Looking for wine value from Europe? Importer James Gunter’s advice: Don’t be afraid to try regions and varietals that you may not know
James Gunter started in the wine business standing behind a cash register. Today, he runs Wines with Conviction, a top-notch small importer that specializes in France. His wines are uniformly well made and well priced, whether it’s a $10 Gascon white or a high-end white Burgundy.
We talked about Gunter’s approach to finding great values: Look for producers who have been overlooked by the big companies; don’t be afraid to try wine that isn’t cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay; and especially don’t be afraid to try regions you’ve never hard of.
Sometime 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Rich 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.