Tag Archives: birthday week

Friday Birthday Week 2020 giveaway: 3 cheap wine books

cheap wine book
Yes, three autographed copies just for you.

Win three cheap wine books in the Friday Birthday week 2020 giveaway

The winner is Karen Jo, who picked 653. The winning number is 662 (screenshot to the bottom). This was the final prize giveaway for this year’s Birthday Week. Thanks to everyone who participated and an especial thanks to everyone who said such nice things about my work here.


Today, to celebrate the blog’s 13th anniversary, we’re giving away three autographed copies of the cheap wine book. This is the final  giveaway for Birthday Week 2020.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the books.

Birthday Week essay 2020: Wine as expensive shiny baubles instead of something to savor and enjoy

cheap wine
“Ha! Just try and keep me from writing about cheap wine.”

How did we end up in a Peloton wine universe, when all we want is something to drink with dinner?

How does one keep cheap wine in perspective, given this year of living depressingly – the pandemic, the Trump wine tariff, the presidential election, the sommelier sex scandal? In fact, why even bother? Why not just load up on Winking Owl at Aldi, get hammered, and leave it at that?

And who would blame us if we did? Has cheap wine ever been worse off in the blog’s 13-year history? Yes, I know I seem to write that in each of the blog’s annual Birthday Week essays, and I am writing it again for the blog’s 13th birthday. But that’s because, sadly, it always seems to be true.

We’ve been dumped into some sort of bizarre Peloton wine universe, where everything is sold to us as an expensive, shiny bauble – even when it is neither expensive, shiny, nor a bauble. And, most infuriatingly, even if we don’t need it. I got a $17 sample this fall, and the tasting notes were past snotty (let alone indecipherable): “Polished fore palate with ample fine grain tannins on a generous mid palate.”

We want quality and value, and the wine business gives us $15 supermarket plonk because surveys say that’s the hot price point. The cost of the wine in that $17 sample, allowing for some crude math, was probably less than $4; does that mean the tasting notes cost more than grapes? We aren’t customers anymore, but lines on a spreadsheet, metrics to be parsed, trends to be analyzed, and preferences to be focus grouped.

How did we get to this point?

It starts with the state of the world, and is not exclusive to wine. It’s what one observer has called late-period capitalism, which is based on “taking beloved institutions and destroying everything that made them great so that a few billionaires can get even richer.”

Wine’s contribution is consolidation. Today, most of the world’s wine production is in the hands of maybe a couple of hundred companies, and the U.S. business is even more top-heavy. The top five producers account for about three-quarters of U.S. sales, even though there are some 10,000 wineries, while the two biggest distributors control half the wholesale business.

The result? An almost surreal wine market:

• Cheap wine that tastes cheap — poorly made, stemmy, and bitter, and produced for no other reason than to cost $3 or $4 a bottle.

• $15 wine made for a mass audience — sold in supermarkets and the biggest retailers, slightly sweet and “smooooth,” and where more money may be spent on label copy than on the grapes.

• Expensive wine that exists for no reason other than that it’s expensive, and which commands the fawning supplication of the Winestream Media.

The idea that wine should taste like wine, and that it is something that most of us can afford to drink with dinner – which was the idea of wine for much of the past 200 years – is a quaint, old-fashioned notion. Which only cranks like me still believe – because, of course, late-period capitalism.

So is it time for the Winking Owl?

Hardly. Wine is a pleasure, something to be enjoyed, and something that makes life more enjoyable. A glass of wine after a day of good writing is something to be savored and appreciated, not scored and cataloged and trophy-ized. Why should I let people whose idea of success is as offensive as it is self-defeating spoil it for me?

Yes, cheap wine is in a bad place – we’ve lost much quality cheap wine over the past couple of years thanks to producer and distributor consolidation, and consolidation has wreaked havoc with availability. And it’s not like availability was easy even in the good old days.

