The Wine Curmudgeon has bad news for those of you who go out of your way to ignore rose – the statistics say rose sales are up. Lots, even.
Wine drinkers, as part of an overall shift away from oakier, more alcoholic wines, are turning to rose. This is especially true of younger wine drinkers, who see rose for what it is – cheap, well made and food friendly.
Which offers hope for my otherwise cranky outlook. I’ve been preaching the gospel of rose for years, but rose posts are always among the blog’s worst read items. Maybe not this year, and especially not for the annual rose roundup in honor of Memorial Day and the start of summer. More, after the jump:
I smiled when I read details of your recent interview with the French wine magazine Terre des Vins, where you said you didn’t think Parkerization – the idea that wines should be richer, riper, and more alcoholic, a practice that has become de rigueur for many high-end producers in France and California – existed. It reminded me what Joan Baez once said: That she never wanted to be famous, just well known.
Yes, Parkerizaton exists (as even your wife has apparently noted). Why else would I get a sample of $50, 15.2 percent California pinot noir, other than to impress you? It’s not like anyone else would want to drink it.
Frankly, denying Parkerization is too Shakespeare – you are protesting too much. Instead, you should acknowledge the influence you had on the wine business over the past 20 years, when even the greatest French producers would accept your verdict as gospel. That’s pretty damned impressive.
Before Ernest Hemingway, everyone wrote like Henry James. After Hemingway, everyone wrote like Hemingway. Papa reveled in that, and never tired of reminding the world that he was behind it. See the scenes with F. Scott Fitzgerald in “A Moveable Feast” for evidence.
My guess, and it’s only a guess, because we’ve never met and I don’t know you (though I greatly respect your work) is that you were having a Baez-like moment. Could all the changes in the wine business and the way wine is made have really happened because of you? You were, all those years ago, just an attorney who loved wine. There’s no way you, one man, could have changed so much, is there?
Afraid so, and you only have a couple of choices now. Accept your role, like Hemingway (without the looniness, hopefully). There are an almost infinite number of wine writers who wish they were in that position. Or, if you really think Parkerization is wrong, say so. Say it forcefully and often. Look back at what you wrote and see where, maybe, you opted for unctuousness (one of your favorite terms) over subtlety. And did it happen more often than you remember?
Regardless, accept that most of us would not be doing this sort of thing if not for you. I, for one, am grateful for that.
The Wine Curmudgeon has run out of adjectives to praise Sicilian wine. Whenever I think it can’t get any better, it does.
Remember how crazy I was about the Cusumano Nero d’Avola? The Insolia ($12, purchased, 12.5%) is even better put together. It’s a white wine made with the Sicilian insolia grape, traditionally used to make marsala. Yet, on its own, the Insolia is an absolutely beautiful wine, one that makes all that $15 and $20 grocery store stuff taste like the boring, dull grape juice that so much of it is.
Look for some lemon fruit and baking spices, but using terms like that shortchanges the wine. The whole is definitely bigger than the parts; this is a rich and full wine that not only pairs with seafood, but that makes you think of seafood as you’re drinking it. Highly recommended, and if I can find it for $10, it will be in next year’s $10 Hall of Fame.
• Is cheap wine profitable? Jamie Goode, the respected and award-winning British wine writer, argues that cheap wine will never make anyone any money. He compares it to the cell phone business, noting that if one carrier offered cheaper rates instead of what he calls the almost cartel-like pricing structure in use, then “all profitability will be sucked out of the market.” That’s the opposite of the wine business, he writes, so no one must be making any money with cheap wine. His reasoning, though intriguing, misses a couple of points. Wine is not the cell phone business, which is limited by spectrum availability (as one comment to the post points out) and that lack of spectrum raises prices and margins. In addition, Goode overlooks the elasticity of cell phones vs. wine. We “need” cell phones; we don’t need wine. Hence, there is little incentive for cheap cell phone plans. Finally, I think Goode doesn’t understand the incredible marketing skill of U.S. producers like The Wine Group, which can create demand for cheap wine like Cupcake and still make money.
• When are wine sales illegal? When you’re in a state that forbids them. Like Wisconsin, which enforces a 1939 law that sets minimum prices for many retail goods. The story does a good job of explaining why Wisconsin wine prices can be 20 to 30 percent higher than in neighboring states, and how the World Market chain had to correct its Wisconsin advertising and sales offer to comply with state law. Note to Wisconsin residents: Drive across the border to Illinois. Wine is much cheaper there, and maybe even worth the price of the gas for the trip.
How else to explain the Wine Curmudgeon as a finalist for a 2013 Wine Blogger Award -- as one of the five nominated for best industry blog? Best industry blog? For a blog written by someone who has spent his entire wine writing career fighting the man. Opposing the power. Upping the people. Trying desperately to make wine simpler and easier for the ordinary consumer, and pushing the boulder uphill in the face of an industry that could care less.
I can only think of two things that might explain this: First, the wine industry, in an attempt to co-opt the opposition, has clasped me to its bosom. This would make sense, assuming the wine industry cared one way or the other about what I write. Second, that the nominating judges made a mistake. Which, given my dour Midwestern outlook on life, is probably what happened. No doubt, someone will shortly call me and apologize and say better luck next year.
Until then, I'm going to enjoy this, odd category or no. Because I am grateful. Happy, too. Ecstatic, even. Thank you, nominating judges. Because I sit at my desk and type five of these things a week and wring my hands and gnash my teeth and wonder if anyone reads them and if they do, does it matter? And how can I get people who aren't really wine drinkers to read the blog and what kinds of posts would they like to see? And how am I going to make any money off of this and will I ever finish the book, and dammit, I need a post for next Thursday.
And, of course, I will be most shamelessly promoting my nomination in hopes of winning the award. So go here and vote for me. Voting ends May 24, so don't waste any time.
The three-tier system is about money, and not the consumer. Right, Missouri?
Alcohol is distributed through the three-tier system in the U.S., and is constitutionally protected, thanks to several Supreme Court decisions, just like freedom of speech and religion. But that doesn’t mean it deserves that protection.
This was amply demonstrated in Missouri this spring. The state legislature debated a bill that would have restored a law that a federal judge had thrown out, suffered through a filibuster in the state Senate, and almost scuttled much needed legislation to decriminalize home brewing.
None of this effort was intended to benefit consumers, and none of it did. Instead, it was a fight between one distributor, its biggest competitor, and the world’s largest booze companies to redistribute their constitutionally-protected share of the nine-figure Missouri wine, beer and spirits market.
Or, as one eyewitness told me: “It’s chaos.” More, after the jump:
As usual, the answer depends on how much the wine costs. If you have to pay some concessionaire bandit $11 at a baseball game, absolutely not. But if you can find the wine in the plastic glass for $3 at a grocery store, and you’re not fussy about what it tastes like and you want the convenience, you could do worse.