Tag Archives: Jancis Robinson

Winebits 679: Nutritional guidelines, expensive wine, wine taxes

wine and health
Damn, I’m good — I’m suffering from “quarantine 15” even though Americans are drinking less alcohol.

This week’s wine news: The WC’s beloved New York Times screws up a wine and health story, plus the eminent Jancis Robinson laments overpriced wine and wine tax relief

Even the Times: The Wine Curmudgeon has nothing but respect and admiration for the New York Times, which regularly reminds us what great newspapering can be. But the Times, apparently, has the same weak spot as the rest of the media – wine and health stories. In a story last week about new federal nutrition guidelines, Roni Caryn Rabin writes: “Confined to their homes, even those who have dodged the coronavirus itself are drinking more and gaining weight, a phenomenon often called ‘quarantine 15.’ ” I can’t speak to the weight part, but as we’ve noted on the blog since the pandemic started, Americans are probably drinking less. U.S. alcohol sales, as near as can be told, have declined during the pandemic, which would make it difficult for us to be drinking more. How this unsubstantiated sentence got into the Times – and past its topflight copy desk – is beyond me.

Too expensive: Jancis Robinson, one of the most respected wine critics in the world, agrees with the Wine Curmudgeon that wine costs too much money. She writes: “I’m not thrilled that prices for the established trophy wines of France, Italy and California have skyrocketed in recent years, putting them out of the reach of most wine drinkers, but I understand why. They are in relatively short supply and there are more and more billionaires in the world who need billionaires’ drinks. … But it does stick in my craw to see four- and even five-digit prices being asked for bottles with hardly any reputation at all.” When Jancis Robinson and I agree – and our wine worlds and perspectives have little in common – then wine really is messed up.

Tax relief: The wine business did get some good news in 2020. At the end of the year, Congress passed a law extending excise tax cuts that would have expired otherwise. The bill makes permanent a variety of credits and reductions aimed at helping the small producers who make up some 90 percent of the more than 10,000 wineries in the U.S. These days, these producers can use all the help they can get. I’ll do a podcast later this month with Michael Kaiser of the Wine America trade group, who was instrumental in getting the legislation passed.

Winebits 616: Direct to consumer, wine as a luxury, and the wine glass chair

Direct to consumerThis week’s wine news: Texas goes after direct to consumer wine shipping, plus has wine become a luxury and the wine glass chair

Not so fast: The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is cracking down on shipments to Texas from out of state wineries. The state agency will apparently review all of the roughly 1,600 license holders permitted to ship wine to Texas customers. And that will include a request for a voluminous amount of paperwork, including licenses, label approvals, and customer invoices, reports the ShipCompliant consultancy. Why does what Texas does matter to the rest of the country? Because the TABC often sets the example for alcohol cops in the rest of the U.S., and if they’re gong to this much trouble, other states may see the need to do the same thing. And if Texas is cracking down, the next question is why?

Hard to believe: One of the wine critics who helped create the high-end wine world is asking: “Have you noticed how expensive wine is getting?” Yes, actually. But that Jancis Robinson, perhaps the most important European wine critic, is saying so complements the Wine Curmudgeon’s usual rants. That’s because her analysis is spot on – slowing demand yet rising prices. “Not so long ago, it seemed that prices were relatively modest initially, until reputations and/or high scores were won. But now, from where I sit, more and more wine producers dive in at the deep end, asking really quite ambitious prices from the get go.”

Just for sitting: A Spanish interior and product designer has created a chair based on a wine glass – “The Merlot.” In one respect it doesn’t look all that different from what those of us of a certain age know as a Felix Unger chair. But the designer, Marta Del Valle, acknowledges they “aren’t ideal for tedious and work-oriented actions such as studying, working or consuming long meals. But for all you fun-loving design enthusiasts, and not to mention wine lovers out there, such a piece would only liven up any space it is placed in.”

Photo from Yanko Design, using a Creative Commons license

Winebits 474: Starbucks wine, Jackson Family, Jancis Robinson

Starbucks wine
The WC papers: Who should I donate them to? Will the university help me clean out my office to find them?

This week’s wine news: The end of Starbucks wine, plus adapting to climate change and the Jancis Robinson papers

No more: Starbucks’ effort to sell beer and wine in the evening has failed, and the coffee shop giant ended the program last week. The goal was to sell alcohol at thousands of locations, but the plan ended after only 439 stores. This is not a surprise, given that hardly anyone goes to Starbucks to do anything other than drink coffee. And the company, whose missteps have been well documented, acknowledged the mistake when it said it was dropping beer and wine to focus on its “core business.” Which is business-speak for selling coffee. This is also significant since the chain’s demographics are about a generation younger than wine’s, which seems to speak to the way Millennials have not gravitated to wine as they were expected to do.

Adjusting for the weather: How will climate change change the wine business? David Gelles of the New York Times does an excellent job showing how Jackson Family Wines, makers of the ubiquitous Kendall Jackson chardonnay, is adjusting. This is the kind of writing and reporting about wine I wish we saw more of – accurate, intelligible even for the non-wine drinker, and informative. My only gripe? This line: “Climate change is forcing the Jacksons to confront questions both practical and existential: Can you make fine wine with less water?” Of course you can, because fine wine has been made with less water in Spain and elsewhere in Europe for centuries. Only in California would anyone ask that question.

