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Category Archives: Wine news

Winebits 330: Cheap wine, more cheap wine, and corrupt wine writers

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Winebits 330: Cheap wine, more cheap wine, and corrupt wine writersBet you never thought you’d see cheap wine in a headline with corrupt wine writers:

Nothing more than $10: That’s the verdict of the British wine drinking public, where 80 percent of the wine sold costs £6 (about US$10) or less a bottle. And less than seven per cent are willing to pay more than £10 (about US$17) for a bottle.This doesn’t surprise the Wine Curmudgeon, of course, who has long been an Anglophile, complete with Tom Baker Dr. Who videos, a Winston Churchill poster, and a London Underground coffee mug. And it shouldn’t surprise any intelligent U.S, wine drinker, who has followed the blog or seen the most recent Wine Market Council study (which found that even the richest wine drinkers buy cheap wine). But you know the wine business — someone, somewhere will claim it’s all a lie, and we’re actually drinking $25 wine that gets a 93. Nuts to them. I want some of the £4 Adli rose in the article in the first link.

Even the experts love cheap wine: A tip of the WC’s fedora to visitor Julia B., who sent this to me: Some of the hippest winemakers in the business drink wine that shows up on the blog. Like the Little James Basket Press red and whites. Like the Muga rose (recommended by a guy who used to make a $20 rose). This demonstrates two things: That people, when paying their own money, are fussier about what they buy, and that the quality of cheap wine — as preached here so many times most of you are probably sick of it — has improved dramatically.

The Chicago way? Last week’s post about wine as bribes turned this up: That a French author claims her country’s wine critics are regularly bribed and that winery ratings are influenced by “surreal criteria,” such as parking spaces. And you think we had disagreements over scores in the U.S. Isabelle Saporta writes in “VinoBusiness (Albion Michel, $23.75)” that the French wine business is a “cruel, medieval micro-society” where powerful chateau owners care more about profit than wine and that French critics write favorable reviews in return for cash. One, says Saporta, allegedly demands US$7,000 for writing nice things about a producer’s wine — something I do for free. It’s hell to have ethics, no? Think of all the white Burgundy I could buy with a glowing review of crappy cheap wine.

Winebits 329: Legal affairs edition

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Winebits 329: Legal affairs editionBecause the Wine Curmudgeon is always amused by the legal side of the wine business:

Blame it on Utah: The Wine Curmudgeon has first-hand experience with Utah’s liquor laws, thanks to a story I wrote about the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. But not even I was ready for this excellent piece of reporting by Nancy Lofholm in The Denver Post. How about eight different liquor licenses? Or that some establishments have to have a barrier between customers and the bartender, and that others don’t — even if they have the same license? But don’t worry too much. Says one Utah tourism official: “We are not the only state with peculiar liquor laws.”

Scores don’t matter: Or, did a New York judge tell a wine drinker that a high score can’t be the basis for suing about wine quality? There are many ways to interpret the decision, in which a Manhattan judge dismissed a lawsuit (requires free registration) in which a consumer wanted a refund from a wine store because he didn’t like the six bottles of 91-point wine he bought. The judge wrote that wine taste is subjective, and so can’t be the basis for a lawsuit. I know the wine in question, a decent enough bottle of Rioja, but one that’s probably not worth the $12.99 the consumer paid. Damn those scores anyway.

Questioning three-tier? Or so says this post from the Libation Law blog, analyzing a New Jersey court decision that said “New Jersey’s liquor control laws and regulations must be administered in the light of changing conditions.” Which, of course, is what those of us who want to reform the three-tier system have been saying for years: That a system put in place at the end of Prohibition to keep the mob out of liquor has outlived its reason for being. The decision, which dealt with distributors and how they paid commission, is esoteric, but Ashley Brandt at Libation is optimistic that it ”strengthens the argument that a vigilant regulatory system can uncover and prohibit the practices that people claim the three-tiered system was meant to forestall.” The Wine Curmudgeon, with his vast legal experience (a semester of First Amendment law in college) isn’t quite so sure, but who am I to ruin a good mood?

Winebits 328: Scottish wine, wine marketing, lawsuits

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Winebits 328: Scottish wine, wine marketing, lawsuits

Scottish wine for a Scottish dish, haggis

Talk about terroir: A Scottish winemaker — yes, that’s correct — says climate change has made it possible to make wine in his country. Christopher Trotter, a chef and food writer, wants to grow six acres of grapes in eastern Scotland, and says that the warmest weather in centuries will make it possible. One caveat: It’s still cooler than most of the world’s wine regions, so he has to use grapes that are cold hardy and that don’t necessarily make great wine. The article, from the Bloomberg news service, is also an excellent look at how warmer temperatures around the world will affect the wine business.

A glass of Chloe, please: The Wine Group, which gave the world Cupcake, is making another marketing play, this time with a brand called Chloe. As Robert Joseph writes, the company’s approach has nothing to do with wine per se, but with how it is sold to the public. Chloe is being marketed like jewelry or perfume, costing about one-third more than the $10 to $12 Cupcake. This is The Wine Group’s particular genius, and which is rarely seen in wine, that it can position its brands as lifestyle products and get a premium for what will almost certainly be a very ordinary bottle of Italian pinot grigio (given the quality of its other wines). But, as many have noted, the people who buy these kinds of wines aren’t buying them for what’s in the bottle.

Bring out the lawyers: The Wine Curmudgeon has always enjoyed watching companies sue each other over labels and brand names, and this one is particularly enjoyable. Beverage Digest reports that Diageo, the world’s largest drinks company, says family-owned Heaven Hill is trampling on its intellectual property in Canada with a product called Admiral Nelson spiced rum, which too closely resembles Diageo’s Captain Morgan spiced rum. How many billable hours will this require? The article discusses — seriously, I suppose — that one issue in the lawsuit will be how similar the character of Nelson, the greatest hero in British naval history, is to Morgan, who was a pirate. Sadly, wigs are no longer worn in Canadian courts, or this would be even more fun to watch.

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