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Tag Archives: wine news

Winebits 370: Wine writing ethics, Big Wine, beer sales

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wine writing ethicsFull disclosure: The Wine Curmudgeon stopped writing about wine writing a couple of years ago; it boosted the blog’s numbers, but didn’t advance the causes that the blog believes in, like wine education. But this item, from Australian wine writer Max Allen, does matter for anyone who wants to be able to trust what they read: “When a wine writer threatens to sue another wine writer for telling the truth, you know things are getting serious. … Advertorial is masquerading as editorial. And our readers — the people we’re meant to be writing for — are in the dark about it all.” This is something that has been bothering me for several years, and I touched on it in last fall’s birthday week essay. So Allen’s post is worth writing about, given its honest discussion about what’s going wrong — writers taking money from wineries; conflicts of interest that no one talks about because they’d have to stop doing them; and how content has changed in the digital age from something independently written to something written so it will sell something paid. Any wine drinker who cares about getting an honest assessment for wine they’re paying for should read it.

Fewer mergers? One of my wine trends for 2015 was the continuation of something that started at least a decade ago — Big Wine getting bigger, buying up smaller companies. Turns out I may have been wrong, and not just about this year. A study at FoodBev.com reports that wine acquisitions worldwide were down by a quarter worldwide in 2014. Still, before the mea culpas, it’s worth noting that wine tied for sixth on the list of food and drinks deals in 2014, an impressive showing given its smaller size relative to the rest of the food and drinks business, like packaging, soft drinks, and dairy.

No end to the slide: The beer business continues to slowly erode, which I cover on the blog because it ties into American drinking habits. SABMiller, one of the two companies that controls most of the world’s beer production, saw its North American sales decline two percent in the nine months ending in December. Which means the holiday season didn’t rescue the company. This is part of a long-term tend that has seen beer sales slowly decline since the beginning of the recession, as Americans shift away from beer, which has dominated alcohol sales in the U.S. for decades. So we shouldn’t be surprised by the growth in wine sales.

Winebits 369: Cheap wine, sweet red wine, wine lawsuits

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wine lawsuitsAlmost correct: The Wine Curmudgeon is always happy to see other wine sites hop on the cheap wine bandwagon, and this recent piece from Wine Folly. a qualiity site, offers several fine pointers: Beware the back label, watch out for private label brands, and double check pricing. My concern is its passive-aggressive style, which comes out in the headline. “Good cheap wine is lying to you.” The piece makes it seem as if only cheap wine does these things, when the entire wine business is full of half-truths, misconceptions, and obfuscations. Which is my reason for being, after all. I was also confused by the post’s fixation on U.S. wine — what’s wrong with buying cheap wine from Spain, France, and Italy?

Bring on the sweet stuff: You know sweet red wine is firmly established in the market when one of the wine trade newsletters talks about its popularity without one nasty comment. “While ‘sweet’ drinkers may be gravitating toward certain blends and varietals, and ‘dry’ drinkers supporting others, consumers clearly are exploring a variety of options.” That’s quite shocking, that Shanken News Daily (owned by the same company that owns the Wine Spectator), suggests that wine drinkers have minds of their own. But the numbers make believers: sweet red wine is growing at 4 1/2 percent a year, ahead of wine’s overall growth, says the report. And this is where I mention that I was writing about this stuff when the Winestream Media was dismissing it.

One more lawsuit: Regular visitors know that the Wine Curmudgeon loves lawsuits, when wine companies throw money at their attorneys for no other reason than they can. Though, this suit, about two wines with the same name, does seem to have some merit (with the caveat that I’m not a lawyer and could be completely wrong). I also thought I’d throw this in, two companies named Cipriani suing each other. I mention it for two reasons — first, that it shows wine doesn’t have a monopoly on this sort of thing, and second, that the smaller company, based ion a Chicago suburb, makes some of the best noodles I’ve ever had, and I hope it wins. Update: The two wineries settled out of court a couple of days after this posted. Chalk it up to common sense

Winebits 368: Wine terms, wine retailers, winery buyouts

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wine termsI’m so tired of that: Amanda Chatel at the Bustle lifestyle website says she’s tired of being picked on by beer drinkers, noting that it’s a scientific fact that cheap wine tastes better than cheap beer. She posts 21 questions about wine she doesn’t want to be asked anymore, and if some of them aren’t especially clever, her heart is in the right place, and especially with screwcaps. And because it’s a lifestyle site, there’s a picture of “Scandal’s” Olivia Pope with the post, and the site has 127,000 Facebook likes. Which is something for wine sites to ponder.

Corporate buyouts: One of the world’s great cheap wine retailers, Cost Plus World Market, could get a new owner this year, if analyst speculation is worth anything. They think World Market’s parent, Bed Bath & Beyond, may be in play since it has underperformed the market. Don’t worry if you don’t understand that sentence; financialspeak can be as obtuse as winespeak. Know that the companies that do leveraged buyouts think they can make money buying Bed Bath & Beyond, stripping its assets and cutting costs, and then selling it again. Which usually means that the company becomes a shell of itself and underperforms the market again, setting itself up for another leveraged buyout. In this, World Market could suffer as well, a cheap wine horror too terrible to contemplate. Hopefully, the analyst speculation isn’t worth anything.

$40 million, anyone? Those of us who wonder why cheap wine doesn’t get enough respect always overlook the economics of cult wines. California’s Kosta Browne, among the cultiest, was sold for what reports are saying is more than $40 million. Which is a nice return for a 20,000-case winery that makes mostly pinot noir and owns just 20 acres of vineyards. Which means that he deal was almost all about the brand, demonstrating how powerful the allure is for a cult producer. That’s a lot of money for a name, but in the high-end wine business, name is all.

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