? You can’t learn from me: A study reported at the Partnership for Drug Free Kids found parents can’t teach their children responsible drinking. The catch? One definition of teaching responsible drinking is parents buying the booze for a beer bash. Sigh. How about parents letting their children have wine with dinner, to show them it’s not something unusual or forbidden? The study’s approach, to demonize booze, reminds me of the way we tried to demonize sex for teenagers, substituting abstinence for education. Which didn’t work very well. As I wrote when I was writing that sort of thing: “Teach kids to make intelligent decisions, and they ?ll make intelligent decisions. Tell kids what not to do, and they ?ll do what they ?re not supposed to do every time. Isn ?t that one of the first rules of being a good parent?”
? Even more lawyers: One of the first things I wrote here discussed fake wine terms; that is, those that appear on the bottle to describe wine but have no legal meaning and are used to confuse consumers. Now, it looks like we’re going to see some definition, with lawsuits filed against spirits producers who used the terms handmade and local, both of which have no legal standing but are used all the time. Even though the Wine Curmudgeon is not a lawyer, he has some advice for the producers they should listen to: Settle. You know, as well as I do, what’s going on here. And you don’t want to put that in front of a jury,
? No more, please, I’m a drunk: This item probably deserved its own post, complete with interview, picture, and my incredibly erudite comments in praise of the writer. But given that I’ve already written something like this and I don’t want to bore you, this will have to suffice: Janet Street-Porter, writing in London’s Daily Mail, has had her fill of government agencies telling her she is an alcoholic. “Two glasses of wine a night doesn’t mean I’m a drunk.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
? Get off my horse: Chateau Cheval Blanc, the top-rated Bordeaux producer whose wines can cost thousands of dollars a bottle, is suing Domaine du Cheval Blanc, a small family-owned Bordeaux winery that hardly anyone has heard of, claiming the latter must change its name. The Wine Curmudgeon mentions this because of his interest in wine lawsuits and their inherent foolishness, in which the biggest companies pursue legal action for no other reason than they can. Because, honestly, who would confuse this wine with this wine? But not this wine with this wine? Wine-Searcher.com reports that Chateau Cheval Blanc, which lost the case once, won on appeal and has returned to court to force Domaine du Cheval Blanc to pick a new name. The story is complicated, as most are for those of us who aren’t trademark attorneys, but the upshot is that it looks like Chateau will win. And people wonder why I get so cranky.
? Turn up the Beethoven: Commit lots of alcohol-related crimes in London? Then you’ll be forced to wear ankle tags that monitor the levels of alcohol in your sweat. Yes, it’s all very “Clockwork Orange,” but London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, has other concerns. Drunks deter ?law-abiding citizens from enjoying our great city, especially at night.” The impetus for the idea? The success of similar ankle systems with drunk drivers in the U.S. So glad the British can learn something from us, especially after all they have given this country.
? Drink that cheap wine: English wine consultant Jerry Lockspeiser writes in Harpers, a British trade magazine, that consumers are perfectly happy buying cheap wine, noting that there is no correlation between price and wine people like. Then he asks: If consumers are happy, why does the wine business try so hard to sell them expensive wine? The Wine Curmudgeon practically swooned when he read that. The interesting bit, of course, is the question, which he answers in two parts: That the business is convinced it will make more money off pricey wine, which may or may not be true, and that they’re snobs: “… we pity the poor souls who have not see the light. We know, because we are chosen.” I should send this guy a cheap wine book, no?
? Do wine competitions work? Tim Atkin, a British expert, says they do, and paraphrases Winston Churchill: ?Competitions are the worst way to evaluate wine, except for all of the others. ? Which is something I wish I had thought of, given I have a poster of Churchill hanging in the office. Atkin ?s take on competitions is thoughtful and makes several good points, including whether price should matter, quality of the judges, and that sometimes, wines do get lucky. His comments are most welcome given the current controversy over competitions, and that I ?ll be judging two of them in the next couple of weeks.
