Winebits 561: Drink Local, three-tier, Dave McIntyre

drink local

Cool… a book about local wine trails

This week’s wine news: Drink Local gets a book, plus three-tier and the Supreme Court and Dave McIntyre celebrates his 10th anniversary at the Washington Post

All over the country: One more sign that drink local has become mainstream – a travel guide from one of the world’s leading travel publishers. Lonely Planet’s “Wine Trails: United States and Canada” includes 40 wine trails: The usual California, Oregon, and Washington suspects, plus Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Nova Scotia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, and Maryland. Again, if someone had told me I’d be writing about this book when we started Drink Local in 2007, I’d have laughed. And rarely have I been so glad to be wrong. So glad, in fact, that we’ll give a copy of the book away during Birthday Week next month.

Bring on the Supremes: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a key three-tier case this term, though it may not be as important as many people are making it out to be. The court will decide the constitutionality of a Tennessee law that requires anyone who wants a retail liquor license to be a state resident. Residency laws are often used to keep out-of-state companies, like Total Wine, from opening in a new state (and was used in 2016 in Indiana to stop an Illinois chain from opening stores). This Tennessee case is a big deal, given how few three-tier laws get to the Supreme Court. But there has also been a lot of cyber-buzz that the court will use it to allow direct shipping from out-of-state retailers, so that someone in Texas, for example, can buy wine from a store in Illinois. Currently, that’s illegal in most of the U.S. I checked with the blog’s liquor law attorney, and he says it’s too early to tell if a residency case could transform into a direct shipping case. If anything develops, I’ll write more.

Congratulations, Dave: My pal Dave McIntyre, who was a co-founder of Drink Local Wine, recently celebrated his 10th anniversary as the Washington Post’s wine critic. This is most welcome news, and not just because Dave and I have been friends for a long time. He possesses a fine palate, cares about quality and value, and wants to share those things with his readers. Would that more people who do this thought the same way.

Four things to know about the rose boom (and that don’t have anything to do with Instagram or memes)

rose boomThe rose boom isn’t about Instagram and memes; it’s about quality wine at a fair price

Listen to the wine wise guys, and the rose boom is about “rose all day” and Instagram posts. Of course, these are the same people who didn’t catch on to pink wine until it was already a hit. Given that, why should we believe anything they say?

So here are are four things to know about the rose boom that don’t have anything to do with Instagram or memes – but show that wine drinkers know value when they see one. Which explains rose’s continuing popularity more than all the hype and the glitter in the Hampton’s.

Consider:

• There’s so much demand for rose that some retailers and distributors are trying to sell old, worn out junk, figuring we’re not smart enough to know the difference. I’m seeing more and more of this, with pink wines as old as 2013 and 2014 finding their way to store shelves. Remember, if a rose is more than 18 months old, it’s probably not worth drinking.

We’re buying $10 rose, no matter that our betters are telling us we’re supposed to spend more. In the 52 weeks between April 2017 and April 2018, we bought five times as much $10 rose as we did $20 rose. In fact, rose costing $10 or less accounted for almost 60 percent of sales over that period. Suck on that, premiumization.

• Overall, reports the same study, U.S. wine sales remain flat. But rose sales increased 53 percent from 2017 to 2018. So consumers, given the choice between buying quality $10 rose or overpriced $18 wine, are buying quality $10 rose. Why isn’t anyone noticing this?

Millennials don’t drink the most rose; it’s still the province of older wine drinkers, according to the Wine Market Council. This makes perfect sense if you look at overall wine consumption, where Millennials are generally at the bottom of the list. But wine industry hype rarely makes perfect sense or any sense at all.

Mini-reviews 113: Cusumano, Pace Rosanebbia, Torremoron, La Bastide

cusumanoReviews 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

Cusumano Insolia 2016 ($11, purchased, 12.5%): This Sicilian white, made with the native insolia grape, is heavier and more chardonnay like this time, without the freshness and citrus of past vintages. But what do you expect when some PR type describes the wine like this: “… a sensuality that could only be born under the Sicilian sun.” Imported by Terlato

Azienda Agricola Pace Roero Rosanebbia Vino Rosato 2017 ($20, sample, 14%): This Italian pink wine, made with nebbiolo, is rose for people who only drink red wine – hot, tannic, and bitter.

