Wine meme update: Let’s not forget about premiumization

premiumization memeThis wine premiumization meme is for you, wine business — enjoy

The blog’s wine meme survey has looked at why young people don’t like wine, the three-tier system, and trolling the cyber-ether for people who disagree with you. So how have we missed premiumization?

Until now, that is: The ultimate wine premiumization meme.

Of all wine’s problems — and there are entirely too many to mention — premiumization may be the one that makes me the craziest. Case in point: I got an email the other day touting a $25 gruner veltliner, a white wine from Austria. Check Wine-Searcher, though, and there are dozens of gruners in Austria that cost €4 or €5. How did an everyday wine in Europe become a luxury in the U.S.?

As a friend noted the other day: “We can moan and complain about wine prices all we want, but this is what it comes down to in the end: a $25 bottle of gruner. On sale. Is it any wonder hard seltzer is all the rage?”

So this wine premiumization meme is for you, wine business. Enjoy.

Photo courtesy of OME Gear using a Creative Commons license

More wine memes:
One of the greatest wine memes ever?
Distracted boyfriend meme meets the wine business
Federal appeals court slaps down Texas Walmart liquor stores

Winecast 51: Ray Isle, Food & Wine magazine and wine during the pandemic

ray isle

Ray Isle: “Producers are doing anything they can to keep prices from going up.”

“It’s a complicated time for sure, and especially complicated for small producers. … It’s not a time I’d want to be starting a winery.”

Ray Isle, the executive wine editor of Food & Wine, has a unique perspective on wine during the pandemic. He not only writes about wine for one of the country’s leading food magazines, but he brings a practical sense to the job that many of his colleagues don’t bother with. Or, as he said during our chat: “I got into wine as a poor graduate student, and my budget for wine was about $14.99 a month, and I’ve never abandoned that. You have to write about the affordable stuff. That’s what people like to drink.”

We talked about that, and Ray offered a variety of value wine suggestions, including the Sokol Blosser Evolution No.9 white blend (in a 1.5 liter box, no less, which I also liked); a South African red and white; and an $11 Chianti. We also touched on:

• Wine prices and availability during the pandemic — both seem to be better for domestic wines than for imports because of the tariff.

• The future of the tariff; he, too, is cautiously optimistic about getting rid of the 25 percent levy regardless of what happens in November.

• The state of restaurant wine, and why we should be worried about the future of the U.S. restaurant business because trouble there means trouble for or wine.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 18 minutes long and takes up about 12 megabytes. Quality is very good to excellent.

Wine of the week: Feudo Zirtari Sicilia Bianco 2018

Feudo Zirtari Sicilia BiancoThe Feudo Zirtari Sicilia Bianco is a $10 Sicilian white blend that reminds me why I like Sicilian wine

The pandemic has limited my ability to find terrific cheap Italian wine, since I don’t get to Jimmy’s, Dallas’ legendary Italian grocery, as often as I used to. Fortunately, I was able to find the Zirtari Sicilia Bianco white blend elsewhere; it has long been one of the world’s great cheap wine values.

And this vintage of the Feudo Zirtari Sicilia Bianco ($10, purchased, 13%) shows why that’s true. It’s made with a native Sicilian grape, insolia, and chardonnay, which leads to a whole greater than the sum of its parts. There’s some spice and a little green apple or pear fruit from the insolia, while the chardonnay fills up the background. This is kind of quality cheap wine I used to see a lot on store shelves, but that has slowly vanished. Not sure if it’s just more importer and distributor problems, or someone somewhere decided we’d rather buy $15 bottles of European wine designed by a focus group instead of $10 wine that tastes like it came from Europe.

Highly recommended. Chill this and drink it on its own (the spice is always a revelation) or pair it with grilled shrimp or chicken with lots of herbs.

Imported by SM USA

Winebits 663: White Castle wine, legal weed, premiumization

white castle

I can just taste the merlot cocktail with my 2 a.m. slider.

