Tag Archives: wine bottles

wine advice

Ask the WC 9: Premiumization, wine bottles, Chicago Cubs

Ask the Wine Curmudgeon

“Damn, that’s a heavy bottle for a cheap wine.”

Because the customers always have wine questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular wine advice feature. Ask the Wine Curmudgeon wine-related question .

Dear WC:
I’m confused about all this talk about premiumization. I’m not buying more expensive wine, and none of my friends are. We’re buying the same price wine we’ve always bought. So where do they get the numbers that say we’re buying more expensive wine?
Cheap and confused

Dear Confused:
There is data that shows that the dollar value of U.S. wine sales is increasing and that Americans are buying less wine that costs $7 a bottle or less. Hence, premiumization. What is less clear is why this this is happening. Are we consciously buying more expensive wine? What’s the role of price increases? And what does it mean that the demographic that bought all that $7 wine is getting older and drinking less? No one has really answered those questions. To my mind, it’s not so much that the average price of a bottle of wine is increasing; it’s that the same numbers show wine sales are flat. So, in the end, it’s a tradeoff, and one that’s not good for wine.

Wine Curmudgeon:
Why is so much inexpensive wine still sold in heavy, expensive bottles? You’d think that would add to the cost of the wine, and I don’t want to pay for it. I want to pay for the wine.
The glass is not half full

Dear Glass:
Because wine has to come in a heavy glass bottle with a punt and a cork, or consumers will think it’s crappy wine. Still. The good news is that, as glass and shipping prices have increased, more and more producers are switching to lighter bottles to keep their profit margins. So we’re seeing some change, albeit slowly.

Hey Curmudgeonly One:
Now that your Chicago Cubs are in first place by a lot, are you still going to buy that $300 bottle of wine if they win the World Series? Won’t that destroy your reputation as a cheapo?
Not a Cubs fan

Dear Not:
Do I detect a little St. Louis Cardinals jealousy here? It’s a long baseball season, and the Cubs aren’t playing well after that incredible start. I’d love the opportunity to buy an expensive bottle to celebrate, but I’ve been a Cubs fan for too long to count on anything. Remember 1969?

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 8: Restaurant wine, storing wine, sparkling wine
Ask the WC 7: Winespeak, availability, Bordeaux
Ask the WC 6: Box wine, wine closeouts, open wine

wine news

Winebits 438: Regional wine, wine bottles, Total Wine

regional wine• Even in Nova Scotia: The government in the Canadian province will spend C$3.5 (about US$2.7) to help vineyards and wineries, an almost unprecedented investment in a part of the world where one doesn’t think of wine. But the provincial government sees wine as a way to create create jobs and boost economic development, which is something progressive and far-sighted governments do (right, Texas?). In fact, there are 11 wineries in the province, and the modern Nova Scotia wine industry is 25 years old.

• More than just a bottle: Will wine drinkers ever accept anything other than wine in a 750-ml bottle? Can the wine industry meet that demand? This is a chicken and egg question, and particularly since experts and consultants insist wine drinkers want something else and consumers keep buying wine in the traditional bottle. The Wine Intelligence consultancy parses the issue, and realizes that “part of the issue remains one of cost. One [750-ml] bottle incurs less dry goods cost than four mini [187.5-ml] bottles, and price sensitive consumers have historically been reluctant to pay more (relatively) for less.” In other words, wine drinkers don’t want to pay more for convenience, and this doesn’t take into account that smaller sized bottles (as well as cans, boxes, and what have you) have usually been used for inferior wine.

