Tag Archives: Decanter

One final word about La Moneda malbec, “the world’s greatest cheap wine”

La MonedaThe La Moneda malbec: “So much publicity, yet no availability” – the bane of the existence of anyone who loves wine

A reader writes:

“I have called Walmart in New Jersey and along the east coast regions. I have called the producer in Chile and the distributor in Minnesota. Unfortunately, and very sadly, no one has been able to help me place an order. I spoke to the corporate heads in Arkansas (Walmart) and they have no clue what I am talking about or what is La Moneda Malbec. I am writing you in hopes that you can simply tell me how can I order a case of this mystery wine that has so much publicity, yet no availability.”

The $6 La Moneda, for those of you who have not been breathlessly following this story, was called the greatest cheap wine in the world after it won a platinum medal at last year’s Decanter World Wine Awards in London. The catch? That the wine was made for a British supermarket chain called ASDA, which Walmart owns. And it wasn’t sold in the U.S.

Nevertheless, as any Google search will show, the U.S. media went silly writing about the wine, mostly because no one could believe Walmart sold the best cheap wine in the world. This ignored the fact that the La Moneda wasn’t for sale in the U.S. — but why let that get in the way of a good story?

Additionally, almost everyone who posted La Moneda stories, including legitimate news organizations, didn’t seem to understand the wine business, the three-tier system, and availability. They didn’t realize that wine is different from every other consumer good; laws restrict how it is sold, so that just because it was for sale in one place didn’t mean it would be for sale in another place. My pal Dave McIntyre explained all of this brilliantly in the Washington Post, not that anyone paid attention.

This led to what the reader wrote – “so much publicity, yet no availability.” Which, of course, never, ever happens in the wine business, does it?

Walmart, to capitalize on the publicity, found enough of the wine last fall (and navigated three-tier to so do, which I wrote about here) to sell it at 577 of its 4,600 U.S. stores. The wine sold out before the end of the year, and there is none left in the U.S. It doesn’t appear there is any left in Britain, either. The ASDA website sells something called La Moneda Premium Collection Malbec, which is not the same thing — and it is only sold in Britain.

The moral in all of this? Wine availability is the bane of the existence of anyone who loves wine. And there is nothing to be done about it until we drive a stake through the three-tier system’s cold, cold heart.

Photo via the Washington Post, using a Creative Commons license

More about La Moneda malbec:
Wine of the week: La Moneda Reserva Malbec 2015

La Moneda Reserva malbec – the best cheap wine in the world?

La Moneda reserva malbecIs Chile’s La Moneda Reserva malbec really the best cheap wine in the world? Probably not. But it is a wonderful example of how screwed up wine is.

May 15, 2017 update: A reader writes: Why so much publicity and so little availability?

Nov. 27 update: The Wine Curmudgeon braved Black Friday Dallas traffic to drive to a Walmart in Irving and bought the last bottle in the store. The review is here.

Nov. 22 update: The wine is coming to Dallas, and the Wine Curmudgeon is on the hunt for it. Which, of course, doesn’t mean I will be able to find it, wine availability being what it is.

Nov. 16 update: The cyber-ether is agog this morning with news that the La Moneda will be available in the U.S., apparently next week, at select Walmarts. I will try to find a bottle for review, though none of the “breathless, buy this wine now” stories said if it was the same wine that is the focus of this blog post and won the award.

Where else but wine would a product that no one can buy in the U.S. make headlines throughout the country? “Walmart’s $6 red wine named one of the best in the world,” screamed Fox News. “Wal-Mart brand red wine named one of the best in the world,” shouted CNBC. And, my favorite, from the ultra-hip Daily Meal, “Walmart Brand Red Wine Costing $6 Named One of the Best in the World,” complete with diaper reference.

That’s because the wine business teaches us that only expensive wine is any good, and the U.S. media parrots that line whenever possible. No one in this country can buy the La Moneda Reserva malbec, because it’s a private label sold only at ASDA, a supermarket chain owned by Walmart in Great Britain. But who cares? It’s cheap! Really cheap!!

Can you imagine those news outlets doing the same thing for ketchup or blue jeans or a car that none of their readers could buy? Of course not. But it’s wine! That’s cheap!! Really cheap!!!

To their credit, my colleagues in the Winestream Media didn’t go quite as berserk when the La Moneda Reserva malbec won a platinum medal at Decanter’s World Wine Awards. Some noted that it’s odd that a Chilean wine made with malbec, an Argentine grape, did so well. Some made the point that much of the fuss was silly since no one could buy it. And none made any claims to quality, since none had tasted it.

I haven’t either. But since I’ve probably tasted more grocery store wine that anyone else in the world, I’d guess that the La Moneda Reserva malbec is likely well made and deserving of its medal. I’m a little concerned that one of the judges called it “a crowd pleaser,” which is wine judge for lots of fruit. But is it appreciably better than any other wine in the $10 Hall of Fame? What do you think?

Know, too, that this is almost certainly a one-off success, given the way private label works. The company that found the wine for ASDA, International Procurement & Logistics, supplies products based on pricing, not necessarily quality. ASDA wanted a red wine to sell at retail for £5.75 that it could make a certain margin on, and that’s what International Procurement looked for. It wasn’t about terroir, but the cost of grapes, and the quality was a happy accident.

So be glad that British wine drinkers have a quality $10 wine to drown their Brexit sorrows with. But also wish the media in this country that went silly about a cheap wine being good would pay more attention to what’s on the shelves at their grocery stores. Maybe then we’d have better wine to buy in this country.

