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Category Archives: Wine news

My apéritif with Randall Grahm

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rnadall grahmDallas, finally, seems to be taking to Randall Grahm. The Bonny Doonster sold out a winemaker dinner at the new and much-praised Rapscallion on Monday night, and Dallas winemaker dinners usually don’t sell out unless they feature men who make massive, gigantic Napa-style red wine that costs too much money. Plus, Grahm’s wines are starting to show up on store shelves here, something that hasn’t happened in years.

Grahm’s trip gave us a chance to hold another of our sort of annual visits, where we taste his wines and solve the problems of the post-modern U.S. wine business. This time, we talked before the dinner, which I didn’t stay for since I didn’t want to stop him from schmoozing with the paying guests (schmoozing being winemaker slang for mingling with the customers).

After the jump, the highlights of our chat and a few notes about three of the wines served with the dinner:

Winebits 433: Rose, cheap wine, direct shipping

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roseImportant rose advice: Dave McIntyre at the Washington Post, a long-time pal of the blog who was drinking rose when the hipsters thought Zima was cool, offers some rose wisdom and five roses to try, all of which is much appreciated: “After all, there are delicious pink wines made all around the world” he writes. “Pour a rosé you like, shed the cares of the day and consider your true priorities under the setting sun.” Is it any wonder Dave and I get along so well?

Cheap wine wisdom: The VinePair website, which usually offers practical wine advice, is mostly on track with this effort about how to buy cheap wine. Much of it will be familiar to the blog’s regular visitors, including the admonition to look for wine from less expensive places. I was a little confused, though, by the part about avoiding closeout bins, not because it’s wrong but because of the reason: “These are the wines a shop can’t sell, and that often means there was no one at the shop who was passionate enough to sell them.” Which isn’t always true; I’m more concerned with the age of closeout wines, because if they’re too old, it doesn’t matter who liked them. The wines will have faded and not taste like anything.

Arizona allows direct shipping: You can now buy wine directly from wineries in Arizona, the 42nd state to allow the practice. That’s the good news. This is an informative piece from our friends at the Wine Spectator, complete with informative map. The bad news is that winery to consumer shipping, and not retail to consumer shipping. The latter is still illegal in many states and often incredibly difficult when it is legal. One other note: Two of the eight states that don’t allow winery shipping are Utah and Pennsylvania, about as odd bedfellows as one can have.

Costco wine and its retail domination

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costco wine

Annette Alvarez-Peters

Know three things about this interview with Annette Alvarez-Peters, who runs the Costco wine program:

First, any interview with Peters is worth reading, no matter how technical (and this one is technical), because she doesn’t do many and she is one of the two or three most important wine people in the world. So when Alvarez-Peters says Costco isn’t going to sell wine over the Internet in the U.S., then it’s not likely any other big retailer will, and retail direct shipping will continue to languish in the netherworld it currently inhabits.

Second, it shows Costco’s domination of U.S. wine retailing. It’s not so much that it’s the biggest wine retailer in the country or that it sold $1.69 billion of wine last year, but that it may account for as much as four percent of all the wine sold in the U.S. by dollar volume. In addition, the chain may do as much as $3 million in wine for each store, a gigantic number given that wine isn’t Costco’s reason for being. Kroger, whose wine sales could be close to Costco (parsing these numbers isn’t easy, since not all retailers break out wine revenue), has six times as many stores in the U.S. All of which means Costco has leverage with producers and distributors, even the biggest, that no one else has.

Third, a wine trend at Costco is a wine trend that producers pay attention to because the chain sells so much wine — and that means it’s a trend in the rest of the country that everyone else will be copying. So we are going to see Big Wine brands heavily discounted, lots more sweet red, premiumization, and rose. And Costco is dabbling with wine delivery; it it figures out how to make delivery profitable but affordable for consumers, delivery will become a trend.

We can argue whether any of this is good or bad, but that almost doesn’t matter. What matters is that what happens at Costco changes the way everyone buys wine, even those of us who don’t shop there. Unfortunately, the interview doesn’t do a good job getting that across.

More about Costco wine:
Costco and its role in the wine business

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