This week’s wine news: White Castle, home of the real slider, will offer cocktail recipes, while the illegal marijuana business shows no signs of going away and Dom Perignon’s owner is in a legal spat with Tiffany’s

The 2 a.m. munchies: The Wine Curmudgeon spent more than his share of time at White Castle as a young reporter, what with getting off work after midnight. But no one thought to recommend a wine-related cocktail with my sliders – something now available to customers. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that the burger company’s “Cocktails and Craves” marketing campaign recommends cocktail pairings to make at home with three of its most popular items. How about the Original Slider with an Orange Afterglow, a beer and orange ginger ale concoction? Or the Cheese Slider with a Castillo Rosa Margarita made with pink lemonade? Or the Jalapeno Cheese Slider with a Midnight Merlot Punch that mixes merlot with raspberry Sprite, garnished with fruit and fresh mint. Who knew? If I had been able to come home and drink that merlot punch with my sliders, I might have started wine writing that much sooner.

Illegal weed may still matter: Legal marijuana was supposed to force illegal weed off the market, or so thought most business analysts. But illegal weed still matters, if a recent shootout means anything. Reuters reports that seven people were killed in a suspected illicit marijuana operation in suburban Los Angeles last week. This happened even though California legalized recreational marijuana a couple of years ago, but police said the crime scene contained a several hundred plants and 1,000 pounds of weed. That’s not a huge operation, but it’s not for personal consumption, either. It’s also worth noting that one reason Canada’s legal weed sales stalled was competition from the illegal market.

Premiummization battle? LVMH, the French multi-national that owns Dom Perignon Champagne (among other luxury brands), is being sued by high-end jeweler Tiffany’s. LVMH called off its merger with Tiffany’s, citing the tariff and the pandemic. Both have cut deeply into luxury goods sales. But Tiffany is having none of it, filing a lawsuit to force the deal to go forward and dismissing the tariff and pandemic as window dressing. Feel free to insert your comment here about two rich and powerful companies fighting over who is going to become more richer and more powerful when the world is in such a mess.

Once more, how not to report a wine and health story

wine and health

No, NPR, most Americans haven’t been passed out on the the sofa during the pandemic, despite what your story says.

This time, it’s NPR that doesn’t do the reporting and accepts the neo-Prohibitionist arguments that drinking will kill us sooner rather than later

Dear NPR:

Yes, I understand about budget cuts and the changing landscape for traditional media. But that’s still not an excuse for the sloppy reporting in this story, which ran on Friday. It recounted the arguments – most not necessarily true – that the neo-Prohibitionists use in their attempt to once again outlaw alcohol in the U.S.

Hence, I will reiterate my offer to serve as a sounding board the next time something like this comes up. Because, frankly, you missed a lot:

• What’s the bias of the people you’re interviewing? In this case, the story quoted several federal health officials warning us that we’ll kill ourselves if we keep drinking the way we have been during the pandemic. This is where you should have noted these are the same people who said drinking a bottle of wine is the same as smoking 10 cigarettes and that wine with dinner constitutes binge drinking.

• You also took at face value the claim that we’re drinking staggering sums of booze during the pandemic. Which isn’t true. Yes, the story in the link is a bit jargony, but the point is that overall wine sales are down because of restaurant closures. So, in fact, we’re drinking less wine during the pandemic (also borne out here).

• The story said more people die from alcohol-related diseases each year than from drug overdoses, which is damned scary – save for one thing. Drinking is legal and booze is easy to get. Drugs, if you need enough to overdose, usually aren’t legal or easy to get. It’s a lot more convenient to kill yourself with alcohol, since you don’t have to meet a guy in a parking lot to buy heroin or coke, or to forge an Oxycontin prescription and hope the pharmacist doesn’t notice.

• The story ignores the astonishing statistic that one-third of us don’t drink, which is among the highest abstention rates in the industrialized world. I’ll bet you didn’t know that. So, next time, you need to ask: How can we be drinking ourselves to death if so many of us don’t drink?

• The story overlooks the tremendous progress that has been made with legitimate drinking problems, like underage and binge drinking, alcoholism, and drunk driving. For example, alcohol-related crashes have declined by almost one-half since 1985. I’ll bet you didn’t know that, either.

