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Category Archives: Wine trends

Holiday wine trends 2014

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Holiday wine trends 2014The Wine Curmudgeon’s 2014 holiday wine gift guide

Those of us who are supposed to know these things have been insisting that wine drinkers are throwing off their Winestream Media-inspired shackles, and drinking what they want — rose, even. In this, they’re being more adventurous than ever. We now have anecdotal evidence, as the 2014 holiday wine season is underway, that this is true.

Wine drinkers are buying tannat.

“If someone had told me I’d be selling tannat, I’d have told them they were crazy,” says Tina Messina of the Wine ConneXtion in suburban Boston, who can’t keep the Uruguayan red wine on the shelf after a tasting last month. “We were shocked. So, yes, wine drinkers are willing to be more adventurous. Someone needs to explain what the wine is about, and then they’re willing to try something they normally wouldn’t buy.”

This doesn’t mean, said the retailers interviewed for this post, that they won’t sell a lot of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and pinot noir this holiday season. After all, this is still the United States. But as Mike Osborn, the founder and vice president of merchandising for on-line retailer Wine.com, told me: “It’s all about selection, so they can try something they may not have hard of before. They want to be able to show a new bottle to a friend and ask, ‘Did you know about this?’ “

What else will we see during the 2014 holiday wine season?

• More expensive wine, at least for “those who have the resources to buy it,” says Messina. She says consumers who feel more confident about the economy are spending more on a bottle than over the past decade. She has seen more purchases in the $15 to $25 range this season; earlier in the year, $15 was the cutoff on the high end.

• Varietals and regions from all over the world, and not just California or France. Because, as near as anyone can tell, the trend is that no one thing is especially trendy this year. Which fits into the adventurous theme. 

• But adventure only goes so for, says Wally Plahutnik of John’s Grocery in Iowa City. “People will be adventurous for themselves, but they want a safe bet for gifts,” he says. “And that means name recognition, the cachet that the big names bring.” In other words, this could be the most profitable holiday season in 10 years for the best-known Napa Valley producers.

• Accessories, but as gifts from non-wine drinkers to their wine drinking friends. That’s because they’re scared to buy their wine-drinking friends a bottle that the friends may not like, says Plahutnik. In fact, no one I talked to said they thought accessory sales would be any bigger this season than in any other, despite the push I’m seeing from accessory manufacturers. I’ve been overwhelmed with releases about everything from wine chillers to wine stoppers from manufacturers who see the reviving economy as their best opportunity in a decade.

For more on holiday wine trends:
Holiday wine trends 2013
Holiday wine trends 2012
Holiday wine prices 2011

Cop shows and European wine culture

European wine culture

European wine cultureA country’s pop culture — its books, films, music, and TV — often provides a better insight into its values and beliefs than any number of academic studies. Want to learn about the Red Scare in the U.S. in the 1950s? A couple of Mickey Spillane novels, which sold tens of millions of copies, will probably tell you all you need to know. And any 21st century teenager can talk about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll in the 1960s because their parents and grandparents listened to the Rolling Stones.

Hence the Wine Curmudgeon’s current fascination with European cop shows and what they say about the European idea that wine is part of everyday life. Watch a program from the continent, be it as ordinary as Britain’s “Midsomer Murders” or as intriguing as the Swedish version of “Wallander,” and wine is a fixture at the dinner table. In “Dicte,” a series about a female Danish crime reporter who is almost as tough as Spillane’s Mike Hammer and whose ethics would make Walter Burns of “Front Page” fame blush, the characters drink more wine than I do. And I drink wine for a living.

Compare this to U.S. cop shows, where wine is rarely seen and the best known characters, like “NYPD Blue’s” Andy Sipowicz and “Law & Order’s” Lennie Briscoe, are alcoholics. Even when there is wine, like “The Closer” and Brenda Leigh Johnson’s glass of merlot, there are enough drunks around (a cop on her squad and her husband) to make the point that wine is an exception.

Note, too, that the shows I’ve seen, mostly from Britain and Scandinavia, aren’t French or Italian, where you’d expect to see everyone drinking wine. Who knew the Swedes cared? But Kurt Wallander, the moody police inspector played to existential perfection by Krister Henriksson, treats wine the same way he treats the weather, his bosses, and his failed personal life. There is nothing out of the ordinary about any of them.

In one respect, none of this is surprising. Nine of the top 10 countries in per capita wine consumption are European; the average adult in France still drinks four times as much wine as the average American, despite all the laments about the collapse of Gallic wine culture. Which is why there’s more to wine culture than consumption statistics, or else so many in the U.S., currently the world’s biggest wine consuming country by volume, wouldn’t see wine with dinner as the next step toward an AA meeting. Like the Centers for Disease Control.

Culture is not something that can be manufactured by the Winestream Media rehashing those consumption numbers. Rather, it happens over time and in a way that no one really notices. The U.S. idea of rugged individualism, formed by the country’s frontier past, is still with us even though we haven’t had a frontier in 120 years. Wine needs to been seen as commonplace as the frontier once was, and we need to to accept it the way Wallander does — as ordinary as snow in a Swedish winter.

But that’s difficult to do when the people who oversee wine tell us we need special tools and a special language to drink it — and to accept their judgment about what to drink. That doesn’t happen in Europe, and if someone tried it, Dicte would probably slap them upside the head. And then pour herself a glass of wine.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s most popular posts 2014

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most popular postsThe most popular posts from the past 12 months are almost completely different from what they’ve always been. Stories that been top-ranked every year that they’ve been on the blog, like The six things you probably don’t know about wine and $10 pinot noirs, aren’t any more.

Chalk these changes up to the new website, which debuted last fall; Google’s ever-demanding search algorithms and how they penalize sites like this one (and more on that Thursday); and who knows what else. In some ways, I’m no closer to figuring out the Internet and how people get to the site than I was when I started seven years ago (though the fine fellows at Reap Marketing have done their best to help me, as has Cindy Causey at the Dallas Media Center). 

What I do know is that the blog’s reason for being hasn’t changed. The most popular posts continue to reflect what I’m trying to do here — cheap wine reviews, wine education, and criticism and analysis of how the wine business works. The most popular posts from 2014, plus a few other notes, are after the jump:

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