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Category Archives: Wine news

Winebits 395: Prosecco shortage, sweet wine, label fraud

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Prosecco shortagePlenty of bubbly: The Wine Curmudgeon has not mentioned the news reports over the past several months heralding a Prosecco shortage, mostly because the “shortage” made my reporter’s stomach hurt. It’s the just the kind of “news” that offers an excuse for price increases — coincidentally, as the euro drops — and it turns out my hunch wasn’t far from the truth. The head of the Prosecco consortium, which oversees production of the Italian sparker, told Wine Business Monthly that supply increased almost 18 percent in 2014, and that there is no shortage. “We call on those who write, market and educate people about wine to do their part to inform the public about what Prosecco represents as a specific wine of place year,” he said.

Deciding what is sweet: Sweet wine is making an impression in Canada as well as the U.S., as Bill Zacharkiw writes in the Montreal Gazette: “There still seems to be some confusion about the role of sugar in wine, as many of these emails ask what the relationship is between residual sugar and quality. But there are other interesting questions as well.” Which he answers quite intelligently, noting the same thing that I have found. It’s not sweetness itself that is the problem with sweet wine, but how badly made too many sweet wines are. Says Zacharkiw: “I cast no judgment here. In the end, you choose what you want to drink. I simply want people to know the facts, and believe you should have access to all the information in order to make an informed choice.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Fix the label: Remember how those “artisan” spirits were going to fight to the bitter end the lawsuits accusing them of not being especially artisan? Templeton, the Iowa producer using whiskey from Indiana, has settled, and I would expect more settlements to follow now that a precedent has been set. The Templeton co-founder said his whiskey’s marketing “should have provided more clarity,” in one of those wonderful understatements that I so enjoy. Hopefully, the wine industry, with its artisan and hand-crafted claims for brands that make hundreds of thousands of cases, is paying attention.

Winebits 394: Rose, wine apps, Chateau Frank

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wine appsIt’s official: The most Winestream of the Winestream Media has anointed rose, which means it’s now safe for the rest of us to drink. Shanken News Daily, the wine business new service owned by the same company that owns the Wine Spectator, reported last week that “Rosé Boom Shifts Into High Gear.” And how do we know this? Because an important New York City retailer is selling lots of expensive rose, while an importer is going to bring us what the story calls a “pocket-book friendly” rose for $35. That the rest of us who have been drinking $10 rose, and who are responsible for the huge growth in rose reported in the story, really doesn’t matter to our wine betters, does it?

Statistics and wine apps: According to the wine app Delectable, grower Champagne is becoming very popular, and we’re drinking more of it because “it seems like suddenly all these chefs and sommeliers are drinking these Champagnes that I’ve never heard of. I want to try that, too.” That grower Champagne (an artisan-style, small production bubbly) accounts for less than five percent of U.S. Champagne sales, and that all sparkling wine is only about 20 percent of the total U.S. wine market speaks volumes about how little wine app users reflect the typical U.S. wine drinker. This is not to knock the app, which has been well received, but to note how crappy most reporting is about wine trends. Now, if Delectable had figures on sweet red wine consumption. …

Happy birthday: One of the best U.S. wine producers celebrated its 30th birthday last week, and that it is Chateau Frank in upstate New York makes the occasion that much more enjoyable. The Frank family, father Konstantin and son Willy (who started the winery), helped improve the quality of not just New York wine, but of wine made everywhere in the U.S. that wasn’t on the West Coast, and showing that it was possible to make quality wine in a part of the country that the experts laughed at. The Drink Local movement would have been impossible without the Frank family.

Winebits 393: Meiomi sale, wine retailers, restaurant wine

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Meiomi saleWinery consolidation continues: The wine cyber-ether was full of pontificating and prognosticating last week after Constellation Brands, third on the U.S. Big Wine list, bought pinot noir maker Meiomi Wines for $351 million. Most of the commentators were baffled by the sale price, which seemed like a lot of money for the winery, especially since it didn’t include any vineyard land. Still, it wasn’t that surprising, given that Constellation paid $160 million for Mark West, the $10 pinot noir, in 2012, in a deal that also didn’t include vineyards. Meiomi is on track to sell three-quarters of a million cases in 2015, making it the $20 version of Mark West (marked down to $17.99), and as such seems like a perfect fit for the strategy that most Big Wine companies are following. They’ll sell you an entry level product, and then they’ll sell you the next wine when you trade up, and they’ll make sure you will be able to buy both wines in a grocery store. In this, it’s no different than E&J Gallo buying J and The Wine Group buying Benziger — business as usual for Big Wine in the 21st century.

Retailers and grocers: This otherwise run-of-the-mill post about a Florida liquor chain adding a couple of stores explained the expansion thusly: “[I]n a bid to keep the ever-expanding grocery store channel at bay.” Which means the owners behind Florida’s ABC Fine Wine & Spirits understand what’s going on, even if most wine writers don’t. Interestingly the chain is up to 140 stores, which is still 60 less than it had 15 years ago, and speaks to the power supermarkets have today in selling wine. One national wine retailer told me that grocers thrive on competition, which explains much of their success, and aren’t scared of it the way so many regional and local liquor chains are.

Restaurant price gouging: One would not expect the New York Post, home to the legendary Page Six gossip extravaganza and headlines like “Four sex scandals rock one hanky-panky high school” to commiserate with anyone who buys restaurant wine. But reviewer Steve Cuozzo, in a story headlined “Restaurants overprice wine because they know you have no idea the pain” spared no punches. Restaurant prices “… can drive you to drink — anything but wine, that is.” He does an excellent job of explaining the contradictions and discrepancies in restaurant prices, and you can almost hear a bit of sympathy. Almost, of course, because the piece ends with a restaurant charging $100 for a very ordinary $25 retail Bordeaux.

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