Tag Archives: wine blogging

Winebits 241: Wine reviews, wine prices, wine blogging

? Jonathan Swift? Mike Veseth at the Wine Economist, citing the precedent set by Anglo-Irish satirist Jonathan Swift 283 years ago, suggests ?Instead of asking critics to score the wines on a quality scale, let ?s ask them how much they are worth! How much should someone be willing to pay for this wine Which the Wine Curmudgeon wholeheartedly agrees with, and has been part of the blog since its inception. Imagine the fun: Suggested retail price, $15. What it ?s worth price: $5. That would get everyone ?s attention, no? Besides, who wouldn ?t want to be in the company of Swift, who wrote ?Gulliver ?s Travel ?s ? and fought the good fight against the 18th-century British bosses and elite?

? What should wine cost? Eric Asimov at the New York Times says $20, for at that price it ?s possible to find something where ?the odds swing decidedly in your favor. With a little experience, you can find dozens of joyous bottles, plucked carefully from the ranks of the routine. ? He lists 20, mostly very nice bottles. though availability outside of Manhattan may be a problem. What intrigued me the most, though, was Asimov ?s discussion of price, which is something he doesn ?t do much. He acknowledges that $20 may be a lot of money for some of us, and that there are perfectly acceptable bottles of $10 wine for sale. When Eric Asimov says things like that, the wine world has most definitely changed.

? Oops: The Wine Blogging Awards, which recently announced its finalists, made a mistake in the Best New Blog category, where one of the finalists wasn ?t supposed to be one of the finalists. Something about a math error. It ?s pretty much a mess, and involves separate voting in that category. I suppose I could write something snarky here, like a wine blogger should, but I like to think I ?m better than that. Besides, the awards have enough problems of their own.

Winebits 239: Sweet red wine, grape shortage, wine blogging

? Riunite goes sweet: Because, as it was once explained to me, the flagship Ruinite Lambrusco, the pure and natural wine, can ?t be called sweet, only soft. Hence two new wines from Banfi, which makes Riunite — Sweet Red and Sweet White for $6 a bottle, reports Shanken News Daily. The target audience is women 25 and older, and Banfi is spending $2 million for a digital ad campaign to promote the new wines. Which, for those who wonder if there really is anything to this sweet red thing, this probably means yes. One has to try to spend $2 million digitally, and Banfi is well known as a good marketer.

? Whither the grape shortageRob McMillan at Silicon Valley Bank, perhaps the leading U.S. wine business analyst, was one of the first to sound the alarm about an impending California grape shortage. He even left a comment on the blog. Now, McMillan isn ?t so sure. He writes: ?The distinct possibility that the supply that we said was ?trending to shortage ? early this year, might just be equalized for another season. ? He cites good weather that could turn into a possible record crop in California, as well as cheaper imported wine that is holding down the price of bulk wine. And, because he has a sense of humor, McMillan also offers wine business investing advice. He tells the story of one wise guy who is buying California grape land figuring to make a killing from the grape shortage that may not be a shortage.

? Win blogging award finalists: And, once again, the Wine Curmudgeon is not among them. But that's OK. The Italian Wine Guy, in one of his other blogging voices, explained that I'm not a wine writer, but someone who writes about wine, which is a significant difference in this business. And you know what? I'd rather be someone who writes about wine. That said, I'm rooting for Randal Grahm, Blake Gray, and the Italian Wine Guy in their respective categories.

Winebits 238: Wine scores, grape names, wine blogging

? The best description of wine scores ever: From The Italian Wine Guy, who has written perhaps the most telling indictment of scores: The wine magazines, he writes, "push high scores like meth dealers," so even knowledgeable wine drinkers get bamboozled. Which sends shudders through the Wine Curmudgeon when he thinks what happens to less knowledgeable wine drinkers. The occasion for all this? The Italian Wine Guy recently tasted a 15.1 percent California chardonnay mostly because it got such high scores: "Within minutes I was repulsed by the imbalance of the wine. …[T]he wine tasted like iodine and rubber. I poured it out and moved on." Glad I wasn't there for that one.

