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Why grocery stores love wine

Because they sell so much of it — and a lot more than most of us realize. Hence the reason for the Great Wall of Wine. Wine was the seventh biggest category Read More »

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Wine of the week: Robert Hall Rose de Robles 2013

One of the best winemakers too many people have not heard of is Robert Hall’s Don Brady. The Wine Curmudgeon has waxed poetic about his work many times, that Brady is able Read More »

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Winebits 347: Ordering wine, Big Wine, Treasury wine

• What does it say that this is even necessary? The Daily Meal website offers advice on “How not to sound stupid when ordering wine,” the need for which makes the Wine Read More »

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Great quotes in wine history: Sheldon Cooper

Sheldon’s reaction after he finds out that people call him crazy because he thinks the Winestream Media doesn’t know bazinga about wine. A tip o’ the Wine Curmudgeon’s fedora to the Dedoimedo Read More »

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Update: Third-party wine clubs and their experts

Global Wine Company, the subject of a post in May that discussed third-party wine clubs and the “experts” who pick their wines, has decided that transparency is the better part of valor. Read More »

When cheap wine tastes cheap

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cheap wine tastes cheapThe quality of cheap wine is better than ever, but that doesn’t mean that all cheap wine is worth drinking. Or, as the erudite Lew Perdue has noted: “Crappy wine holds back the wine market far more than any other factor.”

So how can you tell when cheap wine tastes cheap?

• Quality is not about style. Sweet wines should taste sweet; that’s their style, and whether they’re poorly made has nothing to do with whether they’re sweet. Dry wines that taste sweet are poorly made, no matter how many cases they sell. The Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t like alcoholic, over-the-top zinfandels, but that’s a style preference, not a reflection of quality.

• Bitterness, off-flavors, and green or unripe fruit, in both red and white wine. This is not nearly as common as it used to be, and is rarely seen in California anymore. But it still happens with imported wine.

• Missing tannins in red wine. The winemaker uses technology to remove tannins to make the wine “smooth,” because a focus group said smooth was a desirable quality without actually defining it. In this, tannins and tannic acid are perhaps the most misunderstood part of cheap wine. Quality red wine, at any price, needs tannic acid for structure and balance, and when the tannins are right you may not even notice them. But it’s usually too expensive or too much trouble to deal with tannins properly in $10 wine, which is why so much of it is astringent. So the winemaker takes the tannins out, and you get a flabby, boring wine.

• Fake oak. Again, this is not a style preference, but a winemaking decision, sometimes used to cover up poor quality grapes. If your chardonnay smells like Adams Best vanilla, then the oak is there because something else isn’t. Also, be wary of red wines that promise chocolate cherry flavors, also an oak trick. If producers could make $10 wine with those flavors, why would anyone need to buy $100 wine?

• Sweetness for sweetness’ sake. The best sweet wines have something to balance the sweetness, in the way that iced tea with lemon and sugar is balanced. They’re not supposed to taste like Coke. What made this $7 Sara Bee moscato so enjoyable was not that it was sweet, but that it had a little orange fruit and some bubbles to complement the sweetness. Sweet wine that is just sweet is as about as cynical as winemaking gets.

Image courtesy of Cheap Wine Records, using a Creative Commons license

Treasury Wine Estate’s plan to avoid a hostile takeover

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Treasury hostile takeoverThe Wine Curmudgeon mentions Treasury’s scheme for two reasons. First, and most importantly, it doesn’t seem very sustainable. The troubled Australian multi-national wine company, whose holdings include California’s Beringer, has been losing more millions than most of us have socks.

Yet, despite its problems, Treasury wants to boost business to fend off a hostile takeover from private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, which tried to buy Treasury earlier this year and made another offer this week. The second offer was a little higher, but probably won’t scare anyone.

Treasury’s anti-takeover plan features selling heavily discounted wine refrigerators to customers in Australia. The Brisbane Times newspaper reports that the company’s new boss “labelled the wine cabinet promotion the biggest consumer-facing promotion ever undertaken by the company.” Which should tell us all we need to know about Treasury’s lack of marketing ability.

How does it work? Buy six bottles of a Penfolds Bin wine, which cost from AU$30 to AU$80 a bottle, and you can buy a AU$650 wine fridge for AU$200. In other words, buy six bottles of AU$30 Penfolds Bin 51 Eden Valley riesling and the refrigerator and pay AU$380 — just 58 percent of what the refrigerator would cost by itself. Given retail discounting, in fact, you could probably get the fridge for at least 50 percent off. Is it any wonder that Treasury wrote down AU$260 million earlier this year and fired its CEO?

The second reason I mention this? The Wine Curmudgeon, financial genius that he is, bought 100 shares of Treasury stock in hopes KKR (as we high-flying investment types call Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) would make another, much higher offer for Treasury. My retirement to Burgundy never seemed so close.

I paid about what KKR offered the first time, so news that Treasury seems to be throwing away money on the refrigerator promotion is not welcome. The company is reducing inventory and margins to increase cash flow, which will not boost its value or make me rich. KKR’s second, not much higher, offer confirmed this.

In the wine business, the old joke always seems to apply. Or, as one actual real-life financial type told me: “With a little luck, you might get a nice bottle of wine out of this.”

The problem with restaurant wine service

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restaurant wine serviceThe Wine Curmudgeon can rant and rave all he wants, but restaurant wine service remains one of the biggest problems facing wine drinkers. It’s just not the overpriced wine, but the rude staff and the lack of training. Which is why it’s time to get help from those well-known arbiters of wine etiquette, The Muppets.  Because if a waiter acts like this to Kermit and Miss Piggy, it’s no surprise that too many restaurant wine types are treating the rest of us the way they do.

The video is courtesy of sarahleeab via YouTube. And yes, this is from the first Muppet movie in 1979, which demonstrates that the advance of wine culture in the U.S. has not changed enough. Though regional wine has come a long way since then — right, Idaho?

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