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Tag Archives: direct shipping

“Our panel of experts:” Irony and non-winery wine clubs

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wine club expertsThird-party wine clubs — those that aren’t part of wineries — have always made the Wine Curmudgeon smile. How about the the website that rates wine clubs, and that also rates the wine clubs that the site operates? Or the wine club that offers “first-class” cabernet sauvignon from Spain, a concept that makes as much sense as coming here to find cult wine recommendations from Napa Valley.

Typically, most third-party wine clubs don’t tell you the wines you’re going to get or how they pick the wines you’re going to get. They trade on the group’s name, but are otherwise separate; hence a  newspaper wine club is a marketing tool that has nothing to do with the newspaper’s wine reporting. Mostly, there’s flowery language — “small-batch wines of real flair and value,” which means absolutely nothing when you try to parse it — and lots of promises about how good the wines are. Plus tasting notes, because all wine needs tasting notes, doesn’t it?

Which makes me wonder: Most of us wouldn’t buy shoes this way, sight unseen and trusting to someone else’s judgement. So why would we buy wine this way?

My newest smile is Global Wine Company, which runs the New York Times and Washington Post wine clubs plus those for retailer Williams-Sonoma, More and Food & Wine magazines, and celebrity chef Michael Mina. Check out the people who run the company — accountants and bankers, and a woman who helped make the PowerBar famous. There is no mention of the “panel of experts” who pick the wines, and about the only wine-related information I could find was this: “GWC handles all global wine sourcing, state compliance, and customer fulfillment, which enable partners to expand their brands into wine and drive recurring revenue.”

Mmmm, drive recurring revenue. How yummy does that sound?

Winebits 311: Direct shipping, wine snobs, wine trends

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Wine by mail: The U.S. Postal Service, which sees wine shipments as a key to its survival, is one step closer to putting wine in your mailbox. Influential U.S. Senator  Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) endorsed the idea recently, saying the proposal would allow the postal service to better compete against UPS and FedEx and add $225 million to its annual revenue. The Wine Curmudgeon has his doubts about whether the postal service can deliver wine effectively, given his past experiences with the agency and its failure to deliver his mail. Hence Schumer’s enthusiasm doesn’t do much for me. Plus, his estimate of $225 million in revenue is almost five times the original postal service estimate. But it looks like the agency will get the authority to deliver wine sometime next year.

More than expensive wine: Charles Antin, a wine expert who has tasted most of the world’s great wines, has a confession: Expensive wine ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. “But just as I think that if you’re not drinking aged wine, you’re missing out, I think that if you’re only drinking collectible wine, you’re also missing out.” Or, as Antin notes elsewhere in the article, he was so busy chasing thousand dollar bottles of wine that he didn’t drink rose. And he was the worse for it. The piece, if a little jargony, is well worth reading, for it points out that wine is about more than what the wine snobs say it is. It’s also about sharing the joy of wine, and that it doesn’t matter how much the wine costs then.

Slower economic growth? The wine industry is recovering from the recession, but not the way it wants to. That’s the consensus from a recent wine business seminar, as reported in the Press Democrat newspaper. Baby Boomers, who drove the explosive growth of the U.S. wine industry in the 1990s, are retiring and will be progressively less able to afford expensive wines, analysts said. Younger generations have other interests, including spirits, and the  Millennials are often more burdened with debt than older demographic groups. The article, mostly an overview of what we’ve been writing about on the blog for the past several years, is notable because it quotes leading industry experts offering their wisdom. Which means there’s a chance the wine business might start paying attention.

Winebits 295: Liquor stores, riesling, Canada

Prepare for a rant: Marketwatch, which usually does a decent job of covering the business world, decided to do one of those “Let’s write a story because it sounds good even though it isn’t much true” pieces – “Could liquor stores go the way of bookstores?” The difference, regardless of anything else, is that wine sales are regulated and books sales aren’t, something that isn’t mentioned until the fourth from the final paragraph of the story. There’s also the cost of shipping, which isn’t mentioned at all. Sometimes, I wonder what assignment editors are thinking of when they do these stories. This piece is so bad that it immediately becomes a finalist for a Curmudgie.

Getting a handle on riesling: Mike Veseth at the Wine Economist has a nice look at the dilemma facing riesling, which is sweet but not popular, made in weird places, and known pretty much only to Germans and wine geeks. He did a panel where they tasted great riesling from Idaho. Ah, go Drink Local.

Love those Canadian liquor laws: Canada, which did not have Prohibition but still ended up with a highly regulated retail liquor system, always offers a good example that makes us feel better about three-tier. Witness this, from a study that says the Ontario provincial store system drives up beer prices by as much as C$9.50 a case. To make the results even more ironic, the study was paid for by a convenience store trade group that wants to sell beer. And we know how cheap beer is at convenience stores, don’t we?

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