Category:Wine Curmudgeon

How do you write about quality cheap wine when the system is rigged against it?

Look out! They’re shelling us with premiumization and the wine tariff!

You keep a stiff upper lip, try to ignore the frustrations and complications, and soldier on – because quality cheap wine is worth it

How do you write about quality cheap wine when the wine industry and the federal government have gone out of their way to make quality cheap wine an anachronism?

Because, as we celebrate the blog’s 12th birthday, that’s the situation I find myself in. Premiumization and the 25 percent European wine tariff have made it all but impossible to find the kind of $10 and $12 wine that’s worth writing about. I feel like a character in one of those British Raj movies where the garrison is stranded in a fort on a remote hilltop and we’re being picked off one by one and we know the relief column isn’t going to arrive in time.

Yes, there is still plenty of cheap wine on store shelves, but just because a wine is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth drinking.

So what’s the Wine Curmudgeon to do? Carry on, of course. What else is a stiff upper lip for?

The irony here is that I seriously considered ending the blog after this final birthday week post (with a Hall of Fame wrap-up in January). And if I had known about the wine tariff when I was pondering the blog’s fate this summer, it would have been that much easier to close it after 12 years.

Changing my mind

But two things happened to make me change my mind: First, and most practically, the site’s hosting company charged me for another year in August. So, if I closed the blog with this post, I would have been stuck paying for nine months of service I didn’t use. Second, four people whose opinions I admire and respect pointed out that if I didn’t keep doing this, who would? And that despite my frustration with the blog, there is and will be a need for it.

For the frustrations have been endless. These days, it’s not just about paying homage to our overlords at Google or dealing with out-of-touch producers and distributors and too many incompetent marketers. Or fending off the sponsored content and the fluff pieces that so many others in the wine writing business have turned to in an attempt to make money at something where there is little money to be made.

These days, it’s about making sense of a business that is divorced from reality. Which, frankly, makes me feel like I’m using a croquet mallet to comb my hair.

Consider just these two items: A group of Washington state wine producers, faced with declining sales, say they aren’t worried since the wine they are selling is more expensive. Meanwhile, Italian pinot grigio producers, also faced with declining sales, want to know how to sell more expensive wine to make up the difference.

Making money the hard way

Am I missing something here? Aren’t declining sales a bad thing? Shouldn’t an industry do something to reverse the decline, instead of furthering it by raising prices?

But not, apparently, if it’s the wine business in the second decade of the 21st century. Because, of course, premiumization. I’ve probably written entirely too much about the subject, but mostly because I can’t believe anyone in wine still takes it seriously. Though, and this is welcome news, there are others who are beginning to question its validity. Damien Wilson, PhD, who chairs the wine business program at Sonoma State University, is blunt: Premiumization can be a path to ruin, since sales decline and higher prices scare off new wine drinkers.

The less said about the tariff the better. It’s as counterproductive as premiumization, and its adherents are blinded by politics to economic reality. That the tariff could forever wreak havoc on U.S. wine consumption is beyond their comprehension.

So let me shepherd my ammunition, keep my head low, and hope against hope that the relief column gets through. And keep a very stiff upper lip.

More Birthday Week perspective on the wine business:
Have we reached the end of wine criticism?
• 10 years writing about cheap wine on the Internet
• Premiumization, crappy wine, and what we drink

Thursday Birthday week 2019 giveaway: Four Schott Zweisel wine glasses

schottWin four Schott Zweisel wine glasses

Today, to celebrate the blog’s 12th anniversary, we’re giving away four Schott Zweisel wine glasses, just like the ones the Wine Curmudgeon uses. This is the the fourth of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the final prize.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the glasses.

Wednesday Birthday week 2019 giveaway: $100 Wine.com gift card

wine.com gift card

And the winner is: Laura, who selected 656; the winning number was 665 (screen shot to the left).  Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow’s giveaway: four Schott Zwiesel wine glasses. Thanks to wine.com, a long-time supporter of the blog. This is the third of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.


Today, to celebrate the blog’s 12th anniversary, we’re giving away a $100 Wine.com gift card, good for anything on the site of the world’s largest Internet wine retailer. Thanks to Wine.com, a long-time supporter of the blog. This is the third of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the gift card.

