This 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.
Texted one friend: “They like to just beep their horn and take off.”
So how do the delivery companies get away with this? No competition, of course. Given three-tier, barriers to entry for alcohol delivery are quite high — lots of regulation and paperwork, 50 laws for 50 states, investigations by state liquor cops, and all the rest. So FedEx and UPS can do what they want, and there is little we can do about it.
Except, of course, to remind them that their job is to deliver packages — not to make us pick them up.
Liz Thach: $12 to $20 is the sweet spot for U.S. wine.
Liz Thach of Sonoma State University talks about premiumization, the wine tariff, wine prices and what else to expect in 2020
Sonoma State University’s Liz Thach, MW, PhD, is one of the most respected wine business analysts in the country, so her take on what will happen next year with wine prices, premiumization, and the tariff is worth a podcast. And Thach doesn’t offer much hope for those of us who appreciate quality cheap wine:
• Yes, the grape glut in California is good news for consumers. But she also expects wine prices to continue to thrive between $12 and $20, as premiumization continues.
• The tariff will benefit California producers, and especially hurt Spanish wine. Australia, long out of favor with U.S. consumers, may also benefit.
• French wine won’t be hurt as badly as Spain, given its higher prices.
There was a muffled knock at the front door during dinner on Monday night. I got up from the table, shouted, “Hold on, I’m coming,” and quickly walked to the front door. It couldn’t have taken longer than eight seconds.
But when I got to the door, nothing – no driver on the porch, no truck on the street. There was, however, a sticker on the door, saying I had missed the delivery. In other words, I had suffered another FedEx non-delivery delivery.
I write this post because I don’t know what else to do. I’ve called numerous times and complained, and nothing changes. The non-delivery delivery is not common, but it happens often enough that I made a sign for the front door. It says I’m home and implores the driver to wait. (Would that I had it up Monday night.) A $70 bottle spoiled in October from riding in a hot truck when I got non-delivery deliveries a couple of days in a row.
You’re probably asking: How can this happen? Isn’t it FedEx’s job to deliver packages? My answer: Apparently not. The company probably sees its mandate, using the cooperate speak so popular these days, as “partnering to provide supply chain logistical support.”
Which of course, says nothing about delivering packages. Or, as the wine publicist who sent me the $70 bottle wrote after she checked on what happened at her end: “The very conscientious gentleman we work with at our warehouse said that while he shared our grief, he also said that FedEx couldn’t give a horse’s patootie when it comes to ground deliveries.”
Wine complicates the situation, since it requires an adult signature. The driver just can’t leave the package and zip back to the truck, but has to wait for someone to come to the door to sign the handheld. That means the driver takes longer to make the delivery and longer to complete the route than the metrics demand. And from what I know about metrics, no employee wants to get caught in metric hell. So the driver does a non-delivery delivery.
The irony here is that FedEx’s CEO threw a fit after a recent New York Times story that said the company finagled Congress so it wouldn’t have to pay any federal income tax. The CEO was so angry that he practically challenged the Times publisher to a duel. I’m not one for pistols at dawn, what with my eyesight. But I do challenge someone at FedEx to explain to me why I had to drive to a Walgreen’s on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to pick up a package that someone paid FedEx to deliver to my house.
One final note: I lost my temper when I called customer service and cursed, which was inexcusable. The customer service rep didn’t deserve that, and it does nothing to resolve the problem. I hope he accepts my apology.
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This month: a terrific red Burgundy for Black Friday 2019
• Joel Gott Pinot Gris 2018 ($12, purchased, 13.2%): This Oregon white is mostly OK for what it is, with some lime fruit and what tastes like a little fizziness. But there are better made wines at this price.
• Toad Hollow Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($17, sample, 14.1%): This California red from Lodi is $12 or $13 worth of cabernet, which is not a bad thing. It’s reasonably well made, with with brambly berry fruit and almost cabernet tannins (though the oak is out of balance). But $17? Only in the premiumization universe.
• Domaine Thenard Givry Les Bois Chevaux 2012 ($20, purchased, 13%): A Premier Cru red Burgundy, the second highest classification, that actually tastes like red Burgundy (French pinot noir) at a tremendous price. It’s getting a touch thin, but still has earth, some forest floor, and telltale lovely red fruit. Imported by Beverly Imports
• Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau 2019 ($13, purchased, 13%): This French red, made from gamay, is a November tradition. The 2019 version from Drouhin is a little thin, but mostly Beaujolais in style and taste (berry fruit). Which means it’s missing the horrible ripe banana fruit that too many nouveaus have had in the past decade. Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.