Tag Archives: podcasts

Winecast 31: Rob McMillan, Silicon Valley Bank

Rob McMillanSometime in the next several years, the pricing sweet spot for wine will be $15 to $25 a bottle, compared to $12 to $15 today.

Rob McMillan, the executive vice president and founder of Silicon Valley Bank in Napa, may know more about wine pricing — what will happen and why — than anyone else in the world. And he doesn’t see that cheap wine has much of a future.

Sometime in the next several years, the pricing sweet spot for wine will be $15 to $25 a bottle; today, it’s about $12 to $15 a bottle. In this, McMillan sees the increase as the next step in premiumization, the process he has identified as the gradual increase in the cost that wine drinkers are willing to pay for what they consider a quality bottle.

We talked about premiumization, as well as how difficult it is forecast wine prices given the lack of quality information — what McMillan calls the same sort of self-interest that the tobacco companies displayed when they were discussing the relationship between cigarettes and cancer.

Also, he said, don’t expect to see wine price increases in 2018. There are enough grapes in the world so that supply will be steady, while demand looks to be about what it has always been. In this, it will be easier to start a new brand at a higher price than to raise prices for and existing brand.

Finally, we had an intriguing discussion about Barefoot, the $7 wine that accounts for as much as five percent of U.S. wine sales, and how it fits into premiumization.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 21 minutes long and takes up 6 1/2 megabytes. The sound quality is good; we recorded it using Google Voice.

Winecast 30: Arty, the first artificial intelligence wine writer

artificial intelligence

Arty, the first artificial intelligence wine writer

“Wine drinkers want to be reassured that what they are drinking is worth what they paid for it. That’s the goal of the post-modern wine business and premiumization, and I was created to do that.”

Computer-generated wine writing has arrived, if this interview is any indication. I talked to Arty, the world’s first artificial intelligence wine writer, for this edition of the podcast.

Arty and I discussed why he was created, his goal as a critic — “We’ll always need quality wine writing, human or otherwise. But I think I can offer consumers wine criticism that they can’t get anywhere else” — and why his kind may be the future.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 3 minutes long and takes up 2 1/2 megabytes. The sound quality is almost excellent.

A tip of the Curmudgeon’s fedora to the Mary Text to Speech system, which made it possible to create this interview. Maybe what I’m joking about is more possible than we know.

Winecast 29: Wally Plahutnik, wine retailer

wally plahutnik

Wally Plahutnik

“Wine is supposed to be delicious,” says long-time retailer Wally Plahutnik. So why do we have such trouble finding delicious wine?

Wonder why you go to buy wine and can’t find anything you like? That’s been Wally Plahutnik’s question, too, as he watched wine retailing change over the past 27 years. Wine, he fears, is turning into a mass produced commodity where delicious and interesting — as well as price — don’t matter. Sounds like the Wine Curmudgeon’s kind of guy, yes?

Wally, who recently retired, is the kind of retailer we need more of — passionate, committed, and focused on helping wine drinkers find what they want, not what someone else says they should drink. We talked about the changes in the wine business over the past decades, as well as the troubles facing the independent retailer and where to find the best values.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 21 1/2 minutes long and takes up 10.1 megabytes. The sound quality is mostly good.

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Winecast 28: Bret Thorn, Nation’s Restaurant News

Bret Thorn

Bret Thorn

Restaurant wine prices are so high because restaurant costs keep going up. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be so expensive, says one of the country’s top restaurant experts.

Bret Thorn, the senior food and beverage editor at Nation’s Restaurant News, knows more about the restaurant business than almost anyone in the country. So who better to ask why restaurant wine prices keep going up despite woeful sales?

We talked about that, as well as changes in the restaurant business that may alter the way we eat out — if we eat out at all in the coming decades — and are changes that the restaurant business still doesn’t completely understand.

