Category Archives: Wine news

Winebits 422: Wine thefts, wine writers, wine reviews


wine thefts• He knows his wine: A New York man has been arrested after stealing wine from restaurants and retailers throughout the northeast, posing as an interested consumer with high dollar tastes. Among his targets — a 1990 Chateau Petrus, one of the most expensive wines in the world at $4,000 a bottle and almost impossible to find. There’s a video at the link with surveillance footage; if nothing else, the suspect looks like the Wine Curmudgeon when I check out the wines on display at restaurants I visit.

Drunk or not? The Guardian, a British newspaper, decided to call the country’s government on its claim that all drinking was bad by asking its wine writers how much they drank to do their job. The story is funny and cheeky and sad in that particularly English way, and my favorite comes from Michael White: “When I was a young reporter on the London Evening Standard, covering anything from murder to Miss World, lunch on the early shift consisted of three pints and a cheese omelette at the Globe across the street at 11 a.m. It’s what Americans, still prohibitionist puritans at heart, call a ‘British lunch.’ ” The English know us so well, don’t they?

Cash upfront: New Zealand wine writers are in an uproar over some of them taking money to write favorable reviews, something that is so reprehensible that it shouldn’t even be worthy of discussion. But, since this is wine writing, one so-called marketing expert defended the practice, telling an Auckland newspaper that “this didn’t mean such reviewers wouldn’t be honest.” Which is why I use the phrase so-called, because what kind of idiot would take someone’s money and then write a review that the client didn’t like?

Cartoon courtesy of the drinks business, using a Creative Commons license

Winebits 421: Champagne, wine reviews, local wine


ChampagneGet the lawyers: The indomitable Alice Feiring has no patience with wine that is not the way it should be, even if it’s Champagne: “I could not sip without tasting the scorched earth viticulture that still exists in Champagne. This was all sulfur and sugar and bubble. It was cynical. It was false. It was a traitor.” The bottle in question is from Trader Joe’s, Charles de Marques, and while I applaud and appreciate the honesty of her review, I would advise Feiring to get a good attorney. Because we know what the Champagne people do when someone does something that they don’t like. Right, Champagne Jayne?

How legitimate is that review? Cornell researchers have developed a system that spots phony Internet hotel reviews called Review Skeptic, so the Wine Curmudgeon immediately tried it on a variety of Winestream Media wine reviews. Most were identified as real, which speaks to the quality of the algorithm, since it’s not meant to do wine reviews (and, unfortunately, doesn’t judge the quality of the writing). Given the possibility we could get computer-generated wine reviews sooner rather than later, Review Skeptic — even in its current form — could come in quite handy.

Make it local: The annual National Restaurant Association’s chef’s survey has again identified local as the hottest trend for 2016 behind the restaurant bar. This marks at least the eighth year in a row that chefs see local wine as important, which makes the Wine Curmudgeon quite happy. Now, if we could only get Dallas chefs to understand why their colleagues feel that way, I would have one less thing to bellyache about.

One more example why TV wine ads are so awful


Nielsen announced its best TV ads for alcohol products from the first part of 2015, and the wine winner points out yet again just how sad TV wine advertising is and how little it has changed from the Orson Welles and Riunite days of my youth.

The winning ad, chosen from those that aired in the first two quarters last year, was a 15-second spot for Woodbridge, the $8 grocery store wine from Constellation’s Robert Mondavi label. It’s mostly shots of women of a certain age — and a dog — holding wine glasses by the bowl and laughing. It has the lowest “brand memorability index” of the five winning ads (two beers, a spirits, and a cider) and the best the analysis could say was that the ad “established an ownable creative concept over time that creates an emotional connection with viewers.” 

If this is the winner, how bad were the losers? You can see the Woodbridge spot below; perhaps an ad type who is reading this could explain if an “ownable creative concept” is a good thing.

I’ve never been able to figure out why TV wine ads are so awful. Maybe it’s for the same reason that TV wine shows are usually boring — there just isn’t much visually interesting about drinking wine.

More about TV wine ads:
Riunite on ice — so nice
Sex sells — even for wine in the 1970s
TV wine commercials and their legacy

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