Category:Wine news

Texans aren’t all that interested in drinking wine in restaurants

One of the regular themes here is that restaurants do a lousy job of selling wine to their customers. And now the Wine Curmudgeon has hard evidence to go along with his whining.

The new Texas Zagat guide, released yesterday, notes that only about one-third of the state’s diners order a bottle of wine with their meal. Almost half, on the other hand, order wine by the glass.

I suppose one can look at this positively — that 85 percent of Texans who eat in restaurants order wine with their meal. But the Wine Curmudgeon didn’t get where he is by being positive. And, in fact, that’s looking at the numbers through rose’-colored glasses.

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? Why critter wine works: Ever wondered why so many wine labels have so many cute animals on them? So did researchers at Yale, Michigan and the University of Chicago. (Hey, the Wine Curmudgeon runs a class joint.) And they found that consumers are more likely to favor a product that they associate with themselves. Hence, according to the study, we we associate animals (the study tested cats and dogs with several products) with ourselves more than we do with more wine-oriented themes, like a chateau or a grape vine on a label.

? La Bodega wins award: Texas’ La Bodega Winery, best known as the winery in an airport — it’s in terminals A and D at DFW International — was named Best Retail Store Design for the terminal D layout in the Small Retailer Division by the trade journal Airport Revenue News.

? High alcohol wines:  The debate continues, with a leading Sacramento retailer announcing it won’t carry wines with more than 14 1/2 percent alcohol. Regular visitors know how the Wine Curmudgeon feels about high alcohol. It’s interesting to see that others who are less curmudgeonly feel the same way.

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? Wine shoppers overwhelmed: This is not really news to anyone who has actually gone wine shopping (as opposed to buying by scores and snobbery), given the 400 or so brands introduced each year. But it is interesting that one of the largest wine companies in the world has noticed. Constellation Wines, the U.S. arm of massive Constellation Brands, says almost one-quarter of wine shoppers are overwhelmed by sheer volume of choices on store shelves and like to drink wine, but don’t know what kind to buy and may select by label. Which explains why so many of those brands have cute animal labels.

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? Wine as an investment: What’s the point of drinking wine when you can invest in it? None, actually, but that hasn’t stopped people with entirely too much money from treating wine as if it was real estate. In 2007, reports Reuters, the main British stock index rose by less than four percent. The main index on Liv-ex, where fine wine is traded, ended the year up 40 percent. At the risk of sounding much too curmudgeonly, let me say two two things: First, wine is not an asset like a house or shopping center, but an intangible with no intrinsic value. It is made to be drunk, not traded like soybeans. Second, those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it — see the 17th century Dutch tulip bubble.

? More wine company buyouts: The Wine Group, which already owns Big House, Glen Ellen, and Mogen David (among many others), has bought the Almaden and Inglenook brands from Constellation Brands. The transaction makes the Wine Group California’s second- and the world’s third-largest wine producer by volume. Almaden and Inglenook, though not much more than jug wine brands now, were once some of the most prestigious labels in the country. Their purchase solidifies the Wine Group’s hold on its share of the largest portion of the U.S. market — wines that cost from $3 to $9 a bottle.

? More from Champagne? The French are expanding the area in the Champagne wine region, so that more sparkling wine can be labeled champagne. The government will redraw the 1927 boundaries for the region (what the French call an AOC or appellation d’origine contr l e) to include up to 40 villages. The motive? Increased international demand for bubbly, which can only be called champagne if it’s from the champagne region of France. Quality shouldn’t suffer, though, since many of the villages that will be added didn’t want to be included when the boundaries were drawn 80 years ago.

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? Dallas sommelier becomes a master: Drew Hendricks, currently of Charlie Palmer Dallas, has become the third sommelier in Texas to earn the master designation from the international Court of Master Sommeliers. Hendricks says the final part of the three-part exam — in which he had to identify six wines in a blind tasting within a 24 minutes — was a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the most difficult. No, he said with a laugh, that didn’t surprise him. There are two other masters sommeliers in Texas, Barbara Werley in Dallas and Guy Stout in Houston. There are fewer than 150 master sommeliers worldwide.

? Global warming and wine: Think you know what wine is supposed to taste like? Think again. That’s the news from the second conference on Climate Change & Wine, held in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago. The consensus? Flavors and color will change, and it could happen in as little as 10 years."Wine, however, is an early warning signal of what is to come," said Australian wine consultant Richard Samrt. "Wine’s past will no longer be relevant [in predicting its future] within 50 years. In only 10 years, the palate of our wines will change."

? San Antonio wine winners:  A Texas red, Messina Hof Barrel Reserve Cabernet Franc 2005, and a California white, Newman’s Own Chardonnay 2006, were named best of show at this month’s eighth annual San Antonio Wine Competition. The San Antonio event begins the spring wine season in Texas. My favorite winner? The Three Thieves 2005 Bandit cabernet, which won a gold in the $15 or less cabernet category.

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? Beard award nominations: The James Beard awards, the food world’s equivalent of the Oscars, has announced its 2008 nominations.  What is most noticeable are the categories that didn’t include any Dallas-area restaurants, especially outstanding wine service. Many people here think this is one of the best restaurant cities in the country, but this does not seem to be the view elsewhere. Personally, I’m not surprised about the wine snub. Save for a couple of places like Pappas Bros. and Cafe on the Green, this is a lousy wine restaurant town. Prices are way too high and wine lists are predictable and unimaginative. They’re also sadly lacking in Texas wine, which is unacceptable in a town that prides itself on regional cuisine.

Bottle Image ? A $3 wine winner: Oak Leaf Vineyards, run by the negociant firm The Wine Group, has won a bunch of medals, including a gold for its chardonnay, at several recent wine competitions. It’s available only at Wal-Marts that sell wine for $1.97 in California and $2.97 elsewhere.  I have not tasted this brand, but will do so and report back. The Wine Group is best known for buying the Big House labels from Randall Grahm a couple of years ago.

? Italian wine class: Alfonso Cevola, who is extremely tolerant of the Wine Curmudgeon’s personality, knows more about Italian wine than almost anyone. So it’s a big deal that he is going to hold a three-part Italian wine class in Dallas, starting at the end of this month. It will cover northern Italy, central Italy, and the South and the islands. The sessions are a warm-up for more in-depth classes later this year for Intermediate and  advanced Italian wine lovers. You can register on line or contact Michelle Anderson (214-794-0978) for information.