Torremoron Ribera del Duero 2016 ($13, sample, 14%): Well-made Spanish tempranillo from the Ribero del Duero that isn’t too heavy or too rich or too un-tempranillo. It’s the ideal wine for someone who wants something with more heft than Rioja, but doesn’t want to break the bank. Imported by Ole Imports

La Bastide Saint-Dominique Côtes du Rhône 2016 ($18, purchased, 13.5%): A well-made, competent, and enjoyable red blend from France’s Rhone that tastes exactly like it’s supposed to – rich, fruity, a little earth. But it costs $5 more than it’s worth. Imported by Europvin USA

Five things the WC’s wine refrigerator has in common with the French presidential wine cellar

presidential wine cellar

The WC’s wine fridge is always open to the public.

Who says you have to have a presidential wine cellar to show off your wine collection?

The wine cellar in France’s presidential palace welcomed the public for the first time in its 71-year history over the weekend. This is a big deal, given that France has long been held as the world’s greatest wine producing country. And how many wine aficionados would want to see how the cellar’s 14,000 bottles reflected that?

But who says you have to have a presidential wine cellar to show off your wine collection? “Voulez-vous un verre de Bogle sauvignon blanc, Monsieur le Président? Ou peut-être un verre de Texas tempranillo?”

Hence, five things my wine refrigerator has in common with the French presidential wine cellar.

1. One quarter of the cellar’s bottles are from Burgundy, while half are from Bordeaux. I used to have a bottle of Bordeaux in the wine fridge, and actually have two bottles of white Burgundy in it now.

2. Among the bottles in the cellar are Cheval Blanc, Latour and Puligny-Montrachet, as well as a 1906 Sauternes. I visited Cheval Blanc during my epic Bordeaux adventure, sampled a terrific Latour at a trade tasting many years ago, and the Big Guy and I drink Puligny with some regularity. Plus, I enjoyed a glass of Sauternes (not 1906, however) in May during a half-price restaurant promotion.

3. Some 1,200 bottles were auctioned from the cellar in 2013. I have given away not quite that many bottles (samples, mostly) to friends and dinner guests, as well as to plumbers, electricians, and the like in exchange for work around the house.

4. French President Emmanuel Macron is apparently a wine geek who fared well in a recent blind tasting. Plus, he drinks wine with lunch and dinner. I drink wine with dinner, but not as often at lunch as I would like. And, despite my incredible wine geekiness, I am a notoriously bad blind taster.

5. This weekend’s guests will be shown a gold-engraved 2000 vintage of Mouton Rothschild and a 2004 Chateau Margaux. I have never seen bottles from those producers, let alone tasted them. But I have heard of them.

Wine of the week: Conde Pinel Verdejo-Viura 2017

Conde Pinel Verdejo-ViuraThe Conde Pinel verdejo-viura is one more top-notch, inexpensive Spanish white blend

We’ve spent a lot of time on the blog analyzing wine label descriptions – what they mean, if they matter, and how reliable they are. Which, given the description on the Conde Pinel verdejo-viura, means I never should have bought it.

But the Conde Pinel verdejo-viura ($10, purchased, 13%) is more than its front label description – “sweet pineapple combined with green apple.” Someone, somewhere, figured the only way to sell this Spanish white blend in the U.S. was to appeal to the so-called American palate. In doing so, they may scare wine drinkers away from a top-notch $10 wine.

Which would be too bad. This is a professional $10 wine that makes the most of the verdejo and viura grapes that compose its blend. It’s not sweet or especially tropical, but it is clean and refreshing with a little soft lemon fruit and an almost minerally finish It’s not quite a $10 Hall of Fame wine, but it’s a lot more than its description.

Drink this chilled on its own as summer winds down, or pair it with salads, vegetable dishes like hummus or baba ganoush and pitas, and even cheese.

