This week’s wine news: The wine snobs celebrate the holiday season
• Ice in a glass of wine? VinePair asks sommeliers when it’s OK to put an ice cube in a glass of wine, because we need guidance on this subject from people with initials after their names. The post, believe it or not, includes a section on how to properly add ice. It’s pieces like this that make me wonder if I’ve wasted the past 13 years writing the blog. How about this advice? Add a cube or two when you feel like it. Which, in Texas in August, we feel like a lot.
• The kindness of strangers? Mary Margaret McCamic, MW, writing on the Karolus Wine Imports blog, notes that “many of the most exciting bottles that I have enjoyed were the result of the generosity of collectors.” How does one respond to that? Does this mean that when the Big Guy comes over, and we dip into the wine closet for my latest $10 find, it’s not exciting? It’s pieces like this that make me wonder if I’ve wasted the past 13 years writing the blog.
• No affordable wine? Megan Krigbaum, writing for Punch, laments the loss of affordable Beaujolais on restaurant wine lists. She defines this as Beaujolais costing less than $100 a bottle. It’s pieces like this that make me wonder if I’ve wasted the past 13 years writing the blog. $100 is affordable? For whom? This also begs the question of Beaujolais’ availability on restaurant wine lists, and especially in the middle of the country. But what do I know? I put ice cubes in un-exciting $10 wine.
This week’s wine news: Wine.com reports 217 percent sales increase, plus restaurants are headed in the opposite direction and another critic ponders the need for toasty and oaky
• Wine.com sales: Wine.com, the U.S.’ biggest on-line wine retailer, ended the first six months of its fiscal year with a 217 percent sales increase compared to the previous 12 months. Can anyone say pandemic? Even without the increase in on-line retail caused by the coronavirus, sales for the previous 12 months were up 102 percent. One key to the jump: repeat sales from customers who pay $49 a year for free shipping, similar to Amazon Prime’s free shipping. Sales from those customers increased by about one-fifth more than overall sales for the past 12 months, as more of those customers bought more wine on-line. This raises the question again: How, once the retail world returns more or less to normal, will we be able to go back to thinking of on-line wine as something special, and not something we buy every day?
• Not so good news: Tom Wark, writing on the Fermentation blog, asks: “Do we allow a huge swath of restaurants across the country to simply disappear in the wake of COVID and state’s restaurant shutdown orders or do we act to aid these institutions?” This has been the elephant in the room as the pandemic continues, with restaurants — rightly or wrongly — bearing the burst of government restrictions. I don’t know that I agree with all Tom writes, but his piece is well worth reading.
? Wine over the phone: Never thought you would see the words wine and telemarketing in the same sentence, did you? But several California companies are making the concept work, reports the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa. VinoPRO handles phone sales for 50 wineries, including Jackson Family Wines, Constellation Brands and Treasury Wine Estates, and totaled in $8 million in sales in 2012. Growth over the past three years? 1,800 percent. An official from another wine telemarketer reports that he's always surprised that customers will stop what they're doing to talk to someone from a winery. Was never like that when they called at dinner to sell long distance, was it?
? Academics take on tasting notes: Spanish researchers are collecting a data ? some 12 000 tasting notes from places like the Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Decanter. The words used will be compiled in a database so we can tell how they ?re used, reports Jamie Goode of the Wine Anorak blog (whose notes will also be included. It ?s not so much that this isn ?t a good idea, but that I ?m not sure what it will accomplish. Do we really need to know how many times leathery is used for a red wine? Or toasty and oaky for white? The answer, without a need for research, is too many.
? British booze taxes: The man who runs one of Britain ?s biggest retailers says the government, in its curb to cut binge drinking through taxes and sales restrictions, will destroy the country ?s wine business. Wine, he says, will become a luxury available only to the rich: ?Having established this culture of food and wine, you know, which is a sea change from where we were 30 years ago, why would we want to stop that I have been following this debate for the past several years for a couple of reasons, one of which is that the English always seemed so sensible about drinking compared to us. The other is that just when I think the three-tier system is bad, I see another example that is almost makes it seem sensible.
? The end of a legendary brand? Glen Ellen, the brand that helped fuel the 1980s wine boom, has apparently disappeared and exists today only as part of another brand, Concannon. Both labels are owned by The Wine Group, which also makes Cupcake. Lew Perdue has the depressing details at Wine Industry Insight, Why depressing? Because Glen Ellen chardonnay was one of the first cheap and mass produced but well made wines available in the U.S., and those of us of a certain age used it to get into wine. If you held a party in the 1980s or early 1990s, you bought a bunch of the 1.5 liter bottles of the various Glen Ellen varietals.
? Stupid tasting notes: Blake Gray, writing in Palate Press, notes that tasting notes are some of the most difficult things to do if you write about wine. I know I hate writing them, and I ?m terrified that after a while, the notes for all the wines I review read exactly the same. Gray offers some terrific advice, quoting Eric Asimov of the New York Times: Notes should describe the texture, freshness, and body of the wine more than fruit flavors. Asks Gray: ?Who buys a wine because it ?s described as tasting like peaches instead of apricots