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Winecast 22: Jerry Lockspeiser, wine guru

Jerry Lockspeiser has done many things during his wine career in the United Kingdom — producer, negociant, consultant, salesman, and writer. Through much of it, his focus on been on cheap wine Read More »

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Carmen Castorina: When a legend retires

The first rule of sportswriting used to be “Don’t god up the ballplayers.” Which meant that athletes were not necessarily better or worse people because they were ballplayers; they were just different, Read More »

wineofweek

Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Rouge 2010

Chateau Bonnet Rouge ($10, purchased, 14%) is the quintessential cheap red wine: • It tastes of where it’s from, in this case the Bordeaux region of France. That means enough fruit to Read More »

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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 »

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

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terroir as a brandDoes 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 cyber-ink over the past five or six years, pitting those of us who think terroir matters against those who think we’re bunch of old farts and that technology has made terroir obsolete (if it ever mattered at all).

Now, the second group has an unlikely ally, a French academic who claims terroir is a myth, and that what the wine tastes like doesn’t matter to its success in the marketplace. Rather, says Valéry Michaux, director of research at NEOMA Business School in Rouen, the “best” wines have more to do with their brand and how well producers in the same area work together to market that brand.

In one respect, this is not new. Paul Lukacs, one of the smartest people I know, has argued that terroir is a French marketing ploy dating to the 1920s. What’s different about Michaux’s approach is that it claims that a wine’s brand is more important than terroir, which is about as 21st century, post-modern, and American business an approach as possible. Especially for the French.

Michaux’s theory says that the soil and climate in Bordeaux doesn’t make Bordeaux wine great; rather, it’s the producers in Bordeaux agreeing on what the wine should taste like and presenting a common front to the world. She cites the cluster effect, seen in both sociology and economics, where disparate parts of a whole come together for a common purpose. “The presence of a strategic alliance between professionals contributes significantly to the development of a single territorial umbrella brand and thus its influence,” she writes. “A strong local self-governance is also essential for a territorial brand to exist.”

It’s like saying no one reads what I write here because it’s well-written, offers quality content, or is even especially true. Instead, they like the idea of the Wine Curmudgeon, be it my hat, my attitude, or my writing style, and I should promote the latter to be successful

Michaux’s analysis is both correct and completely off the mark, because she misses the point of terroir. Of course, terroir can be a brand. Look at what Big Wine has done with $10 pinot noir, which doesn’t often taste like pinot noir but is successfully marketed as such, or the idea of grocery store California merlot, made to be smooth and fruity and not particularly merlot-like. But the difference between cheap wine and cheap wine I recommend, the quality that makes the best cheap wine interesting, is often terroir, the traditional idea of the sense of place where the wine is from.

But to argue that Bordeaux or Burgundy or Napa makes great wine because the producers agreed to make a certain style of wine and to market it with a common approach is silly. For one thing, my dogs know more about marketing than most wineries do. But what matters more is quality, because the best wines from Bordeaux are incredible in a way that has nothing to do with a strategic alliance but with where the grapes are grown, how the grapes are turned into wine, and the region’s history and tradition. Why does cabernet sauvignon from Napa not taste like cabernet from Bordeaux? Terroir is a much better explanation than a cluster effect.

Win two tickets to Grapefest

winenews

free grapefest ticketsAnd the winner is: The winning number is 713 (screenshot to the right). The winner is Nancy Hope, who picked 708. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Want to see the Wine Curmudgeon at Grapefest later this week? Want to attend the always popular People/s Choice wine tasting and judging? Don’t want to buy two tickets to the festival to do it?

Then pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post, and only this post. Sending me an email doesn’t count; if you get the blog via email, you have to come to the site to enter.

At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the tickets, plus a copy of the cheap wine book. You can pick the tickets up at will-call at Grapefest. These are general admission tickets to the festival, and not to specific events that require a separate admission (like People’s Choice).

Complete contest rules are here.

Wine of the week: J Winery Pinot Gris 2013

wineofweek

 J Winery Pinot Gris 2013The 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 may be J’s best yet ($15, sample, 13.8%), I’ll try to find a couple more:

• Round, soft white fruit — peach, perhaps — but not flabby or overdone so that the fruit is the only thing you taste. 

• Fresh and crisp without any bitterness in the back, something else that is not common in this style of wine.

• Honest winemaking, in which the goal was to make a quality wine and not to hit a price point or please a focus group. Those are things that also happen too often with this style of wine.

This California white wine is highly recommended, as always, whether to finish out the summer on the porch or with grilled chicken or even fried catfish.

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