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Winebits 397: Label fraud, direct shipping, social media

• Handmade wins one: A federal judge has ruled that Maker’s Mark can call its bourbon handmade, even though it isn’t, because a reasonable consumer would know it isn’t. The Wine Curmudgeon, Read More »

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The Wine Curmudgeon’s fall 2015 wine education extravaganza

Take your pick. All provide wine education as only the Wine Curmudgeon can  — which means that if you’re stuffy, hung up on scores, or think wine is not supposed to be Read More »

winetrends

Update: Sweet red wine is taking over the U.S.

The surprising thing about this month’s sweet red wine post is how muted the reaction was. Hardly anyone seemed surprised. Dismayed maybe, or irritated, but not especially surprised. That’s because the people Read More »

great quotes

Great quotes in wine history: David Banner

David Banner, explaining what will happen if he is forced to buy overpriced 92-point wine with too much oak and high alcohol. Of course, the fellow in the tie from the Winestream Read More »

wineofweek

Wine of the week: Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2014

Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm is perhaps the most subversive person in the wine business, and one sip of his rose, the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare, shows why. On the one Read More »

Winebits 397: Label fraud, direct shipping, social media

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label fraudHandmade wins one: A federal judge has ruled that Maker’s Mark can call its bourbon handmade, even though it isn’t, because a reasonable consumer would know it isn’t. The Wine Curmudgeon, having reported the opposite result in a similar label fraud case, marvels at the U.S. legal system. If this judge thinks it’s OK to call something handmade when it isn’t, invoking the concept of reasonableness, then why did another federal judge rule that a reasonable consumer would confuse $7 Spanish sparkling wine Cristalino with $200 Champagne Cristal? No wonder my mother wanted me to be a lawyer. It sounds much more exciting than wine writing.

The cost of delivery: Want to know why direct shipping is still such a tiny part of overall U.S. wine sales? This, from the Shipping Compliant consultancy, addresses the myriad laws and three-tier confusion that hamper direct sales, but also puts everything in perspective with one fact: “When a customer buys wine online, about 20 percent of every dollar they’re spending goes towards shipping. … In a world with services like Amazon Prime, customers hate spending money on shipping. …” Which means, even if three-tier disappeared tomorrow, direct shipping would still likely remain a tiny part of overall U.S. wine sales.

Kill all the wine writers? Because, apparently, we don’t need them. A study says U.S. adults 21 and older rely more on peer recommendations and social media than they do on traditional advertising when buying alcohol. Some of you may argue that wine writing isn’t advertising, but I’d point out you haven’t been paying attention. The report was conducted by a company that makes a social media platform and which queried its users, which is what should raise questions about the findings. Still, it claims four out of five consumers said they have bought alcohol they discovered on social media, and almost three-quarters use social media on their smartphone or mobile device when they’re buying booze. I guess I need to tweet more often.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s fall 2015 wine education extravaganza

winenews
wine education

Have Curmudgeon-mobile, will travel.

Take your pick. All provide wine education as only the Wine Curmudgeon can  — which means that if you’re stuffy, hung up on scores, or think wine is not supposed to be fun, you should probably look elsewhere:

• My wine class, also open to non-credit students, at Dallas’ El Centro College. We’ll cover the basics, including how to spit, the three-tier system, restaurant wine, and how wine is made, plus at least 10 tastings focusing on the world’s wine regions. Cost is $177, which is a great deal if only for the tastings. But you also get my incisive commentary and occasional rant, which means the school is practically giving the class away. We’ll meet 7-8:50 p.m. on Thursday between Sept. 3 and Dec. 17. Click the link for registration information.

• The annual Texas wine panel at the Kerrville fall food and wine festival, 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 5. This is always one of my favorite events, not just because I hear some terrific folk music, but because the audience appreciates Texas wine and wants it to be better.

• The southwest chapter meeting of the American Wine Society in Arizona, on the last weekend of October, where I’ll talk about U.S. regional wine.

• The American Wine Society’s national meeting Nov. 5-7 in suburban Washington, D.C., where I’ll give two seminars. Not coincidentally, conference registration begins this week. I’m doing “The Texas Revolution: How the Lone Star state learned to love grapes that weren’t chardonnay, cabernet, and merlot” at 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 6, and “Five U.S. wine regions you probably don’t know, but should,” at 11 a.m. Nov. 7. The latter will look at wine regions, including one in California, that deserve more attention than they get. 

And, perhaps the most fun part of all — the Wine Curmudgeon’s latest marketing effort, which will allow me to spread the gospel of cheap wine anywhere I drive. Yes, a personalized Texas license plate that says 10 WINE.

Update: Sweet red wine is taking over the U.S.

winetrends

sweet red wineThe surprising thing about this month’s sweet red wine post is how muted the reaction was. Hardly anyone seemed surprised. Dismayed maybe, or irritated, but not especially surprised. That’s because the people who follow these things had an idea it was going on, and those who don’t — like most of the Winestream Media — don’t consider it important enough to be surprised.

And the wine drinkers buying all that sweet red? They weren’t surprised, dismayed, or irritated. They’re just happy someone is making wine they enjoy. Or, as a 30-something woman told me about her favorite sweet red, Cupcake’s Red Velvet: “It’s really good, and it’s really about the only red wine I like.”

The one thing most everyone agreed on? That the numbers, though imprecise, offered a real sense of how big sweet red has become — the fifth biggest category in U.S. wine sales, behind chardonnay, cabernet sauvignion, pinot noir, and merlot. Given its momentum, I wouldn’t be surprised to see sweet red pass merlot for fourth in the next couple of years.

So it’s not a coincidence that red blends accounted for 40 percent of all new wines over the past two years, compared to just 18 percent for chardonnay and cabernet combined, according to Beverage Media magazine. Yes, not all red blends are sweet, but sweet reds are at least two-thirds of red blends, based on data in the first post. This is another sign of how important sweet red has become.

How sweet is sweet? About 1.0 or 1.2 percent residual sugar, compared to less than .08 residual sugar for dry red wines. Other highlights in the wake of the first story, combined with additional reporting that I did:

• Consumers don’t necessarily see sweet red as sweet, says Christian Miller of Full Glass Research, who has probably studied this subject more than anyone in the country. ” ‘Sweet’ is not an attribute that large numbers of regular consumers use with regards to these wines,” he said. “They are more apt to regard them as flavorful or smooth or interesting. Many consumers jump back and forth between dryer and sweeter versions of these wines.”

• The wine industry remains uneasy about calling a sweet wine sweet, says Miller. “It’s possible that some of these companies have tested adding the word sweet to the label or description, and found it harmful. On the other hand, based on my experience in the wine industry, the number of decisions based on gut instinct, trade notions, or small unrepresentative samples is surprisingly high, even among large MBA-ish companies.”

• Since sweet red doesn’t depend on appellation or specific grapes, it can be made with fruit from anywhere in California, Or, as wine economist and author Mike Vesteth told me, sweet red can be made with all the merlot and syrah that wouldn’t be sold otherwise, and which costs less to use. Hence higher profit margins than more traditional wines.

Finally, no one — not even anyone at E&J Gallo, whose Apothic started all of this — expected sweet red to do this well. Gallo, I have been told, developed Apothic to appeal to Millennials, to compete with the Menage a Trois red, and to earn supermarket shelf space. That it might change U.S. wine never really occurred to anyone.

For more on sweet red wine:
The ultimate Internet guide to sweet red wine 
What’s next for sweet red wine?
Wine terms: Sweet vs. fruity

 

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