Q. What do a 3-liter bottle of 1990 La Grande Dame Champagne and new legislation for New York State’s “farm-based beverage sector” have in common? A. They’re both relevant to Long Island wine, and they’re both rather dry. In a good way!
This spring, official business took some members of the Long Island Wine Council to the Champagne region of France and others to legislative offices in Albany. In April, the French delegation—LIWC executive director Steve Bate, past-president Ron Goerler and vice-president Jim Waters—discussed mutual place-name protection issues while enjoying world-famous bubbly, including the aforementioned vintage Champagne that was the star of a special evening at Maison Veuve Clicquot. The occasion was the international meeting of the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origins, a coalition of prominent wine regions seeking better protection of place names, such as not using the word “Champagne” to describe sparkling wine from anywhere but Champagne. With the recent addition of Bordeaux, Burgundy/Chablis and Santa Barbara, the coalition now has 19 member regions.
“Long Island is the youngest and smallest region in the coalition, but we have some of the same concerns,” says Goerler. “For me, going there and seeing a thousand years of tradition was an eye-opener. They care passionately about quality. It starts in the vineyard and ends, ultimately, in the consumers’ hands. For us, it’s about quality, too, and it’s about educating people that it does matter where their wine comes from.”
Canada, for example, has just signed an agreement disallowing the use of the words “Champagne” and “méthode champenoise” to describe domestic bubblies. Many feel the U.S. ought to follow suit, but there are big, influential producers, largely on the left coast, that don’t see it that way. However, Long Island might make a difference; Representative Steve Israel sits on the Congressional Wine Caucus and plans to bring the Protected Place issues to its attention, Goerler says.
(There was a nice “it’s all local” moment. The guys went out for dinner one evening with delegates from Paso Robles to a randomly chosen bistro. It turns out the chef/owner’s former partner has just come to New York to open a place in Quogue.)
The many reps on the Albany junket attended the second New York State Wine, Beer, Spirits and Cider Summit, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo and other elected officials, and there was, of course, great local food and wine, too. The legislation and initiatives announced are actually quite important, especially to the many people across the state planting hops, starting new breweries and firing up new stills. Since the first summit in 2012, there’s been an 83 percent growth in farm-based beverage licenses, reflecting the growing popularity of farm beverage production, a trend closely related to the continued growth in tourism to agricultural areas in general.
Some highlights: Cuomo announced a $6 million commitment to marketing and promotion, which he called a “dramatic increase” over prior monies. “The proposals and actions announced today will make it easier than ever before to start a farm-based beverage business, raise the profile of producers across the state and open up new markets where our entrepreneurs can succeed,” Cuomo states.
Cuomo also announced plans to introduce the Craft New York Act, described as “a comprehensive set of reforms to consolidate and simplify distilling manufacturing licenses, raise production limits and lower licensing fees for craft manufacturers, expand marketing opportunities, modernize shipping laws and increase retail outlets where small craft manufacturers can sell, serve and offer samples of their products.”
According to Cuomo’s office, this, apparently, will eliminate unnecessary State Liquor Authority paperwork and clarify standards on brand label registrations. It will also mean that farm wineries will no longer have to obtain a bond, which has to do with warehoused alcoholic beverages and taxes. SLA will also offer breweries interim licenses to expedite the start dates of operation. The Department of Agriculture and Markets will also exempt hops producers from paying for the food manufacturing license required to pelletize their products. Lastly, Ag and Markets will also exempt farm cider makers from needing a food processing license, similar to what has been done for farm wineries, distilleries and breweries.