Tag Archives: Bed Bath & Beyond

Winebits 678: Icewine, World Market, and Manischewitz

icewineThis week’s wine news: Icewine, already rare and expensive, is getting more rare and more expensive. Plus, Bed Bath & Beyond dumps World Market and something else.

Icewine is even pricer: Canada’s Niagara region, one of the world’s most important for icewine production, is looking at one of its smallest harvests ever. One large producer may make one-quarter less wine, and smaller wineries are reducing production even more. Ironically, it’s not climate change forcing the cuts, but the pandemic. Since tourism has all but ended, winery officials say there’s less of a market for the product. Hence, prices may go up into the mid-triple digits for the best wine.

Dumping World Market: Bed Bath & Beyond, which bought Cost Plus World Market and its extensive wine retail operation in 2012, has sold the chain. The purchase didn’t make much sense then, even to amateur retail analysts, and new management at Bed Bath has finally figured that out. Selling wine and housewares isn’t that much of a fit. Ironically, Cost Plus’ wine operation is not the cheap wine heaven it was at the time of sale — these days, it’s mostly overpriced private label and Big Wine brands. The new owner is a private equity firm, and that usually means store closings and layoffs. As noted in the post I wrote in 2012, I wish this had worked out. That it didn’t may mean more bad news for Cost Plus.

The ultimate in wine nostalgia? Seth Stevenson, writing in Slate, tells us everything we need to know about Manischewitz, the Kosher wine that is known for being sweet and not very drinkable unless you like very sweet wine. He discusses its post-Prohibiton origin, its popularity in the Black community — Billy Eckstine, no less — and that it remains the best-selling Kosher wine in the country. The latter is stunning news, given that today there are Kosher wines that taste like wine. Which, of course, Manischewitz never really did.

Photo: “icewine grapes3” by Rivard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Winebits 244: Climate change, Ubuntu, Bed Bath & Beyond

? California ?s changing climate: Because that ?s not the way it used to be, when the rest of the world was jealous of the state ?s incredible wine growing climate. Writes Jon Bonne in the San Francisco Chronicle: ?It's starkly clear that the climate for wine growing in California is becoming less stable. ? Whether you blame climate change or human meddling for the shifting styles of California wine, the net result is that those who want to make truly great wines will have to adapt to ever less routine vintages. ? That difference has consequences not only for those who buy more expensive wines, where climate is part of the terroir, but for those of us who buy $10 wine. The weather was so perfect In California that it was easy to make quality cheap wine ? just let the grapes ripen and don't get in the way. If the grapes aren ?t going ripen on schedule anymore, those $10 winemakers will have to show skills they didn ?t need before.

? Wine and computers? The Wine Curmudgeon is a bit of a computer geek, so I was excited to hear that someone had released a wine with the same name as Ubuntu, one of the leading Linux operating systems. The wine is Portuguese, from Niepoort,, and was issued in 2008 and 2009 when South Africa hosted the football (soccer, for those of us in U.S.) World Cup. The operating system and the wine aren ?t apparently related, though, notes the OMG Ubunutu blog; they ?re both named after a particular African philosophy.

? Pairing wine with kitchen appliances: Bed Bath & Beyond, which recently bought World Market, is adding wine to one of its suburban Chicago locations. It also wants to do tastings, says the Chicago Tribune. I speculated about how well that would work for Bed Bath & Beyond after the World Market acquisition, and now we ?ll get a chance to find out. I wonder: When someone goes in to buy a slow cooker, are they really going to buy wine, too?

What does Bed Bath & Beyond know about selling wine?

We’re about to find out, since the housewares superstore chain has bought Cost Plus World Market, best known to regular visitors here for its usually excellent inventory of cheap wine.

Wall Street, as is its wont with any sort of acquisition, was bubbly and enthusiastic about the deal. The shares of both companies went up when it was announced, and the usual sort of biz-speak was thrown around, including the dreaded term “synergy.”

The Wine Curmudgeon, who has spent many years writing about business, always cringes when he hears that word, since it’s usually used to make a case for something where no case exists.

The big money guys, though, see the deal as can’t miss. Bed Bath & Beyond wants to get into the specialty food business, while World Market has been stumbling financially for several years and is probably better off as part of a larger company with deeper pockets. Or so the wise guys say.

But no one has explained how a company that sells coffee makers and bedspreads is going to take to selling wine. Because there are more than a few differences between the two, and I don’t think it’s unfair to ask if anyone at Bed Bath & Beyond actually understands the three-tier system.

This is no knock on Bed Bath & Beyond. It’s well run, the prices are good, and it practices customer service in a way that would make my grandfather, who ran a men’s clothing store in a small town in central Ohio, smile. I shop there regularly, and always keep one of their 20 percent coupons in my car. But wine ain’t toasters:

• What will the corporate accountants say when they discover that three-tier adds another layer of cost that they can’t get rid of? Or that, if and when they open stores in Pennsylvania and New York, they won’t be able to sell wine in them? Or that a wine that is big seller in a World Market store in Texas may not available for sale in Illinois?

Private label wine is becoming increasingly important as retailers try to find new ways to boost margins.Trader Joe’s, one of World Market’s competitors, is largely about private label wine like Two-buck Chuck. Housewares, on other hand, is still largely about brands. That’s a difference in mindset that seems almost insurmountable.

• Regional wine. World Market, as odd as it may seem, tailors its wine inventory to local tastes. Its Hawaii stores carry Hawaiian wine, the Arizona stores have Arizona wine, and so forth. I can imagine the conversation when someone tries to explain that to the Bed Bath & Beyond corporate types, whose idea of regional is that they can sell Calphalon in all 50 states.

Hopefully, the deal will work, since I don’t want to lose a source for cheap wine. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t, and I hope the bosses at Bed Bath & Beyond appreciate the difficulty of their task.