• Total Wine changes: The man who runs the country’s biggest liquor chain is stepping down to go into politics. David Trone, who started Total Wine with his brother Robert and led it to almost $2 billion in sales and some 120 stores, is leaving to go into politics. He was an unsuccessful congressional candidate in Maryland this spring, and says he wants pursue a career in public service, which may include another congressional run or a presidential appointment. This is intriguing news, and not just because of politics. Trone, whom I have interviewed, is one of the smartest retailers I have met, and Total’s success owes much to he and his brother’s vision. If he isn’t there, can Total continue to grow?

wine news

Winebits 357: Special Halloween edition

halloween wineBecause the Wine Curmudgeon always gets a giggle when others try to turn Halloween into a wine holiday.

? 31 Halloween wines: Seriously? Indeed, says GreatWineNews. All of the usual wines are there, like Phantom and Ghost Pines, plus some I’ve never heard of and some that seem like a stretch, including a rose. And the writing, much of which seems to be a cut and paste job from winery sites, manages to find almost every cliche, Halloween and otherwise: “With a name like River of Skulls, you know it has to be good ?”

? Seriously, though: Food & Wine’s Ray Isle does one of the best jobs among the Winestream Media in making wine accessible and interesting, and makes the same attempt with this slideshow (let’s juice up those page views) for Halloween wine. It’s not a recent list, though difficult to tell how old it is, but the wines included are still adequate for drinking. Maybe it’s the way my mind works, but I’ve written about d ?Arenberg’s The Dead Arm Shiraz several times over the past couple of years, and have never once thought of it in conjunction with Halloween.

? Do it yourself: I am about the least handy person in the world; my greatest accomplishments in that regard are using a corkscrew and tightening door knobs. So anytime anyone can do something crafty, no matter how silly, I’m impressed. Karen Kravett, an Internet crafting type, shows how to turn wine bottles into Halloween decorations. Again, something else that never crossed my mind.

winerant

Why don’t these wines have screwcaps?

scewcapsThe Wine Curmudgeon has been tasting mostly red wine this month, and especially cabernet sauvignon, in an effort to get more wines that I don’t normally drink on the blog. Quality, even around $10, has been surprisingly good, but there has been one major disappointment. Not only do most of the wines have corks instead of screwcaps, but they come in heavy, old-fashioned bottles.

Which raises the question, which I’ve raised before and which is worth raising again: Why don’t these popularly-priced wines use screwcaps and come in lighter bottles? That would make the wines less expensive to produce, lower their carbon footprint, increase profit, and even possibly lower cost. And neither would affect quality.

Consider: The bottle for a 2003 white Burgundy — about as high end as wine gets — weighs 22 ounces and is closed with a cork. The bottle for the $5 Rene Barbier wines, closed with a screwcap, weighs 14 ounces. Yet most of the producers whose wines I’ve tasted use some kind of cork and unnecessarily heavy bottles, often closer to the white Burgundy than the Barbier. Some examples:

? The $11 Pigmentum malbec from France, 19 ounces, artificial cork.

? The $12 Errazauriz cabernet sauvignon from Chile, 15 ounces, screwcap. Ironically, the producer recently changed bottles, cutting the weight by 12 1/2 percent. Otherwise, it would be 17 ounces.

? The $12 Josh Cellars cabernet sauvignon from California, 22 ounces, natural cork.

? The $16 Bonterra zinfandel from California, 23 ounces, artificial cork. The irony? That Bonterra is one of the best selling green wine brands in the country.

? The $17 Downton Abbey claret from France, 19 ounces, natural cork.

In these cases, sadly, appearance is all. The Downton Abbey is the most obvious example, but even the others work from the assumption that consumers expect quality wine to come in heavy bottles with some kind of cork. We can argue forever about screwcaps vs. corks, but the one thing that isn’t in debate is that screwcaps are perfectly acceptable for most of the wine we drink. And there is absolutely no debate about the bottle. This isn’t 1890, when bottle weight mattered, protecting the wine from the perils of 19th century shipping. Lighter weight, given today’s bottle technology, is just as effective. Fifty million cases of Two-buck Chuck are proof of that.

Obviously, what’s in the bottle matters most. At some point, though, the bottle and closure itself is going to matter, whether producers believe it or not.

