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Winebits 347: Ordering wine, Big Wine, Treasury wine

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ordering wineWhat 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 Curmudgeon cringe. But it’s mostly good advice, and I will likely borrow some of it when I revise the cheap wine book. My favorite of the six: “Tell the server how much money you’re comfortable spending. It’s their job to point out a wine or wines you’ll enjoy that fit your budget.” The catch, of course, is that too many restaurants spend as much effort on server training as I do preparing to run the marathon in the  Olympics.

There’s Gallo, and there’s Gallo: The blog has spent much time discussing how Big Wine dominates the wine business, but never with quite this much humor. Marnie Old at Philly.com points out that someone who doesn’t want to drink an E&J Gallo wine often ends up drinking it anyway (and is even nice to Gallo in the process, which one rarely sees on the Internet). By her reckoning, 15 of the most recognizable grocery store brands are Gallo, dating to the 1970s.

Bring on the bidders: Regular visitors here know that the Wine Curmudgeon is trying to finance his retirement to Burgundy by buying low on ailing Treasury Wine Estates and pockting zillions after the company is taken private. The good news is that it looks like a third private equity group wants to bid for Treasury. The bad news is that the stock price still isn’t going anywhere, and I may not even get a bottle of Burgundy out of this. I’m also starting to feel a little guilty, since the new owner will fire thousands of people, pay off the executives who ran Treasury into the ground, and give themselves huge bonuses for doing the deal. It’s hell being sensitive when money is involved.

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?

Winebits 336: Wine competitions, restaurant wine, and lawsuits

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wine news restaurants competitons lawsuitsDo wine competitions work? Tim Atkin, a British expert, says they do, and paraphrases Winston Churchill: “Competitions are the worst way to evaluate wine, except for all of the others.” Which is something I wish I had thought of, given I have a poster of Churchill hanging in the office. Atkin’s take on competitions is thoughtful and makes several good points, including whether price should matter, quality of the judges, and that sometimes, wines do get lucky. His comments are most welcome given the current controversy over competitions, and that I’ll be judging two of them in the next couple of weeks.

Restaurants dropping wine from lists: Remember all those giddy articles about the progress wine was making with mid-priced chain restaurants, and how it meant they were finally going to take wine seriously? We might have spoken too soon. A new study has found that eight of the 10 biggest casual chains cut their wine selections by 17 percent in the eight months ending in March. The chains, including Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, and Ruby Tuesday, may have decided that wine isn’t worth the trouble, but that craft beer and spirits are, says the study, calling the shift unprecedented. My guess? That, since the recession especially pummeled these kinds of restaurants, they did what they always do – relegate wine to what they consider its rightful place, out of sight and out of mind. Because wine is just too much trouble.

Bring out the lawyers: The Wine Curmudgeon loves a good wine lawsuit, and this one looks to be a doozy. A Napa Valley producer is suing  wine consultant for $1.6 million, claiming the latter didn’t do a good enough job making a $200 wine. The article, in the Napa Valley Register, is so full of giggles that I can’t do it justice here. My favorite? That the consultant went on vacation during a crucial part of the winemaking process.

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