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Holiday wine trends 2015

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Holiday wine trendsHoliday wine trends in 2015? Red wine — lots and lots of red wine.

That’s the consensus from the retailers I’ve talked to over the past 10 days. The red blends boom, combined with an upsurge in interest in pinot noir, has shoppers going for what Chris Keel, who runs Put a Cork in It in Fort Worth, calls “a bigger style in red blends.”

That was born out by numbers from Wine.com, where two-thirds of the wine sold over the past year were red. Mike Osborne, the web site’s founder and and vice president of merchandising, reports that the leading red wine categories, including merlot, have grown by double digits.

Interestingly, prices seem stable, particularly on the high end, and we’re still looking for value. But we’re also willing to pay for a holiday splurge, says Nick Vorpagel of Lake Geneva Country Meats. “They’re generally OK with $15, especially for domestic wine,” he says, noting the difficulty in finding quality for $10 from U.S. producers. “And I think consumers have decided that wine is an integral part of their meal and they’re OK with paying a bit more for a quality bottle of wine.”

Among the other holiday wine trends this year:

• Rose is still popular, even though it’s not rose season. Wine.com is selling more rose than merlot, which is as welcome a development as it is hard to believe.

• “Customers are looking for wine recommendations that fit their palate, not just a generic ‘best pairing’ recommendation,” says Vorpagel. “I’m having more customers come in and say, ‘I don’t like pinot noir; what other reds will go with turkey?’ It’s great because people are getting more comfortable with their palate to say ‘I’m not going to drink something I don’t like just because an expert recommends it.’ ” That sound you hear is the Wine Curmudgeon’s sigh of pleasure.

• Oak is not going away, no matter how much I want it to. Those of you who like it are still buying it, and especially in chardonnay, and producers have launched several wines in the $15 to $20 range for these wine drinkers.

The Wine Curmudgeon most popular posts 2015

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wine curmudgeon

Change your logo as much as you want, but you’re still screwing up my site.

The Wine Curmudgeon blog has a new editor/publisher, but I knew nothing about it until I compiled the top 10 most popular posts from the past 12 months. It’s Google, which now decides what you read on the blog. I can try all I want — and I try very hard — to write relevant, informative, and helpful content, but my efforts matter less and less. That’s because Google directs people to the posts it decides are the most important, and for the first time in the blog’s history, those aren’t necessarily the posts I consider the most important.

Case in point: The top post from November 2014 to November 2015 was a five-year-old effort about Barefoot wine that didn’t make the top 10 last year. It’s bad enough that Google sent readers to the blog for something that wasn’t current, but the Barefoot post replaced the $10 Hall of Fame — my reason for being — as the most popular post.

Ain’t the Internet grand?

Almost none of the stuff that I wrote over the past 12 months that should have been in the top 20 was. None of the stuff that I thought was clever or funny made the top 20. Just old wine reviews — literally. Seven of the 10 best read posts over the last year were reviews of wines from 2014 or before.

This, for a writer, is as depressing as it gets, not unlike someone telling Michelangelo that the Sistine Chapel is nice, but an estimate for painting the house would be even better. What’s the point of reporting, and then crafting and sweating over a piece, when Google says not to bother because no one wants to read it? The search giant equates popularity with trust, so it sends people to the most popular posts because its algorithm says they’re the most trusted. Because, of course, they’re the most popular. That this is the Internet version of a Catch-22 doesn’t seem to matter.

Even the good news, that my traffic recovered in 2015 from the slump caused by Google’s ever-changing search methods and from revamping the website two years ago, was depressing. I’m getting more than 51,000 visitors — that’s visitors, not page views — a month, an amazing number for a one-person site. But what’s the point if they’re coming here to read stuff that doesn’t necessarily matter anymore?

Not to worry, though, if you like the stuff no one else does. I won’t change the blog’s format just because an algorithm says I should. Everyone should know me better than that by now. The most popular posts from 2015, plus a couple of other notes, are after the jump:

Four highlights from the 2015 American Wine Society conference

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American Wine Society conferenceLast weekend’s American Wine Society conference reminded me that U.S. wine drinkers aren’t the stereotypes the wine business wants us to be. What a pleasure to be around curious, intelligent, and passionate wine drinkers for two days, people who want to learn more about wine and who are open to something that isn’t what they’re told they should drink.

Yes, it’s a small sample size, and yes, anyone who attends something like this isn’t going to be exactly typical. But when I mentioned the grocery store Great Wall of Wine in my first presentation, there was more than one nodding acknowledgment from the audience. Which means every wine drinker, no matter how experienced, faces many of the same problems.

Among the highlights:

• I took a lot of kidding when I offered to do a Texas wine seminar at an East Coast event, but it sold out almost immediately. The McPherson rose, the Llano Estacado Harvest tempranillo, and the Haak dry blanc du bois were the biggest hits, each speaking to Texas’ terroir and what happens when Texas winemakers make Texas wines. But that’s the point, isn’t it? That Texas wine will only grow and get better if the focus is on making Texas wine, and not California (or wherever) wine that comes from Texas.

• The other key from the Texas seminar? That people elsewhere seem eager to buy the wines, and that it’s time — if the grape harvests cooperate — to start exporting Texas wine to the rest of the U.S. The days when 95 percent of Texas wine was sold in Texas, and everyone was content with that, appear to be over.

• We aren’t scared of weird grapes, even though the wine business does its best to terrify us. That the hybrid blanc du bois impressed so many, with its clean citrus flavors, was one thing, but that the Augusta chambourcin was one of the hits of the regional wine seminar says even more. Chambourcin, a red hybrd, is notorious for its off, foxy aroma, but winemaker Tony Kooyumjian has solved that problem. This is probably the best chambourcin in the U.S., with spiciness, dark Rhone-style fruit, and a wonderful Missouri elan.

• The best wine that almost no one has ever tasted is the Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly gamay from California’s Sierra Foothills. It seems so simple, but there is so much going on that it’s difficult to believe. Most winemaker tasting notes don’t say much, but Steve Edmunds is exactly right: “Juicy and precise on the palate, mouth-watering, showing lot of depth. The finish is long, and clean. This is already really versatile at the table, as always.” How much do I like it? It’s worth every penny of the $21 it costs.

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