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Utah’s liquor law may change

By Dave Buchanan
With the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen just two days away (be still, my beating heart) there is wine news all around us, from the Beehive State to the land of Sherry and artisanal wine producers in Italia. So here goes. According to a story filed this week by reporter Dawn House in the Salt Lake City Tribune, that state is perched on the precipice of major changes in its antiquated and little-understood liquor laws. There is a push on to do away with Utah’s confusing 1960s-era private club system that requires you to join a club (basically paying a cover charge) in order to have a glass of wine or a drink without also buying a meal. The system has its roots in the opposition to drinks-by-the-glass from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which still has an overriding influence on all things political and economic in Utah. But an alliance of hospitality and economic interests sees some opportunity with recent changes in the state Alcohol Control Board and a general moderation in some of the state’s leaders. The Church hasn’t come out for or against the proposal to get rid of the club memberships, and everyone agrees that whichever way the Church goes, so will the state’s alcohol regulations. Across the sea, there’s a movement to rediscover Sherry, reports Terry Hughes on his wryly informative, thought-provoking and mostly Italian wine oriented blog site Mondosapore. Hughes quotes wine writer Jancis Robinson where Robinson lists some of the probable causes for sherry to lose its popularity over the years. “One such cause is the all-too-effective marketing of sweet Sherry as typical of the type,” Hughes writes. He goes to quote Robinson as saying the old-favorite Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry “is as typical of sherry as Liebfraumilch is of great German Riesling.” Robinson said a better future is ahead because, in part, low quality is being replaced by small producers striving to make a product that lives up to what Sherry can be and in doing so appeals to a higher-end market. So it is, Hughes writes, in parts of Italy, where some regions are “re-awakening” and “shaking off their low-budget image.” “These changes,” Hughes affirms, “are effected by visionaries who understand deeply their terrain and varieties and aren’t vainly chasing ‘the market.’’ A lovely thought for winemakers everywhere, no?

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