? Name that grape: Really. Researchers at Cornell University have developed a couple of new wine grapes, and they need a name for them, says Todd Trzaskos at New York Cork Report. The grapes are now known as NY76.0844.24, a cold hardy white that compares to gew rztraminer and muscat. NY95.0301.01 is a disease-resistant red with "moderate body, good structure, and blueberry on the palate." How about Wine Curmudgeon White and Red, given my fondness for these kinds of grapes? You can send your suggestions to ">Bruce Reisch at Cornell by July 27.

? Wine blogging dissected: The HoseMaster of Wine, whose acerbic posts make me seem like I ?m high on life, pretty much nails wine blogging: "I wish someone had warned me about this stuff before I started typing. It would have saved me a lot of grief, heartache and hate mail." The secret to wine blogging success? Write about wine blogging, and you ?ll get gazillions of hits. Which strikes me as utterly and completely true (so of course I'm mentioning it here).

Chateau Ste. Michelle, wine marketing, and wine blogging

Chateau Ste. Michelle, the Washington state producer best known for its grocery store rieslings, is doing a summer riesling promotion called Reason for Riesling. It ?s running in six markets, most of which are in the middle of the country and not considered prime wine territory.

There ?s nothing really unusual about this, save for one for one thing. Getting wine bloggers to write about riesling is a key part of the campaign, and that ?s not something one would expect from a big producer like Chateau Ste. Michelle, whose parent is a multi-national that owns 15 brands, has partnerships with 13 others, and sells hundreds of millions of dollars of wine each year.

In other words, wine blogging not just for the little guys any more.

One of the on-going controversies in the wine business is whether those of us in the non-traditional media matter. Do we have the clout and the power and the influence with readers that the Winestream Media is supposed to have? The Winestream Media, of course, says we don ?t, and too many producers see us as scammers who just want free wine samples.

That Chateau Ste. Michelle is focusing on wine bloggers (as well as those who do lifestyle and travel) means that attitude is changing.

?Targeting bloggers offers a new audience of gatekeepers for us, ? says Lynda Eller, the communications director for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, the parent company. ?Some consumers still value traditional media wine reviews, and other consumers look to the blogger community for their product reviews and recommended experiences. For us, it is exciting to have a new media audience to communicate with to help engage consumers. ?

This is a revolutionary approach to wine marketing. It acknowledges fundamental changes in the way consumers approach wine, as well as the changes that have made the Winestream Media less relevant. There are fewer of them, thanks to the depression in the traditional media business. Second, as Paul Mabray notes in the previous link, they ?ve run out of things to write about. Third, and this is something worth a post all by itself, the Winestream Media ?s audience is dying off, and it ?s not being replaced by younger readers. What happens to wine writing when no one reads what ?s being written?

I also think it ?s important to note that Chateau Ste. Michelle wants bloggers to do wines that don ?t always get a lot of attention in the traditional media. Eller disagrees with me about this, and emphasized that her company ?s wines get plenty of ink from the Winestream Media. But I wonder: When is the last time you saw a review about about an $8 riesling in the Wine Spectator? When is the last time a Spectator reader wanted to see that kind of review in the magazine?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this is a long-term approach to wine marketing. It says, ?Let ?s get people interested in our wines, and trust them to come back to them because they ?re well made and interesting. ? That ?s one of the advantages of blogging, after all. One good review on the Internet will be around forever, and it almost doesn ?t matter if anyone actually reads the review when it ?s written.

In this, it ?s not the usual ?let ?s sell as much wine this weekend as we can ? philosophy that dominates the business. Wine marketing is incredibly short-term; so short term, in fact, that many of the people who do it think wine writing (save for the Spectator) is a waste of time. The criteria for quality is whether a wine writer can move wine, and the consensus is that most of us can ?t.

