Welcome to Wine

Welcome to Wine 2

This special section goes under the cork for a look at industry players, places and products.

By Stef Schwalb

What’s the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word wine? Depending on who you are and where you live, it can conjure up numerous scenarios. For many Europeans in countries such as France, Italy and Spain, wine may be a part of daily family life starting at a young age, and it’s imbued with a rich history often tracking back to ancient times. For more youthful societies, including the United States, genealogy might not travel back as far, but the impact of the industry is just as significant. Because of wine’s presence across the globe and stateside, and its integral ties to food, this special section helps to gain insights into the people, places and products that are making their mark on a category that sees continual growth.

We are starting with three pioneering wineries, each of which have influenced the market in different ways and lay a strong foundation for anticipated trends in 2019 and beyond. We begin with the star power of Francis Ford Coppola. Inspired by Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, the Oscar-winning director designed his “wine wonderland” – a resort experience packed with food, wine, dancing, games, swimming and host of performances – at his Geyersville, Calif.-based winery with the goal of bringing multiple generations together. Here, every member of the family has something to look forward to. It’s the ideal way to serve all ages through the lens of wine, whether or not they are eligible to imbibe.

This is a trend we know has already taken hold in other parts of the world and will continue to expand in numerous ways in the future. Increasingly, wineries across the globe are offering fully immersive experiences in their regions, combining food, history and plenty of opportunities for fun. Culturally, as more people want to experience the authenticity of a place – and get to the root of its ancestral makeup – wineries have a wealth of insight to add to the conversation.

In addition to expanding the reach and definition of wine tourism stateside, Coppola was ahead of his time by releasing a canned wine back in 2003. His Sofia Minis entered the market well before these products became the “it” wine items of summer. Now the category is expanding at a quick pace. According to a recent report from Nielsen, it’s become a $45 million business, and for those younger generations that are budget-conscious and always on-the-go, it’s a sweet spot we’ll dive into more in upcoming coverage.

Coppola also began putting wine in kegs at his restaurant, Café Zoetrope in San Francisco around 17 years ago. It’s something we’ve seen more of on an increasing basis in other cities too. As you’ll read in the profile of this issue, the winery is continuing its innovation and evolution by recently entering the cannabis category and expanding its empire with partnerships in emerging US wine regions.

Innovation Overseas

Meanwhile, overseas in Italy, Tuscany-based Ricasoli is using the wealth of its rich history in the region as a vehicle to innovate and influence Chianti Classico’s relevance and importance in Italian wine to wine enthusiasts stateside and worldwide. As the oldest winery in the country and the birthplace of Chianti Classico wine, Ricasoli has been an integral part of the formation and evolution of the region. Since 1141, the family has been committed to the ongoing improvement of its viticulture and viniculture at their celebrated Brolio estate.

In the mid 1800s, Baron Bettino Ricasoli began extensive research into the estate’s soils and the blending of varying grape varieties, resulting in the formulation of the Sangiovese-based recipe for Chianti Classico. Research led by Ricasoli continues today through the efforts of the 32nd generation of the family, owner and president Baron Francesco Ricasoli. The region overall is dedicated to defining and discovering the unique properties of the terroir in its sub-regions and developing fresh fruit-forward styles to appeal to the next generation of wine drinkers. Ricasoli, as the most representative wine producer in Chianti Classico, is supporting innovative new ideas and concepts – including clonal selection of the Brolio Sangiovese grape and soil mapping – to help push the agenda further.

Welcome to Wine 1The winery also continues to forge ahead on the path of marrying gastronomy and hospitality with its winemaking. The 2,965-acre estate, which includes more than 580 acres of vineyards and 65 olive groves, is the perfect-picture image wine lovers and travelers gravitate towards. As we reported in our sister publication Leisure & Hospitality International earlier this year, food and wine remain huge motivators for millennial travelers, and oftentimes, this generation will choose a location based on its gastronomic offerings. With its thick woodlands of oaks and chestnuts at the base of the iconic Brolio Castle, visitors to the estate can enjoy wine tasting, dining at the Osteria del Castello, touring the grounds, and even staying in a beautifully restored, 18th-century farmhouse. Experiences range from picnics in the vineyard, bike tours, sunset tours, olive oil tastings and Grand Cru tours.

Sustainable Focus

Sustainability, an aspect of winemaking the team at Ricasoli is also at the forefront of, is something the Lodi, Calif.-based Michael David Winery has devoted lifetimes of their winemaking to. A love of their region and its land has prompted the Phillips family of fifth-generation grape growers to focus on sustainable practices throughout their careers.

Since the early 20th century, they have been cultivating grapes with one goal in mind: to leave the land better than how they found it so that future generations will be able to enjoy it as their legacy lives on. With the rise in organic wines and society’s overall increasing interest in sustainability, there is much to be learned and explored. We can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store for advancements in this part of the industry – and everything else.

A born and bred New Yorker, Stef Schwalb's love of everything culinary knows no bounds. She has written about food and beverages for several years, covering everything from how to make goat cheese to pairing oysters and Chablis. Schwalb is the senior content manager at Gregory White PR where she writes about enticing food and wine experiences at restaurants, bars & lounges, wineries and wine regions across the globe.

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