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Winebits 382: Liquor reform edition

• Ontario does its duty: The Canadian province has made major changes in the way it sells beer, wine, and spirits, something that seemed hard to believe in a province with the Read More »

winetrends

Restaurant wine prices: A better way

What better way to follow up this month’s very popular post about escalating restaurant wine prices than with a story about restaurants that charge reasonable prices and sell more wine — and Read More »

winetrends

The Wine Curmudgeon’s first wine prices survey

One of the difficulties with writing a wine blog that focuses on price, and that most of my colleagues don’t have, is that there is no standard for wine prices in the Read More »

winetrends

Premiumization: Are wine drinkers really trading up?

That’s the top trend in wine this year, that we’re feeling better about the economy and trading up: Buying more expensive wine than the wine we bought during the recession, moving from Read More »

wineofweek

Wine of the week: Château Martinon 2011

Dear Bordeaux wine wise guys: You’ve been moaning and wailing that Americans have abandoned your wines, and you claim to be baffled why. Fortunately, the Wine Curmudgeon is here to explain. Your Read More »

Premiumization: Are wine drinkers really trading up?

winetrends

premiumizationThat’s the top trend in wine this year, that we’re feeling better about the economy and trading up: Buying more expensive wine than the wine we bought during the recession, moving from $4 bottles to $8, from $8 to $12, from $10 to $15, and from $15 to $20.  The wine business calls this trend premiumization, and the salivating at the prospect has reached epic proportions.

That’s because the wine business doesn’t necessarily want to sell cheap wine — it’s not as profitable and it doesn’t carry the prestige that selling more expensive wine does (a much more important reason than consumers can possibly imagine). Plus, selling cheap wine requires more work. You can move a tanker truck of $25 wine in 20 minutes if it gets a 95, but cheap wines don’t get 95s, the competition for shelf space is ferocious, and most cheap wine is sold by the biggest retailers, who demand the best deals and which makes cheap wine even less profitable.

Hence premiumization, which some of the smartest people in wine say is here and isn’t going away. I’m not so sure, and I don’t say this just because my livelihood is cheap wine. As I continually remind people, there has never been a definitive study made public that demonstrates that wine drinkers trade up. Everyone just assumes it’s so. But does anyone know a wine drinker who went from Barefoot to Bogle to Hess or Rodney Strong to Silver Oak?

More, after the jump:

Wine of the week: Château Martinon 2011

wineofweek

Château MartinonDear Bordeaux wine wise guys:

You’ve been moaning and wailing that Americans have abandoned your wines, and you claim to be baffled why. Fortunately, the Wine Curmudgeon is here to explain. Your wines are too often overpriced and of middling quality, and if you want to fix the problem, talk to Chateau Martinon’s Jerome Trolliet. You might learn a thing or two.

That’s because the Chateau Martinon ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is classic white Bordeaux, the kind of wine you made when you were the envy of the wine world, but gave up in favor of chasing trends, raising prices, and courting the Chinese. In this, it tastes like white Bordeaux, and not sauvignon blanc from New Zealand or Chile.

That means more minerality than citrus, but enough lemon-lime citrus to be pleasant, plus a richness many other white Bordeauxs don’t bother with anymore. Credit that to using more semillion than sauvignon blanc in the blend, a not common practice. And that this was a prior vintage just made the Chateau Martinon more interesting. Who knew an $11 wine from the very ordinary Entre-Deux-Mers region would age this well?

Highly recommended, and you should be proud that someone in Bordeaux remembers how to do things the right way.

Your pal,
The Wine Curmudgeon

 

Winebits 381: Direct shipping, consolidation, Prosecco

winenews

direct shippingLots of kinks to work out: Direct shipping, despite its successes over the past decade, is still a tiny part of the wine business, just single percentage points of the $17 billion in sales. One reason for that, of course, is three-tier, which makes it difficult for wineries to ship to consumers in different states. And three-tier has more to it than even those of us who think we know it can imagine; witness the lawyer suing Illinois wineries for not charging sales tax on shipping fees. This is perfectly legal in Illinois, where the law allows private attorneys to recover unpaid taxes on behalf of the state. Much of the coverage has been critical of the attorney, but that misses the point. Illinois law is vague on whether sales tax should be charged on shipping fees, so how how can direct shipping ever become more than a niche business if laws crucial to its success are as vague as the Illinois law? Because, given three-tier, this is certainly not the only vague, poorly written, or unclear law dealing with the subject.

Retailer buyout: Majestic Wine, one of the biggest retailers in the United Kingdom, has bought another British retailer, Naked Wine. This is bigger news than it seems, since Naked Wine has a trendy U.S. division that sells what can best be described as craft wine on-line at discounted prices to its members. It means that Majestic, facing tremendous competition from grocery stores, is trying to find wine that consumers can’t buy at grocery stores. Given the increasing importance of supermarket wine sales in the U.S., this may be a sign of things to come in this country (within the confines of three-tier) as retailers look for exclusive products to fend off grocery stores. It’s also another indication that retailers want to get bigger to fend of the Costcos, Walmarts, and Aldis of the world.

Nuts to Champagne: Prosecco has passed Champagne in sales at British grocery stores in news that is so shocking — given the British love affair with Champagne — that it should worry not only the Champagne business, but retailers around the world. If the British are buying Prosecco, the Italian bubbly that is at least half the price of Champagne, what does that means for retailers elsewhere? Has Champagne priced itself out of some markets? Do consumers prefer the softer, sweeter taste of Prosecco? Or are grocery stores playing a role in what’s going on? Even the story, from a British trade magazine, had a panicked tone.

 

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