“Wine is supposed to be delicious,” says long-time retailer Wally Plahutnik. So why do we have such trouble finding delicious wine?
Wonder why you go to buy wine and can’t find anything you like? That’s been Wally Plahutnik’s question, too, as he watched wine retailing change over the past 27 years. Wine, he fears, is turning into a mass produced commodity where delicious and interesting — as well as price — don’t matter. Sounds like the Wine Curmudgeon’s kind of guy, yes?
Wally, who recently retired, is the kind of retailer we need more of — passionate, committed, and focused on helping wine drinkers find what they want, not what someone else says they should drink. We talked about the changes in the wine business over the past decades, as well as the troubles facing the independent retailer and where to find the best values.
We talked about that, as well as changes in the restaurant business that may alter the way we eat out — if we eat out at all in the coming decades — and are changes that the restaurant business still doesn’t completely understand.
To high wine prices, says Thorn, some restaurant operators see wine as a way to recoup increased costs, which include a higher minimum wage in some states and rising food prices. Those of us who buy wine in a restaurant may be shouldering more than our fair share of those rising costs.
But Thorn is an optimist, and says there are a lot of smart people in the restaurant business who might recognize an opportunity to sell more wine — especially if we let them know we think a four to one markup for a glass of $10 wine is too much. His suggestion? Politely and reasonably let the restaurant know you’d buy more wine if prices were more reasonable. And no, he said, a Twitter rant probably isn’t the best way to complain.
Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 16 1/2 minutes long and takes up 11.6 megabytes. The sound quality is mostly good, though I wasn’t able to get it to play on my Linux box. Windows is OK, though.
The Wine Curmudgeon is among the least likely of fanboys; one of the first pieces of advice I got in the newspaper business was “Don’t god up the ballplayers,” a reminder that someone who did one thing very well wasn’t necessarily any better than anyone else.
So how to explain my almost teenage enthusiasm for the Angels & Cowboys rose, which is the focus of this podcast with winery co-owner Yoav Gilat? Maybe it’s Gilat’s enthusiasm for well-made and fairly-priced rose – he told me he doesn’t understand winery business models that revolve around making wine that’s too expensive for anyone to buy.
Gilat, a reformed lawyer who turned to wine as part of his rehabilitation, is an ardent proponent for rose and how it should be made – not a pink version of white wine or something heavy to appeal to red wine drinkers, but a rose. And that means an affordable wine with its fruit, acidity, and minerality in balance, and something the Angels & Cowboys rose does in award-winning fashion.
What better way to get ready for next week’s annual rose preview than with this podcast? Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 16 1/2 minutes long and takes up 8 ½ megabytes. The sound quality is good.
Rich Cook runs three wine competitions and he is an assistant director for four more. And that’s not even his real job; Rich makes his living as a public school music teacher.
In this, Rich brings a fine palate and a sensibility about wine that more people should have. So who better to talk about wine competitions and what wine drinkers can learn from them?
I know Rich from the Critic’s Challenge, where he is the assistant director to Robert Whitley and works with Robert on three other events. Rich also runs the Monterrey and Toast of the Coast competitions, as well as the San Diego County Fair home wine contest (which may be the most difficult kind of event to run).
We discussed how wine competitions work, something that doesn’t get enough attention in the wine world; what medals mean and how they are awarded; and how to tell if a particular competition’s results are relevant to you as a consumer. We also talked about the controversy surrounding competitions – are the results accurate or completely random.
And how does a a butcher shop evolve into a a top-flight wine retailer? We talked about that, as well as Nick’s very brief time in law school; which parts of the world offer the best wine value; and the increase in interest in a Wine Curmudgeon favorite, chenin blanc. Nick also offered some of his best wine values and the best piece of advice for wine drinkers: If you want to learn about wine, you need to drink it. And don’t miss the bit about cutting red wine with water.
Finally, what makes a great wine shop? Nick’s answer is simple: It’s about selling the customer the wine that makes them happy, and not the wine that makes the retailer happy.
Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 13 1/2 minutes long and takes up 13 megabytes. The sound quality is good, though there are a couple of spots where it fades in and out and Skype wasn’t up to its usual standards (had to record the podcast a second time, in fact).
Joe Roberts helped revolutionize wine writing, becoming the first wine blogger with a reach, an audience, and reputation that equaled many print writers. Not surprisingly, he came to wine from a successful business career, unburdened by most of the wine foolishness that hampers the rest of us.
I’ve known Joe since he attended our Drink Local Wine conference in Denver in 2012, and he has always displayed an open mind, a willingness to try something he has never tried before, and an understanding that just because he likes something doesn’t mean everyone else will or should like it. As he says in the podcast, “I tend to drink wines that score lower on my own scale. … I don’t care. It’s delicious.”
Among the other topics we discussed:
? Wine is not one size fits all. This is something, he says, that is difficult for most people in the wine business to understand, trapped as they are by the three-tier system and the complex laws that regulate wine sales. In this, Joe says with a laugh, wine producers, retailers, and distributors have to pay more attention to what he writes about their product than what consumers think about it. How many other businesses does that happen in?
? The pants analogy, which I’m going to steal: That when we buy pants, we trust our taste, our sense, our style — no Pants Spectator, no scores, no tasting notes. The goal, then, is to help consumers reach that same level of confidence with wine. Or, as he said, “No one freaks out in the mustard aisle.”
? It’s easier to get to that confidence level than ever before, with more resources for consumers, whether on-line with writers like us, friends, or social media. “If you find a bottle of wine that you enjoy, and you’re happy you’re not getting ripped off, than you’re doing OK.”
Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 18 minutes long and takes up 8 1/2 megabytes. The sound quality is very good, and Skype ? the unofficial VoIP provider for the blog ? was in exceptionally fine form for the third consecutive podcast.
Lew Perdue is a long-time wine marketer, wine writer, and wine entrepreneur, and he may be even crankier about the wine business than the Wine Curmudgeon. Or, as he recently wrote about a Kendall-Jackson wine: “At $21.50 retail it is a pale shadow of the Hogue at $13.50. … sour, bitter, thin, harsh.”
Which doesn’t mean his analysis isn’t spot on — the wine industry, which may actually want to make it easier for consumers to buy wine, doesn’t know how to do it. Perdue says he buys six wines at his local grocer for his reviews, and only three are usually worth drinking.
Fortunately, Perdue has several suggestions about what can be done, which we talk about on the podcast. Given that everyone tastes wine differently, he says, wouldn’t it make more sense to find a way for people to find wine recommendations from others with similar tastes, instead of from what he calls the wine elite, with their scores and jargon?
Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 20 minutes long and takes up 10 megabytes. The sound quality is very good, and Skype ? the unofficial VoIP provider for the blog ? was in exceptionally fine form for the second consecutive podcast.