Wine Quality and Safety 101

It’s ancient news that wine is a global phenomenon.

Wine has flowed across many seas since it was first produced 8,000 years ago. Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest known production of wine, made by fermenting grapes, occurred about 6,000 BC in the area now known as the country Georgia.

Cut to the present. Total 2012 wine production worldwide was a whopping 6.56 billion gallons, according to the Demeter Group’s State of the Wine Industry 2013.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, considering 2011 production, the top wine producing countries based on volume, are: 1. France, 2. Italy, 3. Spain, 4. U.S., 5. China, 6. Argentina, 7. Australia, 8. Chile, 9. South Africa, and 10. Germany.

There are wineries operating in all 50 states. WinesVinesDATA identified 7,498 wineries in the U.S. in 2012. Fewer than half the wineries are in California, reflecting the explosion of wineries throughout the other states. Twelve states have more than 100 wineries, with California (3,542 wineries), Washington (670), Oregon (544), New York (306), and Virginia (222) topping that list.

Total U.S. wine production reached 752.4 million gallons in 2012. Despite growing winery numbers in other states, California bottles more than 88 percent of the nation’s wine, 662.8 million gallons in 2012, says the Wine Institute.

In 2012, U.S. wine consumption was 2.7 gallons per person, and total U.S. consumption was 856 million gallons, a record high, reports the Wine Institute.

Another milestone of note: France consumed 742.3 million gallons of wine in 2013, a 7 percent decline over 2012, while the U.S., by comparison, consumed 768.7 million gallons, a 0.5 percent increase. That makes the U.S. the biggest internal market in the world in terms of volume, according to the Paris-based Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin, known by its initials OIV.

Based on the most current available figures, we consume more gallons of wine than we produce in the U.S. despite the fact that U.S. wineries exported a record $1.55 billion of wine in 2013, increasing both the volume of shipments and the price of American wines sold overseas.

Moreover, U.S. wineries shipped 48.4 million cases of wine to foreign markets in 2013, up 7.5 percent from 2012 and the highest since 2008, according to the Wine Institute. U.S. winery revenues increased 16.4 percent in 2013, reflecting growth in sales of higher-priced wines.

By the end of 2012, world wine consumption reached 2.663 billion 9-liter cases, according Vinexpo.

The bottom line is that 8,000 years since its humble beginnings, wine is a deliriously popular and economically significant component of the global and U.S. food chain.

Iconic author Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) wrote “…wine is bottled poetry.” Without question, wine is a sensitive consumable and many factors affect and contribute to its quality and safety.

Winery HACCP

While not currently required to have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan, wineries have been implementing HACCP with increasing regularity, says Randy Worobo, PhD, an associate professor in the Cornell University Department of Food Science. Dr. Worobo’s work includes developing HACCP plans for wineries.

“Even under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), wineries likely won’t be required to have a HACCP plan, but they will have to have a documented program in place to control biological, chemical and physical hazards,” Dr. Worobo points out.

There aren’t really any microbiological hazards associated with wine, Dr. Worobo says, since the alcohol protects it from foodborne pathogens.

In fact, the undisputed “father of microbiology” himself, Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) stated, “Wine can be considered with good reason as the most healthful and hygenic of all beverages.”

About Linda L. Leake, MS

Linda L. Leake, doing business as Food Safety Ink, is a food safety consultant, auditor, and award-winning freelance journalist based in Wilmington, N.C. Specializing in agriculture, food, food safety, and travel, her articles appeared in over 80 print and online publications. Along with garnering awards for her articles and photographs, she holds Master Writer status with the American Agricultural Editors’ Association. Majoring in Dairy Science, she completed a BS in Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Food Safety at Michigan State University. She is an active member of the International Association for Food Protection, Toxicologists Without Borders, Inc., and the National Dairy Shrine.

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