“I know I need the computer bag, but why are you making me wear the damn hat?”
“We can pay off our student loans or we can buy wine. What do you think we’re going to do?”
One reason I hired Churro as the blog’s new associate editor was his perspective – he isn’t a Baby Boomer, and brings a younger, more fresh approach to the blog. Which is the topic of this podcast: Why Millennials aren’t as interested in wine as their parents and grandparents. Our conversation included:
• Wine prices, and that wine is too expensive for many younger consumers.
• How to make wine easier by using wine apps like Vivino.
• Wine’s competition from craft beer and cocktails. As Churro noted, “they’re doing some amazing things with craft beer these days.” And, by omission, not so amazing things with wine.
• That it’s OK to sniff and swirl and spit, as long as you don’t make a production out of it.
This week’s wine news: One more example of restaurant wine’s inability to deal with reality, plus the failure of wine apps and wine drinkers should try booze free cocktails
• Restaurant wine, yet again: That the Wine Curmudgeon can find so many of these restaurant wine pricing faux pas speaks to the problem: Those who price wine in restaurants aren’t living in the same world with the rest of us. A recent on-line story featured an up and coming sommelier bragging about his wine list: “These are my favorite things to pour for our guests: the wines that sell for $45 to $70 but completely knock it out of the park.” Given restaurant pricing, that means he looks for values among wines that cost $25 to $40 retail. Which misses the point of how much most of us actually pay for wine. A $40 bottle accounts for a couple of points of U.S. sales (if that much, depending on whose numbers you use). Hence, the sommelier is running his wine list for a tiny, tiny share of U.S. wine drinkers.
• Waste of a download? Most of us use wine apps fewer than a dozen times and then discard them, writes Robert Joseph in Wine Business International. There are exceptions like Vivino, but most of us who “ downloaded the app did so because they were briefly attracted by the novelty of the technology. But that interest soon wore off; they seldom if ever feel the need to record their views of the red or white in their glass, or scan a bottle before buying it.” This matters because wine apps were supposed to making wine pricing more competitive, since consumers could compare prices on their phones. Apparently, though, that isn’t happening.
This week’s wine news: A wine app shakeout, investing in whiskey, and tragically hip wines
• Shakeout in wine apps? Alder Yarrow writes about consolidation in wine apps, which allow those of us who are more phone-centric to track our drinking in the palm of our hands. He says Delectable, which has been battling Vivino to control the wine app market, has been sold to Vinuous, a multi-media wine company owned by U.S. wine critic Antonio Galloni. In this, Yarrow writes, “the sale of Delectable represented something of a tectonic shift. Does this mean that Delectable lost the wine app wars, and that Vivino has won?” Yarrow’s caveat, of course, is that it may not matter who wins, since there are no reliable numbers about who uses wine apps. Also intriguing: This is yet another purchase by Vinuous, which seems to be putting together a wine lifestyle publishing company to compete with the Wine Spectator.
• Investing in whiskey: Regular visitors here know that the Wine Curmudgeon is both baffled and amused by the wine stock exchange, Liv-Ex, where people buy expensive wine not to drink but to sell like stocks. Now, a group of Wall Streeters has come up with an investment fund, called an ETF, that invests in companies that make whiskey. Says the piece from CNN.com: “The WSKY ETF could be just another example of an industry run amok. There are tons of quirky ETFs out there catering to niche subsectors of the market as well as investing themes.” In other words, enjoy your whiskey, but think twice about investing in it.
• Tragically hip: The Punch website has 25 essential wines for 2016, chosen by top U.S. wine critic Jon Bonne. Needless to say, only three of the wines cost less than $20, there’s an orange wine on the list, and almost all of them are difficult to find if you don’t live in New York City. A cinsault from Chile, anyone? How can wine that most of us can’t buy be called essential?
? It’s official: The most Winestream of the Winestream Media has anointed rose, which means it’s now safe for the rest of us to drink. Shanken News Daily, the wine business new service owned by the same company that owns the Wine Spectator, reported last week that “Ros Boom Shifts Into High Gear.” And how do we know this? Because an important New York City retailer is selling lots of expensive rose, while an importer is going to bring us what the story calls a “pocket-book friendly” rose for $35. That the rest of us who have been drinking $10 rose, and who are responsible for the huge growth in rose reported in the story, really doesn’t matter to our wine betters, does it?
? Statistics and wine apps: According to the wine app Delectable, grower Champagne is becoming very popular, and we’re drinking more of it because “it seems like suddenly all these chefs and sommeliers are drinking these Champagnes that I ?ve never heard of. I want to try that, too. ? That grower Champagne (an artisan-style, small production bubbly) accounts for less than five percent of U.S. Champagne sales, and that all sparkling wine is only about 20 percent of the total U.S. wine market speaks volumes about how little wine app users reflect the typical U.S. wine drinker. This is not to knock the app, which has been well received, but to note how crappy most reporting is about wine trends. Now, if Delectable had figures on sweet red wine consumption. …
? Happy birthday: One of the best U.S. wine producers celebrated its 30th birthday last week, and that it is Chateau Frank in upstate New York makes the occasion that much more enjoyable. The Frank family, father Konstantin and son Willy (who started the winery), helped improve the quality of not just New York wine, but of wine made everywhere in the U.S. that wasn’t on the West Coast, and showing that it was possible to make quality wine in a part of the country that the experts laughed at. The Drink Local movement would have been impossible without the Frank family.
? "Why do they buy wine?" The wine business would benefit if it listened to experts outside the industry on marketing its products. That's the opinion of Helen McGinn who used to buy wine for the British Tesco supermarket chain, who told a conference that the wine business is too insular in its approach. ?The golden ticket," she said, "is thinking why does someone want to buy a bottle of wine in the first place? Who are they drinking it with? Is it a celebraion or special dinner? And then giving them options. ? This will not come as a revelation to regular visitors here, and I think it's especially significant in the wake of the industry's shock that the wine buyer for Costco isn't awed by wine as much as they think she should be.
? Direct-to-consumer wine sales: Wine drinkers buying directly from the winery could well be a key part in the future of the wine business, says the Wine Intelligence consultancy, tripling over the next decade. But there are a couple of caveats. First, the indsutry must still struggle with draconian shipping laws left over from Prohibition. Second, it's a tiny, tiny part of wine sales — just 30 million Americans buy direct in a six month period, and it accounts for just one bottle in 50 sold in this country.
? The failure of iPhone apps: Writes Paul Mabray of VinTank in Palate Press: "Why are wine iPhone apps not succeeding when other niche apps like Foodspotting are doing so well?" The piece offers a couple of good reasons, including and most imporantly the lack of wine drinkers who want to use them. It's not so much that wine drinkers are interested, says Mabray, but that there just aren't a lot of wine drinkers to use them, and especially when compared ot food apps. Since everyone, after all, eats and only 60 percent of the U.S. population drinks wine.