Imported by Hammeken Cellars USA

 

Winebits 560: Wine trends, Wine Spectator lawsuit, Coke and weed

wine trendsThis week’s wine news: The Italian Wine Guy notes several disturbing wine trends, plus the Wine Spectator sues another magazine, and Coke wants in the weed business

Making money: Apparently, I’m not the only one worried about the future of the wine business. The Italian Wine Guy, who spent the last three months visiting retailers and restaurants around the country, writes that price “seems to be one of the biggest factors. It’s the economy, stupid. The wine trade has often been a race to the bottom, and these days, there is a significant concern for revenue and profit.” Consumers, he was told, are showing “high anxiety over a buying decision.” In other words, not everything is peachy-keen in the era of premiumization. And his take on the three-tier system? Intriguing and insightful for someone who used to work for the biggest distributor in the world.

It’s time for the lawyers: The Wine Spectator is suing a new marijuana magazine called the Weed Spectator for infringing its trademarks and copying its familiar 100-point rating scale for wine to rate cannabis. Reuters reports that the filing says Wine Spectator owner M. Shanken has no interest in associating Wine Spectator and the Wine Spectator marks with cannabis, a largely illegal drug. Any association of this type is likely to tarnish the reputation and goodwill that has been built up in the Wine Spectator marks and business for decades, resulting in dilution of the brand.” I’m most fascinated by the charge the weed magazine is copying the 100-point scoring system. I’d love to watch that unfold in court, given how many people use it and that the Wine Spectator didn’t invent it.

One more time: Those of us with long memories still laugh about Coca-Cola’s failure in the wine business in the late 1970s. So its foray into marijuana beverages elicits a similar chuckle. Nevertheless, reports the BBC, “the drinks giant is in talks with [Canadian] producer Aurora Cannabis about developing marijuana-infused beverages. These would not aim to intoxicate consumers but to relieve pain.” Apparently, it would be a “recovery drink,” aimed at the same market as Gatorade and Powerade. I’ll leave that straight line alone – it’s almost too easy.

New and easier to use motor oil containers, but same old wine bottles

wine bottles

Something’s wrong here — not a cork or punt in sight.

Even the conservative and old-fashioned motor oil business realizes packaging matters. So why doesn’t the wine business?

Does this quote sound familiar?

“We are far more conservative in the marketing of our products. We are almost apologetic. While other industries focus on creating products that are distinctly different and stand out from the crowd, we do the exact opposite.”

No, it’s not the wine business, which considers screwcaps the spawn of the devil and still thinks chateau wine labels are a big deal. It’s the motor oil business, as described by a long-time senior official at Valvoline.

So when Valvoline comes out with a truly innovative product – a five-quart, easy-open, easy pour, ergonomic motor oil bottle, what does that say about the wine business and its outdated and ridiculously stubborn reliance on the 750-ml bottle and its cork closure?

Not much. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

The genesis for this post came after talking to a friend about wine packaging. He described a trade show seminar where a packaging consultant told the audience that the dizzying array of wine bottles – their shapes, sizes, and closures – were expensive, inefficient, and hurt sales and profits. He couldn’t help them until they decided to get serious about wine packaging.

And then I saw a TV ad for the new Valvoline bottle, and I literally shook my head in despair. Valvoline wanted a new container that would make changing oil easier and less messy, but that fit on store shelves the way the current container does. In other words, it saw a problem and wanted to fix it to sell more product.

By contrast, how many times has anyone in the wine business said opening a wine bottle should be easier? Hardly ever. And how many times has anyone said the wine business should spend money to solve that problem? Even less than hardly ever.

The solution to this exists, by the way. There is a wine equivalent of the new Valvoline bottle – plastic, or PET, bottles. They have a smaller carbon footprint and weigh up to eight times less than glass, are almost unbreakable, use screwcaps, and fit on a shelf like a glass bottle. There was a push to use PET for wine about a decade ago, and you’ll see PET beer bottles, but the wine initiative never got anywhere. Is anyone surprised?

More about wine packaging:
It’s not the quality of the wine — it’s the sound of the cork popping
Will canned wine solve all of the wine business’ problems?
Four wine myths that confuse consumers