Category:Wine news

Winebits 93: $1 million wine book, wine sales, wine competitions

? Seven figures to buy a wine book?  British publisher Kraken Opus plans to release a book on wine that will retail for a whopping 640,000, the equivalent of US$1.04 million. The 850-page book, titled The Wine Opus, will feature a list of the 100 best wineries in the world. This is a joke, isn ?t it? Apparently not. Twenty-five of the 100-copy print run have already been sold.

? Wine sales down: Diageo, one of the world ?s big three drinks companies, says wine sales declined seven percent in fiscal 2009, which ended June 30. Doesn ?t get much worse than that, does it? Said one top official: "[I]n the U.S. you’re seeing more pronounced down trading in the wine environment…top end restaurant in major cities – say wine that was over $60 a bottle has significantly come down. People are going for far more affordable wines." Why does he make this sound like like it ?s a bad thing?

? Judging wine competitions: Jim Clarke, a New York City wine expert, discusses the ins and outs of judging a wine competition (one of the Wine Curmudgeon ?s most interesting tasks). His take: ?Generally, the judges work these things out, but remember that the gold- or silver-medal sticker on the side of a bottle only tells you that the wine performed well on that day, in the competition environment, for a panel of experts. ? Sound advice indeed.

Winebits 92: Best sommelier, wine bottle design, wine label changes

? Texas ? top sommelier: June-Ann Rodil of Austin restaurant Uchi was named Texas ? best sommelier at the fifth annual Texas Sommeliers Conference last weekend in suburban Dallas. She beat 20 other young sommeliers in a three-part wine examination that included service, blind tasting, TexSom, as the conference is best known, is one of the most interesting and unique wine events in the country

? Lighter wine bottles: A new wine bottle that looks like an ordinary bottle but weighs almost one-half less, will debut in the British market early next year. The lighter bottle, which has a smaller carbon footprint, has been a goal of the international Waste and Resources Action Programme, dedicated to making wine bottles more environmentally friendly. No word on if and when we ?ll see the bottle in the U.S.

? Say goodbye to critter labels: That ?s the opinion of Christopher Waters, who writes for the Canadian Sun chain. ?Today, most of the so-called ?critter labels ? are destined for extinction as a new wave of lifestyle labels are introduced, ? he says. ?Time and money spent on market research and demography surveys could easily equal or, perhaps, outweigh the investment in grape growing and winemaking. ? Which means, if he right, that we ?ll see fewer kangaroos and more wines with gender- and demographic specific labels.

Winebits 90: European wine labels, new Bronco wine, direct shipping update

? Putting the grape on the label: It ?s now legal for European wine producers to put the name of the grape on the label, thanks to a series of laws that went into effect at the beginning of the month. Most of the rest of the changes won ?t mean much to U.S. consumers, but it will be a shock to see sangiovese on a bottle of Chianti or pinot noir on a bottle of red Burgundy. The new laws, incidentally, are part of a group of reforms to modernize and standardize the European wine industry. This is a response to the growing popularity of New World wines, which have better looking and easier to read labels.

? Another generation of Franzias: The Franzia family, which gave the world Two Buck Chuck, has expanded. The family ?s fourth generation has put together Panther Rock Wine Company. It will also, apparently, focus on inexpensive wine; its first three labels are $9.99, $8.99, and $6.99. No word yet on where they will be sold.

? Virginia cracks down on direct shipping: Liquor regulators in the Old Dominion have said they will more closely watch how retailers and wineries ship their wine. The details are fairly complicated (unless you ?re a supply chain geek, which, sadly, I am), but the outline isn ?t. If shippers use any kind of shortcut, including a practice common in most states in which wineries hire a third party to store and ship their wine, the Virginia wine cops will come after them. Third-party shippers are common because most small wineries don ?t have the resources to do their own shipping.

Winebits 89: $20,000 bottle of wine, green wineries, India wine

? No, this one wasn ?t cheap: Boston police have recovered a $20,000 bottle of wine, four days after it was stolen. The bottle, a 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, is generally regarded as one of the best in wine history. Police say the thieves, a woman and two men, seemed to know what they were doing when the lifted the bottle from a suburban wine store. How long before this one shows up on Law & Order?

