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Category Archives: Wine news

Winebits 348: Wine press release edition

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wine press releaseThis year, the Wine Curmudgeon has been overwhelmed with some of the most bizarre wine press releases ever. That I have not written the greatest rant in the blog’s history is because cooler heads prevailed. As several people said, “Jeff, no one cares about this but you.”

Perhaps. But several recent releases are worth noting regardless:

State stores forever! New Hampshire is one of 17 control states, where the government sells beer, wine, and spirits or some combination thereof, and there aren’t privately-owned retailers. This has always seemed odd given the state’s almost libertarian politics — “Live Free or Die,” after all — and that contradiction does not bother the state’s liquor board. It dispatched a release touting the Washington Post’s endorsement of New Hampshire as “the best state in the country for wine drinkers.” That it was one man’s opinion, and not the newspaper’s, and that the piece had several errors (wine prices are not skyrocketing) didn’t seem to bother the board either. Or that you can buy wine in a grocery store from 6 a.m.-2 a.m. seven days a week in California. Or that Segura Viudas cava costs one-third less in Texas than it does in New Hampshire. My question: How much money did the board spend on the release, when it could have spent the money on cutting wine prices? (Hat tip to Tim McNally for sending this my way, who lives in New Orleans and knows a few things about the best states to drink in.)

Roll out the barrels: The battle over oakiness in wine seems over, and those of us who prefer restraint seem to have won. Nevertheless, multi-national Diageo sees a market for very oaky wines, and has launched a brand called Woodwork — “delivering prominent oak influence.” Overlook the writing (the wine “celebrate[s] those who work hard to endlessly pursue their passions”) and this release is a revelation. Diageo admits the wine is made with wooden staves instead of an oak barrel, a common practice in cheap wine but rarely acknowledged. In this, the point of the wine is not winemaking, but adding wood flavor. That honesty is as refreshing as it is unbelievable. (Hat tip to W. Blake Gray for sending this my way; he expects the wine to be a big seller.)

It’s EPICA! Does someone really get paid for writing this stuff? “EPICA Wines, the adventurous brand that inspires epic lifestyles, has announced the launch of the 2013 Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. Aimed at millennials, EPICA Malbec was created to capitalize on the growing interest for the Argentinian grape.” Who knew malbec was an adventurous grape? Or that there was growing interest in it? I always thought it was one of the most popular grapes in the world, the fifth biggest import to the U.S. and one that has been around for decades. But then, my lifestyle is hardly epic.

Winebits 347: Ordering wine, Big Wine, Treasury wine

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ordering wineWhat does it say that this is even necessary? The Daily Meal website offers advice on “How not to sound stupid when ordering wine,” the need for which makes the Wine Curmudgeon cringe. But it’s mostly good advice, and I will likely borrow some of it when I revise the cheap wine book. My favorite of the six: “Tell the server how much money you’re comfortable spending. It’s their job to point out a wine or wines you’ll enjoy that fit your budget.” The catch, of course, is that too many restaurants spend as much effort on server training as I do preparing to run the marathon in the  Olympics.

There’s Gallo, and there’s Gallo: The blog has spent much time discussing how Big Wine dominates the wine business, but never with quite this much humor. Marnie Old at Philly.com points out that someone who doesn’t want to drink an E&J Gallo wine often ends up drinking it anyway (and is even nice to Gallo in the process, which one rarely sees on the Internet). By her reckoning, 15 of the most recognizable grocery store brands are Gallo, dating to the 1970s.

Bring on the bidders: Regular visitors here know that the Wine Curmudgeon is trying to finance his retirement to Burgundy by buying low on ailing Treasury Wine Estates and pockting zillions after the company is taken private. The good news is that it looks like a third private equity group wants to bid for Treasury. The bad news is that the stock price still isn’t going anywhere, and I may not even get a bottle of Burgundy out of this. I’m also starting to feel a little guilty, since the new owner will fire thousands of people, pay off the executives who ran Treasury into the ground, and give themselves huge bonuses for doing the deal. It’s hell being sensitive when money is involved.

Update: Third-party wine clubs and their experts

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wine club expertsGlobal Wine Company, the subject of a post in May that discussed third-party wine clubs and the “experts” who pick their wines, has decided that transparency is the better part of valor. Global, which runs wine clubs for The New York Times, the Washington Post, Williams-Sonoma, and several others, has started listing the buyers and their credentials on the wine club websites.

Martin Reyes, one of Global’s buyers, emailed me after the post ran, but not to tell me I should mind my own business. Instead, he thanked me for the post, saying he had been trying to convince the Global bosses that it would be better to name the experts and not leave consumers wondering. “I figured you might enjoy knowing briefly what came out of this. The screenshot below was a watershed moment for us. … You sir, are awesome. Thanks again.”

That screenshot, pictured above, is also part of the Times club website. It’s a new section that tells club members who buys the wines and why they’re qualified to do so. Not difficult to do, good for business, and — more importantly — the right thing to do.

The power of the press, even when it’s a cranky ex-newspaperman who likes cheap wine and does it all by himself. Maybe there’s something to this blogging business after all.

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