dakota Department of Agriculture

Demand for cheese driving dairy growth

Even though consumer consumption of liquid milk has been on a steady decline in the U.S., falling by 28% from 2000 to 2019, America’s appetite for dairy products overall has been on a rapid rise and reached record levels in 2019, according to data from the USDA Economic Research Service.

Per-capita consumption of all dairy products in the U.S. rose by 16% over the past 30 years, from about 560 pounds per year in 1989 to about 650 pounds per year in 2019, according to the USDA. In the past decade alone, per-capita consumption of butter is up 24%, yogurt consumption has risen by 7% and, most important to South Dakota and its cheesemaking industry, per-capita cheese consumption in the U.S. has risen by 19% in the past 10 years.

South Dakota has worked on several fronts to strengthen its dairy industry, which peaked at about 250,000 dairy cows on thousands of mostly small farms in the 1960s, but fell to only about 80,000 cows on a few hundred farms two decades later. The industry began a steady rebound in the early 2000s.

State governors, agricultural commissioners and economic development officials have worked with strong support from educators at SDSU to lure new dairies and producers of dairy products to the state and also to train future farmers to run them.

The recent expansion has been boosted significantly by expansion of milk-processing capacity by several cheesemaking plants in the eastern part of the state.

A big boost to the South Dakota cheesemaking industry came in 2014 when Bel Brands opened its $140 million, 170,000-square-foot plant in Brookings that can produce 22 million pounds of Mini Babybel cheese rounds each year. The plant requires milk from about 15,000 cows.

The need for milk rose again when two existing cheese plants underwent significant expansions.

Valley Queen spent about $52 million to expand its capacity by about 25% in 2019, and Agropur underwent a $252 million expansion that nearly tripled its capacity.

The Valley Queen Cheese factory in Milbank, South Dakota recently underwent a $52 million expansion that created the need for millions more pounds of milk from dairy farmers in South Dakota. Photo: Courtesy Valley Queen Cheese

The South Dakota Dairy Drive has been part of the industry stimulation effort and has seized on opportunities to draw the interest of farmers to speed growth of existing dairies or lure new producers to the state.

The program has provided opportunities for South Dakota milk producers to attend events such as the World Dairy Expo and World Ag Expo and participate in regional educational forums sponsored by the American Dairy Association. Visits to South Dakota were also arranged for farmers considering relocation to the state.

Dairy farmer Rodney Elliott of Lake Norden said such state programs gave him information about the South Dakota dairy industry and local opportunities for development when he was considering a move from Northern Ireland to the United States. Elliott said he went on a state-sponsored trip to South Dakota in 2004 and moved here to buy land and farm in 2006.

Elliott said the state did not give him financial incentives to relocate to South Dakota, but did offer information and technical assistance.

Since then, Elliott has continued to expand his operation, called Drumgoon Dairy, growing from 1,400 milking cows initially to about 6,000 now. His farm produces about 360,000 pounds of milk each day.

Elliott underwent a significant expansion recently, including the addition of robotic milking machines, to produce more milk to accommodate the increases in capacity at both Agropur and Valley Queen.

Rodney Elliott, operator of Drumgoon Dairy in Lake Norden, said efforts by the state of South Dakota to educate farmers about opportunities for starting a farm in the state helped him decide to move from Northern Ireland to the Rushmore State in 2006. Elliott recently expanded his milking operation to accommodate expansions by local cheese plants. Photo: Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News Watch

Elliott said he sees greater opportunities for growth in the South Dakota dairy industry in the future.

“It’s a young, vibrant dairy industry that is populated by good, passionate people,” he said. “We look at the dairy industry and we can see a bright future here because many of the dairies are new and using the latest technology and very efficient and built for where we live.”

Tom Peterson, executive director of the South Dakota Dairy Producers Association, said his group has helped several farmers start new or dairies move their operations to South Dakota, including from California, now the nation’s leading state in milk production.

“We’ve had several that have relocated from that California market, which has been prevalent of late,” Peterson said. “We’ve had a lot of growth as far as new dairies but many of our existing farmers are adding on, too.”

Peterson said farmers who relocated to South Dakota from other states were reluctant to be interviewed because they did not want to discuss their relocation efforts so soon.

The recent growth in the South Dakota dairy industry has also been spurred in part by streamlining of permitting processes for farms and what is seen as a friendly regulatory environment for agricultural operations, Peterson said. Furthermore, the state’s strong row-cropping industry provides a ready source of feed for milking cows, he added.

“In South Dakota, we have had a good balance of milk-processor expansion and farmers coming in for a lot of reasons, for regulatory climate and also a close proximity to feed inputs such as soybean meal or corn silage,” Peterson said. “A lot of those things they need for animal care are close by in adjacent farms, so it’s been kind of a win-win all the way around.”

