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Category Archives: Wine news

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.

Winebits 353: Special rose edition

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Rose wine newsBecause rose is no longer the province of cranks like the Wine Curmudgeon, but has become real wine celebrated by the wine establishment.

Making money with rose: South Africa’s Mulderbosch, whose rose is regularly featured here, has discovered that rose is profitable. Or, as a leading Winestream Media outlet put it, part of the “high-flying rose segment.” Mulderbosch, which did barely any business in the U.S. save for the rose in years past, will see its rose sales in 2014 double the volume it did for all of its wines in 2013. Of course, this being the Winestream Media, the article skirts the reason for the rose’s success, that it’s cheap and tastes good. That’s too much truth, apparently.

Make it Kosher, please: My pal Lou Marmon has a dry rose, Israel’s Recanati, in his list of value Kosher wines for the Jewish High Holy Days. Lou has always been a rose supporter, and it’s good to see rose making a name for itself in Kosher wine. Which, of course, has too long been seen as nothing more than sweet red.

Revenge! Which is the Wine Curmudgeon’s poor attempt at a pop culture reference. New York’s Hamptons, home to lots of rich people, Ina Garten of “Barefoot Contessa” cooking show fame, and a very odd network TV series that includes Madeline Stowe, suffered through a rose crisis this summer. The New York Post, whose Page Six was invented to keep track of just such threats to western civilization, reported that there was very little rose to be had over Labor Day weekend. Fortunately, the situation wasn’t as bad as in 2012, when rose was rationed. Who knew? Note to rich people: The next time you run out of rose, go here. Or have your assistant do it. It lists all the rose reviews on the blog, most $10, and you should be able to find one of them the next time rose is rationed.

Winebits 352: Red wine, wine brands, three-tier

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wine news red wineBring on the red wine: Americans, apparently, drink more red wine than white. This is not news, though for some reason a writer at the Washington Post who doesn’t write about wine (and there seem to be so many of them) thinks it is. Red wine has traditionally outsold white, but a white, chardonnay, remains the best selling wine in the U.S. The people at the Post have one of the best wine writers in the world working for them; I don’t know why they insist on pretending to be experts when there is a real expert at hand. One other thing, as long as I’m being cranky: Given that online retailing accounts for just 5 percent of U.S. wine sales, is a survey from an on-line retailer a better source than Nielsen or the Wine Institute?

Bring on the new brands: One of the great mysteries in the wine business is how many wines actually exist. It’s also a mystery why it’s a mystery, since wine is regulated and this should not be difficult to determine. But it is, and the best guess has been about 15,000, which includes different varietals but not different vintages. Turns out that may be just a fraction of the total, according to Ship Compliant, a company that helps wineries through the maze of regulation. It found that the federal government approved 93,000 labels in 2013. However, since that could include changes to old labels or old wine given a new name, as well as wines that were proposed but never made it to market, there probably aren’t 93,000 wines available for sale. Which, given the size of the Great Wall of Wine, is no doubt a good thing.

Bring on the lawyers: The Wine Curmudgeon notes this item not because he expects anyone to understand it unless they are a liquor law attorney with a large staff, but to remind the world, again, of the pointlessness of the three-tier system unless you are a distributor or attorney. It details a court case in which a distributor is suing a producer even though the producer followed the letter of the law. Or something like that. Regardless of the outcome, it will make no difference to anyone who buys wine. Incidentally, this is a jury trial. I can only shake my head in sympathy for those poor jurors, and hope they have lots of wine at home for afterwards. Update: Hours — literally — after I posted this, the suit was settled. No doubt they were terrified the jury would laugh at them, go home, and open a beer.

Image courtesy of Houston Press food blog, using a Creative Commons license

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