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Why the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t like the Super Bowl

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super bowl

Am I the only one who thinks this pairing looks silly?

The Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t like the Super Bowl. This is not just because I was once a sportswriter and soon tired of sports’ hypocrisy, and especially the NFL’s obsession with money. And more money. And even more money.

Or that, living in Dallas, more people attend Cowboys games than usually vote in mayoral elections. Which always seems to annoy them when I bring it up.

Or that I get pathetic pitches from hard-up marketing and public relations types, desperate to turn the Super Bowl into a wine event. This week, someone wanted me to write about the Sea Hawks, which is an Errol Flynn movie and not a football team. The Super Bowl is a beer event. And a pizza event. But it’s as much about wine as St. Patrick’s Day is, and who ever heard of green-colored wine?

But mostly I don’t like the Super Bowl because no one reads the blog over Super Bowl weekend. I get more visitors on Christmas Day than I do during the Super Bowl, which shocked me the first time it happened and still makes me pause. What this says about the United States in the 21st century is something that I will leave to others more versed in the study of that sort of thing.

So enjoy the Super Bowl, and I’ll see you next week. I will spend Sunday messing around the house — maybe baking some bread, trying to get a few posts ahead on the blog, or working on my notes for my next wine class at El Centro. But I won’t watch the game, which I haven’t done since 1986. And somehow, my life has gone on.

Could the Internet screw up direct shipping?

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direct shippingThe perfect world of direct shipping — where we can buy any wine we want from any retailer we want, just like we buy computers or tennis shoes — will likely never happen, given the three-tier system and its death grip on the wine business. But, assuming we could make three-tier vanish, would direct shipping actually be that perfect?

Maybe. And then again, maybe not, says Steve Tadelis, Ph.D, an economist and Internet search expert at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Tadelis’ research, summarized quite nicely in this article from The Economist, has found that consumers don’t necessarily use the Internet the way we think they should. His work, based on search patterns on eBay from people shopping for classical music, found that price or the music itself didn’t necessarily matter. Sometimes, they were searching just to search.

“They were looking for music not so much to buy music as to learn about music,” he says. “And when they bought something, it wasn’t always for the lowest price. And I can see that applying to wine, where buying isn’t as important as learning about wine.”

In other words, we may not care that direct shipping will make possible the ultimate wine retail experience. We may still buy wine the same we always have, or do it in some way no one has figured out yet. Tadelis says this is because we know little about how consumers use the Internet; after all, the idea of Internet shopping is still very new in comparison to the centuries of traditional retail. We assume, because it seems logical, that consumers will shop online the same way they shop in a store. But that’s not necessarily true.

“In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised by our results, but I was,” he says. “But that’s because I based my assumption on my behavior, which is searching for the best deal on items that I know I want, and because traditional economic theory says search is a friction, and that shoppers try to avoid friction. But searching on the Internet isn’t the same kind of friction as driving from store to store.”

Further complicating the issue: Shipping costs, which don’t figure into music purchases, and the idea that wine is experential, which means we tend to buy something we’ve had before, based on our experience with it. With music, it’s not only easier to experiment with something new, but Mozart is Mozart, regardless of who is performing it.

Finally, the idea that direct shipping will lower prices, since it will increase competition and make it easier to find the same wine for less, may not be entirely true. In some cases, it could increase demand, which would raise prices as part of something economists call the long tail. If I make a rare wine without an apparent audience, and I can only sell it from my winery, demand is limited to the people who visit my winery. But if I sell it over the Internet, millions of people could learn about it, and I will be able to sell the wine more easily and at a higher price. This could lead, says Tadelis, to more experimentation and more unique and intriguing wines.

Wine of the week: PradoRey Rueda 2013

wineofweek

pradorey ruedaThere are a variety of reasons why Spanish wine isn’t more popular in the United States, but to put it most simply: The wines are made with grapes that most of us have never heard of and come from regions that are even more obscure.

Case in point is the PradoRey Rueda ($11, sample, 12.5%), a white wine that comes from the Rueda region just northwest of Madrid and is made with the verdejo grape. In this, it does not seem like the kind of wine that would scream at shoppers from a grocery store shelf filled with chardonnay (hence the 84 it got from one user on CellarTracker, the blog’s unofficial wine app). 

But it does stand out, offering the exceptional quality and value that Spain delivers these days. Look for clean, sour lemon fruit, but this is also a wine that is softer and richer than similar white wines at this price, with a hint of something tropical that balances the lemon. It’s a much more complex wine that it should be, and I was surprised at how I kept tasting it even after I had swallowed the wine.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame if I can find it for $10 in the Dallas area. Chill this and drink it on its own, or with anything that is traditional white wine food. And it would work wonders with grilled seafood or something like arroz con pollo.

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