Category Archives: Wine news

Winebits 405: Legal affairs edition


legal affairsBecause what fun would writing about wine be if we couldn’t write about lawsuits and other various legal affairs?

Aldi brings in the lawyers: It’s difficult for those of us in the U.S. to understand how touchy the British are about price comparison advertising and marketing for booze; hopefully, this bit about Aldi suing a retailer over price comparison will help explain. The discount retailer wants competitor Bargain Booze to stop the ads, which compare its products to Aldi’s with the tagline that they you can buy a brand name for the same price as Aldi’s private label. Plus, Aldi wants damages. I’d love to watch a bunch of barristers in wigs argue about this, but as much fun as it would be, the suit would have little chance of success in the U.S. That’s ironic, too, given that our booze laws, thanks to three-tier, are so much stricter than those in Britain.

Messing with Putin: Who knew that a geopolitical event like the Russian annexation of the Crimea would turn into a wine legal tussle? But it has, with Ukrainian prosecutors charging that the director of a winery in Russian-occupied Crimea opened a 240-year-old bottle for Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi. The Associated Press says that the two men illegally drank rare vintages from the Massandra winery, some worth tens of thousands of dollars, and that the winery director committed a crime by serving them the wine. Obviously, since the Russians control Crimea, nothing much will happen, but it’s another example of the power wine has over people. I wonder: did Putin and Berlusconi give the wines 95 points?

Only in Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania’s state store system has come in for its fair share of criticism, here and elsewhere, but this one is the best yet. A state resident illegally brought wine into the state, which means he likely bought it in New Jersey and drove it over the William Penn bridge, committing a crime in the process. As part of his settlement with the state, he had to forfeit about half of the 2,447 illegal bottles. Silly enough? It gets worse. As Bloomberg News Service’s Noah Feldman writes, the state will destroy the wine because a judge has ruled that it can’t be given to a hospital for fund-raising, since hospitals don’t use wine for medicinal purposes. Don’t worry if you’re confused here, since the entire episode — in keeping with Pennsylvania’s warped state store system — makes no sense. Just read the link and wonder at how this happens in the 21st century.

Winebits 404: Restaurant wine, distributors, direct shipping


restaurant wine One person’s inexpensive: One more example of how restaurants are out of touch with their customers when it comes to restaurant wine prices. This new Dallas restaurant is boasting about its reasonably-priced list, because, said a restaurant official, “We have a low mark up on our wines, so we’re priced fantastic.” That would be a wine list with most wines supposedly costing less than $100 (no website for the restaurant yet, so I couldn’t check). What would the official have said if there had been really expensive wines on the list? Is it any wonder, unless there’s a special reason to go, that the Wine Curmudgeon has all but abandoned Dallas’ restaurants? Besides, it’s more fun eating at home.

Bigger and bigger: It’s not just wine companies that are getting bigger, but distributors as well. Wine Industry Insight reports that the 10 biggest distributors in the country control more than two-thirds of the wholesale business, which makes the group more or less as dominant as Big Wine. Why does that matter to consumers? Because, thanks to three-tier, every wine sold to a retailer or a restaurant in the U.S. has to pass through a distributor, which tacks on as much as 25 percent to the cost of the bottle for their effort. Fewer and bigger distributors means less competition, which means that percentage won’t get any smaller any time soon.

Best practices: Want to know how to help your wine survive shipment, whether it comes directly from the winery or from an online or local retailer? This list, from Entrepreneur magazine, hits the highlights nicely, emphasizing how little wine likes heat, vibrations, and being left on a delivery truck all day. One overlooked point: Give the wine, particularly the pricier bottles, a chance to recover from the trip. The bottles need to rest after being bumped across the country, and letting them sit in a cool, dark room for a week or so isn’t a bad idea.


Winebits 403: Big Wine, wine scores, wine regions


big wineThe big get bigger? An industry analyst says Diageo, one of the biggest wine producers in the U.S., should merge with beer giant SABMiller to increase profits as the global drinks business slows down. Talk about Big Wine: the combined company would total $8 billion in sales, and its products would include Miller beer, Johnnie Walker scotch, and Rosenblum and Sterling wines. How do we know the speculation is more than gossip? The news story included the word synergies, as in the combined company would save money because it had them. As regular visitors here know, synergies — which, like unicorns and wood nymphs — exist only in the minds of those who believe in them, and are always given as an excuse for a multi-national merger. Because, otherwise, what’s the point?

A wine snob temper tantrum: The Italian Wine Guy, who knows more about Italian wine than almost anyone else in the world, recounts his experience with a wine drinker, and it’s not pretty. The customer wanted a 100-point Robert Parker Brunello, and he wasn’t going to suffer anything as foolish as advice from one of the most knowledgeable Italian wine people in the world. What’s worse is that the customer was rude about it, treating the Italian Wine Guy as if he was some idiot foisted on the customer by an inept store owner. This is the harm in scores, regardless of anything else: If all we do is buy wine by scores, we cheat ourselves of all wine has to offer. It’s snobbishness of the worst degree, as bad as the snobs who make fun of people who drink sweet wine.

Calling wine by its regional name: The U.S. and the European Union have been arguing for some 20 years about strengthening the international agreement that prohibits U.S. producers from calling their sparkling wine Champagne and stops French companies from calling their potatoes Idaho. Now, though, the two sides may be close to an agreement, thanks to a U.S. compromise. The article, from the Conversation.com website, is long and little legalish, but it does a good job of explaining why these trade laws exist, why the U.S. traditionally didn’t care for them, and what might happen next. Who knew Feta cheese was a deal-breaker?

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