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Winebits 347: Ordering wine, Big Wine, Treasury wine

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ordering wineWhat does it say that this is even necessary? The Daily Meal website offers advice on “How not to sound stupid when ordering wine,” the need for which makes the Wine Curmudgeon cringe. But it’s mostly good advice, and I will likely borrow some of it when I revise the cheap wine book. My favorite of the six: “Tell the server how much money you’re comfortable spending. It’s their job to point out a wine or wines you’ll enjoy that fit your budget.” The catch, of course, is that too many restaurants spend as much effort on server training as I do preparing to run the marathon in the  Olympics.

There’s Gallo, and there’s Gallo: The blog has spent much time discussing how Big Wine dominates the wine business, but never with quite this much humor. Marnie Old at Philly.com points out that someone who doesn’t want to drink an E&J Gallo wine often ends up drinking it anyway (and is even nice to Gallo in the process, which one rarely sees on the Internet). By her reckoning, 15 of the most recognizable grocery store brands are Gallo, dating to the 1970s.

Bring on the bidders: Regular visitors here know that the Wine Curmudgeon is trying to finance his retirement to Burgundy by buying low on ailing Treasury Wine Estates and pockting zillions after the company is taken private. The good news is that it looks like a third private equity group wants to bid for Treasury. The bad news is that the stock price still isn’t going anywhere, and I may not even get a bottle of Burgundy out of this. I’m also starting to feel a little guilty, since the new owner will fire thousands of people, pay off the executives who ran Treasury into the ground, and give themselves huge bonuses for doing the deal. It’s hell being sensitive when money is involved.

Update: Third-party wine clubs and their experts

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wine club expertsGlobal Wine Company, the subject of a post in May that discussed third-party wine clubs and the “experts” who pick their wines, has decided that transparency is the better part of valor. Global, which runs wine clubs for The New York Times, the Washington Post, Williams-Sonoma, and several others, has started listing the buyers and their credentials on the wine club websites.

Martin Reyes, one of Global’s buyers, emailed me after the post ran, but not to tell me I should mind my own business. Instead, he thanked me for the post, saying he had been trying to convince the Global bosses that it would be better to name the experts and not leave consumers wondering. “I figured you might enjoy knowing briefly what came out of this. The screenshot below was a watershed moment for us. … You sir, are awesome. Thanks again.”

That screenshot, pictured above, is also part of the Times club website. It’s a new section that tells club members who buys the wines and why they’re qualified to do so. Not difficult to do, good for business, and — more importantly — the right thing to do.

The power of the press, even when it’s a cranky ex-newspaperman who likes cheap wine and does it all by himself. Maybe there’s something to this blogging business after all.

Winebits 346: Lawsuits, drunks, cheap wine

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wine lawsuitsGet off my horse: Chateau Cheval Blanc, the top-rated Bordeaux producer whose wines can cost thousands of dollars a bottle, is suing Domaine du Cheval Blanc, a small family-owned Bordeaux winery that hardly anyone has heard of, claiming the latter must change its name. The Wine Curmudgeon mentions this because of his interest in wine lawsuits and their inherent foolishness, in which the biggest companies pursue legal action for no other reason than they can. Because, honestly, who would confuse this wine with this wine? But not this wine with this wine? Wine-Searcher.com reports that Chateau Cheval Blanc, which lost the case once, won on appeal and has returned to court to force Domaine du Cheval Blanc to pick a new name. The story is complicated, as most are for those of us who aren’t trademark attorneys, but the upshot is that it looks like Chateau will win. And people wonder why I get so cranky.

Turn up the Beethoven: Commit lots of alcohol-related crimes in London? Then you’ll be forced to wear ankle tags that monitor the levels of alcohol in your sweat. Yes, it’s all very “Clockwork Orange,” but London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, has other concerns. Drunks deter “law-abiding citizens from enjoying our great city, especially at night.” The impetus for the idea? The success of similar ankle systems with drunk drivers in the U.S. So glad the British can learn something from us, especially after all they have given this country.

Drink that cheap wine: English wine consultant Jerry Lockspeiser writes in Harpers, a British trade magazine, that consumers are perfectly happy buying cheap wine, noting that there is no correlation between price and wine people like. Then he asks: If consumers are happy, why does the wine business try so hard to sell them expensive wine? The Wine Curmudgeon practically swooned when he read that. The interesting bit, of course, is the question, which he answers in two parts: That the business is convinced it will make more money off pricey wine, which may or may not be true, and that they’re snobs: “… we pity the poor souls who have not see the light. We know, because we are chosen.” I should send this guy a cheap wine book, no?

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