A Look Back on the World of Wine in 2013

The end of the year is nigh -- presents are unwrapped, recycle bins are overflowing, bellies are bulging. I'm jumping on the bandwagon of ubiquitous end-of-year reflections. It's as good a time as any to take a look at 2013 in the world of wine. Some really great things happened and some pretty terrible ones as well.

See also: An Ode to White Zinfandel

I'll begin with the bad news.

Hail Starting in late spring and continuing through the summer, catastrophic hail damaged vineyards in Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Alsace. These are four of the most prestigious wine-growing regions on the planet and crop losses were estimated at anywhere from 30 percent to 90 percent, depending on the area. It will take several years for some of these places to recover from the historically bad storms.

A triumphant ending to the bizarre story of Rudy Kurniawan. In 2006, Mr. Kurniawan set a record for wine auctions when his lot raised over $24 million in a fine wine auction held by the venerable firm Acker, Merrall & Condit. Since that sale, questions emerged about the authenticity of the wines in that and other auctions in which Mr. Kurniawan participated. On December 18, Kurniawan set another record by becoming the first person successfully prosecuted for wine fraud in the United States. Sentencing is scheduled for April 24, when he faces up to 40 years in a federal prison as well as fines.

Arizona wines make a splash after being reviewed by Wine Spectator. Wines from the state have been reviewed before by the magazine but this was the first dedicated blind tasting for Arizona wines conducted by Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth. Two wines, the 2010 Page Springs Cellars Collibri Syrah Clone 174, and the 2010 Burning Tree Collibri Vineyard Syrah earned 90 points, qualifying them as "outstanding" in the magazine's scoring system. They are the highest-scoring wines yet to come from Arizona, proving that the future is bright for our hometown winemaking heroes.

And finally, although this happened starting in 2011, I feel it bears mention:

The U.S. became the largest consumer of wine on the planet, as a function of total volume. That was true again in 2012, and it undoubtedly will be true again when the figures are calculated for this year. In my roughly 15 years in the wine business, I've seen the American wine market change drastically. Never has there been more excitement, diversity, and overall acceptance of wine as an everyday beverage. These are heady times indeed for those of us working in wine and those of you enjoying what really is the emergence of American wine culture.

These are a few tidbits I felt were interesting and impactful for 2013, stay tuned next week when I dig out the crystal ball to see what will happen in the world of wine in 2014.

When I'm not writing this column or reading vintage charts to my daughter, you can find me pouring wine at FnB

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Nathan Claiborn
Contact: Nathan Claiborn