Category:A Featured Post

Winecast 43: Rob McMillan and what happens when all this is over

rob mcmillan

Rob McMillan: There are going be better quality grapes in cheap wine, even as wine prices decline.

“What’s going to happen to demand? People are still going to drink”

The good news? Rob McMillan of Silicon Valley Bank, perhaps the foremost financial analyst in the wine business, says wine can survive the coronavirus pandemic. The bad news? It’s not going to be a lot of fun during the duration.

The highlights of our conversation:

• Expect to see weaker wineries fail, as well as some grape growers who don’t have producers to buy their grapes. In this, there probably won’t be bankruptcies or foreclosures as much as there will distress sales. There are always people wiling to buy wineries, says McMillan, even in a recession, and prime vineyard prices probably won’t decline all that much.

• Wine prices were expected to fall before the pandemic hit the U.S., and the stay at home orders and layoffs will only hasten the process. In this, though, since there are too many grapes, expect to see better quality grapes going into cheap wine. One rumor? That a major $3 producer snapped up Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon at bargain prices.

• Look for more producers to try to sell their wines at mass retailers and supermarkets. The loss of tasting room business needs to be made up somehow, and retail wine sales haven’t slumped as much as some thought.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 18 minutes long and takes up 11 megabytes. The sound quality is very good; it’s my first podcast with Zoom.

TV wine ads: Mateus rose — “it’s like a trip to Portugal”

This 1971 Mateus rose ad may explain why it took so long for rose to become popular in the U.S.

Mateus was what passed for rose in those long ago days before the U.S. wine boom — a sweetish, fizzy pink wine from Portugal made with grapes that were obscure even then.

It was huge in the late 1960s and early 1970s, selling some 10 million cases a year. Those are Barefoot numbers, but in a much smaller U.S. wine market. What sold Mateus rose was the bottle — more youth oriented than the traditional 750 ml effort, and perfect for using as a candlestick while drinking the wine and listening to Carole King’s “Tapestry.” In fact, you can buy Mateus bottles on eBay, and the wine itself is still around, too — $5 a bottle, and tasting pretty much like it always has.

The ad misses the point of Mateus’ popularity. Why would Portugal be a selling point for the wine (and the less said about the jingle, the better)? But that it misses the point is not surprising. It is a wine ad, after all.

Video courtesy of robatsea2009 via YouTube

More about TV wine ads:
TV wine ads: San Giuseppe Wines, because you can never have too much bare skin in a wine ad
TV wine ads: King Solomon wine, because “Tonight … the king is in town”
TV wine ads: Almost 40 years of awful

Wine of the week: La Petite Perriere Sauvignon Blanc 2018

La Petite Perriere sauvignon blancThe La Petite Perriere sauvignon blanc is stunning $11 wine – suck on that, three-tier system

Two years ago, I wrote a glowing review of this wine. Best yet, I wrote in the post, the La Petite Perriere sauvignon blanc was supposed to be widely available.

Hah.

It wasn’t, of course, because of the three-tier system. That I actually believed the people who told me it was available in many other parts of the country shows that even I can be duped. And I know better.

This time, the La Petite Perriere Sauvignon Blanc ($11, purchased, 12.5%) should be available – even in these trying times. I bought the 2018 last week from wine.com. Suck on that, three-tier system.

This vintage of the La Petite Perriere is highly recommended, which means Hall of Fame quality and a spot on the shortlist for the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year. And why not? It tastes like top-notch sauvignon blanc from France’s Loire, home to some of the best sauvignon blanc in the world. But it costs about as much as a plonky bottle of supermarket white wine.

Suck on that, three-tier system.

Which isn’t surprising, since the Saget family, whose company makes the wine, has been in business since Napoleon was emperor of France, more than two centuries.

Look for more lemon than grapefruit fruit, a pleasant change from the New Zealand style that predominates, even in non-New Zealand wines. There’s also a little something tropical in the middle (barely ripe melon?), and lovely Loire-style minerality on the finish. I drank this with socca on Saturday night; for the time it took to finish the bottle, I wasn’t stuck in my house during the pandemic, but enjoying wine and food the way they should be enjoyed.

April Fool’s 2020 wine post

April fool's wine post

“I can’t tell which of these posts are April Fool’s and which are true.”

A hallowed blog tradition: The April Fool’s wine post

The blog’s April Fool’s post, which ran from 2013 to 2018, was always well-read and well-received. I stopped writing it for a couple of reasons: First, too many people thought the posts were true. And what does that say about the wine business?

Second, because wine kept getting weirder than any post I could write. The Wine Clip magnetic wine conditioner, anyone?

But that doesn’t mean we still can’t laugh at the six April Fool’s wine posts. They’re still relevant (even if some of the names have changed) and they’re still funny.

