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Category Archives: Wine news

Winebits 369: Cheap wine, sweet red wine, wine lawsuits

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wine lawsuitsAlmost correct: The Wine Curmudgeon is always happy to see other wine sites hop on the cheap wine bandwagon, and this recent piece from Wine Folly. a qualiity site, offers several fine pointers: Beware the back label, watch out for private label brands, and double check pricing. My concern is its passive-aggressive style, which comes out in the headline. “Good cheap wine is lying to you.” The piece makes it seem as if only cheap wine does these things, when the entire wine business is full of half-truths, misconceptions, and obfuscations. Which is my reason for being, after all. I was also confused by the post’s fixation on U.S. wine — what’s wrong with buying cheap wine from Spain, France, and Italy?

Bring on the sweet stuff: You know sweet red wine is firmly established in the market when one of the wine trade newsletters talks about its popularity without one nasty comment. “While ‘sweet’ drinkers may be gravitating toward certain blends and varietals, and ‘dry’ drinkers supporting others, consumers clearly are exploring a variety of options.” That’s quite shocking, that Shanken News Daily (owned by the same company that owns the Wine Spectator), suggests that wine drinkers have minds of their own. But the numbers make believers: sweet red wine is growing at 4 1/2 percent a year, ahead of wine’s overall growth, says the report. And this is where I mention that I was writing about this stuff when the Winestream Media was dismissing it.

One more lawsuit: Regular visitors know that the Wine Curmudgeon loves lawsuits, when wine companies throw money at their attorneys for no other reason than they can. Though, this suit, about two wines with the same name, does seem to have some merit (with the caveat that I’m not a lawyer and could be completely wrong). I also thought I’d throw this in, two companies named Cipriani suing each other. I mention it for two reasons — first, that it shows wine doesn’t have a monopoly on this sort of thing, and second, that the smaller company, based ion a Chicago suburb, makes some of the best noodles I’ve ever had, and I hope it wins. Update: The two wineries settled out of court a couple of days after this posted. Chalk it up to common sense

Winebits 368: Wine terms, wine retailers, winery buyouts

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wine termsI’m so tired of that: Amanda Chatel at the Bustle lifestyle website says she’s tired of being picked on by beer drinkers, noting that it’s a scientific fact that cheap wine tastes better than cheap beer. She posts 21 questions about wine she doesn’t want to be asked anymore, and if some of them aren’t especially clever, her heart is in the right place, and especially with screwcaps. And because it’s a lifestyle site, there’s a picture of “Scandal’s” Olivia Pope with the post, and the site has 127,000 Facebook likes. Which is something for wine sites to ponder.

Corporate buyouts: One of the world’s great cheap wine retailers, Cost Plus World Market, could get a new owner this year, if analyst speculation is worth anything. They think World Market’s parent, Bed Bath & Beyond, may be in play since it has underperformed the market. Don’t worry if you don’t understand that sentence; financialspeak can be as obtuse as winespeak. Know that the companies that do leveraged buyouts think they can make money buying Bed Bath & Beyond, stripping its assets and cutting costs, and then selling it again. Which usually means that the company becomes a shell of itself and underperforms the market again, setting itself up for another leveraged buyout. In this, World Market could suffer as well, a cheap wine horror too terrible to contemplate. Hopefully, the analyst speculation isn’t worth anything.

$40 million, anyone? Those of us who wonder why cheap wine doesn’t get enough respect always overlook the economics of cult wines. California’s Kosta Browne, among the cultiest, was sold for what reports are saying is more than $40 million. Which is a nice return for a 20,000-case winery that makes mostly pinot noir and owns just 20 acres of vineyards. Which means that he deal was almost all about the brand, demonstrating how powerful the allure is for a cult producer. That’s a lot of money for a name, but in the high-end wine business, name is all.

Winebits 367: Cheap wine edition

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aldi cheap wineCheap wine news from around the Internet in honor of the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame:

Cheaper than water: Think wine is cheap in the U.S. or Britain? How about the price in Australia, where some wine costs less than a bottle of water? The BBC reports that a 12-ounce bottle of water costs A$2.50 (US$2.83), while a bottle of red, twice as big, costs as little as A$1 (US$.81). Some of this is the high price of bottled water Down Under; a 16.9-ounce bottle costs less than $2 in the U.S. But, as the story notes, the price has more to do with what the country’s experts are calling the “dire” state of the Aussie wine business: an expensive Australian dollar, steadily falling international demand, and a glut of wine in the domestic market. In other words, everything that can go wrong has gone wrong — for producers, anyway. For consumers, depressed prices in Australian help keep prices down elsewhere.

Miracle machine? Some people still don’t believe that cheap wine is suitable for drinking, and that it tastes like it did 20 years ago — harsh, bitter, and acidic. This is apparently why the Sonic Decanter raised $139,000 on Kickstarter, $50,000 more than its goal. The gadget is supposed age cheap wine to “bring out aromas not normally present in young, unaged wines,” soften tannins, and enhance flavors. The catch is that almost all cheap wine isn’t made to be aged, doesn’t have any extra aromas to bring out, and already has soft tannins and enhanced fruit flavors. That formula is the reason for being for most grocery store merlot. And this doesn’t take into account the $249 cost, which not only translates into two cases of $10 wine, but into four bottles of very nice white Burgundy, which I’ll take over a gadget any time.

Aldi wine: The Aldi supermarket chain’s plans for U.S. expansion — 50 percent more stores by 2018 — is welcome news for anyone who drinks cheap wine, given the company’s skill at selling quality labels for very little money. I’ve written about it on the blog quite a bit, and I’m not the only who is impressed. Max Allen, writing in The Australian, discusses the chain’s success in his country, noting that the wines it sells more than hold their own against other Australian wines, and do so for significantly less money. In fact, he uses the words “crazy cheap.”

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