Submit Press release  · eTN Team ·  Advertising  ·  eTN Awards  - Worldtourism Events    

Wine And Food In America

Zraly Wine Pioneer

Dr. Elinor Garely, eTN  May 26, 2011

Zraly = Wine + Food Pioneer
He has gone where many feared to tread. Because of his pioneering spirit, sharp intellect, and general bonhomie, Kevin Zraly recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award from The James Beard Foundation. The accolade was presented for his research, writing, teaching and advocacy of food and wine that has influenced the way we eat, cook and/or think about wine and food in America.

Personal Thanks
I had the good fortune to meet Zraly at the early stages of his career, when he was developing the wine program for the former Windows on the World (1976-2001). His comprehensive wine introduction provided me with the confidence (and the credentials) to develop the wine list for New York’s Copacabana. The Copa was a sexy luncheon dining spot by day and a disco-zone at night. Fortunately for me the diners and dancers were far from being oenophiles - so I could cover my novice status with patter about Zraly, the WOW guru who “taught me all I knew.”

Thanks to Zraly I was introduced to the incredibly beautiful worlds of wine and developed a palate that may not qualify me to sit on the dais during a formal wine tasting but provides me with the satisfaction to know that my wine notes are almost always in synch with the experts. The Zraly course laid the foundation for years of incredibly memorable experiences visiting vineyards, meeting wine makers, and sharing my wine experience with readers around the globe.

To this day, Zraly can be found teaching wines as the founder of the Windows on the World Wine School. He reaches over 500 students per year and almost 20,000 students have Zraly to thank for opening the doors to the love and appreciation for wines.

Wines in the World
When Zraly started teaching wines (1970s), American wine exports did not exceed $100,000; as of 2008, they exceed $1 billion (San Francisco-based Wine Institute). Research found that as of November 2009 there were 6,223 wineries in the US with 49 percent of the total based in California; Washington takes second place (564); New York ranks fourth (229) and Wyoming comes in last (2).

The US is the world’s fourth leading wine producer yet holds only a 6 percent share of the world export market. In order to increase US exports there are efforts to reduce high tariffs, production subsidies and other restrictive trade barriers.

Approximately half of US wines are shipped to the European Union ($486 million), followed by Canada ($26 million), Japan ($61 million), Hong Kong ($26 million), and Mexico ($23 million). Growth markets include China ($22 million), Austria ($14 million), and Singapore ($11 million).

The countries with the highest per capita wine consumption are: Vatican City State (70.22 per liter), Luxembourg (54.29 per liter per capita), France (45.23 per liter), US (8.96 per liter), Russia (8.18 per liter) and South Africa (6.97 per liter). (Trade Data and Analysis 2006-2008).

A study (2006) by Yankelovich MONITOR of American adults determined that wine consumers are trend setters, open to new experiences, follow their own path, are information savvy and confident consumers; they desire intangibles, experiences and emotions, have life priorities in order, and avoid brands. Women buy more wine in most price ranges; enjoy wine in small, intimate settings, selecting it as an experience enhancer.

While wine-focused and life-style websites and magazines are used for research, the most important sources of wine information are personal recommendations from trusted friends and family, followed by a restaurant sommelier, according to the Wine Institute.

Baby Boomers (20 million) continue to be a major target market for wine producers as they have the money, lifestyle, and interest in entertainment, travel, touring and an awareness of wines. However, Zraly sees the Millennial (birth dates range from mid-1970s to early 2000), as the fastest growing market segment for wine consumers; 84 million in North America, 55 million in Western Europe, and 99 million in the Asia Pacific region.

According to to reach the Millennial, wine brands will have to stop the race to the bottom, stop dumbing down food pairing suggestions along with one flavor wine descriptions, and integrate the product into the social networking /technology environment.

Challenges or Not
Zraly as a seeker of the new and wonderful finds that there are not many frontiers left in the wine industry. As Thomas L. Friedman has written, “The World is Flat,” and the wine industry has been flattened by easier access to the product and pricing transparency, thanks to the Internet. The Internet makes wines from California available to buyers in Tibet, while pricing from the wholesaler to the retailer is available for comparison with a few mouse clicks.

There are subtle changes in wine preferences. For years Chardonnay, Merlot, Wine Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon were population, and now there is consumer interest in Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blank, GewĂĽrztraminer, Riesling and Syrah, according to Ted Baeseler of Wine Business Monthly.

Costco is the number 1 wine seller in the US, and there are plans to expand. Grocery stores are part of the distribution channel but supermarket trips are declining and with it a turn down in wine purchases. Wine shops still sell lots of wine, but it is likely that wine online is likely to be the pathway to the future. Drug store chains are moving into wine retailing, and this is particularly relevant to aging Baby Boomers. As they wait for prescriptions to be filled, they are likely to pick up a bottle of wine for dinner. Rite Aid plans to add stores and wine will be for sale in many of them.

A Wine Way of Life
According to Zraly there are over 6500 wines available to the American consumer, 60 wine producing countries and over 35 billion bottles of wine made every year. In addition there is an overwhelming amount of wine information including details on vintages, and pricing. He has been a wine collector for over 35 years, spends over $100,000 a year on wine and has even planted vines (with little success). His preference is for red wine, and will usually choose a Sauvignon Blanc over a Chardonnay with white burgundy being an exception.

He prefers bigger style red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah and the reds of Tuscany with Sunday Italian dinner. He finds that there are no correct answers when it comes to wine tasting (actually smelling) and lives by Mark Twain’s commentary, “There are no standards of taste in wine, cigars, poetry, prose, etc. Each man’s own taste is standard, and a majority vote cannot decide for him or in any slightest degree affect the supremacy of his own standard.”

Zraly is a partner with Robert Parker on the Parker/Zraly Wine Certification program, and a Director of the Sherry-Lehmann/Kevin Zraly Master Wine Club. In addition, he is the author of the Windows on the World Complete Wine Course book, Kevin Zraly’s American Wine Guide, The Ultimate Wine Companion and a forthcoming memoir, A Glass Half Full: A Cellarmasters’ Journey Through Wine and Life (October 2011).

Additional information:

Zraly Wine Pioneer
Kevin Zraly, Wine Educator/Author

Premium Partners