Winebits 429: Vinho verde, restaurant wine, robots

vinho verde review 2013Quality cheap wine: The U.S. has become the world’s biggest export market for vinho verde, the green, slightly fizzy wine from Portugal. This isn’t that surprising, given the U.S. desire for quality cheap wine and the Portuguese effort to to upgrade vinho verde quality over the past decade. The wines are much better made than they were when I started tasting them all those years ago, and prices are still mostly the same. One odd bit in the release, though: “As producers throughout the region revamped and upgraded their wineries, many went a step further adding boutique hotels, day spas and tasting rooms to accommodate the growing number of visitors.” Who knew day spas were such a factor in wine consumption?

Expensive California wine: Our wine drinking colleagues in Great Britain have a difficult time finding affordable California wine, reports Harry Fawkes in Decanter. We know about that, don’t we? Fawkes writes about am especially hip London wine bar, where “all the wines that looked interesting from the USA were over fifty pounds, which even for an enthusiast, is a high price to experiment.” Or, about US$70, which is more than even we’re asked to pay here. Fawkes says the high prices were caused by taxes and distribution costs, but mostly because California producers don’t have any incentive to sell wine overseas since they sell most of what they make here. Which, oddly, are the same reasons that are cited here.

I, Winemaking robot: An Italian researcher has invented a robot that makes wine, writes Thomas Pellechia in Forbes. No, it doesn’t look like one of Will Smith’s pals (or Isaac Asimov’s, for that matter). Instead, it’s more like an intelligent wine tank, named Genesis and that holds one-quarter ton of grapes. Genesis crushes, ferments, and adjusts the grapes inside itself, using software designed by the researcher, Donato Lanati. This raises a variety of questions: Does Genesis have a subscription to the Wine Spectator so it knows what’s current with the critics? Was it designed to know to add Mega Purple? And what does it think about terroir? Which gives the Wine Curmudgeon something to ponder as I sip my next Italian wine: Do Data and Picard discuss terroir?


Decanter gives a shout-out to wine bloggers

image from t1.gstatic.com Decanter magazine's biennial list of the 50 most powerful people in the wine business took a lot of criticism. As one wine type told me after reading the rankings: "Who are these people?" Lewis Perdue, the editor of Wine Industry Insight, wrote that the list "was based not so much on power, clout, or the ability to move markets, but on a snobbish gaze at a small self-indulgent world that is increasingly irrelevant to the vast majority of the globe ?s wine drinkers."

It is an odd list. The usual suspects are there — Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson, Gary V. — as well as a host of European and Asian names who matter to Decanter's Bordeaux-centric audience. But there are a lot of names missing. Purdue emphasized the absence of the men who run three of the leading cheap wine companies in the U.S. and sell hundreds of millions of dollars of wine, Fred Franzia of Two Buck Chuck, Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home and David Kent of The Wine Group. Also missing: Eric Asimov of the New York Times and Jon Bonne of the San Francisco Chronicle, who have moved more than few markets in their time.

Yet Decanter somehow found room in all that rarefied air for what it called the "amateur wine blogger" at No. 16. "As social media continues its relentless online spread, everyone is now a critic," the magazine said. Why that is and what it means, after the jump:

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Winebits 192: Private labels, wine critics, Decanter awards

? What’s in a private label? We’ve had discussion here over the years about the difference between national brands and store brands and private labels. This article, from an Alabama newspaper, is a sound, easy-to-follow explanation of private label and who makes the wine for retailers like Walgreen’s, Wal-Mart, and Costco. And, notes wine columnist Pat Kettles, Dollar General is going to have to find someone to make the wine it wants to sell.

? When critics collide: Eric Asimov in the New York Times has the story of two influential critics and their reaction to Chateau Pavie, a hip and with-it red Bordeaux blend that is usually well received. Robert Parker calls the 2010 Pavie brilliant, while John Gilman calls it, believe it not, bad and unpleasant. Which is, of course, one of the great things about wine, that two such reputable critics can completely disagree. The Wine Curmudgeon has actually tasted Pavie, and while it wasn’t the 2010, I can see where Gilman was coming from. Which means I can also see where Parker was coming from.

? Love that cheap wine: Decanter, the British wine magazine, has released its annual wine awards. Many of the award winners will be difficult to find in the U.S. or too expensive or both, but one of them is a favorite around here — the French chardonnay, Cave de Lugny, which sells for abut $10 in the U.S. It was not only the least expensive among the top 10 chardonnays, but it shared the list with some high-dollar white Burgundies from Montrachet and Chabilis and an $80 Aussie label.

High alcohol: The controversy continues

What kind of a stir would a food magazine cause if it said it was going to list the ingredients in its recipes? None at all.

But the wine business is not the food business. Only in wine would a controversy ensue when the San Francisco Chronicle and Decanter magazine, two of the leading members of the Winestream Media, announced each would start listing alcohol levels for the wines it reviewed. Said the Chronicle's Jon Bonne: ".. [W]e resisted printing them regularly because the act of bringing alcohol into the discussion of a wine is inherently political."

Which says a lot about how screwed up the wine business is. Bonne is right — unfortunately, reporting alcohol levels in an alcoholic beverage has become political, because much of the wine establishment has made high alcohol its cause. Winemakers have pushed alcohol levels to 15, 16 and even 17 percent, even in white wine, and have been rewarded with glowing reviews from Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator. Those of us who object, like the Wine Curmudgeon, are called philistines and told we don't understand the issue.

Most wine drinkers want to know alcohol levels. As one commenter noted in the Chronicle story, "If I wanted to get sh*tfaced, I could do it for a lot less than $50 a bottle." But that's of little concern to the people who make and write about these wines. They know best, and they're going to tell us what to think. More, after the jump.

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