The blog’s April Fool’s wine posts:
Wine Curmudgeon will sell blog to Wine Spectator
Big Wine to become one company
Wine Spectator: If you can’t buy it, we won’t review it
Supreme Court: Regulate wine writing through three-tier system
Gov. Perry to California: Bring your wineries to Texas
California secedes from U.S. — becomes its own wine country

Winebits 639: Premiumization, Pennsylvania state stores, direct to consumer

cheap wine

“Premiumization never really bothered me.”

This week’s wine news: Will the pandemic finish off premiumization? Plus, turmoil in Pennsylvania’s state wine stores and the favorite DTC grapes

Is premiumization over? A top wine business analyst has told the industry that its drink less, but drink “better” mantra – premiumization – could be ending thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Spiros Malandrakis, industry manager for alcoholic drinks at Euromonitor International, told the Harpers UK trade magazine that premiumization is at a crossroads: “What we saw in the recession of 2008 was that even if people that could afford more expensive wines or niche varietals, they didn’t buy them because it looked crass. The context has changed. I’m not saying the industry is over. What we know from history is that people will always continue drinking. It’s not the end of the world but it will be a different world to the one we’re used to.” In this, he’s not the first to predict premiumization’s end. But it is one more voice suggesting that the new normal in the new future could be $10 wine.

More fun in Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania’s state liquor store system has come in for much fun on the blog. And why not, given wine vending machines? But the decision to close the state stores during the pandemic has met with serious opposition, not the least of which is the loss of state tax revenue. Even in New York, the center of the U.S pandemic, liquor stores have remained open. Apparently, the state is reconsidering its decision, and may allow limited Internet alcohol sales. April 2 update: The state did reopen its online liquor sales system, but the system will be quite limited.

Favorite DTC grapes: This is a contradiction that seems difficult to explain: Why is chardonnay the best selling wine grape at retail, but cabernet sauvignon is the best seller when consumers buy directly from the winery? That’s the result from a recent SOVOS/Ship Compliant study (via Wine Industry Insight), where cabernet was the best seller with 17 percent of volume, almost twice as much as chardonnay. Typically, chardonnay accounts for about 20 percent of retail sales. Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

30 days in: Your favorite WC posts during the duration

favorite

“Where’s that toilet paper thing that cranky guy wrote?

You’re looking for wine advice, Mafia news, and Barefoot wine (of course)

Blog traffic has rebounded since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., for which I am grateful. Maybe it means we’re trying to keep our lives on a more even keel, with more emphasis on beating this thing and less emphasis on hording toilet paper.

Regardless, the blog is here for the duration. As my pal Bart Hubbuch, who lives in New York City, told me: “This thing is as real as a heart attack, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” So let’s stay home, wash our hands, and keep out of sneezing range when we go to the supermarket. Because driving around out of boredom doesn’t do anyone any good. The last thing we need is more people on ventilators when there aren’t enough to go around.

Your favorite posts during the duration:

Ask the WC 1: This seven-year-old post is the first in the Ask the WC series, and it never attracted much interest. About 10 days ago, though, people started reading it. It looks like it may be being passed around on Facebook, but I still can’t tell what makes it so unique all of a sudden.

• Barefoot wine, twice: Because Google, and discussing it further will just irritate me.

The Mafia winery story: This post has been up for four days, and has rocketed to the top. Hopefully, I can update it.

Residual sugar in wine: Always a visitor favorite.

Boone’s Farm TV ad: Again, this post didn’t do all that well when it first appeared about a year ago, but you love it now. And why not? It’s funny, and don’t we need funny now?

Do wine critics matter? Another surprise. Maybe there are a lot bored wine critics trolling the Internet.

Wine blogging in the time of coronavirus: If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.

• The toilet paper post. Thank you.

What’s missing? 10 things to do during the pandemic. Bake some bread, dammit.

Mini-reviews 131: Raeburn, Pigmentum, Montmirail, Excelsior

raeburnReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month

Raeburn Rose 2019 ($13, sample, 13.5%): California pink with some tart raspberry fruit that is well made, but the longer it sits in the glass, the more you notice the lingering residual sugar and that it’s not quite dry rose.

Vigouroux Pigmentum Malbec 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): Didn’t notice the vintage when I bought this French red, and that is so tasty is amazing given its age. Still has a little dark fruit and some earth, and still eminently drinkable.

Château de Montmirail “M” 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): This red Rhone blend has some heft and black fruit, but isn’t overdone or too heavy. Availability may be limited, which is too bad since it’s close to a Hall of Fame wine. Imported by Kindred Vines

Excelsior Chardonnay 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): This South African white will not help the country get back into the U.S. market. It’s a Kendall Jackson chardonnay knockoff, complete with residual sugar. Imported by Cape Classics