? Restaurants dropping wine from lists: Remember all those giddy articles about the progress wine was making with mid-priced chain restaurants, and how it meant they were finally going to take wine seriously? We might have spoken too soon. A new study has found that eight of the 10 biggest casual chains cut their wine selections by 17 percent in the eight months ending in March. The chains, including Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, and Ruby Tuesday, may have decided that wine isn ?t worth the trouble, but that craft beer and spirits are, says the study, calling the shift unprecedented. My guess? That, since the recession especially pummeled these kinds of restaurants, they did what they always do ? relegate wine to what they consider its rightful place, out of sight and out of mind. Because wine is just too much trouble.
? Bring out the lawyers: The Wine Curmudgeon loves a good wine lawsuit, and this one looks to be a doozy. A Napa Valley producer is suing wine consultant for $1.6 million, claiming the latter didn ?t do a good enough job making a $200 wine. The article, in the Napa Valley Register, is so full of giggles that I can ?t do it justice here. My favorite? That the consultant went on vacation during a crucial part of the winemaking process.
Because the Wine Curmudgeon is always amused by the legal side of the wine business:
? Blame it on Utah: The Wine Curmudgeon has first-hand experience with Utah’s liquor laws, thanks to a story I wrote about the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. But not even I was ready for this excellent piece of reporting by Nancy Lofholm in The Denver Post. How about eight different liquor licenses? Or that some establishments have to have a barrier between customers and the bartender, and that others don’t — even if they have the same license? But don’t worry too much. Says one Utah tourism official: “We are not the only state with peculiar liquor laws.”
? Scores don’t matter: Or, did a New York judge tell a wine drinker that a high score can’t be the basis for suing about wine quality? There are many ways to interpret the decision, in which a Manhattan judge dismissed a lawsuit (requires free registration) in which a consumer wanted a refund from a wine store because he didn’t like the six bottles of 91-point wine he bought. The judge wrote that wine taste is subjective, and so can’t be the basis for a lawsuit. I know the wine in question, a decent enough bottle of Rioja, but one that’s probably not worth the $12.99 the consumer paid. Damn those scores anyway.
? Questioning three-tier? Or so says this post from the Libation Law blog, analyzing a New Jersey court decision that said “New Jersey’s liquor control laws and regulations must be administered in the light of changing conditions.” Which, of course, is what those of us who want to reform the three-tier system have been saying for years: That a system put in place at the end of Prohibition to keep the mob out of liquor has outlived its reason for being. The decision, which dealt with distributors and how they paid commission, is esoteric, but Ashley Brandt at Libation is optimistic that it “strengthens the argument that a vigilant regulatory system can uncover and prohibit the practices that people claim the three-tiered system was meant to forestall.” The Wine Curmudgeon, with his vast legal experience (a semester of First Amendment law in college) isn’t quite so sure, but who am I to ruin a good mood?
Scottish wine for a Scottish dish, haggis
? Talk about terroir: A Scottish winemaker — yes, that’s correct — says climate change has made it possible to make wine in his country. Christopher Trotter, a chef and food writer, wants to grow six acres of grapes in eastern Scotland, and says that the warmest weather in centuries will make it possible. One caveat: It’s still cooler than most of the world’s wine regions, so he has to use grapes that are cold hardy and that don’t necessarily make great wine. The article, from the Bloomberg news service, is also an excellent look at how warmer temperatures around the world will affect the wine business.
? A glass of Chloe, please: The Wine Group, which gave the world Cupcake, is making another marketing play, this time with a brand called Chloe. As Robert Joseph writes, the company’s approach has nothing to do with wine per se, but with how it is sold to the public. Chloe is being marketed like jewelry or perfume, costing about one-third more than the $10 to $12 Cupcake. This is The Wine Group’s particular genius, and which is rarely seen in wine, that it can position its brands as lifestyle products and get a premium for what will almost certainly be a very ordinary bottle of Italian pinot grigio (given the quality of its other wines). But, as many have noted, the people who buy these kinds of wines aren’t buying them for what’s in the bottle.
