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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?

TV wine ads: Australia’s Brokenwood Cellars, and how wine commercials haven’t changed in 50 years

Is there really any difference between this 2016 TV wine ad and any made almost 50 years ago? Which is sad, isn’t it?

Remember all those corny 1970s TV wine ads we’ve dissected on the blog? Who knew someone would make the same kind of ad almost 50 years later?

But that’s the case with this effort from Australia’s Brokenwood Cellars, which does everything but call on the shade of Orson Welles to chant, “We will sell no one wine before its time.” Does the narration really say (around 0:30) that Brokenwood makes wine “to be drunk and enjoyed, savored and admired?” What else are we supposed to do with it? Spit it out?

Brokenwood wines aren’t readily available in the U.S., but appear to be critically respected. Which makes the ad that much more difficult to figure out — if you’re already well thought of, why bother with this? It’s the kind of faux image building that less respected brands do to puff up their reputation. If you make quality wine, why gild the lily with a shot of someone’s gnarled hands?

More about TV wine ads:
TV wine ads: Does Stella Rosa’s sweet fizzy red commercial do what Big Wine can’t?
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”

Video courtesy of Rollingball Productions via YouTube

Wine of the week: Chateau de Ribebon 2015

Chateau de RibebonYes, $14 isn’t cheap, but the Chateau de Ribebon still offers value in red Bordeaux

The amazing thing about the $14 Chateau de Ribebon is not that the 2015 vintage has aged well enough to become a wine of the week, but that the current vintage is the 2016. So someone, somewhere, remembers how to make popularly priced wines that will last.

And no mistake. The Chateau de Ribebon ($14, purchased, 13.5%) is what passes for popularly priced red Bordeaux these days. The tariff, combined with ridiculous prices for even the most ordinary French wines from the Bordeaux region, makes this a value. That it costs half as much in France is just something one has to accept.

The Chateau de Ribebon is a traditional red blend, though with more merlot than cabernet sauvignon. Hence, it’s a little softer and a little fruitier (cherries?) than many others, but there are still tannins in the back and it’s nothing like a jumped up New World fruit slurpee.

Pair this with beef, but it’s the sort of wine that would work for coq a vin and even roast chicken.

Imported by Knows Imports

Winebits 662: Ingredient labels, tennis wine, three-tier fraud

ingredient labels

Beer drinkers want to know what’s in their glass, but wine drinkers? Nope.

This week’s wine news: A wine industry survey finds that wine drinkers aren’t interested in ingredient labels, plus a wine celebration at the U.S. Open and two New Jersey distributors are fined $8 million for cheating customers

They didn’t ask me: Most wine drinkers aren’t interested in knowing the ingredients in their wine, according to a survey by the Wine Market Council. The Wine Curmudgeon, of course, has long lobbied for ingredient and nutritional labels as a way to bring more people to wine, but I was not surprised by the results. The council’s bills are paid by the wine industry, which has opposed ingredient labels since the federal government first contemplated the idea more than a decade ago. The other thing to note: The survey didn’t include all consumers – just what the council calls “core” and “marginal” wine drinkers, and it was skewed in favor of core wine drinkers. I wonder: How different would the results have been if it had included all consumers, instead of those who already think they know what’s in their wine? I don’t write this lightly; I have tremendous respect for the Wine Market Council, and its staff has helped me with countless stories through the years. And this post probably means I will never get a phone call returned again. But it has to be said: This result has far less significance than if a Gallup poll of all consumers had found the same thing. Until then, I still believe consumers want to know if their wine contains industrial adhesives.

Bring on the wine: Tennis player Madison Brengle celebrated her upset victory over the U.S. Open’s No. 19 seed last week by chugging a bottle of Sutter Home wine, the New York Post reported. Brengle ran into the stands to drink a 187 ml bottle of an unidentified Sutter Home red after her victory. No report on how many points she gave the wine or whether she was a core or marginal wine drinker. And Brengle didn’t get a chance to celebrate again – she lost in the next round in straight sets.

$10.3 million fine: New Jersey’s two largest distributors were fined $4 million each for cheating many of the state’s liquor retailers, reports WRNJ. The legal charge was “discriminatory trade practice” – wholesalers Allied Beverage Group and Fedway Associates agreed to pay the record-high fines and promise to never to do it again after a two-year investigation by the state’s liquor cops. In addition, 20 retailers were fined $2.3 million for participating in the wholesalers’ scheme. The story in the link has the detailed charges; it’s enough to know  that Allied and Fedway worked with the 20 retailers, using illegal payments, to cheat smaller retailers. I wonder: If we need the three-tier system to protect us from corruption, who is going to protect us from corruption in the three-tier system?