Category:Wine news

Wine scores: The Wine Trials author strikes again

Thursday update: The cyber-ether is atwitter with reaction, much of it supporting The Wine Magazine. The magazine has slammed Goldstein, calling him a publicity seeker and worse. One of the best discussions is at Dr. Vino.

The Wine Curmudgeon is in awe. I knew Robin Goldstein, whose Wine Trials has been chronicled here several times (and is one of the most popular posts), was a clever man. But this clever?

He pulled one over on The Wine Magazine, getting it to give a fictitious restaurant one of the magazine's awards for the quality of its wine list. It's one thing that a restaurant that doesn't exist won an award. But the best part? The fake restaurant's "reserve wine list" was mostly some of the magazine's lowest-scoring Italian wine from the past 20 years.

Scores don't matter. Right, Robin?

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? Texas case at center of wine shipping dispute: Expect to hear the results of an appeal by wine wholesalers later this year or early next challenging a federal court decision that overturned a Texas law that restricts Internet wine sales. In January, a federal judge said that the 2005 Supreme Court decision that allowed wineries to sell to out of state customers should also apply to retailers. Currently, most states forbid retailers not in that state from selling wine to state residents. And, just to show how weird the world is, the lawyer representing the retailer group is Ken Starr. Yes, that Ken Starr.

? Wine scores again: A Wine Curmudgeoner forwarded this, after my post about an alternative to wine scores. Beverages & More, a leading national retailer, has a unique approach to scores ? the chain does its own. The article does a nice job discussing the benefits and dangers of this approach, though it overlooks the solution: Get rid of scores.

? Wine and Facebook: The Wine Curmudgeon, who is reasonably cyber adept (wouldn ?t be here otherwise), will admit that he that he doesn ?t quite understand Facebook, the social networking site. So when I see that Four Napa and Sonoma producers are launching a Facebook campaign for green wine, I ?m intrigued. Can it really change our behavior? Or is this just some marketing fluff to get mentions like this?

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? Top winemaker has had enough of overdone wine: And the winemaker is none other than Tom Eddy, one of Napa ?s leading cabernet sauvignon producers. "After 35 years of making wine I still can't tell the difference between a 91 and a 92 score, but I can tell the difference between a balanced wine and an overripe, raisined cabernet with 16 percent alcohol," he says. "Come on, if I really wanted the alcohol, I'd rather have a Cognac. ? This is news ? Eddy is not an outsider criticizing the industry, but an insider who has had enough.

? We ?re drinking less: The Wine Curmudgeon can never get enough of alcohol consumption surveys, mostly because most of them contradict each other. But I did notice something intriguing in this one. There's been a gradual decrease over the past 50 years in the average amount of alcohol people drink, and more people today don ?t drink than did five decades ago. Alcohol consumption among men has gone from about 2 1/2 drinks a day to 1 1/2.

? New Zealand wine exports: The standing joke about New Zealand is that the country has more sheep than people. Now, you can add wine to the punch line. The Kiwis expect to export about US$700 million by 2010, which works out to $170 worth of wine for each resident. By comparison, wine exports in the U.S. in 2007 were $951 million.

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? McPherson winery will open soon: Kim McPherson, who makes some of the best wine in Texas, will soon be making the wine in his own facility ? a state of the art building in Lubbock in an old Coke bottling plant, set to open later this year. "It’s not like I’ve never built something like this," says McPherson. "This is something I’m doing on my own and I think it will be incredible."

? Texas Sommelier contest:: One of the Wine Curmudgeon ?s favorite events is the annual Texas sommelier contest, in which a couple of dozen of the state ?s top wine types compete to be named the best sommelier in Texas. They do blind tastings for vintage and location and are tested on service. My only regret is that these are one-on-one events. It would be so much more fun to do the blind tastings in front of an audience, hollering and screaming like a football game.

? Italian wine in boxes:  Italy, which has mostly frowned on boxed wine, has decided to approve its sale. This is big news, since it will allow some of the country ?s finest wines ? those that get a DOC designation ? to be sold in boxes. There are quality box wines, mostly from Australia, but the the Italians have always been hesitant to cross that line.

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? The next big wine movie? Bottle Shock, the cinematic adaptation of the Judgement of Paris, in which California ?s best wines beat France ?s best wines in a blind tasting in 1976, debuted over the weekend. The esteemed Paul Franson of Wine Business News seemed less than impressed. The talk at the premier, he reported, was whether Bottle Shock would give the wine business as big a boost as Sideways did. The movie opens in the rest of the country on Aug. 6.

? Do you want to be a winemaker? The Wine Curmudgeon hopes not, but if so, PBS will give you a chance. It ?s looking for potential winemakers for the second season of its reality show, The Wine Makers. The series will hold a casting call Sept. 7-12 at locations around the country. The first season of the series will air at the beginning of next year. And am I the only who figures the end is near when PBS does reality series?

? Beer vs. wine: We ?ve heard a lot of PR hoo-haw the past couple of years about wine ?s emergence as the alcoholic beverage of choice among Americans. Yes, wine ?s popularity has increased, but nowhere near the level that a selective reading of the numbers has given us in breathless press releases. This has been reinforced by a Gallup Poll that says more Americans aged 30-49 prefer beer to wine, and the gap has increased the past couple of years. Those of us 50 and older prefer wine to beer, but that gap has narrowed as well. The survey doesn ?t note any reasons, but I ?d guess it has to do with the economic slowdown. And could there also be a backlash against the increasing amount of wine snobbiness we ?ve seen over the past couple of years?

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? Cheap wine stumps the pros: Sometimes, all the Wine Curmudgeon can do is smile. The San Francisco Chronicle runs an annual feature in which three sommeliers have to buy seven bottles of wine for $70 ? and suffer in the attempt. ?”This is harder than I thought,” said one. Of course it is. As the Wine Curmudgeon always says, ?Anyone can buy a bottle of expensive wine. What ?s tougher ? and more fun ? is to buy a good bottle of cheap wine. ? Among the choices was our long-time favorite, Toad’ Hollow ?s pinot noir rose.

? Aussie exports decrease: The weak dollar has done its job on Australian wine exports, which are down 12 percent his year ? the first decline in 14 years. Shipments to the U.S. fell 18 percent. The value of the Australian dollar has increased almost 25 percent since September.

? Sunday blue laws: It may be the 21st century, but 15 states still have laws restricting the sale of wine on Sunday. Why do these laws still exist? No one is quite sure, say several people quoted in the article. But it does reveal one intriguing piece of information: A recent paper published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics found that in states where blue laws have been repealed, there has been a 15 percent decline in attendance among weekly churchgoers, along with a nearly 25 percent drop in donations.