Tuesday Birthday Week 2019 giveaway: Letter-shaped wine cork holder

Win a letter-shaped wine cork holder — perhaps the best use ever for corks

And the winner is: Clifford, who selected 31; the winning number was 21 (screen shot to the left).  Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow’s giveaway the $100 Wine.com gift card. Thanks to wine.com, a long-time supporter of the blog. This is the second of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.


Today, to celebrate the blog’s 12th anniversary, we’re giving away  a letter-shaped cork holder. Choose a letter from A to Z, and use up the wine corks cluttering the house. This is the the second of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the other prizes.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the wine cork holder.

Monday Birthday Week 2019 giveaway: $50 Bonny Doon gift card

bonny doonWin a $50 Bonny Doon gift card

And the winner is: Chaz, who selected 981; the winning number was 935 (screen shot to the left).  Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow’s giveaway a wine cork holder in the shape of a letter — and yes, there are men’s sizes, too. This is the second of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.


Today, to celebrate the blog’s 12th anniversary, we’re giving away a $50 gift card from Bonny Doon, one of my favorite California producers. This is the first of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the gift card.

Wine Curmudgeon most popular posts 2019

popular posts 2019

Looks like it’s time to crank out another Barefoot epic.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s most popular posts 2019

The blog is truly part of the Internet as we celebrate its 12th annual Birthday Week.

This means two things: Its reason for being is not necessarily cheap wine, but whatever Google sends its way when someone searches for a wine, a wine term, or wine news. Only the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame made the top 10 list this year. In the old days, two, three and even four Halls of Fame were among the 10 most popular sites.

Second, that the blog is truly international — Beijing was the top city for visitors, with 3.6 percent, easily ahead of Chicago and New York, while Guangzhou (1.1%) was eighth. The U.S. remains the top country, but its share declined by about one-quarter, while China moved up to second from fourth last year.

Meanwhile, traffic was down a couple of percentage points. I think. The blog still got approximately 600,000 visitors between November 2018 and November 2019, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be more precise without paying for a sophisticated third-party app. Google Analytics, for example, says I got about one visitor a month.

What else happened between 2018 and 2019?

• Blog readers continue to get younger (more than half younger than 40) and the number of women continues to increase (2 1/2 out of five). Again, murky counting.

• A different Barefoot wine post took the No. 1 spot this year, Barefoot wine: Why it’s so popular. This 2016 post replaced the long time No. 1, Barefoot wines (again): Value or just cheap?, written in 2010. It dropped to third. And there were three Barefoot posts in the top four.

• The most common search term was “Wine Curmudgeon,” followed by “residual sugar in wine.” Apparently, Google has associated the site with my efforts to label sweet red wine as sweet, instead of pretending it’s dry.

The most popular posts from 2019 — as well as a couple of other highlights — are after the jump: Continue reading

Birthday week 2019 starts Monday

Birthday week 2019The blog’s 12th Birthday Week begins on Monday, with terrific prizes again this year

Birthday Week 2019, the 12th annual, begins on Monday with five days of prizes for the blog’s readers. The daily giveaways are the Wine Curmudgeon’s annual thank you to everyone who reads the blog and visits the site, since none of this would happen without you. Besides, we need lots of cheering up after the past 12 months.

Contest rules are here. Those of you who get the blog via email or RSS will need to go to winecurmudgeon.com and click on that day’s prize post to enter.

Each day next week, a prize post will run in addition to the regular post. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of the prize post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts, like this one. Unless the number is in the comments section of the prize post, the entry won’t count.

This year’s prize schedule:

• Monday: A $50 gift card from Bonny Doon Vineyard.

• Tuesday: A wine cork holder, in the shape of a letter. This may be the best use ever for corks.

• Wednesday: A $100 gift card from Wine.com. Thanks to Wine.com, a long-time supporter of the blog and what we do here.

• Thursday: Four Schott Zweisel wine glasses, just like the ones the Wine Curmudgeon uses.

• Friday: Three autographed copies of the cheap wine book, just in time for the holidays.

Besides the prize giveaways, I’ll recap the past year on the blog — the top posts and the least liked on Monday, as well as my always insightful analysis about what it all means and the future of the wine business on Thursday.

Picture courtesy of Humdrum Paper, using a Creative Commons license