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Winebits 351: Wine glasses, wine laws, and economic growth

• Do wine glasses matter? The answer is no, says the Vinepair website in a post that includes the sentence, “Any industry that marries the existence of experts, the spending of cash, Read More »

winereview

Cupcake wine review 2014

• Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($9, purchased, 13.5%) • Cupcake Pinot Grigio 2013 ($9, purchased, 12.5%) Whenever the Wine Curmudgeon reviews Cupcake wines, I always end up writing as much about the Read More »

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How to manipulate on-line reviews with a clear conscience — get a federal court ruling

Always wondered how legitimate the scores and reviews were on sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and the Wine Spectator? Now, thanks to a federal appeals court ruling, you don’t have to wonder: Read More »

winetrends

Terroir as a brand, and not as something that makes wine taste good

Does terroir — the idea that the place where a wine is from makes it taste a certain way and helps determine its quality — exist? This question has generated reams of Read More »

wineofweek

Wine of the week: J Winery Pinot Gris 2013

The Wine Curmudgeon has almost run out of nice things to say about the J Winery pinot gris. You can look here. Or here. Or even here. But given that the 2013 vintage Read More »

Winebits 350: Three-tier, wine prices, wine marketing

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three-tier systemNo love for three-tier: The Wine Curmudgeon has much respect for the Wine Folly website, which does great work educating wine drinkers. Its recent post on the dreaded three-tier system was no exception, detailing what it was and how it worked with quality graphics and clear writing. I don’t know that it gave enough credit to Prohibition in three-tier’s formation, but it did discuss its beginnings in the late 19th century, which I didn’t know. And it did impressive work tying the cost of wine to the inefficiencies of the system. My only complaint: That it forecast the coming demise of three-tier, based on direct shipping, the Internet, and flash sites. It’s not that I don’t want three-tier to go away, but it overlooks three things — three-tier’s constitutional protections, which the Wine Curmudgeon has lamented many times, the system’s immense clout through campaign cash, and that direct to consumer sales account for less than five percent of wine sales in the U.S. That’s hardly eroding the system.

“A giant sinkhole”: W. Blake Gray writes about the media’s immense joy in forecasting rising wine prices, which seems to happen every six months or so whether it’s true or not. The most recent example came after the Napa earthquake, even though the region produces just a tiny fraction of the world’s wine. Gray writes: “People just don’t have a sense of how enormous and international the wine business is — that if Napa Valley or Mendoza, Argentina or Barossa Valley, Australia fell into a giant sinkhole tomorrow, we would all be the poorer for it, but overall world wine prices would still not be much affected.” He also notes that many media types figure only rich people drink wine, and so deserve higher prices. I’m not so sure about the second; many of the media types who still get paychecks in this post-print world aren’t exactly paupers. My hunch is that it’s mostly crummy reporting. When a Washington Post writer proclaims that wine prices are skyrocketing when they’re not, and the Post is supposed to be one of the world’s best newspapers, it’s no surprise that everyone else misses the point, too.

It’s not about the marketing: Producers in the French wine region of Bordeaux are running around in a panic because sales are down, and this report discusses how it will try to solve the problem through better marketing – some €3m worth (about US$3.8). The Wine Curmudgeon, out of his great respect and admiration for Bordeaux wine, has a cheaper and simpler solution: Stop overcharging for your wine. It’s one thing to sell the best wines for hundreds and thousands of dollars a bottle, but when the everyday stuff costs $15 or $20 — and isn’t any better than $10 wine from California, Spain, or Italy — you’re not going to sell it, no matter how much you spend on marketing. One retailer, when I asked him why this was happening, attributed it to Bordelais greed. “If they can get it from the Chinese, they figure they can get it from the rest of us,” he said. Obviously, that isn’t the case any more.

Can cheap wine do this?

winerant

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.

Kerrville 2014: They really like Texas wine

winetrends

texas wineRosanne Palacios rose to her feet, took a breath, and then slowly and carefully, in front of the hundred or so people in the audience, said: “I”m a recovering Texas wine snob.”

The crowd cheered and there was even a ripple of applause. “Five years ago,” said Palacios, a hospital development director in Laredo, “I thought all Texas was wine terrible. Then I came here, and I’ve been drinking Texas wine since.”

Here was the Texas wine tasting at the annual Kerrviile fall music festival, where I’ve been preaching the gospel of Texas wine for almost a decade. So you can imagine how I felt when Palacios stood up. Giddy, practically. But that wasn’t the only reason to be excited about Texas wine based on what I saw during my three days in the Hill Country:

• There was the 20-something man at the Walmart automotive center getting a flat on his pickup truck fixed. “I don’t drink much wine,” he said, talking about the Texas wineries he and his wife had visited over the weekend, “but this has been a lot of fun.”

• The chef who stood up during the Kerrville panel and said, “Thanks to the Texas industry for getting this right. I was here 20 years ago, and I really wondered if they’d ever be able to do it.”

• The middle-aged Jack Daniels drinker who made a return trip to one winery tasting room because he couldn’t believe how much he enjoyed the wine. He even bought a couple of more bottles.

This does not mean there still aren’t problems, which I saw at this year’s Lone Star judging and that cropped up a couple times over the weekend. We still have a long way to go with wine education, for one thing, though that’s not necessarily a Texas problem. What’s important is that the first step in making Texas wine work has been taken. Consumers are willing to try it. Now the onus is on the wineries to produce quality wine at an affordable price that is uniquely Texas, and not a California or French knockoff.

Because consumers like Palacios are ready, willing, and able. “I’ve got a lot of wine drinking friends who won’t drink Texas wine,” she told me when I chatted with her after the panel. “So I’m going to do a blind tasting with these wines when we do our next tasting.”

What more can any wine business ask for?

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