Tag Archives: wine consumption

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Winebits 408: Diageo sale, wine imports, French wine

diageo sale ? Treasury gets Diageo wine: Get ready for more Big Wine news in the wake of Diageo selling its handful of wine brands to Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates. The $351 million deal gives Treasury four million cases worth of wine in the U.S., which may move it into the top five of U.S. producers. The key is what Treasury will do with the brands, which include Sterling: Will it keep all of them, or sell some it sees as too cheap for its new focus on wine costing more than $10? Also, the purchase was as much about getting Diageo’s infrastructure in the U.S., including its bottling lines. Finally, there is this great quote from Treasury boss Michael Clark: “We remain committed to our strategic road map of transitioning our business from an order-taking agricultural company to a brand-led and capital-light marketing organization.” If anyone can explain what that means, I’ll send you a copy of the cheap wine book.

? It’s all about Italy: We can argue about what wine consumers want, but we can’t argue with the numbers. Hence, Italy’s continued success in selling wine in the U.S., accounting for one-third of all imported wine in dollar terms the first six months of this year. The big losers? Australia, still, as well as Chile and Argentina. Americans want pinot grigio and Prosecco, and Italy is happy to give it to us at mostly cheap prices. The Aussies, on the other hand have little that anyone wants, as sales fell seven percent in dollars and six percent in volume. How the mighty have fallen.

? The French are drinking again: Decanter reports that a government survey found a six percent increase in “occasional wine drinkers,” who accounted for half of the respondents. This is important news in a country where wine consumption has declined steadily for decades. This group included younger drinkers and women, who say they were more likely to have one or two glasses of wine a week. To put this in perspective, that one or two glasses of wine a week is more than bottle a month, which means an occasional wine drinker in France drinks more than the average adult in the U.S.

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Winebits 376: Apothic, restaurant wine, wine consumption

apothic ? A revolutionary product? Gallo’s Apothic, which revolutionized sweet red wine when it was introduced in 2007, may be doing it again. The company has released Apothic Crush, a slightly sweet red wine with 14.5 percent alcohol. In this, it appears to be the first sweet high alcohol wine that actually admits to being sweet and high in alcohol. For most of wine’s history, sweet table wines had less alcohol than dry wines not only because that’s how fermentation worked, but because no one thought consumers would drink a high alcohol sweet wine. But that has changed, first with the trend toward riper, more alcoholic wines, and second, with improvements in winemaking technology. In this, who knew Robert Parker, who has championed riper, higher alcohol wines, would pave the way for a Gallo product? Or, as the noted philosopher Mick Jagger has said more than once, “You can’t always get what you want/But if you try sometime you find/You get what you need.”

? Less hope for wine lists? Is the end coming for the independent restaurant? That may be one of the conclusions from a recent study, which found that the number of independents fell by two percent in the U.S. in 2014, and that the number of full-service independents dropped three percent. Chains, meanwhile, continued to grow in the low single digits. Why does this matter to wine drinkers? Because those independents, and especially the full-serves, are the last best hope for improved restaurant wine lists. Chains usually don’t care about wine and make decisions in a corporate office based on price, which means they have the crummiest and most overpriced wine lists. Independents, for all their problems with wine, generally do a better job than chains. So any drop in the number of chains should be worrisome for wine drinkers who want choices that aren’t from Big Wine.

? Beer, wine, or spirits? This chart, from Ghost in the Data, should answer all questions about whether the U.S. (or any other country in the world) is a wine drinking country. We’re not — it’s still beer. In fact, save for part of western Europe, the world is mostly indifferent to wine. This is something my colleagues in the Winestream Media should pay more attention to, instead of patting themselves on the back because we drink more wine than any other country in because we have more people than France and Italy.

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Winebits 351: Wine glasses, wine laws, and economic growth

wine news wine glasses ? Do wine glasses matter? The answer is no, says the Vinepair website in a post that includes the sentence, “Any industry that marries the existence of experts, the spending of cash, and the words ‘acquired taste’ as exquisitely as the wine industry does is bound to intimidate the uninitiated.” Which was a guarantee the Wine Curmudgeon would write about it. The post dismisses the idea that different shapes matter — a Bordeaux glass, a Burgundy glass, and so forth — and cites several studies and zings Riedel, the big glass company, repeatedly. Most of which makes sense, since I’ve never been convinced spending $100 for a glass is going to make all that much difference. The difference comes, I think, in whether you use well-made glasses instead of poorly-made ones. I buy the Forte from Schott Zwiesel, about $10 a glass, and am content. That’s about the twice the price of Libbey glasses, but the expense seems worth it.

