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Category Archives: Wine news

TEXSOM International Wine Awards 2015

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TEXSOM International Wine AwardsThe wine competition business is at a crossroads, with entries still not back to pre-recession levels, with wineries cutting the marketing budgets that pay entry fees, and with the reliability of competition results called into question. Hence my curiosity in judging the the TEXSOM International Wine Awards this week, which organizers want to become the wine competition that addresses those questions.

TEXSOM used to be the Dallas News Morning News competition, perhaps the leading wine competition in the U.S. that wasn’t on the west coast. Its new organizers (who include friends of mine) understand how the landscape has changed, and want to find ways to adjust.

That means giving wineries more to market their product than just a medal — finding better ways to publicize the wines that earn medals, working with a wine publication to publish tasting notes for medal winners, and publicizing the medal winners with its audience, sommeliers around the world. TEXSOM started life as educational organization for sommeliers and restaurant wine employees, and much of its focus remains there.

In addition, this year’s competition included some double-blind judging, apparently in response to the questions raised about whether medals mean anything. This was particularly intriguing given the quality of the judges, many of whom have MS or MW after their name, and almost all of whom are among the country’s wine retail, wine writing, and winemaking elite. (Whether one can include me in that group I’ll leave to the readers of this post.)

Finally, a word about the wines — or, in this case, not much of a word. I didn’t judge the first day of the two-day competition, thanks to our annual Dallas ice storm. Day 2 was 98 wines, almost all from California, and most of those from Paso Robles. We gave more than our share of golds (two cabernet sauvignons and a viognier in particular),  and especially silvers, but few of the wines were memorable. But that’s hardly enough of a sample size for a fair judgment.

Winebits 374: Wine snobs, wine grapes, lawsuits

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wine snobsBecause we’re better than you are: The Wine Spectator reports that the next big grape will be cabernet franc, mostly because of its “gossamer structure.” The Wine Curmudgeon has absolutely no idea what this means, because, as the article points out, I’m one of the many who aren’t hip enough to appreciate the grape. Plus, there are cabernet franc wines at trendy places in Manhattan. Plus, quotes from sommeliers. Need we say more? This is the kind of wine writing that makes me grit my teeth, knowing I still have so much work to do.

Something besides the usual: The always erudite Andrew Meggitt writes that wine drinkers should not limit themselves to the usual, but should be willing to experiment with wine made with different grapes and from regions that aren’t California. And, somehow, he doesn’t use the word gossamer once. Meggitt, the winemaker at Missouri’s St. James, has been working wonders with norton for more than a decade, and also recommends vignoles, chambourcin, and riesling. Maybe I can introduce him to the writer at the Spectator.

Bring on the attorneys: How else to explain this sentence? “Beam Suntory’s lawyers have argued that a reasonable consumer would understand that having ‘handmade’ on a label does not infer that no machines were used throughout the entire production process.” No wonder my mother wanted me to go to law school — you can make words mean what they don’t, and get paid lots of money for it. This is from yet nanother deceptive label spirits lawsuit, arguing that it’s not possible for a multi-million case brand to be handmade or handcrafted or artisan. So far, the suits target spirits, but the Wine Curmudgeon’s advice makes sense: Don’t wait for a judge to tell you to change your labels.

Winebits 373: Big Wine, Treasury, direct shipping

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Big Wine How big is big? One of the most difficult concepts to get consumers to understand is that their wine probably isn’t made by who they think it is. As noted here, Big Wine controls a majority of the U.S. market, and Big Wine includes many companies most of us have never heard of. Case in point: Trinchero Family Estates, a 20-million case producer that wants to be a 30-million case producer. And how many of us have heard of Trinchero, a California company? It’s best known for Menage a Trois and Sutter Home, but those are only a fraction of Trinchero’s production and its three dozen brands. If Trinchero makes it to 30 million cases, it will be as big as the entire U.S. wine business was in 1965.

Now they’ve figured it out: Regular visitors may remember the Wine Curmudgeon’s attempt to cash in on Treasury Wine Estate’s financial woes, which — not surprisingly — failed. One reason, aside from my lack of financial acumen, is that the people running Treasury were a little confused about how to sell cheap wine. Luckily for the company, that seems to have changed, and its results in the U.S. are much improved. Ironically, it seems this success came from a formula that I suggested when I wrote abut Treasury’s problems last year. Not that the company needs to give me credit — I’m used to saving really rich people lots of money.

The judges like their wine: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a bit of news last week when she admitted she fell asleep during the State of the Union address in January because she had too much wine. This got giggles from many, but they missed the point, focusing on Ginsburg’s age, 81. Rather, it points to the real reason the court ruled in favor of direct shipping in 2005 in the landmark Granholm decision, which surprised many observers. Forget precedent and constitutional interpretation; the Supremes carved out an exception to the three-tier system because they liked wine and wanted to be able to have it shipped legally from their favorite California wineries. How else to explain that Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, and Antonin Scalia, all referred to in the BBC story in the first link, voted to allow direct shipping?

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