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Tag Archives: Wine Curmudgeon

Four things college students taught me about wine

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wine educationFour things college students, including my El Centro viticulture and enology class and two University of North Texas classes, taught me about wine this semester. Call it Wine Education for Curmudgeons 101:

• Regional wine matters to people who didn’t help start a regional wine group. I don’t know why this always surprises me, but it does. Maybe because when I mention it to too many adults, they look at me as if I want them to drink castor oil? But when I talk about regional and Texas wine to students, they understand the idea of local wine and its relationship to local food, and they’re more than happy to try it. Enjoy it and buy it, even.

• The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, and he doesn’t look too good naked. We did a Napa and Sonoma tasting in my El Centro class, five wines that cost at least $40 (that I brought from samples in the wine closet). The students were not impressed, noting how commercial they tasted, how overpriced they were, and how they expected a lot more for what the wines cost. Even more surprising: They came to these conclusions on their own, without any help from me. All I do in a tasting is pour the wines, talk about who made them, and ask the students what the wines taste like. We don’t even discuss price until the end.

• The world does not revolve around cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and merlot. As someone who never met a grape, no matter how odd, that he didn’t want to try, this always makes me feel better about the future of wine in the U.S. People my age, faced with a grape they don’t recognize, tend to glaze over. The North Texas students, on the other hand, were fascinated with a dry riesling.

• People like wine I don’t like. I know this is true, but it always helps to see it in action. We did a Washington state grocery store merlot, full of fake oak, gobs of sweet fruit, and winemaking sleight of hand at North Texas. When I asked who liked it, as I always do, almost everyone did. Which reinforces the most important (and only) rule about wine: If you like it, it’s a good wine, and it doesn’t matter what wine writers, even the one teaching the class, think. Just be willing to try different kinds of wine to see if there is something else you might like.

Slider photo courtesy of Leta Durrett

The Saveur Blog Awards

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Saveur blog awardsThe Wine Curmudgeon needs your help to win one of the Saveur Blog Awards.

I don’t like to ask this, given I’m a wine writer and not a yenta who nags my readers, and most of these awards require lots of nagging. But the Saveur blog awards are a big deal for what I do, perhaps second to the James Beard Awards in the food and wine business.  So winning Saveur’s best wine blog award would help advance the cause and show the Winestream Media that wine drinkers want more than scores and winespeak. They want wine writing they can understand and that helps them find wine that’s enjoyable and affordable.

Hence this post, and my request:

Go to the Saveur site and nominate the blog by clicking on this link. The number of nominations is one of the criteria used to pick the finalists. You can nominate the blog — winecurmudgeon.com — until March 13.

That’s our goal for the next 10 days, to get enough nominations so that the Saveur editors notice the blog and begin to understand there’s more going on than they can see from their Manhattan offices. We’ll worry about winning if and when the time comes.

 

Shark Tank wine

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Shark Tank wineDear Shark Tank Masters of the Universe:

The Wine Curmudgeon does not pretend to be a financial genius; witness my inability to make any money off the blog. But your recent foray into the wine business — Zipz single-serving wine and Beatbox flavored wine — is about something I know. For smart guys, you’re doing dumb things with your money.

Know just two things about the wine business, which should put these investments in perspective:

First, that three-quarters of all wine sold in the U.S. is traditional wine that comes in a 750-milliliter bottle, just as it has been for decades. There is no evidence that that Americans are clamoring for single-serving wine or flavored wine sold in a box, no matter how cool each product may be. If you doubt that, wait in line (or have a minion do it for you) at a World Market, where the single-serving bottles are lined up for impulse purchases. Count how many people buy them. Yes, not all that many.

Second, that wine is not sold like other consumer goods, but through the three-tier system. This means that your entrepreneurs can’t sell their product to a retailer like Costco. The law in all 50 states requires them to hire a distributor to sell their product to the retailer. If they can’t find a distributor, and distributors are notoriously picky about what they represent, then it will never be sold in a store. I should also mention, thanks to three-tier, that it would be even more difficult to sell Zipz (which isn’t all that tasty) and Beatbox in Pennsylvania and New York, two of the largest wine markets in the country. The former doesn’t have any independent wine retailers, and the latter doesn’t allow wine sales in grocery stores.

I hope this helps the next time someone pitches a Shark Tank wine deal. And no need to thank me — it’s enough to know that I’m helping incredibly rich people not waste their money.

Sincerely,
The Wine Curmudgeon

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