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wineofweek

Wine of the week: Guy Saget Pinot Noir La Petite Perriere 2012

Regular visitors here know how difficult it is to find affordable pinot noir that tastes like pinot noir, even if you’re willing to spend as much as $20. The weak dollar is Read More »

winenews

Winebits 344: Wine crime and wine shipping

And no, they aren’t related, thought they may often seem to be when you total the shipping charges. • If you can’t do the time…: Wine crime always makes the Wine Curmudgeon Read More »

winereview

Expensive wine 65: Alain Hudelot-Noellat Chambolle-Musigny 2003

The Wine Curmudgeon long ago accepted the fact he would never get to taste most of the world’s great wines. Even if I could afford them, what with prices like $500 for Read More »

winereview

Mini-reviews 63: Da Vinci, Fetzer, Villa Maria, Santa Cristina

Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. • Da Vinci Chianti Read More »

wineadvice

Are you a wine snob?

The cyber-ether has been abuzz with accusations of wine snobbery, and even Blake Gray — who recently shared a bottle of $10 South African chenin blanc with me — has been accused Read More »

Winebits 343: Dave McIntyre, wine scores, and wine in the movies

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Dave McIntyre

That’s Dave in the middle, and he should be smiling.

More than well deserved: Who knew the Wine Curmudgeon would know someone who had won the same award as a Mondavi? Or the legendary Konstantin Frank, without whom U.S. regional wine would not have been possible? But that’s my pal Dave McIntyre, who was given the Monteith Trophy over the weekend for his work as a wine writer. Dave has done much for the cause of wine, including co-founding Drink Local Wine with me when people thought we were crazy. So it’s more than time that the wine world recognized the effort Dave has made, not only for regional wine, but for wine drinkers everywhere. Dave will be in Dallas in a couple of weeks, and I have laid in some Texas wine that we will celebrate with. Congratulations, my friend. But couldn’t you have worn a tie for a big deal like this?

End the tyranny: Or so says Michael Woodsmall at the Grape Collective, calling for an end to the 100-point scoring system. “It should be duly noted that these scales don’t take actual wine’s nuanced characteristics into account; they merely assigned values to general traits. … Also, it is no longer the seventies and eighties.”  This sentiment is something the Wine Curmudgeon has long advocated, and Woodsmall makes an intelligent argument for the end of scores, even throwing in a little political theory to explain why the debate generates such controversy. This is a revolution, and the scoreists will defend the ancien regime until the bitter end.

Hollywood and wine: The Wine Curmudgeon, in discussing U.S. wine culture in the cheap wine book, talked about Hollywood’s complete indifference to wine for most of the 20th century, and how this indifference reflected American views of wine. So I was more than pleased to see an academic study of the subject, supporting my views. Raphael Schirmer of the University of Bordeaux, writing for the American Association of Wine Economists, has found that as wine has become more popular in the U.S., so has wine become more popular in film. This is not just about Francis Ford Coppola owning a major wine company or movies like “Sideways;” rather, it’s the idea that we drink wine as part of our everyday lives, and the movies that are made reflect this.

James Garner on wine writing

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james garnerJames Garner, who died over the weekend, was perhaps the best TV actor of his generation. He brought intelligence, charm, and wit to a medium that makes those qualities difficult to convey. In the 1950s, “Maverick” did for the western what Monty Python did for humor, redefining how to look at the genre. In the 1970s, “The Rockford Files” took the private detective, a tired and worn out format, and gave it new life.

So what does that have to do with wine and writing? Consider this, from Garner’s autobiography:

 “I’m a Methodist but not as an actor. I’m from the Spencer Tracy school: be on time, know your words, hit your marks, and tell the truth. I don’t have any theories abut acting, and I don’t think about how to do it, except that an actor shouldn’t take himself too seriously, and shouldn’t try to make acting something that it isn’t. Acting is just common sense. It isn’t hard if you put yourself aside and just do what the writer wrote.”

Substitute wine writing for acting, and the point is clear: We’re not better or more talented than other wine drinkers. We’re just more professional about it. And the minute we take ourselves too seriously, we lose sight of what we’re supposed to be doing. And wine writing is not supposed to be difficult, though so many of us try so hard to make it difficult.

A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to my pal John Bratcher, a reformed actor, for pointing out the relationship between Garner’s words and wine writing.

Another study agrees: We buy wine on price

winetrends

wine genome studyThe biggest surprise in the Wine Genome study from Constellation Brands, one of the biggest wine companies in the world? That one-fifth of us buy wine on price.

“We knew they were out there, but the widening span of the study showed how deeply the recession cut,” said Dale Stratton, the Constellation official who oversaw this version, the third, of the company’s Project Genome, designed to identify the most common types of of wine drinkers based on purchase behavior, motivation, and preferences. “The recession had a big impact and significantly changed consumer spending habits.”

Stratton laughed when I asked him about this. No, he said, it’s not that Constellation (whose brands include Rex Goliath, Mark West, and Robert Mondavi) didn’t expect price to be important. Rather, it’s that price-driven wine drinkers were the biggest category of the six, doubling the number of  Enthusiasts — those who “love everything about the wine experience,” including researching purchases, reading reviews, and sharing wine with others. In other words, the Winestream Media’s audience. The other thing to note here? The Enthusiasts account for 15 percent of profit, compared to 14 percent for the Price-Driven group. Harrumph.

The study, which updated a 2004 effort, is full of surprises — unless, of course, you visit here regularly (and you can see a nifty infographic describing each group here):

• The third-biggest group, at 19 percent, are Overwhelmed, which means pretty much what it says: “I don’t enjoy shopping for wine, and find it complex and overwhelming. This, says Stratton, reinforces the need for wine education, not only for consumers but for those who sell wine — distributors, retailers, and restaurateurs. Hearing this was surprising enough, but I almost dropped the phone when Stratton said that winespeak is one of the reasons the overwhelmed are overwhelmed. Maybe, he said, retailers and wine writers should find simpler terms to use.

• Women, who have traditionally skewed higher for wine purchases at the lower end, are becoming more important at the higher end. The Enthusiasts, who were about 65 percent male in 2004, were close to 50-50 this time. “This means more women see wine as a hobby,” says Stratton, and that means more women attend tastings and shop at wine-specific retailers.

• Wine snobs, called Image Seekers, are still with us, and in a big way. They account for 18 percent of wine drinkers, but contribute 26 percent of profits, more than any other group. Given the wine they drink, that’s probably not surprising.

• Welcome the Millennials to wine, in the form of the Engaged Newcomer at 12 percent. This group is young, wants to learn more, and recognizes that wine is intimidating. They also spend more on a bottle than the other groups, about $13.

One other point worth noting: This kind of study is common for consumer packaged goods like laundry detergent and ketchup. That Constellation can do for wine what Proctor & Gamble does for its products speaks volumes about how much the wine business has changed, and that it is becoming more mainstream.

“Wine is increasing household penetration at a good clip, and the audience has broadened,” said Stratton. “And it’s going to continue to change, as the American population changes.”

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