Tag Archives: restaurant wine

Winebits 282: Wine prices edition

? Is cheap wine profitable? Jamie Goode, the respected and award-winning British wine writer, argues that cheap wine will never make anyone any money. He compares it to the cell phone business, noting that if one carrier offered cheaper rates instead of what he calls the almost cartel-like pricing structure in use, then ?all profitability will be sucked out of the market. ? That ?s the opposite of the wine business, he writes, so no one must be making any money with cheap wine. His reasoning, though intriguing, misses a couple of points. Wine is not the cell phone business, which is limited by spectrum availability (as one comment to the post points out) and that lack of spectrum raises prices and margins. In addition, Goode overlooks the elasticity of cell phones vs. wine. We ?need ? cell phones; we don ?t need wine. Hence, there is little incentive for cheap cell phone plans. Finally, I think Goode doesn ?t understand the incredible marketing skill of U.S. producers like The Wine Group, which can create demand for cheap wine like Cupcake and still make money.

? Restaurant pricing: Says Chris Nuttall-Smith at Toronto ?s Globe and Mail: ?There is perhaps nothing more galling than flipping open a restaurant ?s wine list to find a $15 bottle that you know and love listed for more than $50. That ?s been happening to me a lot lately; where many Canadian restaurateurs are loath to price their chefs ? cooking at levels that would make it profitable, they show no such restraint with wine prices. It ?s in-your-face enough to make some diners want to stick with Diet Coke. ? The Wine Curmudgeon couldn ?t have said it better. Is it any wonder that restaurant wine sales have never really recovered from the recession?

? When are wine sales illegal? When you ?re in a state that forbids them. Like Wisconsin, which enforces a 1939 law that sets minimum prices for many retail goods. The story does a good job of explaining why Wisconsin wine prices can be 20 to 30 percent higher than in neighboring states, and how the World Market chain had to correct its Wisconsin advertising and sales offer to comply with state law. Note to Wisconsin residents: Drive across the border to Illinois. Wine is much cheaper there, and maybe even worth the price of the gas for the trip.

Winebits 267: Pennsylvania sales, restaurant wine, hangovers

? One more time: Pennsylvania ?s governor will propose legislation to privatize the state ?s government-owned liquor business, the second time since 2011 it will have been tried. Pennsylvania, said Gov. Tom Corbett, could raise as much as $1 billion by privatizing the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. He said that Pennsylvania and Utah are the only two states in the U.S. to have ?fully state-controlled liquor systems. ? Chances for success? Probably not much better than the attempt two years ago.

? Consumers trade down: The restaurant business, which has always taken wine drinkers for granted, is finally facing the revolt many of us have been hoping for. The recession hurt restaurant wine badly, and the recovery hasn ?t been much better, says a recent report. Diners ordered 13 percent fewer bottles in 2012, and bottle sales accounted for just one-eighth of wine orders and only 41 percent of wine revenue. In other words, consumers, tired of overpaying for crappy wine that is often oxidized or spoiled, stopped paying for it.

? Avoiding the morning after: There ?s nothing in this post that ?s especially new, but it ?s good to have it all in one place: You can minimize a hangover by drinking water while you booze and by drinking less alcoholic wines. It also argues that high tannic red wines help keep hangovers at bay, since they make us drink more water. Though I have to admit it ?s difficult to follow the main piece of advice: ?With every glass of wine, drink a glass of water. ?

Winebits 233: Restaurant wine, Geyser Peak, private labels

What do diners deserve? Not all that much, writes Jeremy Parzen in the Houston Press. It just seems a lot, given the sad state of restaurant wine service. His 10-point diner’s Bill of Rights includes such basics as “The right to request that a wine server open a new bottle of a by-the-glass selection if the wine has been open since the day before.” Which we all know restaurants — even ones that know better — want to do about as much as the Wine Curmudgeon wants to run naked down the street.

New owners for old favorite: Geyser Peak, about as dependable a $10 wine as there is, has been bought by Accolade Wines, an Australian group that has become the world’s fifth-largest wine company. The deal included two smaller labels, Atlas Peak and XYZin, and seems to be part of a continuing shakeout in the wine business caused by the recession, the slump in wine sales, and overextended wineries. The Australians said all the right things about Geyser Peak, but when anything like this happens, the fate of the acquired company is also a mystery.

Winery boss rips retailers: Or, as the Aussies, put it, “launched a spray.” The occasion was an industry function Down Under where one of the country’s most influential producers criticized Australia’s leading retailers for “flooding their stores with private-label wines that he said were hollow, copycats and masquerading as real brands.” I mention this here because private labels and store brands have become increasingly important for retailers in the U.S. — the Total Wine that just opened in Dallas has so many private labels I had trouble finding the branded wine. So we may soon be seeing the same sort of reaction from U.S. producers.

Winebits 215: Moscato, natural wine, wine trends

? Love that sweet wine: Moscato sales increased by what one trade magazine called "a staggering 73 percent" in the 52 weeks that ended Jan. 7, 2012, and the wine business wise guys are trying to put all sorts of spin on that news. The report in the link credits pop music stars like Kanye West, who sing about moscato, but the Wine Curmudgeon has another, more likely, theory. Americans like sweet wine. Which, of course, none of the wise guys want to admit. My electrician, who wouldn't know Kanye West from Cornel West, has become a big wine drinker. His favorites: Pinot grigio and moscato, and his wife likes sweet red wine. Not coincidentally, buried at the bottom of the story in the link, was this: "… small but growing categories included unoaked Chardonnay and sweet reds."

