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Category Archives: Wine news

Winebits 368: Wine terms, wine retailers, winery buyouts

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wine termsI’m so tired of that: Amanda Chatel at the Bustle lifestyle website says she’s tired of being picked on by beer drinkers, noting that it’s a scientific fact that cheap wine tastes better than cheap beer. She posts 21 questions about wine she doesn’t want to be asked anymore, and if some of them aren’t especially clever, her heart is in the right place, and especially with screwcaps. And because it’s a lifestyle site, there’s a picture of “Scandal’s” Olivia Pope with the post, and the site has 127,000 Facebook likes. Which is something for wine sites to ponder.

Corporate buyouts: One of the world’s great cheap wine retailers, Cost Plus World Market, could get a new owner this year, if analyst speculation is worth anything. They think World Market’s parent, Bed Bath & Beyond, may be in play since it has underperformed the market. Don’t worry if you don’t understand that sentence; financialspeak can be as obtuse as winespeak. Know that the companies that do leveraged buyouts think they can make money buying Bed Bath & Beyond, stripping its assets and cutting costs, and then selling it again. Which usually means that the company becomes a shell of itself and underperforms the market again, setting itself up for another leveraged buyout. In this, World Market could suffer as well, a cheap wine horror too terrible to contemplate. Hopefully, the analyst speculation isn’t worth anything.

$40 million, anyone? Those of us who wonder why cheap wine doesn’t get enough respect always overlook the economics of cult wines. California’s Kosta Browne, among the cultiest, was sold for what reports are saying is more than $40 million. Which is a nice return for a 20,000-case winery that makes mostly pinot noir and owns just 20 acres of vineyards. Which means that he deal was almost all about the brand, demonstrating how powerful the allure is for a cult producer. That’s a lot of money for a name, but in the high-end wine business, name is all.

Winebits 367: Cheap wine edition

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aldi cheap wineCheap wine news from around the Internet in honor of the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame:

Cheaper than water: Think wine is cheap in the U.S. or Britain? How about the price in Australia, where some wine costs less than a bottle of water? The BBC reports that a 12-ounce bottle of water costs A$2.50 (US$2.83), while a bottle of red, twice as big, costs as little as A$1 (US$.81). Some of this is the high price of bottled water Down Under; a 16.9-ounce bottle costs less than $2 in the U.S. But, as the story notes, the price has more to do with what the country’s experts are calling the “dire” state of the Aussie wine business: an expensive Australian dollar, steadily falling international demand, and a glut of wine in the domestic market. In other words, everything that can go wrong has gone wrong — for producers, anyway. For consumers, depressed prices in Australian help keep prices down elsewhere.

Miracle machine? Some people still don’t believe that cheap wine is suitable for drinking, and that it tastes like it did 20 years ago — harsh, bitter, and acidic. This is apparently why the Sonic Decanter raised $139,000 on Kickstarter, $50,000 more than its goal. The gadget is supposed age cheap wine to “bring out aromas not normally present in young, unaged wines,” soften tannins, and enhance flavors. The catch is that almost all cheap wine isn’t made to be aged, doesn’t have any extra aromas to bring out, and already has soft tannins and enhanced fruit flavors. That formula is the reason for being for most grocery store merlot. And this doesn’t take into account the $249 cost, which not only translates into two cases of $10 wine, but into four bottles of very nice white Burgundy, which I’ll take over a gadget any time.

Aldi wine: The Aldi supermarket chain’s plans for U.S. expansion — 50 percent more stores by 2018 — is welcome news for anyone who drinks cheap wine, given the company’s skill at selling quality labels for very little money. I’ve written about it on the blog quite a bit, and I’m not the only who is impressed. Max Allen, writing in The Australian, discusses the chain’s success in his country, noting that the wines it sells more than hold their own against other Australian wines, and do so for significantly less money. In fact, he uses the words “crazy cheap.”

Winebits 360: New Year’s wine

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New Year's wineNew Year’s wine advice and news from around the Internet, though not everyone is boycotting Champagne:

Red wine, too: Dave McIntyre at the Washington Post offers bubbly to drink, as well as still wine. And Dave made one of the best wine videos I’ve ever seen — professional, informative, and to the point, with sparkling wine pointers. It’s amazing what you can do if the people making the video know what they’re doing. I’m jealous, too, given how much effort I’ve put into videos. It’s at the bottom of this post.

• Bring on the experts: The IntoWine website offers seven suggestions, including two cavas (neither of which I know), a cremant, and a Prosecco. Most are  reasonably priced, and one expert calls out Champagne in a way that not even I’ve done, labeling the most popular brands “mass-produced grocery store Champagne.”

Watching the budget: Laurie Daniel at the San Jose Mercury News has 12 wines for the New Year costing $30 or less, all from the United States. This is as good a rundown of California sparkling wine as you’re going to find, and Laurie (who I’ve judged with) knows her stuff. How else to feel confident enough to recommend the $14 Michelle Brut Rose from Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle?

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