? Maybe it ?s all the gloomy weather: Tim Atkin, an English master of wine, has had quite enough, thank you. He goes off on British wine, which he calls disgusting; cheap wine, which he says is rarely a good value (what makes English wine types so sensitive about cheap wine?); and pinot grigio, a ?mostly dull grape variety ? in a 10-item rant. I can ?t speak to most of his broadside, but I can shed some light on the cheap wine parts, which are the first three items. Atkin, like Jamie Goode in the post linked above, is limited by the perspective of the British retail system, where cheap grocery store private label wine dominates the market and is often sold below cost. Maybe it is as awful as Atkin says, and maybe there isn ?t any Sicilian or Gascon wine available in Britain (and almost certainly no Bogle, Dry Creek, or Yellow + Blue), but dismissing all cheap wine is unnecessary. Take it from someone who knows a thing or two about rants.
? Let ?s try it again: A second movie version of the Judgment of Paris, the 1976 blind tasting in Paris where California wine beat French wine, is in the works. Turns out that many of the key figures in the tasting weren ?t happy with ?Bottle Shock, ? the first film version of what happened, and want to set the record straight. Steven Spurrier, who organized the tasting, was so unhappy with ?Bottle Shock" that he threatened to sue. No word yet on who will play George Taber, the U.S. reporter who covered the event, but I know several 30-something wine writers who would be perfect for the part.
? Bring out the bubbly ? sort of: How far has the Champagne market fallen since the start of the recession? So far that sales in the U.S. still haven ?t made it back to 2006 levels. Most of the shortish story is a lot numbers mumbo jumbo to make it look like things are going better for Champagne than they are, but the most interesting fact? That Mo t & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot combine for approximately 60 percent of the U.S. Champagne market. No wonder cava and Prosecco are doing so well.
? More bad news for bubbly: Just when you thought it couldn ?t get worse for Champagne, it did. Sales fell 4.4 percent the 12 months through December, according to the Comit Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne trade group. And Champagne shipments to the U.S. were down 25 percent in the first six months of last year, continuing that trend. And to think ? it wasn ?t all that long ago that the Champagne business was considering expanding the size of the Champagne region so they would have more land to get grapes from.
? Never underestimate three-tier: Abut a year ago, a federal judge ruled that a Kentucky law that banned grocery store wine sales was unconstitutional. So what ?s advancing through the Kentucky legislature? A more constitutional version of the ban, reports wkyufu,org. Said the bill ?s sponsor: ?So we would have liquor in convenience stores, dollar stores, wherever they could get a liquor license. And that's something that nobody wanted. ? Nobody, of course, not being the state ?s wine drinkers, who don ?t have the campaign cash to pay legislators to write bills for them. but the state ?s retailers who want to keep grocers out.
? Amazon adds two states: And they ?re not New York and Pennsylvania, which speaks volumes about how difficult it is to sell wine directly to the consumer in the U.S. If you live in Colorado or South Carolina, you can now use the Amazon service, which includes 15 states and the District of Columbia. Amazon usually doesn ?t break out many sales figures, but we should be coming up the first quarter of its wine retail operation. The numbers would be fascinating.
? Patty Bogle dies: Bogle, the matriarch of $10 wine powerhouse Bogle Vineyards, has died. She was 59. Patty Bogle and her late husband, Chris, built Bogle Vineyards from 18 acres of grapes into one of the best inexpensive wine producers in the world. The company ships more than 1.2 million cases of wine annually, and Wine Business Monthly ranked Bogle as the country's 14th-largest winery. She was diagnosed in 2007 with leukemia, which eventually killed her. She will be much missed by those of us who appreciate cheap wine.
? Grape prices below break-even? A followup to last week's item about the 2010 grape harvest and low grape prices: California producers say that although grape prices strengthened in 2010 from 2009, 2010 was not a good year and that many of the region ?s growers still face below break-even, especially those with expired contracts or grapes that aren't chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon. One analyst says he doesn't expect to see grape prices rebound until the 2012 harvest. Which means at least another two years of consumer-friendly wine prices.
? Champagne sales still flat: The recession hasn't ended for the champagne business, where sales are still 12 1/2 percent behind their 2007 peak and industry officials says they're still worried about the business and its immediate future. On the other hand, reports the just-drinks.com Web site, some producers may be finagling sales figures to prevent the industry officials from releasing excess inventory to the public, which would depress prices. The Wine Curmudgeon, of course, has a solution for champagne, which is too often overpriced. Stop acting like OPEC and let the market determine what your product is worth.