Tag Archives: wine brands

Winebits 352: Red wine, wine brands, three-tier

wine news red wine ? Bring on the red wine: Americans, apparently, drink more red wine than white. This is not news, though for some reason a writer at the Washington Post who doesn’t write about wine (and there seem to be so many of them) thinks it is. Red wine has traditionally outsold white, but a white, chardonnay, remains the best selling wine in the U.S. The people at the Post have one of the best wine writers in the world working for them; I don’t know why they insist on pretending to be experts when there is a real expert at hand. One other thing, as long as I’m being cranky: Given that online retailing accounts for just 5 percent of U.S. wine sales, is a survey from an on-line retailer a better source than Nielsen or the Wine Institute?

? Bring on the new brands: One of the great mysteries in the wine business is how many wines actually exist. It’s also a mystery why it’s a mystery, since wine is regulated and this should not be difficult to determine. But it is, and the best guess has been about 15,000, which includes different varietals but not different vintages. Turns out that may be just a fraction of the total, according to Ship Compliant, a company that helps wineries through the maze of regulation. It found that the federal government approved 93,000 labels in 2013. However, since that could include changes to old labels or old wine given a new name, as well as wines that were proposed but never made it to market, there probably aren’t 93,000 wines available for sale. Which, given the size of the Great Wall of Wine, is no doubt a good thing.

? Bring on the lawyers: The Wine Curmudgeon notes this item not because he expects anyone to understand it unless they are a liquor law attorney with a large staff, but to remind the world, again, of the pointlessness of the three-tier system unless you are a distributor or attorney. It details a court case in which a distributor is suing a producer even though the producer followed the letter of the law. Or something like that. Regardless of the outcome, it will make no difference to anyone who buys wine. Incidentally, this is a jury trial. I can only shake my head in sympathy for those poor jurors, and hope they have lots of wine at home for afterwards. Update: Hours — literally — after I posted this, the suit was settled. No doubt they were terrified the jury would laugh at them, go home, and open a beer.

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

What’s the best cheap wine brand?

You tell me, using this poll. After all, the whole point of what I’m doing here is help wine drinkers to figure out what they like so they don’t need to be told by people like me. Planned obsolescence for wine writers is not such a bad idea, is it?

Voting is simple — just click on the up or down button. Voting starts today and ends on Sunday; I’ll post results on Monday with a few comments, which will be a fine way to begin the blog’s sixth annual birthday week. If you get the blog via email or RSS subscription, click here to go to the site so you can vote.

[rnkrwp id=”1044663″ url=”http://www.ranker.com/list/the-best-cheap-wine-brand/winecurmudgeon” name=”The Best Cheap Wine Brand”]

Big wine companies and wine quality, part II

Big-CompaniesThis is the second of two parts looking at consolidation in the wine business and the rise of the giant producer — a handful of which dominate the U.S. wine business. Today, advice on how to tell which multi-national made the wine you drink. The first part, which ran on Dec. 13, looked at company size and why it matters.

What do the Barefoot, Cupcake and Two-buck Chuck wines have in common? Each are labels owned by one of the largest wine companies in the country, but you can’t tell that by looking at the label.

Nowhere does it say that E&J Gallo owns Barefoot, perhaps the best-selling wine in the U.S. Or that The Wine Group makes Cupcake through its Underdog division. Or that Two-buck Chuck, the Charles Shaw wine sold at Trader Joe’s, is one of dozens of labels produced by Bronco.

That’s because there is no legal requirement to do so, and most wine companies aren’t interested in that sort of thing. So what ?s a curious consumer to do? Googling the wine while standing in the store aisle isn’t the most efficient use of time. Rather, look for clues on the back label.

Look for something like “Produced and bottled,”  “Vinted and bottled,” or “Imported and bottled.” The location that follows usually identifies the parent company, so that almost all Gallo-owned brands say Modesto, Calif. In addition, the “imported” line may have a company name similar to the name of the multi-national that owns the brand, so that CWUS is part of Constellation Brands, the second-largest U.S. wine company.

The following list is far from complete, given that wine companies acquire and sell brands the way baseball teams trade players. And not everyone uses these pointers. But it should get you started — and I welcome additions to it:

Gallo: More best-sellers than you can imagine, like Apothic and Dancing Bull, and most say Modesto.

The Wine Group, whose brands include Cupcake, Big House, Fish Eye and Flip-Flop: Look for Livermore or Ripon, Calif., on the back label. There may also be a reference to the Underdog division.

