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Tag Archives: wine news

Winebits 329: Legal affairs edition

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Winebits 329: Legal affairs editionBecause the Wine Curmudgeon is always amused by the legal side of the wine business:

Blame it on Utah: The Wine Curmudgeon has first-hand experience with Utah’s liquor laws, thanks to a story I wrote about the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. But not even I was ready for this excellent piece of reporting by Nancy Lofholm in The Denver Post. How about eight different liquor licenses? Or that some establishments have to have a barrier between customers and the bartender, and that others don’t — even if they have the same license? But don’t worry too much. Says one Utah tourism official: “We are not the only state with peculiar liquor laws.”

Scores don’t matter: Or, did a New York judge tell a wine drinker that a high score can’t be the basis for suing about wine quality? There are many ways to interpret the decision, in which a Manhattan judge dismissed a lawsuit (requires free registration) in which a consumer wanted a refund from a wine store because he didn’t like the six bottles of 91-point wine he bought. The judge wrote that wine taste is subjective, and so can’t be the basis for a lawsuit. I know the wine in question, a decent enough bottle of Rioja, but one that’s probably not worth the $12.99 the consumer paid. Damn those scores anyway.

Questioning three-tier? Or so says this post from the Libation Law blog, analyzing a New Jersey court decision that said “New Jersey’s liquor control laws and regulations must be administered in the light of changing conditions.” Which, of course, is what those of us who want to reform the three-tier system have been saying for years: That a system put in place at the end of Prohibition to keep the mob out of liquor has outlived its reason for being. The decision, which dealt with distributors and how they paid commission, is esoteric, but Ashley Brandt at Libation is optimistic that it ”strengthens the argument that a vigilant regulatory system can uncover and prohibit the practices that people claim the three-tiered system was meant to forestall.” The Wine Curmudgeon, with his vast legal experience (a semester of First Amendment law in college) isn’t quite so sure, but who am I to ruin a good mood?

Winebits 328: Scottish wine, wine marketing, lawsuits

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Winebits 328: Scottish wine, wine marketing, lawsuits

Scottish wine for a Scottish dish, haggis

Talk about terroir: A Scottish winemaker — yes, that’s correct — says climate change has made it possible to make wine in his country. Christopher Trotter, a chef and food writer, wants to grow six acres of grapes in eastern Scotland, and says that the warmest weather in centuries will make it possible. One caveat: It’s still cooler than most of the world’s wine regions, so he has to use grapes that are cold hardy and that don’t necessarily make great wine. The article, from the Bloomberg news service, is also an excellent look at how warmer temperatures around the world will affect the wine business.

A glass of Chloe, please: The Wine Group, which gave the world Cupcake, is making another marketing play, this time with a brand called Chloe. As Robert Joseph writes, the company’s approach has nothing to do with wine per se, but with how it is sold to the public. Chloe is being marketed like jewelry or perfume, costing about one-third more than the $10 to $12 Cupcake. This is The Wine Group’s particular genius, and which is rarely seen in wine, that it can position its brands as lifestyle products and get a premium for what will almost certainly be a very ordinary bottle of Italian pinot grigio (given the quality of its other wines). But, as many have noted, the people who buy these kinds of wines aren’t buying them for what’s in the bottle.

Bring out the lawyers: The Wine Curmudgeon has always enjoyed watching companies sue each other over labels and brand names, and this one is particularly enjoyable. Beverage Digest reports that Diageo, the world’s largest drinks company, says family-owned Heaven Hill is trampling on its intellectual property in Canada with a product called Admiral Nelson spiced rum, which too closely resembles Diageo’s Captain Morgan spiced rum. How many billable hours will this require? The article discusses — seriously, I suppose — that one issue in the lawsuit will be how similar the character of Nelson, the greatest hero in British naval history, is to Morgan, who was a pirate. Sadly, wigs are no longer worn in Canadian courts, or this would be even more fun to watch.

Winebits 326: Why I’ve always wanted to be a consultant edition

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Winebits 326: Why I've always wanted to be a consultant editionBecause getting paid for writing some of the things that consultants write sounds like a posh gig:

Do this, or the opposite: Which is the advice the Rabobank Group has for the Spanish wine industry. To be successful, Spain has two choices: Make more wine with “international” varietals like cabernet sauvingon and chardonnay, which have established export markets, or work to establish export markets for wine made with its traditional grapes, like tempranillo and garnacha. Nothing like covering all possibilities, is there? I love this sentence, too, for wonderfully stating the obvious and doing it in consultant-speak: “Improving the ability of suppliers in Spain’s main production region of Castilla-La Mancha to develop strong brands with demand beyond the EU markets will have an important positive impact on the wine industry in Spain, but also in the rest of the EU.”

We can’t call it cheap, can we? Impact Databank is part of the company that owns the Wine Spectator, and it releases an annual Hot Brands wine list, identifying wines that record sizable sale increases over the past year. Most of these brands cost $10 or less, and the bosses at Impact apparently felt uncomfortable calling the wines cheap. This isn’t unusual (you should see winemakers and PR types cringe when I use the word cheap), but this solution is one of the “best” I’ve ever seen — calling the wines “accessibly priced.” Maybe I should start using the term, too. How does “The Wine Curmudgeon’s Guide to Accessibly Priced Wine” sound? Or “the accessibly priced wine expert”?

Why didn’t anyone else think of this? Did you know that the increasing popularity of wine has led to the increasing popularity of wine bars? Hard to believe, I know, but that’s the conclusion in this report from the IBISWorld consultancy, “where knowledge is power.” And, something to know in case you want to open a wine bar: “Changes in household preferences, disposable incomes and consumer spending also influence demand. …” Wow. Who knew?

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