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Category Archives: Wine rants

Can cheap wine do this?

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Google cheap wineCheap wine, despite the tremendous advances over the past couple years (like this guy and this guy), still doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Google, for whatever reasons, still seems to have a cheap wine chip on its cyber shoulder — and just not because of what it did to my search numbers. Put the phrase “Can cheap wine…” in a search box, and almost all the suggestions are negative. Can cheap wine make you sick, indeed. You don’t see that for ketchup, do you?

Fortunately, the Wine Curmudgeon is here to answer five of the most suggested cheap wine questions on Google:

 • Can cheap wine make you sick? Of course it can. So can expensive wine. It’s called a hangover, and it doesn’t matter how much it costs if you drink too much of it.

 • Can cheap wine go bad? Of course it can. So can expensive wine. Going bad is not a function of price, but of quality control at the winery and how it’s stored there, how it’s stored at the distributor and retailer, and where you keep it at home. Put a bottle of wine in the sunlight in 90-degree heat, and it will go bad regardless of how much you paid for it.

 • Can cheap wine give you a headache? Of course it can. See question 1. It’s also a myth that cheap wine contains more headache-inducing sulfites than expensive wine, and it’s another myth that wine in sulfites causes headaches.

 • Cheap cheap wine be aged? No, but neither can most expensive wine. Almost all of the wine made in the world today is not made for aging, but to drink when you buy it. Its shelf life isn’t much different from many canned goods, and some boxed wines even have an expiration date.

 • Can cheap wine be good? No. I’ve been wasting my time for the past 20 years. Of course it can be good. So can cheap cars, cheap blue jeans, cheap airfare, and so on and so forth. Quality in wine is not a function of price, but of the effort the producer makes — no matter how much the rest of the world wants it to be about price.

A tip o’ the Wine Curmudgeon’s fedora to the OMG! Ubuntu! website, which did a similar post for the Ubuntu computer operating system and which I borrowed.

The Wine Curmudgeon does the Grape Collective interview

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Wine Curmudgeon Grape CollectiveJameson Fink of the Grape Collective, an especially popular wine website, asked some terrific questions as part of their regular feature, called SpeakEasy. This gave me a chance to offer several insights into the wine business and wine writing. More than a few people may be annoyed at my answers, but that’s their problem. If we don’t stick up for ourselves as wine drinkers, who will?

The interview is here. A few highlights:

• “I talk to consumers all the time, and they’re scared to death of wine. They apologize for not knowing more or for drinking something that might offend me. In what other consumer good does that happen? Does someone apologize to their dinner guests for serving Maxwell House coffee?”

• Asked what wines offer the best value, I suggested Gascony, Sicily, rose, and cava. Not shocking to regular visitors here, of course, but I never pass up a chance to spread the good news. I have a feeling the Grape Collective’s demographic may not be exactly the same as mine.

• “Winespeak (and I got an email about this other day from a consumer complaining about exactly this) scares everyone else off. What can it possibly mean to someone in a grocery store that a $12 wine has notes of beeswax, other than to make them run in terror?”

My 10 favorite food- and wine- related places in Dallas, which doesn’t include most of the things other people would recommend. Which says a lot about Dallas, actually. And what does it say about me that two of my choices don’t have websites?

• Question: “What’s changed in the world of wine blogging since you started in 2007?” Answer: “Fewer quality blogs, more snarkiness and bitterness among those who did not become rich and famous because they thought they should, and less professionalism. … Wine writing is the best job in the world, and I don’t understand why so many of us, both online and in print, have such chips on our shoulders.”

Big Wine and crowdsourcing

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Big wine crowdsourcingColumbia Crest is owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, part of a one-half billion dollar company. La Crema is part of Jackson Family Wines, also a one-half billion dollar company. So why is each using a form of crowdsourcing, letting its customers make key winemaking decisions for one of its wines?

Because it’s not enough to make piles of money in the wine business anymore. You also have to be seen as local and accessible, and these multi-nationals (the eighth- and ninth-biggest producers in the U.S.) see crowdsourcing as the way to make them cuddly and artisan-like. Ask your customers for their advice about making wine, and how can they — and the rest of the wine world — not love you?

The Wine Curmudgeon can’t decide if this is incredible marketing or one of the most cynical things I’ve ever seen in the wine business, where cynical things are a dime a dozen. On the one hand, it’s a clever use for social media, which big companies have a hard time doing well. There aren’t too many opportunities for cute pet pictures on a multi-national Facebook page. And the crowdsourcing is certainly no scam — the companies have been honest and upfront about what’s going on.

On the other hand, it could be malarkey to make P.T. Barnum proud. Columbia Crest is making 1,000 cases of high-end cabernet sauvignon from its effort, not much when you consider its annual production is almost 2 million cases and it normally does 5,000 of this particular wine. La Crema churns out almost 1 million cases a year; it hasn’t announced how much the project will produce. First its crowd has to decide between chardonnay and pinot noir.

Plus, given the odds that each crowd could decide to make really crappy wine even with the best of intentions, how much input will it really have? Yes, each company says its winemaker will do exactly as instructed, but given how little most of us know about winemaking and how complicated it is, what are the chances of that happening? Because Columbia Crest and La Crema could turn into the wine industry’s version of New Coke if the wine turns out to be undrinkable, and one doesn’t get to be one of the 10 biggest producers in the U.S. by doing a New Coke.

There is one thing I am thankful for, crowdsoucing veteran that I am. At least the companies didn’t ask for cash to help pay for production, which is the most typical use for crowdsourcing — Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and the like. That would have been too much to deal with, even for the Wine Curmudgeon.

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