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Winebits 351: Wine glasses, wine laws, and economic growth

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wine news wine glassesDo wine glasses matter? The answer is no, says the Vinepair website in a post that includes the sentence, “Any industry that marries the existence of experts, the spending of cash, and the words ‘acquired taste’ as exquisitely as the wine industry does is bound to intimidate the uninitiated.” Which was a guarantee the Wine Curmudgeon would write about it. The post dismisses the idea that different shapes matter — a Bordeaux glass, a Burgundy glass, and so forth — and cites several studies and zings Riedel, the big glass company, repeatedly. Most of which makes sense, since I’ve never been convinced spending $100 for a glass is going to make all that much difference. The difference comes, I think, in whether you use well-made glasses instead of poorly-made ones. I buy the Forte from Schott Zwiesel, about $10 a glass, and am content. That’s about the twice the price of Libbey glasses, but the expense seems worth it.

Hell no, we ain’t reformin’: Pennsylvania’s state-controlled liquor store system has been the subject of much controversy as well as repeated demands for privatization. Reform seems as far away as ever, despite all the effort, and I’ve discovered the reason: Money. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which runs the stores, is a $2.24 billion business. Which is damned big — almost twice the annual sales of Crate & Barrel and only one-sixth the total of Whole Foods, even though the upscale grocer is a national company with more than 360 stores. How many state legislators, regardless of political persuasion, are going to throw away that much money? I’m not even sure I would.

Not just rich people drink wine: There’s a long and surprisingly boring post on Forbes discussing whether wine sales can predict economic growth. If someone can figure out what it actually says, let me know. As near as I can tell, it says that high-end wine sales are a predictor of U.S. economic health, which is not true and seems a silly thing for someone at Forbes to say. Because only five percent of the U.S. population buys wine that costs $20 or more, and the average price of a bottle of wine is about $10. So what the price of vineyard land in Napa Valley has to do with economic growth is beyond me. Which is probably why I do this and don’t write for Forbes.

Winebits 318: Wine glasses edition

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Winebits 318: Wine glasses editionBecause, frankly, who knew there would be so much news about wine glasses?

Smaller glasses: Scotland’s government, as part of its campaign to urge what it calls more responsible drinking, wants the country’s bars and pubs to promote the sale of smaller measures of wine, including 125-milliliter servings. That’s about one-sixth of a bottle, or only twice as much as a tasting pour. The BBC, in its wonderfully BBC way, reports that the Scottish health minister said that “tackling Scotland’s difficult relationship with alcohol was one of the government’s key priorities.” Difficult relationship with alcohol, indeed. Isn’t that like being only a little pregnant? Either you drink too much or you don’t. In this country, the NeoDrys don’t hem and haw like that.

Riedel and Coke: Yes, the world’s premier wine glass manufacturer has devised a glass for the most insidious of beverages, Coca-Cola — at $20 each, no less. This raises all sorts of questions, starting with why: There is absolutely no reason for anyone to ever drink Coke, which has no nutritional value, no health value, rots your teeth, and is too sweet. Or not sweet enough, depending on your point of view. I write this as someone who gave up soft drinks when he started drinking wine, and I don’t miss the former at all.

No more glasses? A government in a leading New Zealand wine region wants to ban glassware from winery concerts and tasting events. Not surprisingly, this has the wineries furious. Producers in the Hawke’s Bay say using plastic cups instead of glasses would diminish the experience, and that wine in wine glasses makes wine more enjoyable. The ban is apparently part of a wider proposal to limit drinking in Hawke’s Bay that includes closing bars an hour earlier, from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m., and reducing the hours retailers can sell booze from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. to 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Winebits 281: Wine glasses, direct shipping, Italian wine

Brushes for sale: There are three intriguing things about this post at Forbes about cleaning wine glasses. First, that Forbes would mess with it, given that it doesn’t seem like something their high-dollar readers would worry about. Don’t they have someone to clean their glasses for them? Second, that the best solution costs $4, using a baby bottle brush. This reinforces the Wine Curmudgeon’s theory that most wine accessories aren’t worth the money they cost and would be better spent on wine. Third, that the baby bottle brush company could have cared less about this new us, which points to the insignificance of the wine glass market in the greater scheme of things. Tip ‘o the Curmudgeon’s fedora to the great W.R. Tish, who sent this my way.

Impressive numbers? The Wine Spectator analyzes the latest sales gains for winery to consumer shipping in the U.S. in such a breathless fashion that even I was impressed. And, given the legal restrictions, the almost $1.5 billion in sales is impressive (and that regional wine does more direct shipping than Washington and Oregon was pretty amazing). The catch, though, is that the $1.5 billion was just 4.4 percent of the total wine market. Until we see serious reform in three-tier, which hardly anyone is optimistic about happening anytime ever, direct shipping looks to remain a tiny, if lucrative, part of the wine business.

Italian sales woes: Not in the rest of the world, where a leading Italian producer saw exports salvage its 2012 sales figures. Frescobaldi reported a 3 percent increase last year, despite a 5.1 percent decline in domestic sales. Once again, for everyone writing about wine, prices are a function of supply and demand. If demand decreases, as it has in western Europe over the past two years thanks to the euro crisis, then there must be a matching decrease in supply to raise prices.

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