When any agricultural industry or operation expands, the agricultural industry and businesses that support it all benefit in some way, from farmers who grow corn and soybeans as feed for cows to implement-sales centers to trucking companies.

But beyond the direct impact on farmers and the agricultural industry, Peterson said growth in the dairy industry has a wider tangential boost for communities across the state.

“That money rolls around in communities it helps local restaurants on Main Street, it helps strengthen schools that would be seeing decreasing populations,” Peterson said. “It’s just a big overall community benefit.”

Source: USDA

Cheesemaker sees opportunity ahead

Valley Queen Cheese in Milbank has significantly ramped up production and its need for milk over the past few years.

The cheesemaker completed the $52 million expansion in 2019 that increased milk-processing capacity by about 25%, or roughly by 1 million pounds per day, said Wilke, the CEO. The plant now produces about 200 million pounds of cheese each year.

The plant added about 40 jobs during the expansion and now employs about 315 people with an annual payroll of about $20 million, Wilke said.

The expansion created a significant need for more milk, and the dairy industry in South Dakota has responded by rapidly increasing production, Wilke said. Most of the increased milk production by producers who serve Valley Queen took place through expansion of existing dairies, Wilke said, though the plant has also had inquiries from farmers outside South Dakota who are considering relocation.

Valley Queen has been in operation for more than 90 years, and for much of the 2000s, the company saw steady production with little significant growth, Wilke said. Demand for cheese was strong and rising, but production growth was held back by limited local supplies of milk.

Through selective breeding, use of technology and data monitoring and improved animal care, milk cows such as these at Drumgoon Dairy in Lake Norden, South Dakota are providing more milk than ever before, as much as 24,000 pounds a year each. Photo: Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News Watch

Valley Queen began its expansion at roughly the same time as the Argopur cheese plant in Lake Norden embarked on a major expansion that tripled the milk-processing capacity at its plant from 3.3 million to 9.3 million pounds per day.

The Agropur expansion was estimated to require milk from about 85,000 more cows within its service area Valley Queen added capacity for about 15,000 more area cows during its expansion, raising the total need to about 90,000 cows, according to the companies. Valley Queen now processes about 1.8 billion pounds of milk each year from dairy farmers in South Dakota and Minnesota.

Wilke said he was curious and a bit concerned to see if the dairy industry in South Dakota could respond adequately for the increased need for milk for the three large plants and other smaller producers, such as Dimock Dairy.

In the three years since, he said he has been pleasantly surprised by the rate of expansion of dairies and the increase in the number of milking cows in the state.

“Valley Queen historically has had limited growth as a result of the milk supply being limited in South Dakota, but now we’ve got an abundant supply of milk and it is growing in our region,” he said.

The company thought it would take South Dakota dairies until 2023 to ramp up production to meet the full need for milk at Valley Queen, but now the capacity requirement appears likely to be reached in 2022, Wilke said.

“Milk production is running ahead of our forecast,” he said.

“Milk production is running ahead of our forecast … the milk growth has certainly got our attention, and I can tell you that we’re not done growing yet.” — Doug Wilke, CEO of Valley Queen Cheese in Milbank

With a consistent, strong supply of milk, and growing consumer demand for cheese and cheese byproducts such as whey and lactose, Valley Queen may soon see options for future expansion, Wilke said. Whey is used in protein bars and drinks, and lactose is an ingredient in candies and infant formulas, he said.

“What that next growth cycle looks like depends on how milk production continues to grow in the region and what our customers desire in terms of products,” he said.

South Dakota dairy farmers are taking steps to support their industry in the long run, said Post, the Volga dairy farmer who recently accepted a leadership position in the national dairy industry.

Post said many dairy producers in South Dakota participate in the American Dairy Association checkoff program in which farmers donate 10 cents for every 100 pounds of milk produced to be set aside and used for marketing and promotion. That program has generated about $3.2 million in marketing funds in the past year that can be used to promote dairy operations and products to consumers and potential entrants into the market, Post said.

Post said he was unable to provide details but said another expansion of milk-processing capacity is likely to occur soon in South Dakota that will require milk from another 30,000 to 40,000 cows.

Post said he expects South Dakota milk producers will be able to fill that need for more milk if it arises.

“We’ve proven that every time there’s been an expansion in processing, that we will produce the milk to fill that need,” he said.

The Agropur cheese plant in Lake Norden, South Dakota nearly tripled its cheesemaking capacity in 2019, creating the need for about 85,000 new milking cows at dairy farms across the state. Photo: Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News Watch file

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