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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

winenews

Winebits 381: Direct shipping, consolidation, Prosecco

• Lots 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 Read More »

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.

 

The Wine Curmudgeon’s Lunch for Literary

literacy

literacy educationIn which I’m offering my services to raise money to benefit literacy education — because, if Robert Parker can do it, why can’t I?

Parker, the man who popularized the 100-point scoring system and was the most powerful person in wine for decades, is donating his knowledge, his time, and exclusive wines from his cellar to raise money for heart disease research. All it takes is $25,000 — which is well and good, but more than almost everyone in the world can afford.

Which is where I come in. I’ll donate my knowledge, my time, and $10 wines from my cellar.

All I need is a literacy group to take me up on this offer, and I’m willing to work with one in any part of the country. Literacy has long been one of my causes, not only because I write for a living, but because we can’t have a functioning democracy unless we can read and write. So pass this post along to a literacy group near you, and we will make this work.

We can do it the same way Parker is doing his, but charge less money to make it more accessible to the vast majority of wine drinkers. The idea would be to raise awareness as much as money, and what better way to do that than to teach people about the joy of cheap wine at a wine lunch (especially given my fondness for wine lunches)?

Frankly, raising money for literacy by introducing wine drinkers to Gascon whites, Sicilian reds, chenin blanc, cava, and all the other wines they’re not supposed to drink would be more fun than any curmudgeon is supposed to have.

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