Tag Archives: sweet red wine

Winebits 369: Cheap wine, sweet red wine, wine lawsuits

wine lawsuits ? Almost correct: The Wine Curmudgeon is always happy to see other wine sites hop on the cheap wine bandwagon, and this recent piece from Wine Folly. a qualiity site, offers several fine pointers: Beware the back label, watch out for private label brands, and double check pricing. My concern is its passive-aggressive style, which comes out in the headline. “Good cheap wine is lying to you.” The piece makes it seem as if only cheap wine does these things, when the entire wine business is full of half-truths, misconceptions, and obfuscations. Which is my reason for being, after all. I was also confused by the post’s fixation on U.S. wine — what’s wrong with buying cheap wine from Spain, France, and Italy?

? Bring on the sweet stuff: You know sweet red wine is firmly established in the market when one of the wine trade newsletters talks about its popularity without one nasty comment. “While ‘sweet’ drinkers may be gravitating toward certain blends and varietals, and ‘dry’ drinkers supporting others, consumers clearly are exploring a variety of options.” That’s quite shocking, that Shanken News Daily (owned by the same company that owns the Wine Spectator), suggests that wine drinkers have minds of their own. But the numbers make believers: sweet red wine is growing at 4 1/2 percent a year, ahead of wine’s overall growth, says the report. And this is where I mention that I was writing about this stuff when the Winestream Media was dismissing it.

? One more lawsuit: Regular visitors know that the Wine Curmudgeon loves lawsuits, when wine companies throw money at their attorneys for no other reason than they can. Though, this suit, about two wines with the same name, does seem to have some merit (with the caveat that I’m not a lawyer and could be completely wrong). I also thought I’d throw this in, two companies named Cipriani suing each other. I mention it for two reasons — first, that it shows wine doesn’t have a monopoly on this sort of thing, and second, that the smaller company, based ion a Chicago suburb, makes some of the best noodles I’ve ever had, and I hope it wins. Update: The two wineries settled out of court a couple of days after this posted. Chalk it up to common sense

Big Wine 2018

Five things that make me crazy when I buy wine

buy wine
Which price am I going to pay for this wine? And why are there so many prices anyway? It makes me crazy.

Negotiating the Great Wall of Wine at the grocery store (or any retailer, for that matter) is difficult enough. But why is it that so many in the wine business go out of their way to make it even more difficult? Hence, the five things that make me crazy when I buy wine:

1. Wine shelved incorrectly, where Chilean wine is in the Spanish section, French wine is in the Italian section, and so forth. Some of my irritation is because I’m the son and grandson of retailers, and they taught me the need to stock inventory correctly. But most of it is because that kind of mistake makes it more difficult for people to buy the wine they want. If you’re looking for malbec, and it’s not in the Argentine section, you’re more likely to forgo wine or buy beer.

2. Sweet red wines that don’t say they’re sweet on the label. If I have trouble figuring out whether it’s sweet or dry, and I do, how much trouble does the average consumer have? Using the adjective smooth, which seems to be the winespeak of the moment for sweet, isn’t enough. You’re making sweet red wine because people want sweet red wine, so what’s wrong with telling them it’s sweet?

3. The boxed wine ghetto, where all the boxed wine — regardless of quality — is stuck on a dusty shelf in the back of the store or wine section. One reason that Yellow + Blue, a great cheap wine, isn’t better known is that it comes in a 1-liter box. That means you’ll find it with the Almaden and Franzia 5-liter boxes, and about the only thing the Yellow + Blue has in common with those is the box. It’s like putting Italian-made shoes next to flip-flops, and who does that?

4. Three — or four or even five — prices for the same bottle of wine. There’s the regular retail price. And the club price. And the sale price. And the “buy six, get a discount” price. And the “buy 12 and get a discount” price. The consumer isn’t sure what the price is, and ends up paying more than they thought they would. Which, sadly, may be the point.

5. That every winery in New Zealand seems to have a bay in its name — Oyster Bay, Monkey Bay, Destiny Bay, Cable Bay, Brick Bay, Pegasus Bay, Clifford Bay, Picton Bay, and so on and so forth. It’s one thing when the winery, like the respected and well-known Cloudy Bay, is actually located on a bay. But when the winery doesn’t exist, and the name is made up to sell private label wine or by Big Wine to establish a New Zealand brand, enough is enough.

