Category:Wine news

Wine trends: What we’re drinking and why, Part II

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This is the second of a three-part series about wine consumption in the United States. Part I is here; part III is here.

The Wine Curmudgeon does not like livestock wine. This has nothing to do with its quality. Some of it can be quite good, despite the cuddly creature on the label. My objection is the label itself, which influences people to buy the wine not because it tastes good, but because it is cute.

Livestock wine ( a term invented by the incredibly palate-talented Lynne Kleinpeter) refers to wine which has some sort of animal, cartoon or other clever picture on the label has made huge strides in the U.S. According to the Nielsen survey, the various animals, cartoons and characters accounted for 11.5 percent of the wine sold in the U.S. in 2007 in dollar terms.

Livestock wine is, apparently, here to stay.

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Tuesday tidbits 33

? Texas award winners: Two big prizes for Texas wines — a double gold for Brennan Vineyard’s 2006 cabernet sauvignon reserve at the prestigious Indy International Wine Competition and a bronze for Sunset Winery’s 2004 Texas High Plains Newsom Vineyard ?Moon Glow ? Merlot at the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition this spring. Both showings are impressive. Brennan’s cabernet joined a Clos du Bois from Alexander Valley, a Clos Du Val from Stags Leap District and a V. Sattui from Napa in the double gold category. Sunset’s bronze may be even bigger, given that it is essentially a two-person operation in a converted house in suburban Fort Worth.

? A wine-powered car: Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, runs his Aston Martin, on bio-fuel made from English wine. (No jokes, please, about English wine.) The wine used in the petrol is surplus English wine that European rules don’t allow to be made into wine. The Daily Telegraph reports the wine is apparently not left over from royal house parties at Clarence House or Highgrove, two of the prince’s homes. The prince’s Jaguars, Audi and Range Rovers have all been converted to run on 100 per cent biodiesel made from used cooking oil.

? Bordeaux wine ratings:  Turns out an academic study has found that the 1855 Bordeaux classification system, which has changed just one since then, is outdated. Wrote the authors: “Based on the wine scores that we analyzed, however, some chateaux have moved up in rank, while others have faded. While we doubt that the 1855 classification will be revised, market prices for these producers reflect the new standings.” Though this isn’t surprising, what is (to me anyway) is that they the researchers used scores from the Robert Parker, the Wine Spectator, and Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar to measure quality. That’s treading dangerous ground, isn’t it?

Wine trends: What we’re drinking and why, Part I

image This is the first of a three-part series about wine consumption in the United States. The second part is here; the third part is here.

The good news: Americans are drinking more and different kinds of wine. The bad news? We still drink too much marketing-driven wine, and I can’t decide if the increase in sales of more expensive wines is caused by better educated consumers trading up or wine snobs buying on price.

Overall, though, the results from the 2007 Nielsen Beverage Alcohol Overview are encouraging. We bought $9.2 billion worth of wine in 2007, and wine has increased from 14.1 percent of U.S. alcohol purchases in 1990 to 20.7 percent today.

But it’s not so much that wine sales are up. What’s worth noting is that Americans seem to be understanding this wine thing in a way they haven’t before. That is, we’re buying on quality, value and even how wine goes with food.

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Toast of Taos — Southwest Wine Competition

Off for three days to judge in the Southwest Wine Competition at the Toast of Taos, a well-regarded regional festival. The miracle of technology will keep the posts coming here, since the Wine Curmudgeon remains at heart a newspaperman who feels compelled to write something every day. Or face the wrath of the gods of journalism. I'll have a full report next week.

I'm looking forward to the judging, and not just because night-time temperatures are about 30 degrees cooler in the mountains of northern New Mexico than here in Dallas. This is a chance to taste lots of regional wine, and I haven't been able to do that for a while.

Tuesday tidbits 32

? High-end wine futures remain costly: Decanter reports that the 2007 Petrus futures are running about 700 euros a bottle for consumers (about US$1,100), down 30 percent from the 2006 vintage. Cheval Blanc futures are down 25 percent from last year, while Chateau d'Yquem is up about 9 percent. Perhaps an even bigger shocker is that Robert Parker gave Cheval Blanc, one of the great chateaux of France, less than 90 points for this vintage. Somewhere, speculators are slitting their wrists.

? Bring on the wine snobs: Joel Stein writes in the Los Angeles Times that he misses "the days when we made fun of wine snobs for saying that a wine was 'ingratiating without being obsequious.' " This is music to the Wine Curmudgeon's ears, of course. Stein does get a pole at wine writers, but that's to be expected. Why should we write in English when so many of us want to be famous? And you can only do that by writing in Wine.

? Gina Gallo speaks: The third generation to run one of the largest wine companies in the world doesn't give many interviews, so this one is especially interesting. It's not so much what Gallo says as it is how she says it: Positioning a multi-billion dollar company as a family business. "In the simplest terms we ?re celebrating being family-owned. We started realizing a lot of family businesses weren ?t family anymore and what better way than stating it right on the bottle?"

Wine and the economy

image Talk to people in the business, and almost all are tip-toeing around the U.S. economic slowdown, whether it’s a recession, a reduction in growth or whatever term seems to be the most popular.

As one executive told me, literally with fingers crossed: “The numbers I’ve seen say it’s not too bad yet.”

The wine business, and the U.S. part of it in particular, is especially concerned about a recession because they are very much not prepared for it. The last decade has seen almost unprecedented growth, with more wine sold than ever before. Until last fall, most producers were trying expand their business, not preparing for a slump.

So what happens if there is a recession? What will consumers do? What will producers do?

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Tuesday tidbits 31

? Texas wine winners: It was quite a competition for Brennan Vineyards in Commanche. The winery’s 2007 viognier (white wines) and rose (pink wines) were Grand Star winners at the 2008 Lone Star International Wine competition. That means the wines were the best of the best in their categories. The complete list of winners is here.

? Say no to higher alcohol: I popped open a rose the other day, as the temperature reached 100 for the first time this summer. The wine was quite undrinkable, and I dumped it down the drain. The culprit, which I smelled as soon as the cork came off, was the alcohol level — 14 percent is much too high for a pink wine. Rose is supposed to be refreshing, not hangover inducing. No need to mention the California winery; it knows who it is, and I hope it it knows better next time.

? Wine ice cream: And why not? It’s a novelty in upstate New York — and regulated by the state. Ice cream makers won’t need a liquor license, according to a new law, but they can’t sell to anyone under 21 and their products can’t contain more than 5 percent alcohol.