Tag Archives: diet wine

Winebits 521: Day after Christmas wine news

wine newsThis week’s wine news: The WC makes a year-end list, plus reduced calorie wine and a Texas winery for sale

In august company: Guess who showed up in a year-end wine review? None other than the Wine Curmudgeon, which surprised me since I assumed my colleagues had tired of my bellyaching years ago. But there I was in the PinotFile, side by side with the biggies – The Hosemaster of Wine, Lettie Teague of the Wall Street Journal, and several people with initials after their name. Even more surprising: My quote was from my annual state of the wine business essay, in which I lamented rising prices and declining quality and questioned how the wine business was going to thrive given that combination.

Reduced calorie wine: I’ve long argued that so-called diet wine was silly – if you want to consume fewer calories, drink less of better quality wine. Now, it seems, others agree: “Choose the wine you like the taste of best, limit your intake, and savor every sip.” Shocking, huh? The other intriguing bit from this story? The food scientist who said much of this foolishness would go away if we had nutrition labels on wine, something else I have advocated for years.

Have $7 million? Then you can buy Flat Creek Winery in the Texas Hill Country – a $3 million discount off the previous listing. Flat Creek has a long and admirable history in Texas, pioneering red blends made with sangiovese – a SuperTexan – when too many other producers thought the future was cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Owners Rick and Madelyn Naber have had the winery on the market for a while, and I’ve been afraid it will end up as a high-scale subdivision given its location near Austin and its never-ending sprawl.

Diet wine, and why we’re stuck with it

One of the Wine Curmudgeon ?s regular rants is how old-fashioned, unsophisticated, and wrong-headed most wine marketing is. This is the industry, after all, that still sees wine drinking as the province of middle-aged white men.

Innovation? Nope. Education? Nope? Mostly, just cute labels and names, the same thing that has been going on for the past 20 years. The ?Let ?s appeal to women with a wine called Little Black Dress ? approach is what passes for genius around here.

That ?s one of the many reasons why diet wine ? wine made not to taste good, but to have fewer calories ? is so depressing. It ?s a 40-year-old concept that wine is embracing because it doesn ?t have any better ideas.

The irony is that the current version of diet wine is an accident (because, of course, there was a version 40 years ago). Beam Global, which makes Skinnygirl, was getting out of the wine business when it acquired the brand. Originally, Skinnygirl was cocktails only, but someone at Beam figured it made sense to do a wine version (called a line extension in the trade) and we ended up with diet wine.

Since then, diet wine is all over the place, and the trade press is full of articles about hundreds of thousands of cases being sold here and hundreds of thousands of cases being sold there. Its growth has been facilitated by consolidation and the growth of the biggest producers; as I wrote last year, the big wine companies are ?so good at the [marketing] ? as good, in some ways, as marketing giants like McDonald ?s and Procter & Gamble ? that it almost doesn ?t matter what ?s in the bottle. ?

Which is what diet wine is about. Because, actually, there ?s no need for it. Want to consume fewer calories when drinking wine? Drink less wine, hardly a revolutionary concept. I wrote a story in 2004, during the height of the low-carb craze, and I quoted a dietitian who said the whole thing was foolish and would soon go away. Her take: What was the point of low-carb beer and low-carb pizza, other than as a marketing gimmick?

Which is what we have here. It ?s not a coincidence that the beer business long ago moved on from diet beer in search of something better, and discovered craft beer in the process. Or that flavor has always been part of beer ?s approach to marketing diet products ? how many of us who grew up in the 1970s still remember the Miller Lite slogan: ?Great taste.. less filling

The wine business can ?t even do that. Diet wine is sold almost entirely on the calorie angle; so much so that two brands are endorsed by Weight Watchers. And wine still views its version of craft beer ? regional wine ? as beneath it, or as high-priced cult wines that most of us aren ?t good enough to drink.

The good news is that diet wine hasn ?t been as successful as diet cocktails. Maybe, like low-carb pizza, it will fade away sooner rather than later.