Slider image courtesy of Houston Press food blog, using a Creative Commons license

Winebits 312: Sales trends edition

? YellowTail growth resumes: Remember all those stories about how the strong Australian dollar and YellowTail’s financial problems were going to mean the end of an era for Aussie wine? Not true, apparently. The biggest imported brand in the U.S. expects 2 1/2 percent gorwth this year, reaching almost 9 million cases. Driving that growth are the brand’s two sweet red labels, including a sangria. That YellowTail has rebounded from its problems says much about its marketing skill, but also speaks about its clout with retailers. How many other brands could have slumped the way YellowTail did, but not lose shelf space and even added space for two more wines? In this respect, Big Wine is becoming more and more like other consumer goods, be they ketchup or detergent, with all the means — good and bad — for the consumer.

? Is craft beer headed for a bust? This matters to wine not only because craft beer competes for drinkers with wine, especially in the younger demographics, but because the growth in craft beer (“But even such a healthy rise in consumer demand won’t be enough to sustain the many new breweries jumping into the marketplace“) has similarities to what happened in California with “boutique” wineries heading into the recession and with the unprecedented growth in moscato and sweet red over the past couple of years. What’s interesting is that someone in craft beer has noticed what ?s going on, while almost everyone in wine was in denial before the recession and during the moscato and sweet red boom.

? If you can sell wine on-line. ..: You can sell a lot of it. That was the experience of the British supermarket chain Tesco, which doesn’t face the three-tier restrictions that U.S. retailers face in this country. The story, on the drinks business trade magazine site, says sales may have gone up as much as 51 percent over the same period last year, and offers all the reasons why that is so. Contrast this with Amazon’s wine marketplace, which after nine months still can’t sell wine in all 50 states.

What’s next for sweet red wine?

Sweet red enters the new year as the next big thing for U.S. wine ? up 62 percent in retail outlets in the 52 weeks ending Dec. 8. That ?s twice the growth of moscato, last year ?s next big thing, reports Nielsen, and sweet red has a 1.1 percent share of the domestic wine market.

That growth is nothing short of unimaginable. Just a couple of years ago, for all practical purposes, sweet red didn ?t exist. What little there was was the province of regional wine, and mostly mocked at. Today, it ?s such a big deal that seminars are held about the subject at major industry trade shows.

And sweet red is only to get bigger. Sweet table wines, including sweet red, moscato and white zindandel, account for 11 percent of the U.S. retail market, reports Nielsen ? a bigger share than pinot grigio, pinot noir, or merlot. Given that white zinfandel sales are about half of what they used to be, and that there isn ?t enough moscato for increasingly spectacular growth (and its growth was half in 2012 of 2011), wine drinkers will turn to sweet red.

Yet it doesn ?t seem, as so many in the industry have hoped, that sweet red is the Holy Grail ? the introductory wine that brings new drinkers to wine. Nielsen’s Danny Brager says ?only a small amount of volume has been gained by folks new to the category. ? Instead, according to Nielsen, most of the growth seems to be from non-sweet drinkers shifting to sweet and sweet drinkers drinking more sweet wine.

Also worth noting: Sweet red drinkers skew younger and more Hispanic, though the Nielsen numbers aren ?t definitive, says Chari. The category is just too new for anyone to know anything for certain.

Having said that (which is why I reserve the right to be wrong), it looks like sweet red ? as incredible as its growth has been ? won ?t transform the wine business. It will make a lot of companies a lot of money, but could, in the end, do nothing more than what white zinfandel did during its heyday ? give wine drinkers who want something smoother and sweeter than cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and merlot an inexpensive option. What it won ?t do is convince people who prefer beer or soft drinks that wine has something to offer them.

Sweet red wine by the numbers

Sweet red wine continues to burrow its way into the consciousness of the U.S. wine drinker, according to two recent reports that looked at sales data. I ?m still not sure anyone knows exactly what this means, but I am willing to guess that it has a lot of people in the wine business dazed and confused.