? Top sustainable wineries: Fast Company magazine rates the top 10 sustainable wineries in the United States. Interestingly, most of the wineries make quality wine, though one ? Franzia ? makes simple, supermarket boxed wine. Some of the Wine Curmudgeon ?s favorites, like Bonny Doon and Benzinger, also made the list.

? Yes, the big country in Asia: India, which has been touted as the next great wine region and market, is suffering in the recession as well. The Wall Street Journal reports that the world’s fastest-growing wine market for the past five years has seen sales fall for the first time since 2001. The most popular wine this year is a 200 rupee (about $4) label called Samara, as Indian consumers discover cheap wine. Good for them.

Alabama and pornographic wine labels

Yet another reason why we need to change the way alcohol is regulated in the United States:

An art poster from 1895 has been deemed pornographic by the Alabama Beverage Control Board, forcing distributors to remove a wine bearing its image from stores across the state.

The poster in question is the label for Cycles Gladiator, the line of $10 and $12 wine from California ?s Hahn Family Wines. The Alabama distributor, MBC United, had to pull the wine from store shelves. The Alabama liquor authority, citing a consumer complaint, said the label had not been properly approved ? even though it had been for sale in the state for three years. A Hahn spokesman said the label had been approved.

Why this is about more than prurient interest after the jump (and I promise ? no Alabama jokes):

Continue reading

Winebits 88: The Bogle family, grapes aren’t selling, Starbucks as wine bar?

? Good news for Bogle: Regular visitors here know how much the Wine Curmudgeon appreciates Bogle Vineyards, whose wines are regulars in the $10 Hall of Fame. So it was good to hear that Patty Bogle, the family ?s matriarch, is recovering from leukemia, and the fear that the family might have to sell is unfounded. Said Patty: ?Anyone can make a great wine for $100 a bottle that you only have for your birthday. We want to make wine for the other 364 days." And they do, and I hope they keep doing so.

? High-end grapes aren ?t selling: You know that recession that the wine business says we ?re not having? Well, perhaps they ?ll acknowledge it now, with a report from the great Dan Berger that says some industry analysts say that a good portion of the fruit, even in top locations such as Napa and Sonoma, may go unsold this year. Says one grower who can ?t sell his grapes: "I have heard of some wineries which don’t even have enough money to bottle last year’s wine, and if that’s the case, they certainly don’t have enough money to buy grapes."

? Starbucks tests wine sales: How desperate is the world ?s most over-hyped coffee chain, which has seen business slow and its stock price slump? Pretty desperate, apparently. Said one analyst: ?I think it is a little bit of a risky move, especially if they were to do this on a large scale."

Winebits 87: Virginia tops California, wine as art, oak-free chardonnay

? Virginia 1, California 0: Richard Leahy analyzes the stunning verdict from Decanter ?s Michael Broadbent, the eminent English critic. This is must reading, since it will probably be ignored by most of the U.S. wine media. Broadbent gave "four stars-plus" ratings to two wines from Barboursville Vineyards, panned California, and compared a Barboursville wine to the finest white Rhone.

? Exploring the arts through wine: Wine is a great theme for bringing together all sorts of interesting and beautiful things, reports Bill Daley in the Chicago Tribune. Chicago ?s Art Institute is holding what museum officials say is the first time a major art museum has done this. Among the exhibits: A 2,500-year-old Greek wine jug adorned with renderings of the maenads, female followers of the god of wine, to a 2007 work, "Leonardo’s Last Supper," made by Chicago-based artist Brigitte Riesebrodt out of recycled wine barrel staves still smelling of the grape.

? Oak-free chardonnay comes of age:  Or so says the inestimable Robert Whitley: ?What the ?oak-free ? chardonnay movement needed was a courageous example of unoaked chardonnay made from exceptional grapes sourced from top-notch vineyards. Courage would be necessary, lest the temptation to use the barrel on glorious chardonnay grapes might prove too much for the mere mortal winemaker to overcome. ? And, reports,he found some.