This week’s wine news: Gina Gallo speaks (yes, that Gallo), plus more celebrity wine and how to bring wine on an airplane
• Keynote speech: Gina Gallo of E&J Gallo, who oversees winemaking at the family company – the largest wine producer in the world – made a rare public speech at a key wine trade show last month. That’s news in itself, reports W. Blake Gray on Wine-searcher.com; what’s more interesting is what she said as she talked about Gallo family values and how it affects the business: “Our vision for Gallo is to continue to grow by following the values learned at the family dinner table: Be compassionate. Work hard. Act as a family.”
• No more, please: Is it any wonder that the Wine Curmudgeon is so cynical about celebrity wine? Consider this, from the release announcing rock legend Jon Bon Jovi’s new $25 rose, Diving into Hampton Water: He wanted to “to create a unique rosé, uniting the essence of the relaxed lifestyles of the Hamptons and the South of France.” Who knew that those of us who championed rose all those years ago, when it was pink wine that no one wanted to drink, would have created this monster? I wonder: Is this how Richard Lester feels about music videos?
• Do you really want to try this? Gilbert Ott, who writes a travel blog called God Save the Points, says travelers can legally bring their own wine onto airplanes and forgo the plonk that most airlines serve. His reasoning sounds legitimate, but I can’t see myself doing it. I’ve spent too much time in TSA lines to imagine that I could actually get wine through security. And even if I did, I’d still have to deal with airline employees. Can you imagine trying to explain to a flight attendant that it’s OK to pour my wine, and showing them this guy’s blog?
? The future of wine? Blue Apron, the home food delivery service, has added wine to what it does. This means that when the company sends you the recipe and ingredients for dinner, it will (for an additional charge) send wine to complement the meal. This is revolutionary, and could be the beginning of a change in the way Americans see wine — something several of my wine writing colleagues are hoping for, and have taken me to task for criticizing. Why so? Because Blue Apron sees an opportunity, despite the regulatory hurdles, to sell wine to food people, which has always been one of the sticking points in making wine more mainstream. Food people generally care more about kale — or whatever is au courant — than they do about wine, and if we can get them to see wine as part of the meal, we’ve made huge progress. I know someone using Blue Apron, and will report back after she does it for a while to see if we’re on to something here.
? Wine in arsenic: The wine and arsenic lawsuit has not gone away, reports Wines & Vines magazine, and the plaintiffs have “tweaked [it] to seek billions of dollars in civil penalties, among other damages.” They are using a California state law designed to protect consumers from what the magazine calls noxious substances, and the amended lawsuit days that “just a glass or two of these arsenic-contaminated wines a day over time could result in dangerous arsenic toxicity to the consumer. …” Also worth nothing, and something I haven’t seen before: That most of the wines that the Denver lab tested that were the focus of the lawsuit “suggest that most wines meet the standard for drinking water, and all of the wines fell below 50 parts per billion, as did the beers that were the focus of similar concern in 2013.” Most international standards for arsenic start at 100 parts per billion. Was this, then, as many suspected, nothing more than ambulance chasing?
? Flying the wine skies: Every year, there are rankings of the best airline wine, which somehow don’t include the little bottles that we all know and don’t get excited about. Instead, the rankings are for first- and business-class wine lists on airlines that most of us don’t fly. This year’s rankings feature Singapore and Emirates, which never seem to show up when I have to go to Denver to judge. So read it, marvel at the wines, and then stick your knees up under your chin because the slob in the row in front of you has pushed his seat all the way back, and the last thing you want is wine.
? Cupcake CEO speaks: David Kent, who runs The Wine Group, was interviewed by the MarketWatch trade magazine. Excerpts ran here and here. Kent ?s company makes Cupcake and the Franzia boxed wines (among many others) and is one of the biggest in the world, and he knows the cheap wine business: ?We prefer to define wines priced under $4 on a 750-ml. basis as ?popular-priced, ? since many of their consumers don ?t fit the classic definition of an economy shopper. Just ask our friends at Trader Joe ?s. Popular-priced wine consumers know what they like and know what they need to pay for it. Franzia is an extraordinary brand because it appeals to consumers across all age and income demographics. It ?s built on the idea that consumers prefer fresh, affordable wine to stale, potentially overpriced wine. It works. ?
? Mega-event canceled: And the high-end wine business still isn ?t what it used to be, if this is any indication. France ?s Vin-Expo is the ultimate in wine trade shows, featuring the best wines in the world ? including all that stuff that most of us will never get a chance to taste. It had scheduled a New York consumer event for this fall, but couldn ?t sell any space to wineries, reports the drinks business trade magazine. Only one-third of the producer slots were filled, so the event has been canceled. Two things stand out ? first, that high-end wineries didn ?t want to participate in an event like this, which speaks to their unease with the economy (as well as how much the organizers were charging them to participate). Second, even it had attracted enough wineries, would consumers have paid $180 to $300 to attend?
? Best airlines for wine: Yes, I know ? an oxymoron. But Departures, an on-line magazine, lists the five best anyway: Qantas, Air New Zealand, Malaysia, Qatar and ? hard to believe ? the bankrupt and legendarily poorly-run American. The caveat here is that the rankings only include wine service in the premium cabins, and not coach. Where, I know for a fact, the American wine selections often make stuff I won ?t review on the blog seem good. (Full disclosure: I still do an occasional article for the company that publishes American ?s in-flight magazine.)
? Airline wine quality: Yes, flights are oversold, the overhead bins are crammed, and the seats are uncomfortable. But know what's worse? The wine is lousy, reports the Baltimore Sun, especially for those of us who fly in coach. Which, come to think of it, may be why the Wine Curmudgeon has not had a glass of wine on a plane in years. Typically, they're brands I've never heard of (or avoid because I have heard of them), and the article notes that many U.S. airlines don't much care about wine quality.
? Oregon pinot noir fight: What happens when one Oregon winery says it's the birthplace of pinot noir, the state's national grape? The other wineries that claim they're the birthplace take exception, and nasty fight develops. Oregon's News-Times newspaper has the details, in which the men who run Eyrie and Hillcrest wineries have taken exception to a marketing campaign that says what is now the David Hill winery was the pinot pioneer. This is as sad as it is predictable, a function of the way the wine business works. I've seen these kinds of squabbles in many other states, including Texas. What people lose sight of, said one Oregon winemaker, is that "Boasting about where Oregon pinot was born is really antithetical to the culture of how Oregon wineries sell our wine and educate people about the area."
? New York board will close?: New York's budget crisis could mean an end to the state's wine organization, which would be a huge mistake. The New York Wine and Grape Foundation saw its funding removed from the state's proposed budget, which means it would close in June. The foundation and president Jim Trezise have done miraculous work for New York wine — and for all of regional wine — and eliminating the organization will undo much of that success. It's difficult to believe that the state doesn't have $700,000, which the foundation spent last year, for the next budget.