The latest numbers from the SymphonyIRI Group, considered one of the two most important companies that track wine sales, notes that Apothic is the 10th biggest table wine brand in the $8-$10.99 range. It saw sales grow 129 percent in the 52 weeks ending July 8, totaling $31.3 million. Why is this so significant? Because Apothic, for all practical purposes, sells just one wine ? a sweet red. In this, consumers bought more Apothic over the last year than they did Smoking Loon and Columbia Crest, more typical brands that offer the usual range of varietals and that were 12th and 13th in the report.

Or, to look at it another way, Apothic, owned by E&J Gallo, sold some 300,000 cases of wine over that 52 week period. That ?s almost one-half of one percent of all of Gallo ?s volume ? not bad for a brand that ?s just a couple of years old in a category that has traditionally been ignored by the wine business. How much back slapping and high fiving do you think went on at Gallo headquarters when those numbers came out?

The other study was released by Technomics, best known as the leading restaurant consultancy in the country (and that it is doing wine reports says something about how important wine is becoming). Technomics tracked the top 250 wine and wine-like brands, and discovered that Apothic was the fastest growing brand in 2011, up 566.7 percent from 2010. That ?s even better than the top premixed cocktail brand, and premixed cocktails are currently all the rage among the liquor trade cognoscenti.

One caveat: If you click on the links, you ?ll notice that Technomics and SymphonyIRI report different sales numbers for the same product, which is something that those of us who pay attention to these things have learned to accept. Counting the number of cases of wine sold is not an exact science.

What makes these numbers even more significant is that they ?re only a hint of what ?s going on. Most wine companies are privately owned, so sales figures are closely held. We don ?t know how well sweet reds from other brands did, since they ?re just one wine among several and studies like these don’t differentiate between different wines from the same company.

Cupcake Vineyards, for example, was No. 2 in the SymphonyIRI report and fourth in the Technomics. Most of Cupcake ?s wines are best-sellers, but I ?d love to see how much of that growth came from its Red Velvet, a sweet red that is only a year or two old. If it sold anywhere close to what the Cupcake chardonnay or pinot grigio did, we are truly in a different world than most of us think.

Even the Germans know who to call about sweet red wine

The Wine Curmudgeon, of course. There I am, on page 20 of the current issue of Meininger ?s Wine Business International, a German-based trade magazine, quoted in a story discussing the popularity of sweet red wines. And how do we know this is a big deal? Because the magazine costs ?20 ? about US$25. I don ?t waste my time being quoted in those cheap $5 and $10 magazines.

It ?s an interesting story, though not quite as thorough as the piece I wrote for Beverage Media. It gives credit for the sweet wine movement in the U.S. to the regional wine business, and specifically to Texas ? Llano Estacado. I don ?t know that Llano is the only regional winery that had something to do with this (St. James in Missouri, Oliver in Indiana and Duplin in North Carolina, among many others, come to mind), but it ?s intriguing that a European publication recognizes the role of the regional business.

More, after the jump:

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Sweet red wine is sweeping the country

And the wine business will never be the same. Or so these three items seem to indicate:

? I got an an email offering to sell me the domain name bestsweetredwine.com for $275, which is about four times what the cybersquatter who owns jeff-siegel.com wants. Two things strike me about this: First, that someone is cybersquatting the domain, given sweet red wine ?s reputation, and second, that they sent me an email. But I suppose that Google tells the squatters the concept is a big deal these days, and then refers them to me.

 sweet red cropped ? Beringer doesn ?t want anyone to be confused about its new line of pink and red moscatos, does it? When was the last time you saw a neck hanger boasting that a wine was sweet? This was so shocking that I took the picture with my phone in the grocery store, which happens about as often as producers put neck hangers on their wine saying that it ?s sweet.



? This Catalina (the coupons you get at grocery store checkouts because you bought or have bought similar items) came from Kroger, and I have no idea why I got it. I didn ?t buy any sweet wine, and I ?m the wrong demographic for this promotion. Guess it ?s because anyone who buys wine is a candidate for a sweet wine, and Turning Leaf ?s Refresh line includes a sweet red.