Sunday, December 7, 2008

Drop for Drop More Expensive Than Local Pinot Noir

Sunday mornings bring large puddles of maple syrup to plates of waffles, or typically in the past. Grinch like tendencies have gripped me as the price of maple syrup has tripled in the last year.
Were not talking Bordeaux futures here, just distilled maple sugar. The cost of the real thing has eclipsed even our finest local grown pinot noir grapes. Not that sugar maples are a true native to northern California: so like a nice bottle of Bordeaux, maple syrup is typically imported from such far flung places as Quebec. Right now drop for drop french Bordeaux is a better value.

"The day of the $50-a-gallon maple syrup is upon us," said Tom McCrumm, coordinator of the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, which represents the state of Mass maple business and generated $2 million in sales last year. In the case of maple syrup, prices have tripled since May to $6 a pound—up from $2 a pound a year ago.

What's going on? Is there a shadowy syrup cartel manipulating prices? Has someone figured out how to turn maple sap into fuel? Not quite. Unfavorable weather in Quebec—the source of 80% of the world's maple syrup—have depressed output to a 10-year low. At the same time, demand for maple syrup, which is slightly lower in calories than cane sugar and corn syrup, has been growing in recent years, as more Americans seek alternatives to processed and artificial sweeteners. All of this comes at a time of growing appetite for the sweet, sticky stuff—not just in North America but also in Asia. Anne-Marie Granger Godbout, joint secretary of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, an industry group in Longueuil, Que., credits a global marketing campaign the group launched in 2004. Since then the value of exports to Japan has doubled, to $20.5 million last year.

And I thought it was just for breakfast.

Another bad year for the Canadians and there will be major shortages, prices will go through the roof. So instead of hoarding boutique Zinfandel's and Clarets the time has come to shift gears and lay down something much more valuable and sticky. Reminds me of a certain Rolling Stones album.
The good news? My dinner parties could be surpassed only by the Sunday waffle scene.
Brunch anyone?

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