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Winebits 332: Powdered alcohol update, wine vs. beer, and corkage fees

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Winebits 332: Powdered alcohol update, wine vs. beer, and corkage feesNot so fast, Palcohol: Last week’s post extolling the virtues of powered alcohol was a bit ahead of its time. Turns out the federal government didn’t approve the product after all. A spokesman told The Associated Press that the approvals were issued in error, but didn’t elaborate; you can draw your own conclusions from that, though my liquor attorney, in last week’s post, hinted that the whole thing sounded kind of goofy. Regardless, this means we’ll have to wait for our powderita, as horrible as the wait may be.

The end of beer as we know it? This graphic, courtesy of Lew Perdue at Wine Industry Insight, speaks volumes about the ageing of the U.S. beer-drinking population. Between 2002 and 2013, beer’s market share, as measured by drink volume, has dropped from 60 percent of the total to 51.1 percent. Spirits’ shared moved from 27 to 33.7 percent and wine’s from 13 to 15.2 percent. Why call it ageing? Because many analysts think beer’s decline is not from beer drinkers switching to spirits or wine, but because they’re dying and younger consumers are drinking something else. This has shown up in slumping sales for the biggest national brands like Coors, Budweiser, and Miller.

I’m shocked that gambling is going on here: The wine cyber-ether was abuzz last week with the news that the very chi-chi French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley charged a $150 corkage fee. The outrage was so viral that I’m surprised it didn’t show up on the blog even without my writing about it. Which I’m doing not because owner Thomas Keller cares what I write he probably collects criticism for his Pinterest site), but because no one should be surprised. This is the same restaurant that charges $70 for a half bottle of a Paso Robles white blend, which is almost four times the retail price for the half bottle. The other thing that’s not surprising? That his customers pay these prices. As one reader emailed me: “Are these people crazy?” Nope. Just rich.

Winebits 331: Powdered alcohol, last call, and best quote ever

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Winebits 331: Powdered alcohol, last call, and best quote ever

“Wonder what Palcohol will do to this crappy wine?”

When real booze isn’t enough: Not happy with liquid alcohol? Then how about the powdered version, Palcohol, which has been approved for consumer use. It comes in seven flavors, including “cosmopolitan,” “lemondrop,” and “powderita.” Yum yum. No word yet on whether the company will release a pink moscato flavor, with appropriate Millennial marketing: “Dude, your wine is super lame — try this.” The Wine Curmudgeon’s cynicism notwithstanding, I checked with the blog’s offical liquor lawyer, who sighed (he does that a lot when I talk to him). His analysis: “I’ll bet it lasts about 10 minutes. A few years ago all the regulators got panicky over vaporized alcohol. Supposedly made you drunk in .05 seconds and they couldn’t figure out how to make it illegal. Turns out it didn’t work and nobody gave a damn. Maybe this will be the same way, but stand by for screams of alarm.”

When regular closing time isn’t enough: How does 5:30 in the morning sound? That’s the plan for bars in several Montreal neighborhoods this summer, part of a scheme to ease congestion in those area when the bars close. The Wine Curmudgeon, despite more than a passing knowledge of drinking in Montreal (and where I have had some great Canadian wine), is still confused. Can there be a city where so many people are drinking so late into the night that last call resembles a shopping mall parking lot on Black Friday? If so, I need to get out more often. Or at least drink somewhere besides Dallas.

If not the best quote ever, close to it: Hardy Wallace gained fame — and quite a bit of notoriety — when he won a gig several years ago as the official blogger for the Murphy-Goode wine brand. Wallace makes wine now, and notoriety still follows him. Consider this, from an interview with a San Francisco-area business newspaper: “It’s overwhelming generality that vintners are doing a horrible job communicating with consumers. … You do not stand in a room and scream, ‘Buy this!’ and, ‘We sell this!’ ” Sounds like the Wine Curmudgeon on a rant, no?

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