But there is still great cheap wine out there, it’s still worth looking for, and I’m going to keep looking for it. Call it the cheap wine version of grace under pressure – if something is worth doing, then we should do it, even when it may not be easy. No, finding great cheap wine won’t solve the world’s problems, but it may help us endure until we can figure out a way to solve them. That’s a fine job in and of itself, and one I am happy to do –because we must solve them.

More Birthday Week perspective on the wine business:
How do you write about quality cheap wine when the system is rigged against it?
Have we reached the end of wine criticism?
• 10 years writing about cheap wine on the Internet

Thursday Birthday week 2020 giveaway: Four Schott Zweisel wine glasses

schottWin four Schott Zweisel wine glasses

And the winner is: James, who selected 267; the winning number was 259 (screen shot below).  Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow’s giveaway — three autographed copies of the cheap wine book, just in time for the holidays. That will be the final daily giveaway.


Today, to celebrate the blog’s 13th anniversary, we’re giving away four Schott Zweisel wine glasses, just like the ones the Wine Curmudgeon uses. This is the the fourth of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the final prize.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the glasses.

Wednesday Birthday week 2020 giveaway: $100 Wine.com gift card

Win a $100 wine.com gift card

And the winner is: Cass, who selected 887; the winning number was 906 (screen shot below).  Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow’s giveaway — four Schott Zweisel wine glasses, just like the ones the Wine Curmudgeon uses. That will be the fourth of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.


Today, to celebrate the blog’s 13th anniversary, we’re giving away a $100 Wine.com gift card, good for anything on the site of the world’s largest Internet wine retailer. Thanks to Wine.com, a long-time supporter of the blog. This is the third of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the gift card.

Tuesday Birthday Week 2020 giveaway: Wine Not women’s slippers

slippersWin a pair of Wine Not women’s slippers — because, Wine Not?

And the winner is: Doug, who selected 442; the winning number was 437 (screen shot below).  Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow’s giveaway is a $100 Wine.com gift card from one of the blog’s long-time supporters. That will be the third of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.


Today, to celebrate the blog’s 13th anniversary, we’re giving away a pair of Wine Not women’s slippers — because, wine not? (Sorry.) This is the second of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the other prizes.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the slippers.

Winebits 672: Birthday week 2020, or international tensions clobber the blog

internatinal tensionsBirthday week 2020 wine news: Foreign visitors? What foreign visitors? Plus, Linux surges and Firefox doesn’t

Not in this country: China, which was the big visitor news last year, wasn’t this year. Chinese blog traffic dropped 83 percent. Beijing, last year’s top city, fell to 16th with an 85 percent decline. Meanwhile, 19 of the top 20 cities were in the U.S., led by New York. And I don’t know that that has ever been the case. But that’s what happens when we throw up trade barriers and bluster at the rest of the world.

Poor, poor pitiful Firefox: Those of us old enough to remember the second browser war, when Firefox was going to save us from evil Microsoft, will find this hard to believe. Less than six percent of blog visits came via some from of Firefox. Apple’s Safari, thanks to a surge in iPhone visitors, edged out Chrome, 44 to 42 percent.

Not so pitiful Linux: The pandemic, according to a variety of statistics, was supposed to be giving a boost to my beloved Linux operating system. I didn’t believe the reports, having seen Linux use on the blog stay around one percent — if not lower — over the years. So imagine my surprise when the number turned out to be 2.8 percent this year — four times what it was last year. Having said that, obsolete Windows systems (Windows XP, 8.0/8.1, and Vista) totaled five percent. So I guess the world still isn’t ready for the year of the Linux desktop.

Monday Birthday Week 2020 giveaway: Jessica Dupuy’s “The Wines of Southwest USA.”

Win an autographed copy of Jessica Dupuy’s “The Wines of Southwest USA”

And the winner is: Marty, who selected 601; the winning number was 625 (screen shot below).  Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow’s giveaway is a pair of Wine Not women’s slippers. That will be the second of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.


Today, to celebrate the blog’s 13th anniversary, we’re giving away an autographed copy of Jessica Dupuy’s “The Wines of Southwest USA.” This is the first of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the gift card.