To high wine prices, says Thorn, some restaurant operators see wine as a way to recoup increased costs, which include a higher minimum wage in some states and rising food prices. Those of us who buy wine in a restaurant may be shouldering more than our fair share of those rising costs.

But Thorn is an optimist, and says there are a lot of smart people in the restaurant business who might recognize an opportunity to sell more wine — especially if we let them know we think a four to one markup for a glass of $10 wine is too much. His suggestion? Politely and reasonably let the restaurant know you’d buy more wine if prices were more reasonable. And no, he said, a Twitter rant probably isn’t the best way to complain.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 16 1/2 minutes long and takes up 11.6 megabytes. The sound quality is mostly good, though I wasn’t able to get it to play on my Linux box. Windows is OK, though.

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Winecast 27: Yoav Gilat, Angels & Cowboys

yoav gilat

Yoav Gilat

The Wine Curmudgeon is among the least likely of fanboys; one of the first pieces of advice I got in the newspaper business was “Don’t god up the ballplayers,” a reminder that someone who did one thing very well wasn’t necessarily any better than anyone else.

So how to explain my almost teenage enthusiasm for the Angels & Cowboys rose, which is the focus of this podcast with winery co-owner Yoav Gilat? Maybe it’s Gilat’s enthusiasm for well-made and fairly-priced rose – he told me he doesn’t understand winery business models that revolve around making wine that’s too expensive for anyone to buy.

Gilat, a reformed lawyer who turned to wine as part of his rehabilitation, is an ardent proponent for rose and how it should be made – not a pink version of white wine or something heavy to appeal to red wine drinkers, but a rose. And that means an affordable wine with its fruit, acidity, and minerality in balance, and something the Angels & Cowboys rose does in award-winning fashion.

What better way to get ready for next week’s annual rose preview than with this podcast? Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 16 1/2 minutes long and takes up 8 ½ megabytes. The sound quality is good.

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Winecast 26: Rich Cook, wine competition director

rich cookRich Cook runs three wine competitions and he is an assistant director for four more. And that’s not even his real job; Rich makes his living as a public school music teacher.

In this, Rich brings a fine palate and a sensibility about wine that more people should have. So who better to talk about wine competitions and what wine drinkers can learn from them?

I know Rich from the Critic’s Challenge, where he is the assistant director to Robert Whitley and works with Robert on three other events. Rich also runs the Monterrey and Toast of the Coast competitions, as well as the San Diego County Fair home wine contest (which may be the most difficult kind of event to run).

We discussed how wine competitions work, something that doesn’t get enough attention in the wine world; what medals mean and how they are awarded; and how to tell if a particular competition’s results are relevant to you as a consumer. We also talked about the controversy surrounding competitions – are the results accurate or completely random.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 19 1/2 minutes long and takes up almost 19 megabytes. The sound quality is good, though there are a couple of spots where some outside noise gets in the way.

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Winecast 25: Nick Vorpagel, Lake Geneva Country Meats

Nick VorpagelHow do the best independent retailers do it? That’s the idea behind today’s podcast with Nick Vorpagel, the third generation at one of my favorite independent wine shops (and the brats aren’t bad, either), Lake Geneva Country Meats in the Wisconsin resort town.

And how does a a butcher shop evolve into a a top-flight wine retailer? We talked about that, as well as Nick’s very brief time in law school; which parts of the world offer the best wine value; and the increase in interest in a Wine Curmudgeon favorite, chenin blanc. Nick also offered some of his best wine values and the best piece of advice for wine drinkers: If you want to learn about wine, you need to drink it. And don’t miss the bit about cutting red wine with water.

Finally, what makes a great wine shop? Nick’s answer is simple: It’s about selling the customer the wine that makes them happy, and not the wine that makes the retailer happy.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 13 1/2 minutes long and takes up 13 megabytes. The sound quality is good, though there are a couple of spots where it fades in and out and Skype wasn’t up to its usual standards (had to record the podcast a second time, in fact).