Winebits 284: Wine prices, wine bottles, soft drinks

? Too many grapes? During the wine price panic a couple of years ago, the wise guys kept mumbling that there weren ?t enough wine grapes planted in California, and that, psst, I ?ve got a deal for you if you want to buy some vineyard land. That wasn ?t necessarily the case then, and it ?s probably not today, either. The president of one of the biggest grape grower trade groups says the number of acres in production could be 25 percent higher than the official figures. If true, this would explain why prices never took off, even after the so-called short harvests in 2010 and 2011. And it would also explain why production rebounded so quickly to a record in 2012. And, for those of us who care about wine prices, it also means they aren ?t going up any time soon.

? Do we really need glass? No less than the pre-eminent British wine writer Jancis Robinson asks this question, wondering ?why we need a material as heavy, fragile and resources-hungry as glass for everyday wine, wine that is consumed within months of being bottled. ? Why not juice boxes and pouches? Good questions all, but ones that overlook the role of tradition in the wine business. Screwcaps are not new, and are cheaper and more efficient than corks. But most wine is still closed with corks, and for no other reason than that ?s the way it has always been done.

? Rot those teeth: The Wine Curmudgeon does not drink soft drinks, dating from my days as a young reporter who wrote a story and learned that Coke, Pepsi, and the rest are among the most nutritionally bankrupt foods on the planet. So I was not surprised to see this study, which claims that diet soft drinks rot teeth like cocaine and meth. The story that describes the study doesn ?t go into much detail about how it was conducted, and I ?m curious why only a handful of women were studied, but it does make great reading and something to point out to those who tell me I drink too much wine. And why my teeth are in such good shape.

Five things the wine business can do to help consumers figure out wine

Five things the wine business can do to help consumers figure out wineWine is still too confusing, though some effort has been made over the past several years to make it easier for wine drinkers ? new and experienced ? to understand what ?s going on. Check out this newspaper article from 1977, and you ?ll see what I mean:

The result of all this is that any but the most experienced wine aficionado often will (1) buy a very expensive wine, equating high price with quality; (2) buy a very cheap but unpleasant wine and then throw it all away; (3) buy the same wine all the time; (4) not buy wine at all.

Sound familiar?

Depressing, too, given so little of that has changed in almost 40 years. But there are five things that can be done to make wine less confusing. The list, after the jump:

Continue reading

Winebits 175: Wine smuggling, ancient wine bottles, Bordeaux ratings

? Protesting Canadian liquor laws: A former Mountie and broadcaster will launch a Canadian-wide convoy around May 4, in which he will carry wine across provincial lines, to protest what he says are his country's archaic liquor laws. The Vancouver Sun reports that Terry David Mulligan says he is even willing to go to jail to overturn the 83-year-old Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, which makes it illegal for anyone to bring wine (or beer or spirits, for that matter) into another province. As someone who knows a bit about these kinds of liquor laws, the Wine Curmudgeon would like to warn Mulligan to be very careful. Those liquor cops mean business.

? Letting wine age: Or any of a thousand other bad jokes (many of which seem be in the story from Britain's Daily Mail). Two Chinese bronze containers, made to hold wine some 3,000 years ago, valued for an auction next month at almost 2 million, or about US$3.25 million. And, in the finest tradition of this sort of story, the bottles cost their owners about 1,000 each when they bought them in the 1960s. Though this probably doesn't mean that it's time to start saving your wine bottles on the off chance something might develop.

? New French vintage is great: Just in case anyone is wondering, but the 2010 Bordeauxs are a "great vintage ?a lucky continuation of a stunning succession, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009." And the best wines? Chateau Margaux, Latour, Lafite and Cheval Blanc — which, for those of you who don't follow these things, are pretty much always among the best wines. If anyone has a couple of 3,000-year-old Chinese wine bottles, we can sell them and probably afford to buy a bottle or two of the 2010s.