Category:Wine Curmudgeon

Wine trends 2021

wine trends 2021
Will I be able to buy wine over the Internet after 2021 — but not in January, of course?

Look for Dry January, “healthy” wine, the pandemic, and legal maneuvers to mark wine trends 2021

This is the second of two parts looking at wine prices and wine trends in 2021. Today, Part II: Wine trends 2021. Part I: Wine prices 2021.

Anyone in the wine business who says Dry January doesn’t matter must also believe the Trump wine tariff is good for business, young people are flocking to buy $100 wine, and I think scores are the future of wine criticism.

But there it is, as we look at wine trends 2021: Any number of experts who say Dry January and the neo-Prohibitionists don’t matter. Or, as one magazine editor asked me, “What’s Dry January? Why is that in your story?”

I should have pointed him to this story. Or this one. Or this one.

In fact, I spent much of the past couple of years writing trade magazine stories about the growth in no-alcohol, low-alcohol, and “healthy” wines. And I wasn’t talking to one-off startups, but executives at some of the biggest wine companies in the world. So any discussion of wine trends 2021 must start with Dry January and that it’s OK to say you don’t drink – cool, even.

What we don’t know is exactly how Dry January will change the wine world. But it will change wine in 2021, as will these:

• “Healthy” wine. If you haven’t heard of FitVine yet, you will. It markets itself as “less sugar, fewer sulfites, and no flavor additives for a cleaner wine” – all for $15. And it’s not alone. There are products like The Wine Group’s Cupcake Light Hearted; Trinchero’s Mind & Body; and Constellation’s Kim Crawford Illuminate, which promise fewer calories, less sugar, less alcohol, and say they are gluten free and vegan. The idea is to sell wine to younger consumers who supposedly prefer a healthier lifestyle and who may not be drinking wine now. One estimate: this market will grow 34 percent over the next four years.

• Shortages and supply chain problems will continue. The longer the pandemic lasts, the more we’ll see retailers and wholesalers have a difficult time keeping popular wines on shelves. It doesn’t mean the wines will disappear; rather, they’ll be there, sell out, and not return for a week or more.

• Wine tourism on the brink. If the vaccines do their job, and if life returns to normal by the fall, then all should start to improve. But if we go through another year of travel and public place restrictions, then questions must emerge about the future of wine tourism. The 90 percent of U.S. wineries that don’t make 90 percent of the wine survive on wine tourism. How will they survive if there isn’t any?

• Three-tier reform, but slowly and incrementally. That’s because the Supreme Court won’t hear a key three-tier case, so no Internet wine sales anytime soon. Still, we will see alcohol delivery continue to expand, thanks to the pandemic. In Texas, the legislature is expected to make cocktails-to-go permanent this year, a development that is so unprecedented as to be almost indescribable. And Illinois is set to legalize retail booze delivery throughout the state, also difficult to believe.

• The Trump tariff, and how soon we can get rid of it. Change here requires compromise, good will, and good faith from the U.S. and the European Union. Sadly, all have been in short supply.

2021 Cheap Wine of the Year: MAN Chenin Blanc 2019

man chenin blancSouth Africa’s MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc 2019 is the blog’s fourth annual Cheap Wine of the Year

The MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc, a South African white, appeals to the Wine Curmudgeon on a variety of levels. First, that it’s South African wine, and we know about that, don’t we? Second, that it’s chenin blanc, and we know about that, don’t we?

And, of course, that it’s cheap, delicious, and varietally correct. Because that’s what matters, and not any of the aforementioned criticisms. Hence, the MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc 2019 is the blog’s fourth annual cheap wine of the year.

In this, the MAN chenin blanc ($10, purchased, 12.5%) demonstrates once again that wine preconceptions are one of the problems with wine. Why pass up a wine as wonderful as this because you don’t drink chenin blanc, white wine, or South African wine? Because, of course, too many of you reading this now are thinking just that.