The Wine Curmudgeon papers: Jancis Robinson, the British wine writer who is probably second in influence only to Robert Parker, has donated her papers to the University of California-Davis, perhaps the best wine school in the world. This raises an important question – where should I donate my papers? Because, of course, the world needs the WC papers (part of which is pictured with this post). How else to determine the genesis of my groundbreaking work with cheap wine? My stops and starts on the way to understanding and championing local wine? And, of course, the tax deduction, because the WC e-shop will make millions.

direct shipping

Tuesday Birthday Week 2013 giveaway: The “American Wine” book

111913And the winner is: Marty, who selected 840; the winning number was 910 (screenshot to the right). Thanks to everyone who participated, especially given how flaky the website was acting. Tomorrow’s prize is a $50 gift card from Wine.com, which offers free shipping with the Steward-Ship program and its free, one-month trial.

Today, to celebrate the blog’s sixth anniversary, we’re giving away the definitive book about American wine, ?American Wine, ? written by my pal Linda Muprhy and Jancis Robinson, courtesy of the University of California Press. It’s the second of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.

Complete contest rules are here. Briefly, pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of the prize post. Only one entry per person, you can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post. Otherwise, your entry doesn’t count. Please be careful here — we got a half-dozen or so incorrect entries yesterday, and I had to throw them out.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you have to come to the website, winecurmudgeon.com and to this post, to enter. I’ve extended the deadline until 9 p.m. central today, because the website’s server has been balky all day, limiting access to the site. I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the book.

Winebits 307: Wine cities, Wine Spectator, wine revolution

? More wine in Dallas, please: The Wine Curmudgeon has noted many times that Dallas residents treat wine as if they were afraid of it, and now we have statistical evidence to support my observation. A Harris Poll found that Dallas residents are the least likely of anyone in the country’s 10 biggest metro areas to drink wine, and that we lead the country in not drinking any alcohol at all. No wonder we spend way too much time obsessing over the Cowboys. Obviously, I have my work cut out for me, and will continue to urge responsible cheap wine drinking on the masses. It’s the least I can do.

? Some wines are more equal than others: Kyle Schlachter at Colorado Wine Press, who has much more patience with the Winestream Media than I have, reports on what appears to be the Wine Spectator’s double standard for choosing wines to review. The magazine has said it won’t review some wines (in this case, from Colorado) if they they aren’t widely available. On the other hand, it recently reviewed several wines from France that weren’t widely available (10 cases or less in the U.S.). Schlachter seemed surprised by this contradiction, but that’s only because he hasn’t been dealing with this kind of hypocrisy for as long as I have. The Spectator does what the Spectator does; that’s why it is the Spectator. And why it has a Curmudgie named after it.

? Democratizing wine: David White of the Terroirist has a fine take on the changes in the wine business, led by consumers who make up their own minds about what they want to drink. He quotes Jancis Robinson, the preeminent European critic: ” ?No longer are wine critics and reasonably well-known wine writers like me sitting on a pedestal, haughtily handing down our judgments. Nowadays ? [consumers] can make up their own minds. That ?s altogether a lot healthier. ? It’s also intriguing, from my perspective, that some of the best and most well-known critics in the world see this change and approve of it. That means they have the well being of wine and wine drinkers at heart, and not whether they continue to be important and famous.

Drink Local Wine, regional wine, and the growth of local

This week, the second most important wine writer in the world wrote about what she called the 50 states of wine: ?But the exciting thing is that the proportion of good to very good wine made somewhere other than on the Pacific coast has been increasing markedly recently. ?

And then Jancis Robinson mentioned Drink Local Wine. Even the Wine Curmudgeon had to smile.

Five years ago, when we held the first Drink Local Wine conference, I fully expected it to not be very successful. Why would anyone want to come to a day-long event at a culinary school to listen to people talk about Texas wine? I thought it would be interesting — but that was one more reason why no one would attend, given how out of step I am with most of the wine world.

As usual, I was wrong. What I didn ?t realize then, and which has become increasingly evident over the past five years, is that most of the wine world is out of step with local wine. They dismiss it as marginal or not well done or economically insignificant, but all they want to do is to sell wine with cute labels that tastes exactly the same. Which is not what anyone who cares about local wine cares about.

Drink Local Wine is the best evidence of this. We ?ve put on five conferences in five years, plus five Regional Wine Weeks, without one paid employee ? just volunteer executive directors, a volunteer board, and a volunteer president. We have spent so little money for each conference that it ?s kind of embarrassing. The first thing I always had to explain to sponsors was that we weren ?t there to give them a big-time hospitality suite; we were there to tell the world about local wine, and what little money we had went for that.

And five years later, we ?re poised for the biggest and best conference ever ? this weekend in Baltimore focusing on Maryland wine.This wouldn ?t have been possible unless there was a demand for what we were doing. Yes, we worked hard on DLW, and we had some wonderful people do that work because they believed in local wine. And, yes, we were smart and savvy and ahead of our time.

But it was never about us, because all we did was tap into the growing enthusiasm for local ? local wine, local food, local retail and everything that isn ?t Walmart and mass produced and soul sucking. That we were able to help, and that I was part of it, is one of the best things I have ever done.

I won ?t be in Baltimore this weekend, but will be following the conference ? on Twitter, of course, using the hash tags #MdWine and #DLW13. Which is something else local wine gave the wine world ? the Twitter tasting. I wonder: Is the wine world angrier at us for that than for making them pay attention to local wine?