? Bring out the lawyers: The Wine Curmudgeon has always enjoyed watching companies sue each other over labels and brand names, and this one is particularly enjoyable. Beverage Digest reports that Diageo, the world’s largest drinks company, says family-owned Heaven Hill is trampling on its intellectual property in Canada with a product called Admiral Nelson spiced rum, which too closely resembles Diageo’s Captain Morgan spiced rum. How many billable hours will this require? The article discusses — seriously, I suppose — that one issue in the lawsuit will be how similar the character of Nelson, the greatest hero in British naval history, is to Morgan, who was a pirate. Sadly, wigs are no longer worn in Canadian courts, or this would be even more fun to watch.
? Invisible wines: Mike Veseth at the Wine Economist weighs in on availability and the three-tier system, writing off the recent Eric Asimov column. “Asimov uses the article to respond to readers who are frustrated that the fabulous wines he often praises turn out to be nearly impossible for them to actually experience. … Asimov is sympathetic to his readers ? frustration and explains how the almost hopelessly fragmented US wine market (a lasting legacy of Prohibition) makes it nearly impossible to talk about important wines if you limit your list to only those that can be found in all the nation ?s many marketplaces.” In this, he puts Asimov in perspective, noting that there are tens of thousands of wines that are made around the world, most of which we’ll never get a chance to buy. I’m not so sure Veseth is defending the three-tier system as much he is reminding us that there is more to wine than what we find in the grocery store, and that there is a certain joy in that.
? Bring out the attorneys: Because, frankly, the Wine Curmudgeon takes an almost unhealthy glee in reporting that wine companies are suing each other. This time, Veuve Cliquot, the French Champagne giant, is suing Ciro Picariello, a tiny Italian producer that makes spumante. The former says the latter’s label is the same color as Veuve’s, and that’s illegal. That the wines have nothing else in common save bubbles is apparently irrelevant. And, as Diana Goodman notes in the linked article, the colors don’t look that similar, either. Isn’t it reassuring to see Big Wine spending its money to make a better product?
? “Depths that need to be stirred:” The Italian Wine Guy is one of the best writers in wine in the world today, and I almost always want to leave a comment on one of his posts. And I’d say that even if he wasn’t a friend of mine. So, the next time the wine world leaves you frazzled and worn out, and you’re tired of the foolishness that too often passes for wine writing and criticism, read this post. It will make you feel better. It did me.
? Red or white? Does your lifestyle determine whether which color wine you prefer? A study that looked at British wine drinkers says that may be the case, though the Wine Curmudgeon has his doubts. It found that red wine drinkers are better educated and drink more frequently than those who have a preference for white or rose, while white wine drinkers are home-lovers who aren ?t ambitious for their careers. What the study doesn ?t seem to have taken into account is wine price, because white and rose tends to be less expensive than red, which would account for some of the differences.
? Get a lawyer: One must admire the gumption of a group of Idaho prison inmates, as reported by Courthouse News. They are suing five liquor producers, including E&J Gallo, because ?alcohol contributed to their downfall, and that companies that make beer, wine and booze should be obligated to warn consumers of the dangers of their products, ? says the report. The companies, says the suit, knew their product was habit forming, but did nothing to warn the public. The other interesting bit about the story? It has a quote from an unnamed member of Alcoholics Anonymous, who holds AA sessions at the prison. That kind of quote is almost unheard of, given AA ?s mania for secrecy.
? Too much expensive Champagne: What would we do without the Internet? Otherwise we would not know, as reported by thedrinksbusiness.com, that someone named Dexter Koh spent 105,000 (about US$170,000) on bubbly at a British nightclub. Koh, a self-described bon vivant, tweeted that he celebrated a winning gambling night drinking Champagne that most people not only can ?t afford, but haven ?t heard of. And yes, there was a model along for the party, as well as a picture of the bill.