Finally, a few words about one of my favorite neo-Prohibitionist flummoxes, something called “alcohol use disorder,” and which figures prominently in the story. Health officials claim that 15 million of us suffer from this, but the definition is so broad that it includes me, the Big Guy, and almost anyone who takes wine seriously. After all, don’t we spend a “great deal of time… in activities necessary to obtain, to use, or to recover from the effects of drinking”?

None of this is written to denigrate the serious problems caused by alcohol abuse. It’s something that I’ve been writing about for decades. Rather, it’s to give you the background you need the next time you have to write a story about how we’re drinking ourselves to death.

Yours in quality journalism,

The Wine Curmudgeon

 

Get the Wine Curmudgeon’s new weekly blog post recap

wine curmdugeon

How can anyone not want to get the WC’s new weekly email roundup?

Now you can catch up on the blog over the weekend with one visit to your inbox — for free

Didn’t have time to read all of the Wine Curmudgeon’s award-winning blog posts during the week? Want to double-check my cheap wine finds? Missed my edgy wit? Want to see me in a hat? Or just want to catch up on the blog over the weekend?

Then subscribe to the Wine Curmudgeon’s new weekly roundup, which highlights each day’s blog post and arrives in your email box on Saturday evening. And, of course, it’s free. Just click this link, and tick the weekly roundup box on the page that comes up. Best yet, you can still subscribe to the daily emails. Talk about best of both worlds!

A tip of the WC’s fedora to Dave Crawford, who navigated the rocky shoals of the third-party newsletter service to make this work.

Wine Curmudgeon blog ranked 29th among Internet wine sites

Internet wine sites

The WC is No. 29 — suck on that, premiumization.

British retailer’s top 101 Internet wine sites list says WC can really pound that keyboard

The Wine Curmudgeon blog is ranked 29th among wine sites on the Internet, according to a survey by a British wine retailer. Yes, I know there are many ways to interpret that, and most aren’t printable here.

But given all that has happened to the blog over the past 18 months, including declining visitor counts, less love than ever from our overlords at Google, and the increasing difficulty in finding cheap wine worth drinking, it’s worth mentioning that our cause is still making an impression in the cyber-ether.

Hence, the details about Corking Wines’ Top 101 Wine Writers of 2020. There I am, at No. 29, between Great British Wine and The Wine Stalker, and just two spots behind the Indian Sommelier. But I’m also two spots ahead of The Wine Ninjas, so that’s something.

Jonathan Doubtfire, a marketing executive for Corking Wines, an on-line wine retailer in York, emailed that the rankings are based on “a number of factors. … We started off using a tool that estimates traffic, readership levels, etc. Then the wider team got involved and we reviewed each site on the shortlist, in order to establish the final order on there.”

Using site numbers is typical for these kinds of lists, which usually include various social media metrics (and yes, one has to use the word “metrics” when one writes a sentence like that). Given that I haven’t used social media in almost a decade, I suppose my performance is that much more impressive. And the selectors liked one of my wine tariff posts, which is surprising since it’s not traditional wine writing, but consumer journalism. Which, of course, is about as anti-wine writing as possible.

The sites on the list are most of the usual suspects, though it’s more international than this list (where I am merely No. 44). Also shocking: No Wine Spectator or VinePair, which are usually among the top handful of sites on most lists. But Jancis Robinson (No. 4) and Wine Folly (No. 1) are ranked here, and those are more or less the same kinds of sites as the Spectator and VinePair.

Does this ranking mean anything? Hopefully. Maybe it means there is still an audience for quality cheap wine, despite all of the indications otherwise. Because there are days when I have my doubts.

But if I did this for awards or rankings, I would have quit long ago. I do this because I love wine and want others to know they can enjoy it without deep pockets or wine foolishness. It’s about professionalism and writing for the people who come to the site, and not to impress anyone in the wine business with how smart or wonderful I am. Because how will that help anyone learn to love wine?