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Wine Notes

Bolstering Lackluster Riesling Sales

June 08, 1989|DAN BERGER | Times Wine Writer

Sales of Riesling have suffered in the last few years, both in the United States and worldwide, and the wineries of Washington are doing something about it.

The Washington Wine Commission has set up the World Vinifera Conference to analyze grape growing and wine making of a single variety of grape. And the first grape selected, for the 1989 conference, is Riesling.

It's logical that the first vinifera conference focus on Riesling since Washington produces exceptional Rieslings as well as other wines. The conference is scheduled for July 17-19 at the Seattle Sheraton. The cost of $395 includes all panels, tastings, three lunches and two dinners, and all printed materials.

Thus far, about 150 members of the wine trade have signed up for the function, which will focus on growing and vinifying Riesling; marketing of it, and pairing it with food.

Among the world figures attending are Peter Sichel of H. Sichel Sohne; Manfred Volpel of Dienhard and Co.; Wolfgang Schleicher of Schloss Johannisberg, as well as Alsatian luminaries Etienne Hugel and Hubert Trimbach. Others include Dick Arrowood of Chateau St. Jean, Brian Croser of Petaluma Winery in Australia, and Rob Griffin of Hogue Cellars in Washington.

At the tastings staged in conjunction with the event, about 50 wineries will pour one or two Rieslings as well as other wines.

Consumers are invited to attend. For details write to World Vinifera Conference, P.O. Box 61217, Seattle, Wash. 98121, or call 206-367-1984.

If anyone doubted that Chardonnay was the hottest wine in national sales it was eliminated when the state of California released the final figures for the 1988 harvest.

Nearly 120,000 tons of Chardonnay was crushed in California last year compared with 102,000 tons in 1987, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture's annual report.

In the last decade, since 1978, Chardonnay tonnage has risen nearly six-fold (from just over 20,000 tons in 1978), the report showed.

Moreover, prices for grapes continued to rise, the report showed. The average per-ton return to wine grape growers in 1988 was $260 a ton, 17.9% higher than in 1987.

Wineries crushed 2.84 million tons of grapes in 1988.

Imports from Italy and France account for more than 70% of the wine shipped into the United States, according to figures released by the Wine Institute, a San Francisco-based trade association.

The Institute showed that Italian shipments into the United States in 1988 accounted for nearly 35 million gallons, with France supplying more than 22 million gallons.

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