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Tag Archives: wine advice

Wine education: Four things you don’t need to know about wine

winerant

wine educationBut that the wine business, through its allies in the Winestream Media, harps on ad nauseum. That’s because it makes them feel important to write about this stuff, even though no one else cares and it has nothing do with wine education. Hence, four things that you don’t need to know about wine:

Wine fraud. This is an issue that affects almost no one who drinks wine; who is going to counterfeit Cupcake Red Velvet, Barefoot moscato, or any of the hundreds of other wines that dominate sales in the U.S.?  Nevertheless, wine fraud been blasting around the Internet for years, and especially if it’s in China. There seem to be couple of stories about it every day, bemoaning the fact that a very rich person has been cheated or that a world famous French winery has been besmirched by Chinese counterfeits. In fact, counterfeit wine probably accounts for less than one percent of all the wine made in the world each year. But you’d never know that by reading the Winestream Media.

Bordeaux futures. This is the process in which very rich people buy very expensive French wine at a discount, even though they haven’t tasted it and won’t take delivery for a couple of years. In other words, about as far removed from buying wine at the grocery store as possible. Each week, I see at least a dozen stories about the futures process, which again affects fewer than one percent of the people who buy wine in the U.S.

The next big thing. These stories make the Wine Curmudgeon the craziest, since they focus on an obscure grape, usually produced in small quantities in a lesser known part the world. And they always quote a Manhattan sommelier about how this wine will sweep the country, taking for granted that if someone in Manhattan says it is true, it must be, and ignoring three-tier and how little of the wine is actually for sale in the U.S. Hence, Georgian wine (and not the state in the southern U.S.) Note to Winestream Media: The next big thing is sweet red wine, and it has been here for two years.

Wine writing. Every week, someone will write a long, garment-rending piece about how terrible wine writing is and how it was so much better in the old days. Or someone will write a long, snarky piece about how much better wine writing is today than it was in the old days. Or, and this is my favorite, someone — usually the same couple of older white guys — will do both in the same story. Wine drinkers don’t care about wine writing, which is why I stopped writing about it a couple of years ago. Writing about wine writing is just one more kind of cyber porn, and not nearly as interesting as the rest.

None of this is wine education. That would include practical advice about wine pricing, how to buy wine, and why three-tier matters to the ordinary wine drinker. But who gets famous writing about that?

More about wine things you need to know:
Five things that make me crazy when I buy wine
Five things the wine business can do to help consumers figure out wine
Finding the next big wine region

Restaurant wine prices: A better way

winetrends

Restaurant wine pricesWhat better way to follow up this month’s very popular post about escalating restaurant wine prices than with a story about restaurants that charge reasonable prices and sell more wine — and make more money — in the process? That was the theme of my piece in the current issue of the Beverage Media trade magazine, where one restaurateur told me: “We want our customers to be able to have dinner for two with a glass of wine each for $35 a person.”

Revolutionary thinking in a world where glass of wine costs $10 and bottles are marked up four times their wholesale price, no?

The highlights of the article, as well as a few of my thoughts:

• The debate centers around volume vs. margin; that is, does the restaurant want to sell a lot of wine, or is its business model focused on the amount it makes per bottle? This margin approach, which has been the model most restaurants use, has given us the $10 glass. Not surprisingly, those who use it still see no reason to change.

• Yet an increasing number of restaurants see a better way. “There is sort of this infrequently spoken gripe from consumers: ‘Why are we paying these kinds of markups?’… [T]hey are going to be cynical about your wine program.” says Stan Frankenthaler, chief officer of food, beverage and strategic supply for CraftWorks, which operates about 200 restaurants under 11 brands, including Old Chicago and Rock Bottom. That someone at a chain said this speaks to the failure of the margin model, since chains have some of the worst and most marked-up wine lists.

• A better approach: Pricing tiers, like 4 times wholesale, 2½ times, and 2 times, based on quality and availability. If the wine is difficult to find, for instance, or offers exceptional value, we’re more likely to pay 4 times markup — and especially if we have legitimate, less expensive choices instead of grocery store wine masquerading as something else.

• This story includes advice from my pal Diane Teitelbaum, who died shortly after I interviewed her. “You can sell a $100 bottle once a day, or you can sell $20 bottles of wine all day and all night,” she told me. No wonder everyone misses her so much.

 

 

Local wine, local food

wineadvice

local wineThe Wine Curmudgeon, despite his good intentions and his advocacy of all things local, is not perfect. Even the co-founder of Drink Local Wine sometimes forgets that local wine goes with local food.

Case in point: A recent dinner with pork shoulder rubbed with cumin and coriander, roasted with garlic. onions, and peppers, and served with guacamole and black beans. So, like the wine snobs and dilettantes that I spend so much time excoriating, I bought a French wine, a white from the Rhone, to drink with it.

What a maroon.

I live in Texas. I have been advocating Texas wine for Texas-style food for almost three decades. So why did I buy a French wine made with viognier when when we make some of the best viognier in the world in Texas?

Like I said, what a maroon.

It’s not so much that the white Rhone was overpriced and under-qualified. Even if it had been better made, it didn’t have the bright apricot and peach fruit to stand up to the pork the way a Texas viognier (Brennan, McPherson, and Pedernales among many others) would have. And it was heavier, as well, with an unpleasant oiliness, both qualities that didn’t complement the pork’s spiciness and something the best Texas viogniers don’t have. Ours are lighter and more crisp, which gives them an affinity for something as rich as the pork shoulder.

So the next time you opt for safe instead of local, know that you’re making the same mistake that I did. Just be willing to admit it, and do the right the next time.

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