Jackson Family, which makes not only its trademark Kendall Jackson, but Murphy-Goode, Cambria and Freemark Abbey, often has Santa Rosa, Calif., on the back label.

 Accolade Wines, which owns Geyser Peak and Atlas Peak, as well as Aussie labels Banrock and Hardys. may have Healdsburg, Calif., on some older bottles (the company has since moved to Napa).

Bronco: Two-buck Chuck’s parent has Ceres or Napa for location; its brands include Salmon Creek, Forrest Glen, and Napa Ridge..

Constellation: The CWUS identifies imported labels like Kim Crawford, while some imports, like Monkey Bay, will say Madera, Calif. Domestic wines will say Woodbridge or Acampo (and a tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to blog visitor Russ Winton for this).

Chateau Ste. Michelle: Look for Woodinville, Wash., as well as Patterson, Wash. for secondary brands like Columbia-Crest and 14 Hands.

Treasury: This Australian company identifies its imported wines, like Rosemount, Penfolds and Lindeman ?s, with the initials TWE. It ?s more difficult to tell its U.S. brands, like Beringer and Meridian.

Diageo: Its U.S. division, Diageo Chateau Estate Wines, owns Beaulieu, Sterling, and Rosenblum. Look for Sonoma, which isn’t much help, or some form of the initials DCEW.

Wine trends 2012: What we’re drinking

wine trends 2012

Does this woman know that the wine she's drinking is inferior because it's cheap and popular?

There are two wine communities in the U.S. — the regular, ordinary wine drinker, who buys almost all of the wine sold in the U.S., and the elite wine drinker, who represents a tiny, tiny fraction of the wine drinking community but who is catered to by the wine business and, especially, by its allies in the Winestream Media.

Read the latter, and one would assume that wine has to cost a lot of money, that one needs a PhD in wine geek to appreciate wine, and that anyone who dares to argue with them is a crude boor.

We know where the Wine Curmudgeon fits, no?

Nothing demonstrates this better than sales figures. I have a copy of a report from an important U.S. distributor, detailing sales from March 2011 to March 2012 in the Dallas market. It was given to me by someone who asked to remain anonymous; hence, I can't reproduce it or link to it. And, though, it's not a perfect fit for what's going on nationally, it's still a revealing look at what the real wine market — and not the Winestream Media's wine market — is like. More, after the jump:

Continue reading

What we’re drinking, and why no one wants to write about it

Two of the leading wine tracking consultancies have released their 2011 top brands surveys, at more or less the same time that one of the most influential wine bloggers in the cyber-ether asked if it’s true that wine writers don’t write about wine that people drink. Needless to say, the conclusion in the latter’s post was that yes, it’s true, and, more importantly, said the comments, why would we want to?

Let it not be said that the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t appreciate irony.

The surveys were from Impact DataBank and SymphonyIRI. The wines that made the lists (and there is a surprising amount of overlap) were many that the Winestream Media goes out of its way to ignore: Cupcake; Apothic, the sweet red; Barefoot and its 10 million cases; and even YellowTail, which has shown amazing staying power given how old the brand is and how quickly brands fade away. The 2010 Symphony list is also worth noting.

I’ve written about this before. Actually, many times. But it’s worth repeating: The gulf between the wines that most Americans drink and the wines that most wine writers write about is stunning, and it’s a contradiction that exists in almost no other industry. What car magazine ignores entry level cars?

What’s even more amazing is that so few in the Winestream Media realize this, which is what made the Dr. Vino post so noteworthy. It’s not often that people with his credentials ask that question:

While it ?s true that a reader can pick and choose from a list of recommendations, it ?s still worth bearing in mind that if a reader were to have a $15 bottle of wine every other night, the total spend on wine a year would be $2,730, a significant figure for most household budgets.

This elicited a lot of hand wringing in the post and comments, because, obviously, cheap wine is not worth writing about. So what are wine writers to do? Or, as one comment put it, “Wine writers are in a tough spot. The elite vintners are the ones that pay their bills either directly or by allowing them access to wines that give them credibility. If they don ?t kiss their butts, they won ?t be relevant or worse won ?t have work.”

And people think I’m a cynic.

I’d like to suggest another possibility: That it’s OK to write about wines that people drink, even if they’re sold — shudder — in grocery stores and made — tremble — by huge multi-national corporations. There is plenty of terrific $10 wine available (though it requires a bit more effort to find than waiting for samples to show up at the front door). I’ve been doing it for almost four years, and I’d like to think I’ve had some success with it, to say nothing of being relevant.

But then again, what do I know? I write about cheap wine.