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Category Archives: Wine news

Winebits 356: Big Wine edition

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wine news big wineBecause it’s always worth knowing what the six companies that control 60 percent of the U.S. wine business, plus their biggest competitors, are up to:

The biggest producer you’ve never heard of: Delicato Family Vineyards makes 5 million cases of wine a year, almost all of it Great Wall of Grocery store stuff, and almost all of it in anonymity. You might have heard of some of its brands, like Bota Box and Gnarly Head, but the winery itself is perfectly happy to be little known. That’s why this two-part interview (here and here) with Delicato president and CEO Chris Indelicato, conducted by the Shanken News Service is worthwhile. Indelicato talked about wine prices and that another big harvest in California this year will mean lower margins for producers, if not lower prices for consumers; that we’ll see more cheap pinot noir that doesn’t exactly taste like pinot noir because consumers want it; and that consumers are smarter than they used to be. Which doesn’t exactly jibe with doing Bota Box pinot noir and what Indelicato calls the consumer’s demand for soft — i.e., sweet — red, but who am I to argue with a 5 million case producer?

• Big companies, big results: Each year, the Impact trade magazine names its Blue Chip Brands, which have to meet growth and profit targets. Not surprisingly (at least for those of us paying attention), one of the Big Six, Constellation Brands, and Diageo, in the top 15, account for nearly one-third of the 2014  of Blue Chip Brands for beer, spirits, and wine. Constellation’s wines included Woodbridge, Black Box, Estancia, Ruffino, Kim Crawford, and Simi, though Diageo’s brands were all beer and spirits. I’d also mention that all but one of the Constellation wines cost $10 or less, but that would probably be preaching to the choir.

Big and getting bigger: The news release itself is close to useless, full of jargon and terms most of us don’t understand. But the gist is what matters: That Chile’s Concha y Toro, the biggest Latin American wine producer with $950 million in sales, is growing at a rate of 18 percent a year. That makes it one of the 15 biggest wine companies in the U.S. market, with more market share here than Diageo.  Again, this is a company that most wine drinkers don’t know (though they have likely heard of Fetzer, which Concha bought in 2011). In this, it’s another example of how the biggest companies continue to tighten their grip on the market.

Winebits 355: Underage drinking, lawsuits, drunks

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wine news underage drinkingYou can’t learn from me: A study reported at the Partnership for Drug Free Kids found parents can’t teach their children responsible drinking. The catch? One definition of teaching responsible drinking is parents buying the booze for a beer bash. Sigh. How about parents letting their children have wine with dinner, to show them it’s not something unusual or forbidden? The study’s approach, to demonize booze, reminds me of the way we tried to demonize sex for teenagers, substituting abstinence for education. Which didn’t work very well. As I wrote when I was writing that sort of thing: “Teach kids to make intelligent decisions, and they’ll make intelligent decisions. Tell kids what not to do, and they’ll do what they’re not supposed to do every time. Isn’t that one of the first rules of being a good parent?”

Even more lawyers: One of the first things I wrote here discussed fake wine terms; that is, those that appear on the bottle to describe wine but have no legal meaning and are used to confuse consumers. Now, it looks like we’re going to see some definition, with lawsuits filed against spirits producers who used the terms handmade and local, both of which have no legal standing but are used all the time. Even though the Wine Curmudgeon is not a lawyer, he has some advice for the producers they should listen to: Settle. You know, as well as I do, what’s going on here. And you don’t want to put that in front of a jury,

No more, please, I’m a drunk: This item probably deserved its own post, complete with interview, picture, and my incredibly erudite comments in praise of the writer. But given that I’ve already written something like this and I don’t want to bore you, this will have to suffice: Janet Street-Porter, writing in London’s Daily Mail, has had her fill of government agencies telling her she is an alcoholic. “Two glasses of wine a night doesn’t mean I’m a drunk.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Winebits 354: Costco wine, wine demographics, wine and drugs

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costco wine

Annette Alvarez-Peters

Costco’s Peters speaks: Annette Alvarez-Peters, who buys alcohol for the Costco warehouse chain, is one of the most important people in the wine business; as such, she rarely gives interviews. Hence my surprise at an interview with the Shanken News Daily trade news service, even thought it’s short and Alvarez-Peters doesn’t say all that much. What’s worth noting is how much of its private label wine Costco sells; its Kirkland pinot grigio and cabernet sauvignon are two of the chain’s biggest sellers, both at less than $10 a bottle. That consumers will drive to Costco just to buy its wines is mind-boggling in the day of the Great Wall of Wine. Most retailers would kill for that kind of loyalty, which they’d have to do because they don’t know how to get it any other way. The other reason to mention this? Because a Costco piece that ran on the blog in 2012 is the second most popular post , based on one-day visitors, in blog history. Shoppers don’t just want to go Costco — they want to read about it.

Who drinks wine? The Wine Market Council has updated some of its numbers, and the results are intriguing. If you’re a high-frequency wine drinker (you drink wine at least once a week), you’re more likely to be married than if you drink wine less than once a week, the occasional wine drinker. High frequency wine drinkers are older, 51-44, than occasionals, but it’s not like either of them is young. The latter makes perfect sense given the wine business’ inability to understand it should try to sell wine to people other than old white guys. Note to advertisers: the blog’s demographics skew younger than that, no doubt because I write about wine that younger people can afford.

Examine that spending: The British spend about £1 billion (about US$1.6 billion) more on illegal drugs and sex each year than they do on wine and beer, according to a just-released UK government study. That works out to about £260 (US$422) per adult. I don’t know whether that’s a lot of money for dope and whores, but I think the numbers are a little dicey. The average adult in the U.S. spends about $150 a year on wine (based on 242 million adults and $36.3 billion in wine sales, per the Wine Institute) and $413 on beer (based on $100 billion in beer sales, per the Brewers Association). That a country with a pub culture spends less per capita than we do on beer and wine is hard to believe, which makes me think the drugs and sex number should be higher. By comparison, I spend nothing on the latter and some US$2,500 (about £1,500) annually on wine, which doesn’t include other booze or restaurant wine purchases. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that.

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