Does this wine taste like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc? Nope, because it’s not supposed to. It tastes like a New World chenin blanc — not as steely or stony as chenin from France’s Loire, but crisp and minerally enough, and with more fruit. It’s bone dry, with stone fruit and maybe some red apple, a richness that most $10 wines don’t have, and a longish finish. It’s surprisingly layered and sophisticated; swish it around in your mouth, and you’ll see what I mean. This is a white wine if you want a glass before dinner, as well something to drink with braised chicken.

The 2019 vintage is still be widely available, as is the 2018. The latter isn’t as impressive as the 2019, but it’s well made and enjoyable. The 2020 has been released, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

More Cheap Wine of the Year:
2020 Cheap Wine of the Year: Le Coeur de la Reine Gamay 2017
2019 Cheap Wine of the Year: Château La Gravière Blanc 2017
2018 Cheap Wine of the Year: Bieler Pere et Fils Rose 2016

“Monetizing” the blog: Is it worth the trouble?

monetizing blog
“Pay up, or never read about cheap wine again!”

How should the WC turn a profit on the money-losing blog?

Jan. 10 update: Thanks to everyone who emailed suggestions, kind words, and encouragement. I was especially surprised that so many of you said I was giving the blog away for free when I should be charging money for it. Wrote one reader: “l subscribe to Netflix, AppleNews+,and various financial newsletters, why not a wine letter?”

Why was I surprised? Because I’m a cranky ex-newspaperman and was taught that circulation is all that matters. Which, as so many of you noted, is a very old-fashioned and irrelevant concept in 2021.

So I’ll look at the best way to do subscriptions  and report back. And not to worry, it will include a discount for everyone from the blog who signs up.
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The end of 2020 marks another milestone for the blog – I’ve lost money on it for 13 consecutive years. Which raises the question: Is there any way to make the blog profitable? Should I even try?

The blog’s primary goal when it started was marketing, to get my name and work out among the wine world. If I made money with it, so much the better. The blog has done the former beyond any expectation. I’m continually talking to people who know the blog and who know what I do even though there doesn’t seem to be any reason they should.

But money? Not so much. Again, in the blog’s early days, that didn’t matter. I had a more or less thriving freelance business, supplemented by teaching and a little consulting. But the pandemic has put a kibosh on the freelance business, which had already been in decline. And the latter were always supplements, and never a way to make a living (and, for what it’s worth, haven’t fared all that well over the past couple of years, either). So yes, now it would be nice if the blog turned a profit.

Many of you, at this point, probably want to ask: “But what about all those ads, Jeff? Don’t they make a difference?” Yes, if you’re the New York Times or ESPN or any site that gets millions and millions of visitors. A half-million isn’t enough: I’ve never earned more than $600 or $700 a year from ads. That doesn’t even cover half of the cost of the site’s hosting service.

So that brings us back to “monetizing” the blog – it it worth the trouble? Because, in the post-modern, 21st century world of blogging, making money on the blog means doing one of a variety of choices that are less than appealing:

Sponsored content: Sponsors pay me money, I run posts they write to plug their products, and you may or may not be the wiser. “Oh, look, the WC found something nice to say about Winking Owl!” The surprise is not that I find sponsored posts morally reprehensible; I am who I am, after all. Rather, that so many wine sites that pride themselves on objectivity take the money and run the posts.

Premium content: Pay a fee to get special, subscriber-only content. The blog’s reason for being is to make wine accessible, so making part of it inaccessible to most visitors doesn’t make much sense.

Begging for money: It’s not called that of course, but that’s the result. Typically, there’s a button on the blog visitors can click to send money. Or there are sites like Patreon, which all the really hip sites use. Neither sounds like me, does it?

A paywall: The Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate have paywalls. Enough said.

Pay to go ad-free: This is the least annoying of the choices, but it raises more questions. How much do I charge? How much will it cost to set up? Will anyone care?