Or, as one very, very wise sales guy told me years ago: ?Jeff, if they spend 15 minutes talking on the phone with you, that ?s 15 minutes they can ?t spend calling on accounts. And, as silly as it sounds, they think they ?ll sell more wine and make more money by calling on one account than they will by talking to you. ?

Fortunately, Chateau Ste. Michelle is smarter than that.

Winebits 205: Pay a blogger, moscato, wine labels

? Blogger payday? Today, says Swedish micropayment startup Flattr, is Pay a Blogger day. The Wine Curmudgeon appreciates the sentiment, even if it is being used to promote Flattr’s services. Think of Flattr as PayPal for small amounts sent to specific people, who are rewarded for the good work — or, in this case, blogging — that they have done. Still, you won’t see a Flattr widget on the site. Groveling for money, though it has its advantages (as one of my oldest and best friends often reminds me), isn’t part of the business plan here. How curmudgeonly could I be if I had to ask readers for money?

? Mostcato sales take off: Like a rocket, actually, says Eileen Fredrikson of Gomberg-Fredrikson, which knows more about this stuff than almost anyone else in the U.S. She predicts that the sweet white wine, along with sweet reds, will lure novice wine drinkers, in much the same white zinfandel did two decades ago. Nielsen numbers through September show that Moscato purchases climbed by 800,000 cases, up 73 percent in 2011. The catch, of course, is that there isn’t a lot of moscato. It accounts for just two percent of U.S. sales, and by the time producers in California and elsewhere plant enough grapes to catch up with demand (which will take three or four years), the boom may well be over. Or, as the Italian Wine Guy so succinctly put it: “The moscato phenomenon is just that — it is white zinfandel in a mini skirt and high leather boots. It will pass. Just like Blue Nun, Thunderbird and Yago Sangria passed.”

? Better wine labels: An English design firm, seeing how badly wine brands sell themselves, has offered to work for free for any producer willing to try something different. The Stranger & Stranger firm will do 30,000 worth of design per month for anyone, it says, that wants to address younger wine drinkers seriously, do something more than pay lip service to eco-friendly wine, and treat consumer with respect instead of an “occasional hazard.” Sounds like the Wine Curmudgeon’s kind of guy, no? And certainly worth following up.

Winebits 203: Birthday week notes

A few thoughts about wine writing, the blog's fourth birthday, and what I've seen over the past four years:

? Where are the beginning wine drinkers? One of the most popular posts here over the past year was my interview with Allison Davis, who wrote the Hairpin blog post taking the wine business to task for making wine so difficult to understand. It was the 11th most popular post, quite impressive given that it didn't run until the end of October. And it made me wonder: Why do wine blogs have such a difficult time attracting new wine drinkers? I ask the question because my traffic for the day not only set a one-day record, but came from places it usually doesn't come from, including some non-wine sites. Which means these were visitors who don't usually come to the blog, even though the focus here is on masking wine easier to understand. My only conclusion is that wine bloggers — even those like me — are seen by beginning wine drinkers as part of the establishment. Which is kind of depressing, actually, and something I'll need to work on.

Searching for dollars: The blog earned about $1,500 over the past 12 months, not quite as much as it made in the same period a year ago. In other words, it's still difficult to make a living from wine blogging. Some of that is my fault, though. I didn't do as good a job as I could have soliciting advertisers and taking advantage of the increased blog numbers, mostly because so much of my time is taken up doing other blog things. I may be at the point where I need to find someone to help me with the blog, and especially the monetary side. And there is always the potential for a Wine Curmudgeon shop, no?

Honesty is the best policy: I've always taken pride in full disclosure here, whether it's subscribing to the eGullet code of ethics for online writers, disclosing my relationship with anyone or anything I write about, and letting you know whether I paid for a wine or got it for free. This year, it looks like you appreciated that more than ever. The disclaimer post on the left sidebar, which details the purchased/sample thing, was the 23rd most popular post. And who says you can't get ahead in blogging by being straight with your visitors?

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.