Category:Wine news

Winebits 622: Supermarket wine, ingredient labels, Kroger wine

supermarket WineThis week’s wine news: Sommeliers pick supermarket wine, plus another shout out for wine ingredient labels and Kroger expands its on-line wine business

Interesting choices: Vinepair asked sommeliers to pick quality supermarket wine, and what struck me as how un-supermarket so many of the wines were. How many of us go to the grocers to spend $60 for a bottle of Jordan cabernent sauvignon? And you can tell many of the sommeleirs had not bought wine at a grocery store lately, given the number of hard to find European wines they selected. Still, it was good to see Dallas’ Barbara Werley select Chateau Ste. Michelle and Houston’s Jay Pyle pick the Matua sauvignon blanc, a top $10 wine.

Thank you: Mike Veseth, The Wine Economist, says “I believe that wine, beer, and spirits will eventually be required to list their ingredients and nutritional data. I wonder what would happen if wine were to take a voluntary step and be more transparent now as a way to shape the narrative?” Which is good news for those of us who have fought long and hard for ingredient and nutritional labels and to convince to join the 21st century. Veseth’s reasoning is well taken: “We might think wine is special — and it is in many ways — but we shouldn’t assume that it is immune to the forces that are making transparency, accountability, and technology more important every day.”

Good luck: Kroger has expanded its on-line wine store to 19 states and Washington, D.C, offering – get this – some four dozen wines “selected by winemakers and sommeliers for their quality, value and flavor profiles.” I wonder: Is it a coincidence that one of the wines is the Matua sauvignon blanc? You can check out the store at this link – just click on one of the states listed in the menu. Selection is limited, and most of the wines aren’t well known. But it is intriguing that Kroger is trying something that mighty Amazon gave up on long ago.

Winebits 621: 1 Wine Dude rant, grape glut, Robert Parker

1 wine dude

Joe Roberts: “Some of us have been sounding warnings for almost an entire decade.”

This week’s wine news: 1 Wine Dude’s Joe Roberts takes on premiumization, plus the grape glut worsens and the Wine Advocate is sold

• “Impending hangover?” Joe Roberts, who writes the 1 Dude Blog, doesn’t mince words: “It seems that, in focusing on selling higher and higher priced wine to a dwindling set of older consumers, the U.S. wine business has painted [itself] into a corner. …” I asked Joe about the piece, which rips the wine business as few others have, and he pointed out he has been warning the wine business about its follies for as long as I have. Maybe we can beat this premiumization thing after all.

• “A steep decline?” California’s grape glut continues to get, well, gluttier. The Napa Valley Register, the industry’s hometown newspaper, reports that “2019 has been a year where it’s tough to sell grapes and bulk wine.” In fact, even Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon – the epicenter of premiumization – has plummeted in price. Quality cabernet, says one broker, has been selling for one-quarter to one-third the price of past years. This almost certainly points to lower wine California wine prices – if not in the next six to eight months, then by the end of next year.

So much for that strategy: In 2012, Robert Parker sold the Wine Advocate to a group of Singapore inventors. The goal, the company said at the time, was to expand the reach of perhaps the most influential magazine in the history of wine to China. So the news that France’s Michelin Guide has bought the 60 percent that it didn’t buy in 2017 probably speaks to the end of the strategy. The story in the link is mostly a puff piece that really doesn’t explain what’s going on, but there’s a sense that Michelin’s need to expand its food and wine review business trumped whatever plans an independent Advocate had or could afford.

Winebits 620: Birthday week 2019, or the end of the Internet wine search

Internet wine search

Please, please, Google — help people find this really terrific cheap wine.

Birthday week 2019 wine news: Internet wine searches matter less and less, plus our overlords at Google and poor Linux

How quaint: More visitors got the blog from RSS and email between November 2018 and November 2019 than ever before, about three-quarters of you. That’s up from about two-thirds a year ago. Long gone are the days when people found the blog by searching for a great cheap wine to drink. Remember this? This is annoying, since I want people to find great cheap wine by searching for it on Google. But that’s not how the Internet works these days, thanks to our overlords at Google.

Speaking of Google: The search giant’s web browser, Chrome, was the most popular, with about 45 percent of traffic. Interestingly, that’s about 25 percent less than its worldwide market share. The main reason for that, I think, is that almost 60 percent of visitors get here with an iPhone, and Chrome isn’t Apple’s default browser.

Poor, poor pitiful Linux:  How disrespected is my beloved Linux when it comes to the blog? It totaled 0.7 percent of visitors, just a notch above the total for four Windows operating systems hardly anyone uses anymore (Windows XP, 8.0/8.1, and Vista). Which means, I suppose, that we will have to keep waiting for the year of the Linux desktop.

