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Category Archives: Wine news

Winebits 372: Valentine’s Day wine 2015

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Valentine's Day wineA look at Valentine’s Day wine suggestions from around the Internet, because the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t want to do it himself, given this is The Holiday That Must Not be Named:

From a supermarket: HEB, the Texas grocery store chain that is one of the largest independents in the country, focuses on sweet and cute, including chocolate-flavored wine. I’m not sure there is anything here I would recommend, but the Wine Curmudgeon is not the target demographic for this post. Also note how the post uses descriptors that focus on sweet, like candied fruit. Anyone who wants to know why sweet red wine has become such a cash cow need only look here.

From a wine magazine: Decanter, the British equivalent of the Wine Spectator, sticks to sparkling wine, but includes cava and Prosecco, including “10 great value Cavas” and English sparkling wine. The point here is not whether these wines are available in the U.S., but that the editors understand not everyone wants to spend $200 on a bottle of Champagne. Would that wine magazines in this country took the same approach. My favorite pick? The Jansz sparkling from Tasmania, about $20, which I drank on New Year’s as part of my Champagne boycott.

From a financial news website: The Street runs a lot of wine-related items; why is anyone’s guess. But most of it is solid information, and its choice of 11 Valentine’s Day wines is more of the same. The 11 wines are mostly white, mostly quality (though not always easy to find), and mostly around $40. Having said that, the Marcel LaPierre from Morgon in Beaujolais, about $30, is an impressive recommendation.

Winebits 371: Winston Churchill, cheap wine, Kevin Zraly

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winston churchill wineA Churchillian anniversary: This is the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death, which the Wine Curmudgeon notes for several reasons. First, so I can run a picture of Churchill on the blog; second, because he was a fine writer and historian, which he somehow found time to do in addition to saving the world from Adolph Hitler; and third, because he appreciated wine. How many of us get a Champagne named after us? Churchill also drank wine with dinner, a practice that I like to think helped him in his battle against the Nazis — mostly red Bordeaux, which the English call claret.

Pull out those vines: Grape growers in California’s Central Valley are ripping out vines and replacing them with more profitable crops such as almonds, thanks to slowing sales of cheap wine and a glut of cheap wine from overseas. The Sacramento Bee, covering one of the biggest wine trade shows of the year, reports that some 22,000 acres of vineyards have been removed since the 2014 harvest ended. Before we panic, know that these sorts of things are cyclical, and as soon as demand picks up, the grape vines will return. It’s also worth mentioning that these vines are used in wines cost $7 or less, and often used to make the huge boxes like Franzia.

Happy No. 30: This year marks the 30th anniversary of perhaps the best wine book ever written, Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Wine Course. How good is it? I use it in my El Centro class. Mike Veseth at the the Wine Economist offers a few thoughts about the anniversary, noting that “Where many wine guides jump into geography, geology, variety and so forth in encyclopedic detail, Zraly more or less begins with the question, ‘A bottle of white? A bottle of red?’ as you would in a restaurant.” Best yet, it’s written in English, mostly avoids winespeak, and covers the basics without bogging down into wine geekdom.

Winebits 370: Wine writing ethics, Big Wine, beer sales

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wine writing ethicsFull disclosure: The Wine Curmudgeon stopped writing about wine writing a couple of years ago; it boosted the blog’s numbers, but didn’t advance the causes that the blog believes in, like wine education. But this item, from Australian wine writer Max Allen, does matter for anyone who wants to be able to trust what they read: “When a wine writer threatens to sue another wine writer for telling the truth, you know things are getting serious. … Advertorial is masquerading as editorial. And our readers — the people we’re meant to be writing for — are in the dark about it all.” This is something that has been bothering me for several years, and I touched on it in last fall’s birthday week essay. So Allen’s post is worth writing about, given its honest discussion about what’s going wrong — writers taking money from wineries; conflicts of interest that no one talks about because they’d have to stop doing them; and how content has changed in the digital age from something independently written to something written so it will sell something paid. Any wine drinker who cares about getting an honest assessment for wine they’re paying for should read it.

Fewer mergers? One of my wine trends for 2015 was the continuation of something that started at least a decade ago — Big Wine getting bigger, buying up smaller companies. Turns out I may have been wrong, and not just about this year. A study at FoodBev.com reports that wine acquisitions worldwide were down by a quarter worldwide in 2014. Still, before the mea culpas, it’s worth noting that wine tied for sixth on the list of food and drinks deals in 2014, an impressive showing given its smaller size relative to the rest of the food and drinks business, like packaging, soft drinks, and dairy.

No end to the slide: The beer business continues to slowly erode, which I cover on the blog because it ties into American drinking habits. SABMiller, one of the two companies that controls most of the world’s beer production, saw its North American sales decline two percent in the nine months ending in December. Which means the holiday season didn’t rescue the company. This is part of a long-term tend that has seen beer sales slowly decline since the beginning of the recession, as Americans shift away from beer, which has dominated alcohol sales in the U.S. for decades. So we shouldn’t be surprised by the growth in wine sales.

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