? Hell no, we ain’t reformin’: Pennsylvania’s state-controlled liquor store system has been the subject of much controversy as well as repeated demands for privatization. Reform seems as far away as ever, despite all the effort, and I’ve discovered the reason: Money. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which runs the stores, is a $2.24 billion business. Which is damned big — almost twice the annual sales of Crate & Barrel and only one-sixth the total of Whole Foods, even though the upscale grocer is a national company with more than 360 stores. How many state legislators, regardless of political persuasion, are going to throw away that much money? I’m not even sure I would.

? Not just rich people drink wine: There’s a long and surprisingly boring post on Forbes discussing whether wine sales can predict economic growth. If someone can figure out what it actually says, let me know. As near as I can tell, it says that high-end wine sales are a predictor of U.S. economic health, which is not true and seems a silly thing for someone at Forbes to say. Because only five percent of the U.S. population buys wine that costs $20 or more, and the average price of a bottle of wine is about $10. So what the price of vineyard land in Napa Valley has to do with economic growth is beyond me. Which is probably why I do this and don’t write for Forbes.

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Another study agrees: We buy wine on price

wine genome studyThe biggest surprise in the Wine Genome study from Constellation Brands, one of the biggest wine companies in the world? That one-fifth of us buy wine on price.

“We knew they were out there, but the widening span of the study showed how deeply the recession cut,” said Dale Stratton, the Constellation official who oversaw this version, the third, of the company’s Project Genome, designed to identify the most common types of of wine drinkers based on purchase behavior, motivation, and preferences. “The recession had a big impact and significantly changed consumer spending habits.”

Stratton laughed when I asked him about this. No, he said, it’s not that Constellation (whose brands include Rex Goliath, Mark West, and Robert Mondavi) didn’t expect price to be important. Rather, it’s that price-driven wine drinkers were the biggest category of the six, doubling the number of Enthusiasts — those who “love everything about the wine experience,” including researching purchases, reading reviews, and sharing wine with others. In other words, the Winestream Media’s audience. The other thing to note here? The Enthusiasts account for 15 percent of profit, compared to 14 percent for the Price-Driven group. Harrumph.

The study, which updated a 2004 effort, is full of surprises — unless, of course, you visit here regularly (and you can see a nifty infographic describing each group here):

? The third-biggest group, at 19 percent, are Overwhelmed, which means pretty much what it says: “I don’t enjoy shopping for wine, and find it complex and overwhelming. This, says Stratton, reinforces the need for wine education, not only for consumers but for those who sell wine — distributors, retailers, and restaurateurs. Hearing this was surprising enough, but I almost dropped the phone when Stratton said that winespeak is one of the reasons the overwhelmed are overwhelmed. Maybe, he said, retailers and wine writers should find simpler terms to use.

? Women, who have traditionally skewed higher for wine purchases at the lower end, are becoming more important at the higher end. The Enthusiasts, who were about 65 percent male in 2004, were close to 50-50 this time. “This means more women see wine as a hobby,” says Stratton, and that means more women attend tastings and shop at wine-specific retailers.

? Wine snobs, called Image Seekers, are still with us, and in a big way. They account for 18 percent of wine drinkers, but contribute 26 percent of profits, more than any other group. Given the wine they drink, that’s probably not surprising.

? Welcome the Millennials to wine, in the form of the Engaged Newcomer at 12 percent. This group is young, wants to learn more, and recognizes that wine is intimidating. They also spend more on a bottle than the other groups, about $13.

One other point worth noting: This kind of study is common for consumer packaged goods like laundry detergent and ketchup. That Constellation can do for wine what Proctor & Gamble does for its products speaks volumes about how much the wine business has changed, and that it is becoming more mainstream.

“Wine is increasing household penetration at a good clip, and the audience has broadened,” said Stratton. “And it’s going to continue to change, as the American population changes.”

winetrends

Wine trends in 2014

Wine trends in 2014The wine business in 2014 won’t be so much about varietal or sweet, though both will matter. Rather, wine trends in 2014 will be about the continuing transformation of wine into a truly global business, focusing on:

? Increased retail availability — more wines in more and different kinds of stores, and especially grocery stores. This means attempts to change state laws where that’s illegal

? More consolidation among producers — not just the biggest getting bigger, the trend over the past decade, but consolidation among mid-sized wineries, which will be folded into companies specificially formed for that purpose.

