One lesson from 2014: Online sales still tepid

Americans were on a course to buy a million more 12-bottle cases in 2014, for a total of 322 million cases, keeping its status as the number-one overall wine-drinking nation in the world, according to the trade group Impact Databank. It’s up 80 percent in the past 20 years.

Sales increases are led by sparkling wine, especially Italy’s inexpensive, trendy bubbly called prosecco. Still, chardonnay remains our favorite white wine, cabernet sauvignon our favorite red.

Still, there are some surprises. First, the idea that online sales of wine are soaring isn’t panning out just yet. They account for only 2 percent of total wine sales, according to a Nielsen survey in Wine Spectator magazine.

Also, online buyers tend not to be the younger, social-media-savvy generation of 21- to 40-year-olds that might be expected. Instead, they tend to be male, over 40, married with children and higher incomes, according to a study by California Polytechnic University reported in Wine Spectator.

The reason is simple. Those people have more money.

But while younger wine fans don’t buy as much wine online, they seem like good candidates for future sales. Of particular interest to them are sparkling wine, moscato and boxed wine.

Meanwhile, the Vatican’s estimated 900 or so residents again in 2014 were the world’s biggest drinkers of wine, with 74 liters apiece.

Makers of alcoholic beverages continue to experiment with new ways of doing it:

▪ Ardbeg, makers of Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky, sent vials of unmatured whisky malt particles of charred oak to the International Space Station in 2011 and brought them back last month after orbiting the planet at more than 17,000 miles per hour, according to the BBC. It was to see if the whisky would age differently at zero gravity. Its scientists are analyzing the results in Houston now and promise a report soon.

▪ Mira Winery of Napa is continuing its experiment with aging cabernet sauvignon 60 feet underwater in the harbor at Charleston, S.C., according to an ABC news report. An early test suggested the wine was different from similar wine aged in the usual way. Tests continue in several countries to determine whether “different” means better.

As 2015 begins, here some nice wines to start with:

Highly recommended:

▪  2013 Byron Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County: crisp, with aromas and flavors of ripe peaches, cinnamon and minerals; $16.

▪ 2013 Waterstone Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley: aromas of camellias, lean and crisp, with lemon meringue flavors, long finish; $18.

▪ 2012 La Crema Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Ore.: floral aromas, hint of oak, rich, concentrated flavors of mulberries and red raspberries, long finish; $30.

▪ 2011 Alder Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, Wash.: aromas and flavors of black cherries and bittersweet chocolate, smooth tannins; $32.


▪ 2012 Oak Ridge Winery “OZV” Old Vines Zinfandel, Lodi (96 percent zinfandel, 4 percent petite sirah): aromas and flavors of ripe red raspberries and coffee, ripe tannins, smooth; $12.

▪ 2013 William Hill Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley: crisp and medium-bodied, with aromas and flavors of lemons, limes and spice, full body; $27.

▪ 2012 Renwood “Clarion” Red Blend, Amador County (25 percent zinfandel, 25 percent petite sirah, 25 percent syrah, 25 percent marsanne): floral aromas, black raspberry and mocha flavors, hearty and smooth; $20.

▪ 2013 Bell Ambiance Cabernet Sauvignon, Calif.: floral aromas, flavors of black cherries and black pepper, smooth tannins; $10.