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Tag Archives: Wine Curmudgeon

Ask the WC 5: Getting drunk, restaurant wine, wine reviews

wineadvice

wine advice getting drunkBecause the customers always write, and the Wine Curmudgeon always has the answers in this periodic feature. Ask me a wine-related question by clicking here.

Hey Wine Guy:
I would think alcohol is alcohol is alcohol, and a buzz is a buzz is a buzz. However, I seem to experience what I will call a “lighter” buzz from wine, which dissipates more quickly than a buzz from other alcoholic drinks. Do you think that’s possible? Have you heard it before? Have you experienced it?
Sober as much as possible

Dear Sober:
The difference is food. Yes, one drink — whether spirits, beer, or wine — should affect everyone the same way (allowing for size and gender), but we don’t drink spirits, beer, and wine the same way. Cocktails are bar drinks. Beer is a TV drink. Wine, though, is a meal drink, so we drink it more slowly and the food we’re eating helps absorb the alcohol in a way bar nuts and nacho-flavored Doritos don’t. It’s the difference between a bottle of wine over a couple of hours with dinner as opposed to four beers during the first quarter of a football game. That’s something that those of us who judge wine competitions understand. Even with spitting, we can get as light-headed on a morning’s worth of wine as with four or five shots in a bar, because the object is to drink, not to enjoy ourselves.

Dear Curmie:
Why do restaurants, even chain restaurants, go through all the show about opening a bottle of wine, like letting me sniff the cork and presenting the bottle. It’s not like these are any great wines, and it’s not like the waitstaff knows what it’s doing.
Annoyed and confused

Dear Annoyed:
It’s all part of the flim flammery that is too much restaurant wine service, and especially in restaurants that sell wine because they have to and not because they want to. A fine dining restaurant does the presentation because that’s the best way to serve an expensive bottle of wine. They’ll show it, for instance, to make sure that’s what you ordered, because they don’t want to find out they’ve brought the wrong bottle (which happens more often than you’d think). They’ll let you taste the wine first because older wines do go off, no matter how expensive or well made. In other restaurants, though, they do it because they’re trying to give you value for the $8 bottle of wine that they’re charging $25 for, and that’s the only way they know how. Recently, a waiter started to do the presentation for a $10 bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc with a screwcap, and I told him not to bother. He thanked me, because doing it embarrassed him. And this was at a Dallas restaurant that actually cares about wine.

Wine Curmudgeon:
How do you decide to review the wines that you review? Is there a plan? Or do you just wing it? I doubt someone pays you to review their wines, do they?
Curious and curiouser

Dear Curious:
No, no one pays me to review their wines, though it has been suggested by some who want a good review. I alternate red and white wines for the wine of the week, throwing in sparkling or rose when it seems like a good idea. Otherwise, the only rules are that the wine has to fit the concept of the blog — affordable and generally available (where availability is the bane of my existence as a wine writer). The latter means it might be in a grocery store; at the very least, you should be able to find it if you live in a city with quality independent wine shops. Also, save for the monthly mini-reviews, I usually don’t write about bad wine. There’s too much good wine to waste time on that.

Treasury Wine Estate’s plan to avoid a hostile takeover

winenews

Treasury hostile takeoverThe Wine Curmudgeon mentions Treasury’s scheme for two reasons. First, and most importantly, it doesn’t seem very sustainable. The troubled Australian multi-national wine company, whose holdings include California’s Beringer, has been losing more millions than most of us have socks.

Yet, despite its problems, Treasury wants to boost business to fend off a hostile takeover from private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, which tried to buy Treasury earlier this year and made another offer this week. The second offer was a little higher, but probably won’t scare anyone.

Treasury’s anti-takeover plan features selling heavily discounted wine refrigerators to customers in Australia. The Brisbane Times newspaper reports that the company’s new boss “labelled the wine cabinet promotion the biggest consumer-facing promotion ever undertaken by the company.” Which should tell us all we need to know about Treasury’s lack of marketing ability.

How does it work? Buy six bottles of a Penfolds Bin wine, which cost from AU$30 to AU$80 a bottle, and you can buy a AU$650 wine fridge for AU$200. In other words, buy six bottles of AU$30 Penfolds Bin 51 Eden Valley riesling and the refrigerator and pay AU$380 — just 58 percent of what the refrigerator would cost by itself. Given retail discounting, in fact, you could probably get the fridge for at least 50 percent off. Is it any wonder that Treasury wrote down AU$260 million earlier this year and fired its CEO?

The second reason I mention this? The Wine Curmudgeon, financial genius that he is, bought 100 shares of Treasury stock in hopes KKR (as we high-flying investment types call Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) would make another, much higher offer for Treasury. My retirement to Burgundy never seemed so close.

I paid about what KKR offered the first time, so news that Treasury seems to be throwing away money on the refrigerator promotion is not welcome. The company is reducing inventory and margins to increase cash flow, which will not boost its value or make me rich. KKR’s second, not much higher, offer confirmed this.

In the wine business, the old joke always seems to apply. Or, as one actual real-life financial type told me: “With a little luck, you might get a nice bottle of wine out of this.”

Who has the best job in wine?

winetrends
best job in wine

And I don’t even have to wear a tie.

The Wine Curmudgeon, of course. I drink wine and tell people what it tastes like. How much better does any job — in wine or otherwise — get than that?

Which is why I was surprised to see this, “10 of the world’s best jobs in wine,” from the British trade magazine, The Drinks Business. Wine writing was only fourth, and while it was rated ahead of vineyard worker at No. 6 (No. 6? obviously written by someone who has never picked grapes on a 100-degree day for minimum wage or piecework), it was outranked by cellar manager, vineyard owner, and winemaker.

The rest of the list: 10, sommelier; 9, airline wine consultant; 8, wine brand owner; 7, tasting room manager; and 5, wine shop owner.

Of those that rank ahead of writing, I can understand winemaker, given that’s the whole point of wine. But vineyard owner? That’s farming, which combines the joy of picking grapes with the delight of exchanging spreadsheets with bankers, all the while staring at the sky and cursing the weather. And cellar manager? Consider these duties: Hiring people to work in the winery’s cellar and maintaining equipment. Hiring is bad enough, but maintaining equipment? Talk about chalk on a blackboard.

This is not meant as a criticism of any of these jobs, and anyone who enjoys them and does them well has my respect and admiration. Rather, it’s to note that I fully appreciate my good fortune in doing what I do. Yes, it’s sometimes work, whether grinding out a blog post when my brain is somewhere else, or tasting my way through a couple of dozen wines that not only taste the same, but are as stupid as a TV reality show. But it’s not working in a coal mine or behind the broiler at Burger King; I’m indoors, people respect my opinion, and I get to taste some tremendous wine. How much luckier can one person be?

Image courtesy of Vinography, using a Creative Commons license

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