Category Archives: Wine news

Winebits 413: Local wine, craft beer, Lidl


local wineDrink local: Our old pal Andrew Stover, one of the world’s leading proponents of local wine, has a message for Thanksgiving: Think less California and more Texas, Missouri, Michigan, and Virginia. Best yet, Stover puts his money where his mouth is, importing local wines as a distributor to the Washington, D.C., area. I’ve known Stover since our first Drink Local Wine conference, and he has never wavered from the cause. He has done such a good job, in fact, that some of my favorite Texas wines sell out in D.C.

Billions and billions of dollars: It’s actually one bullion, but who’s counting? Constellation Brands, one of the biggest wine companies in the word, paid $1 billion — almost 10 times earnings, a startling number — for the trendy craft beer producer Ballast Point last week. This is incredible on so many levels that I don’t even know where to start, but does speak to how craft beer has become part of the mainstream and makes me wonder: How much longer will it remain crafty?

Waiting until 2018: Lidl, the other German discount grocer famous for cheap wine, will open its first stores in the U.S. in 2018, with 50 locations in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Washington D.C. Said the company’s CEO: “The United States are a strategic market for us.” Should I start a countdown clock?

Winebits 412: Birthday week odds and ends


Birthday week Approaching 2,500 posts: Or, 2,423, counting this one. A little less than one-third of those have been wine reviews in eight years, which probably isn’t enough to make Google happy. On the other hand, only two percent have been wine rants, which makes me wonder why I haven’t written more. It’s not like there isn’t enough to rant about, and I probably could have written two percent of the blog with just rants just about the three-tier system.

Where wine rarely goes: The geographic breadth of blog users never fails to amaze me — 173 countries this year, including four from Nepal. The Nepalese, given that none of the wine I write about can possibly be available there, deserve some sort of prize. Or maybe they appreciate great wine writing? The U.S. is the top country, not surprisingly, but with only 87.3 percent, which means that more than 1 out of every 10 visitors comes from outside the country.  And though California is the top state, more than 83 percent of visitors come from the rest of the U.S. That does make me think I’m doing some good, despite any gloom to the contrary over the past year.

My poor beloved Linux: Perhaps someone with more tech chops can explain why the various metrics track visitors by operating system, which I appreciate but don’t understand. Having said that, just one percent of the visitors came to the blog via Linux, and that’s probably me. Still, that’s three times as many as Windows Phone, which says more than any rant about Microsoft. The top operating system was Windows at 35 percent, but that’s just a couple of points better than the Apple phone. Maybe there’s something to this mobile thing?

Winebits 411: Wine prices, Chinese wine, red blends


wine pricesExpensive wine prices: Or, as S. Irene Virbila wrote in the Los Angeles Times, a look at old Kermit Lynch newsletters finds a “…breathtaking change in wine prices over the years. Over the course of three decades or more, prices go up, of course. But 10 times in some cases?” Lynch is the celebrated importer whose name on a French wine label is reason to buy it regardless of varietal or region, and Virblia has tracked price changes for several of his wines since the early 1980s with depressing results. Given that cheap wine prices have not increased 10 times over 30 years (maybe doubled, at most) and that the cost of wine production has remained remarkably stable over that time, this speaks to the increased demand for high-end wines since then, and especially for wines with pedigrees from experts like Lynch.

So long, China: Remember when China was going to save the French wine business? Not now, says the Reuters news service. “Now wine is being sold below cost, some is going bad sitting for long periods in poorly maintained warehouses and decent Bordeaux wines are going for 15 yuan [US$2.50] a bottle.” Not that the Wine Curmudgeon warned the French about this, that raising prices to gouge the inexperienced Chinese had dangerous long-term consequences — but what do I know? The Chinese market has been hit by what passes for a recession there as well as the government’s continuing crackdown on corruption, in which wine bribes play a huge part. By the way, those “decent” Bordeaux wines that are selling for $2.50 in China cost 10 times that much in the U.S.

Red blends take over: The popularity of red blends — which means, in most cases, sweet red wine — continues to rise, reports Nielsen. They accounted for more than 13 percent of the $13 billion that consumers spent on table wine during the 52 weeks ended Sept. 12, 2015, up from 11 percent in 2011. How important is that change? As I have written before, it’s almost unprecedented, with red blends the third biggest seller in the U.S. behind chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon in U.S. grocery and super stores. Interestingly, the Nielsen report doesn’t use the word sweet to describe the red blends, since so many producers don’t identify the wines as such. But we know what’s going on, don’t we?

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