Hence, nothing will likely change, and the blog will continue to limp along financially. Unless, of course, someone else has a better idea? You can leave a comment or send me an email.

Blog holiday update, plus the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame schedule

scheduleYour holiday blog schedule, plus when the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year and $10 Hall of Fame will appear

• The blog’s Christmas and New Year’s wine suggestions will appear on Dec. 21 and Dec. 28. The December mini-reviews will appear on Dec. 24 because of the holiday. The blog will be off Christmas and New Year’s Day, though Dec. 25 will feature our annual Bruce Springsteen “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” video.

• The always popular Do it Yourself wine resolutions is set for Jan. 4.

• The 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year will post on Jan. 7, with the $10 Hall of Fame making its 14th annual appearance on Jan. 8. As always, you can email me with suggestions for either, or you can leave them in the comments. Check out out the eligibility rules here. Keep in mind the wine should cost less than $12 or $13, should be generally available, and can’t be a private label sold exclusively by one retailer.

Picture courtesy of University of Florida, using a Creative Commons license

The cheap wine versions of “A Christmas Carol” and ” ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”

cheap wine
“Oh boy, the WC’s version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Who else but the WC could transform two holiday classics into something about cheap wine?

Yes, each of these has appeared beefore — but the holidays are about tradition, yes? So enjoy.

• From 2019: Scrooge discovers the ghosts of cheap wine past

• From 2018: “And I heard him exclaim, ere he typed out of sight. … Quality cheap wine to all, and to all a good night!

Photo courtesy of Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support, using a Creative Commons license

The Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite posts of 2020

favorite posts 2020
“I guess we’re gong to have to start giving scores, Churro.. All of the funny blog posts we wrote in 2020 fell flat.”

These seven posts weren’t necessarily the best read, but they were among my favorite posts of 2020

Welcome to the Wine Curmudgeon’s sixth annual year-end top 10 list, which is not about the most read posts. Or necessarily has 10 items. Anyone can do that. Here, where being contrary matters. we honor the best posts I wrote in 2020 that not enough people read.

Why not a best read list? Because Google takes care of that, as we see every year with Barefoot’s blog dominance. Rather, these are the posts that I enjoyed writing, thought were important to write, or both.

Here, in no particular order, are my favorite posts of 2020:

• I wrote three wine video parodies this year, and none did as well as they should. Spock drinking rose isn’t funny? Robin Hood kicking down the Trump wine tariff isn’t funny? Bruce Lee kung-fuing snotty wine judges isn’t funny? The parody posts never do well; I’m beginning to think the blog’s readers take wine much too seriously.

• Even though my podcast with restaurant wine guru Cara Klein at the start of the pandemic didn’t get big numbers, it could have helped make her an Internet wine star. After Cara’s appearance here, she showed up on a variety of other wine blogs throughout the year. As she much deserved — old white guys aren’t the only people who know about wine.

• In the mid-1970s, legendary wine professor Maynard Amerine warned us that price was no guarantee of wine quality. And no one read this post on this blog?

• The WC apparently doesn’t understand about turning a post viral. What’s not to like about good witches battling bad witches to save the soul of wine? Or do you want just want scores?

• I do know why the series of posts about Churro, the blog’s new associate editor, didn’t do well. A dog writing a wine blog, even as a joke? That’s awfully goofy. But it should have been done boffo business. Think about all the things it says about the wine business and wine writing.

More on the WC’s favorite posts:
Favorite posts of 2019
Favorite posts of 2018
Favorite posts of 2017

Happy Thanksgiving 2020

I’ve watched this video a dozen times, and I still marvel at how Kermit’s Muppeteer makes it look like a felt frog is actually playing the banjo. And how Steve Martin keeps a straight face is also beyond me.  (Video courtesy of Funny Or Die YouTube.)

Enjoy the holiday with the people who mean the most to you. The blog will return tomorrow with our regular features, including the annual Black Friday wine reviews.