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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.

Winebits 317: Kickstarter, cheap wine, wine packaging

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Winebits 317: Kickstarter, cheap wine, wine packaging

How would this look in your back yard?

Don’t we all need a tasting room? Kickstarter is one of the good things the Internet made possible, and I’d say that even if I didn’t raise money for the cheap wine book that way. Consider this: The WinePort portable tasting room for your back yard, devised by Annette Orban of Phoenix. She needs to raise $5,248 by the end of the month, but isn’t very far along despite the idea’s genius (and my $25 pledge). The WinePort measures 200 square feet and is made of recycled materials. Her target audience is wineries, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for wine drinkers who live in more hospitable summer climates than mine. Click on the link to pledge; you won’t be charged unless she reaches her goal.

A toast to Korbel: The California winery’s sparkling rose that is, which was a sweepstakes winner in the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, one of the most prestigious in the country. The cost? $11, which means it will be showing up a review here sooner rather than later. A $12 rose, from Washington’s Barnard Griffin, was also a sweepstakes winner, though I doubt there is much availability. Korbel isn’t always a favorite of the Winestream Media; I wonder if there will be a backlash against it, as there was for Two-buck Chuck when it won double golds at another big-time California competition.

Bring on the wine in a box: The always curious Mike Veseth at The Wine Economist visits Kroger to see if wine in something other than bottles is making any headway. His conclusion? There was an alternative packages section in the wine department, which “makes sense generally, I think, because wine has moved beyond the standard 750-milliliter and 1.5-liter glass bottles to include many other containers. The fact that there is a separate wall of these wines suggests that the customer who comes shopping for alternatives is a bit different from the glass bottle buyer.” In this, Veseth has almost certainly identified one of the biggest — and least understood — changes in the wine business: the growing divide between older and more typical wine drinkers and younger and less traditional wine drinkers.

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