? Natural wine backlash: Renowned Rhone producer Michel Chapoutier has denounced natural winemakers as out-of-touch hippies making defective wines, reports Decanter magazine. Chapoutier told the magazine that natural winemaking ? which doesn't allow techniques like adding sulphur dioxide to stabilize the wines ? "…is a connerie. It is rubbish. It ?s like making vinegar, bad vinegar. How can anyone allow toxic yeasts to develop so that these inhabit the wine?" This should make for an interesting back and forth, since proponents of natural wine are equally as shy as Chapoutier about advancing their cause.

? Annoying restaurant wine practices: Two of the most annoying restaurant trends in the Zagat Survey's 2011 list were wine related, which should come as no surprise to regular visitors here. Overzealous wine pouring, when the waiter or waitress won't let you sip wine before they show up for a refill was No. 3, while No. 5 was wine glasses that are too big. Interestingly, inflated restaurant wine prices didn't make the list. Perhaps, like death and taxes, we've just accepted those something we can't do anything about.

Once again, why Americans don’t drink more wine

restaurant wine problemsThe Wine Curmudgeon was traveling, and stopped at a major U.S. chain restaurant that will remain nameless to protect its identity. (OK, it was Chili’s.)

One of the group wanted a glass of wine, and ordered the Australian chardonnay that was on the list. And Chili’s does have a wine list — not great, but not awful, either. The wines are professional, and shouldn’t embarrass anyone. Barefoot, even. And, in fact, this post isn’t about the quality of the wine list. Or that the chardonnay, which retails for about $5 a bottle, cost $6 a glass. One deals with what one can get.

Rather, it’s about how too many restaurants — even ones that spend millions of dollars on server training — don’t have any idea what they’re supposed to do with wine. The chardonnay took 20 minutes to arrive at the table, which was bad enough. How hard is it to walk to the bar, pour a glass of wine, and bring it back to the table? More, after the jump:
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Winebits 191: Wine blogging, wine blog awards, restaurant wine

? Unhappy bloggers: Not everyone was thrilled with the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference, held in Charlottesville, Va., a couple of weeks ago. Or, as my pal Dave McIntrye noted, the Whine Bloggers Conference (where the comments have angled all over the place, including a discussion of Missouri wine and whether it's any good — which it is, for the uninitiated). Tom Johnson also has a few thoughts at Louisville Juice. Meanwhile, back at the WBC, Richard Jennings, who blogs as RJ on Wine, was quite unhappy with the record heat, and held the  organizers accountable. Why, he wrote, would the conference hold a major tasting event outdoors in 100-degree heat and high humidity, despite plenty of advance warning of weather conditions? Boy, that's a tough crowd, isn't it? As someone who organizes events for the media, the Wine Curmudgeon will take note of this and make sure the weather is more acceptable for our next DrinkLocalWine.com conference in Denver. Don't want DLW to get ripped in the cyber-ether for too much snow in April.

? Wine blogger awards: Congratulations to our pal Lenn Thompson at the New York Cork Report, who won his third consecutive wine blogger award (for best single subject wine blog). Lenn has broken new ground for regional wine with the Cork Report, and it's nice to see him honored. Also a winner: the Enobytes blog, which is never afraid to speak its mind, for best wine reviews.

? Wine in restaurants: Some sage advice from the great Dan Berger about buying wine in restaurants: "Always look at the non-traditional categories for the best values. (Try Albari o as an alternative to chardonnay, or Argentina malbec instead of merlot.)" The article offers a number of other useful tips, and offers wine buying etiquette pointers as well, like when it's acceptable to send back a bottle of wine.

Restaurant wine sales in 2010

There are a lot of interesting numbers to parse in Wine & Spirits magazine's 22nd annual restaurant wine poll, which covers 2010.

The restaurants surveyed reported that wine sales have increased after a two-year slump, and that consumers seem to be buying more expensive wines than they did in the past couple of years.

But it doesn't look like the old, "let's spend crazy money on wine" ways have returned, says Wine & Spirits editor and publisher Joshua Greene: "… [W]hether buying low end or high, most diners were looking to get the most out of their wine-buying dollars: They weren't spending on trophy labels. Sommeliers describe a savvier wine-buying public as we come out of the recession."

This is significant, because the poll tracked wine sales using the Zagat guide's most popular restaurants in the country. These restaurants, given Zagat's methodology, attract more affluent and upscale consumers who eat out more often than the rest of us and spend more money when they do. So if they have embraced the New Normal, imagine how little the rest of us are spending.

Also significant: The average price for the most popular wines in these restaurants was $62 — about what it has been for the past five years. Which is a damned odd statistic, given the sales slump during the recession, and I'm not quite sure what it means (besides that restaurant wine is overpriced). Most likely, according to what respondents said about their wine pricing, it means that restaurants didn't cut prices during the recession, which kept the average price up even as sales declined. Why they didn't cut prices is a question for another day.

The complete survey is in the magazine, which requires a subscription. But there are more highlights after the jump:

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