? The growing importance of the consumer, who is beginning to drink what he or she wants and forcing the wine business to adjust, rather than the other way around.

Mixed in with this will be renewed attempts by the neo-Probhibitionists in goverment and medicine to reduce wine consumption. More, after the jump:

Continue reading

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Winebits 307: Wine cities, Wine Spectator, wine revolution

? More wine in Dallas, please: The Wine Curmudgeon has noted many times that Dallas residents treat wine as if they were afraid of it, and now we have statistical evidence to support my observation. A Harris Poll found that Dallas residents are the least likely of anyone in the country’s 10 biggest metro areas to drink wine, and that we lead the country in not drinking any alcohol at all. No wonder we spend way too much time obsessing over the Cowboys. Obviously, I have my work cut out for me, and will continue to urge responsible cheap wine drinking on the masses. It’s the least I can do.

? Some wines are more equal than others: Kyle Schlachter at Colorado Wine Press, who has much more patience with the Winestream Media than I have, reports on what appears to be the Wine Spectator’s double standard for choosing wines to review. The magazine has said it won’t review some wines (in this case, from Colorado) if they they aren’t widely available. On the other hand, it recently reviewed several wines from France that weren’t widely available (10 cases or less in the U.S.). Schlachter seemed surprised by this contradiction, but that’s only because he hasn’t been dealing with this kind of hypocrisy for as long as I have. The Spectator does what the Spectator does; that’s why it is the Spectator. And why it has a Curmudgie named after it.

? Democratizing wine: David White of the Terroirist has a fine take on the changes in the wine business, led by consumers who make up their own minds about what they want to drink. He quotes Jancis Robinson, the preeminent European critic: ” ?No longer are wine critics and reasonably well-known wine writers like me sitting on a pedestal, haughtily handing down our judgments. Nowadays ? [consumers] can make up their own minds. That ?s altogether a lot healthier. ? It’s also intriguing, from my perspective, that some of the best and most well-known critics in the world see this change and approve of it. That means they have the well being of wine and wine drinkers at heart, and not whether they continue to be important and famous.

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Winebits 306: Grape shortage, Bogle, wine labels

? So much for the experts: Last week’s report that the world was facing an imminent grape shortage and a corresponding leap in prices sent the wine world into a minor fluff. Eventually, common sense prevailed and the news was discounted for what it was — at the very least odd and at the very most suspicious. There is no grape shortage, and the best reporting on the subject was done, as usual, by Lew Perdue at Wine Industry Insight. Stacy Finz at the Chronicle in San Francisco contributed a very sensible piece as well. Most telling was this bit in Finz’s article: “The report’s authors, Tom Kierath and Crystal Wang of Morgan Stanley’s Australian consumer and beverage branch, declined to be interviewed.” My experience, after some 30 years as a reporter, is that when someone doesn’t want to defend what they wrote or said, then there isn’t much reason to pay attention to it.

? Wine drinkers know a good thing: Bogle, the $10 wine that has been in the cheap wine Hall of Fame as long as there has been a Hall of Fame, continues to sell lots and lots and lots of wine. Shanken News Daily, the web news service (and part of the Wine Specator empire — oh delicious irony), reports that the company’s sales rose nearly 16 percent in 2012 to 1.75 million cases. That makes Bogle one of the biggest dozen or so producers in the country, and it has almost doubled its sales in the past 18 months since I interviewed Ryan Bogle. The Shanken article credits the quality of the Bogle wines for the label’s success, though in a very Winestream Media way, citing points — “more than 30 scores of 87 points or higher from Wine Spectator” — as proof of quality. Though, to be honest, as annoying as that is, I don’t know why I would expect anything different.

? An easier to read wine label, please: Lou Marmon, one of the best wine writers that not enough people know about, has a fine take on the foolishness that passes for wine labels these days. “Clearly front labels are critical to wine marketing,” he writes, “but is there any reason why they cannot be more accurate and informative?” Marmon details all the agonies involved in reading a wine label, whether misleading terms like “old vines,” cute labels, and variation in alcohol content. And, he points out, that doesn’t include the difference between European and U.S. labels, which take the subject in another, albeit equally confusing, direction.