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

Winebits 619: Premiumization, presidential wine, alcohol consumption

premiumizationThis week’s wine news: Another expert says premiumization is hurting wine, plus wine for world leaders and U.S. alcohol consumption

• “Doom loop:” Who knew a big-time market analyst would agree with the Wine Curmudgeon? Sonoma State’s Damien Wilson says premiumization “can be a path to ruin.” He even has charts and statistics to prove his point. Wilson, writing for Wine Business International, says “European wine market history shows that failing to recruit new wine consumers is the last thing the U.S. wine sector should be doing right now. As the number of wine consumers in the U.S. has stalled in recent years, the local wine sector should avoid profiteering in favour of new market investment. Here is where the US wine sector’s global leadership in business practices can come to the fore.” In other words, higher prices for the sake of higher prices scare off new wine drinkers and then demand slows. And we’re where we are today – flat growth and overpriced wine.

• World power wine: What does one serve the president of France and the Chinese premier at a leading international trade show? High-end French wine, of course. France’s Emmanuel Macron and China’s Xi Jinping sampled three amazing bottles – Louis Latour’s Corton Grancey Grand Cru 2010, Gérard Bertrand’s Château L’Hospitalet 2016, and the Cheval Blanc 2006. That’s about $900 worth of wine, though the Bertrand is a comparatively inexpensive $35.

U.S. booze consumption: The typical U.S. resident drinks the equivalent of about a case of wine a year, according to the OECD, an international group that tracks a variety of economic indicators. The agency’s 2019 report on beer, wine, and spirits consumption shows that the U.S. is not only exactly average for the 36 countries in the survey, but that consumption is almost unchanged from 2007. So it becomes even less clear what the neo-Prohibitionists are complaining about.

Photo: “Modern wine tasting” by kellinahandbasket is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Winebits 618: Two wine best of lists and a 100-point wine

100-point wineThis week’s wine news: A hotel chain proclaims the U.S. the best wine region in the world and the best wine book in the world is ranked ninth. Plus, if you have $100, you can buy a glass of 100-point wine.

Best regions: One reason why the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t care much for top 10 lists is that you don’t know who is behind them. As in: Why is the Accor hotel chain proclaiming the U.S. the best wine region in the world? What does that have to with inn keeping? But there it is – the U.S., followed by France, Italy, and New Zealand. The methodology is spotty (scores from a crowd site), which devalues the results — as if there could be legitimate results for something like this. And it still doesn’t answer why Accor felt the need to do this.

Best books: The two best wine books, in terms of understanding wine and figuring out who wine works, are porbably Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World and Wine for Dummies, by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing Milligan. So how do they fare in a ranking by something called BookAuthority? Ninth and 27th. And how authoritative is BookAuthority? ” BookAuthority identifies and rates the best books in the world, based on public mentions, recommendations, ratings and sentiment.” Taking quality into account would have have been nice, but one can’t expect much these days.

Bring out the c-notes: If you have $100, then a Dallas restaurant will sell you a glass of a Robert Parker 100-point wine, the 2012 Verite La Joie Bordeaux Blend. Veritie is a Sonoma producer; the current version of the La Joie costs $400 a bottle. Still, I’ll pass, even though the restaurant is throwing in a couple of Riedel glasses. For those of you who are intrigued, the 2012 “is an incredible glass of wine featuring exuberant notes of red currant, black plum and cherry framed by subtle French oak nuances like powdered cocoa and cedar with a balanced finish.”

Four 2020 wine trends that you don’t need to worry about

Pass the piquette, please.

These four 2020 wine trends are more click bait than anything else

The Wine Curmudgeon is constantly on the alert for wine foolishness and silliness, since those things usually mean someone is after your money. So when several experts posted their 2020 wine trends, my hooey meter went into overdrive.

Hence, four 2020 wine trends you don’t have to worry about:

Cannabis-infused wine. Yes, legal weed is still it its infancy and it may yet prove to be the next big thing. But so far, it has been a disaster. How big a disaster? Just ask Constellation Brands, which dumped more than two dozen wine brands this spring to focus on cannabis. Along the way, the company has invested at least US$4 billion in Canadian weed producer Canopy, and Canopy has yet to turn a profit.

Pop-up wine bars. Apparently, the experts didn’t consider liquor laws or the three-tier system, which would make this almost impossible in most of the U.S.

Piquette. Lots and lots of websites and experts ask sommeliers about the hippest trends, since they figure sommeliers are hipper than the rest of us. Thus, piquette. This isn’t exactly wine, but is fizzy and has low alcohol, which do seem to be legitimate trends. The catch? Piquette is made by just a handful of small producers on the East Coast, which means that no one will be able to buy it unless they visit a bar or restaurant which has a very hip sommelier.

Organic wine. This was going to be huge when I started writing about wine 20-some years ago, and it still shows up regularly on trends lists. But organic wine has never caught on in the U.S, and shows no signs of catching on now. Organic wine, organically-made wine, and biodynamic wine have a tiny part of the U.S. wine market, probably in the single digits.