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Category Archives: Wine rants

Five things that make me crazy when I buy wine

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Which price am I going to pay for this wine? And why are there so many prices anyway? It makes me crazy.

Negotiating the Great Wall of Wine at the grocery store (or any retailer, for that matter) is difficult enough. But why is it that so many in the wine business go out of their way to make it even more difficult? Hence, the five things that make me crazy when I buy wine:

1. Wine shelved incorrectly, where Chilean wine is in the Spanish section, French wine is in the Italian section, and so forth. Some of my irritation is because I’m the son and grandson of retailers, and they taught me the need to stock inventory correctly. But most of it is because that kind of mistake makes it more difficult for people to buy the wine they want. If you’re looking for malbec, and it’s not in the Argentine section, you’re more likely to forgo wine or buy beer.

2. Sweet red wines that don’t say they’re sweet on the label. If I have trouble figuring out whether it’s sweet or dry, and I do, how much trouble does the average consumer have? Using the adjective smooth, which seems to be the winespeak of the moment for sweet, isn’t enough. You’re making sweet red wine because people want sweet red wine, so what’s wrong with telling them it’s sweet?

3. The boxed wine ghetto, where all the boxed wine — regardless of quality — is stuck on a dusty shelf in the back of the store or wine section. One reason that Yellow + Blue, a great cheap wine, isn’t better known is that it comes in a 1-liter box. That means you’ll find it with the Almaden and Franzia 5-liter boxes, and about the only thing the Yellow + Blue has in common with those is the box. It’s like putting Italian-made shoes next to flip-flops, and who does that?

4. Three — or four or even five — prices for the same bottle of wine. There’s the regular retail price. And the club price. And the sale price. And the “buy six, get a discount” price. And the “buy 12 and get a discount” price. The consumer isn’t sure what the price is, and ends up paying more than they thought they would. Which, sadly, may be the point.

5. That every winery in New Zealand seems to have a bay in its name — Oyster Bay, Monkey Bay, Destiny Bay, Cable Bay, Brick Bay, Pegasus Bay, Clifford Bay, Picton Bay, and so on and so forth. It’s one thing when the winery, like the respected and well-known Cloudy Bay, is actually located on a bay. But when the winery doesn’t exist, and the name is made up to sell private label wine or by Big Wine to establish a New Zealand brand, enough is enough.

Slider image courtesy of Houston Press food blog, using a Creative Commons license

Winebits 341: The Neo-Prohibitionists’ new study

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Neo-Prohibitionist studyA roundup of the recent news from the Centers for Disease Control that excessive drinking is killing 1 in 10 working-age Americans, another scientific study in the Neo-Prohibitionist effort to stop us from drinking by scaring us to death. And where no one bothered to check this out:

NPR’s sobering picture: The bad pun is there because, believe it or not, someone working for a major U.S. news outlet used the pun in the story. The report, written by Nancy Shute, says 1 in 6 of us binge drink, but doesn’t question one of the study’s definitions of excessive drinking: eight drinks a week for women and 15 for men. Which implies that most core wine drinkers in the U.S. are binging, including the Wine Curmudgeon. So why is two glasses of wine with dinner excessive? I expect more from NPR, which usually does better reporting than its competitors and doesn’t accept on faith whatever the government says.

Got to have charts:The Washington Post’s Lenny Bernstein seemed quite surprised at the statistics in the study, including what he called “the eye-opening charts included in the report.” Maybe. But there were almost 15,000 homicides in the U.S. in 2012, according to the FBI, while the CDC attributed about half of those to excessive drinking. That difference is what’s eye-opening to me: That about the same number of us killed someone and weren’t drunk when we did it. Does this mean we need to regulate sobriety?

Get rid of booze, get rid of the problem: The solution to all of this? “.. [I]ncreasing alcohol taxes, regulating alcohol outlet density, and avoiding further privatization of alcohol retail sales.” Which, of course, is exactly the aim of the NeoDrys — regulate drinking by making it more expensive, reducing the number of places where we can buy it, and keeping government involved in selling it, as in Pennsylvania. This is instead of outlawing drinking, which didn’t work the last time. That education, and not regulation is the answer seems to be beyond their understanding. Perhaps someone can explain why Pennsylvania, with some of the most restrictive liquor laws in the country, had the same death rate as Illinois, where you can buy scotch at the drug store, or Louisiana, where drinking is a tourist industry?

Is Texas wine at a crossroads?

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Texas wineTexas wine may be approaching a crossroads, something that was evident during the 31st annual Lone Star International wine competition this week. That’s because some of the best wines at the competition weren’t Texas, but included California wines sold by Texas producers. Which is not supposed to be the point of what we’re doing here.

Years ago, when a lot of Texas wine left much to be desired, what happened this week wasn’t unusual. Or, as I told the competition organizer when I first judged Lone Star in 2005, “Give us better wines, and we’ll give you gold medals.”

Given the revolution in Texas wine quality and production over the past decade, I had hoped those days were gone. But the uneven quality of many of the wines I judged, this year and last, has me wondering. Has Texas wine reached a plateau, where quality isn’t going to get any better given the state’s resources and climate? Or is something else going on?

After the jump, my take on what’s happening:

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