Tag Archives: wine business

Meet Churro, the new Wine Curmudgeon blog associate editor

Churro

Churro, left, and the Wine Curmudgeon want the blog to reach even more young consumers.

Churro, the new member of the Wine Curmudgeon blog, will help the WC extend his cheap wine mantra to younger consumers

Churro, an 11-month-old Chihuahua mix, has joined the blog as an associate editor. He’ll help Wine Curmudgeon Jeff Siegel in his continual quest to convince younger consumers that wine can be cheap and fun.

“Everyone knows that that the wine business doesn’t understand young people,” says Siegel, proprietor of the world-famous Wine Curmudgeon blog. “Now, with a younger voice and palate — as well as a keen sense to help me sniff out new and exciting wines — the blog will appeal even more to young people. Churro and I will be able to show them that wine is a lot more fun than hard seltzer, and not just something for their parents and grandparents.”

Churro, from suburban Dallas, was among the dozen or so applicants for the job, and was easily the most qualified. “He’s really the only one I talked to who thought wine should be fun and not be about winespeak or scores or initials after your name,” says Siegel.

“I can’t tell you what an honor it will be to work with someone who cares about wine as much as the Wine Curmudgeon does,” says Churro. “He wants to help people enjoy wine as much as he enjoys it, and that’s something that’s rare to find in the wine business these days. Mostly they want to sell you overpriced wine and don’t care about much else.”

No word yet on whether Churro will wear a hat. He did say he was excited to use an Asus eee netbook running Lubuntu to write and edit for the blog, since he says Linux as the future of the computing world.

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Winecast 47: Bay area retailer Debbie Zachareas and the new normal

Debbie Zachareas

Debbie Zachareas

Debbie Zachareas: Trading down is going on, even for people who buy $100 wine

Debbie Zachareas is a long-time San Francisco-area wine retailer; currently she helps oversee three wine stores and wine bars in the Bay Area. And of all the surprises during the coronavirus pandemic, among the most surprising has been that even people who buy $100 wine have been trading down. A $15 to $30 bottle, she says, seems to be what they’re looking for these days, what with staying at home and social distancing.

We talked about trading down, as well as what wines are popular — lighter whites instead of the heavier reds that had been in vogue, as well as imported wines instead of California wines. One exception: The incredible wines from California’s Jolie-Laide, a small but, unfortunately, hard-to-find producer.

Plus, customer service has improved during the duration — an odd, if unintended side effect during the duration that I’ve heard about from other retailers.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is almost 13 minutes long and takes up 5 megabytes. Quality is mostly excellent (save for a few seconds at the beginning). We’re back to recording on Skype.

Six things the wine business is doing to cut costs and drum up business during the duration

wine business

“Hmmm. How can I write about the same wine this year that I wrote about last year?”

It hasn’t been easy for wine producers, marketers, and PR types during the pandemic

Yes, we’re buying more wine over the Internet than ever before, but that doesn’t mean the wine business is healthy. Ask anyone at the biggest distributors who was laid off in the past eight weeks. So how else is the wine business cutting costs and drumming up business during the duration?

This is what I have seen:

• Using Styrofoam inserts for packing wine samples. I really haven’t seen any in a couple of years, given Styrofoam’s environmental evil. Most shippers have switched to cardboard liners or plastic bubble bags. But during the duration, Styrofoam appeared again, since it was probably sitting in a back room and has already been paid for.

• Samples from producers who wouldn’t normally speak to me, let alone send me wine. I’m not the only who has had this happen; several of my colleagues have reported the same thing. Said one: “What am I going to do, writing about heavy Napa cabernet, in the middle of summer?”

• Old samples, as in the same samples I got last year. I’ve never had this happen before, but one producer sent me the same rose they sent in 2019. This speaks to how much wine is sitting in warehouses, unsold and unloved.

• Emails every two or three months offering me the same wines they just sent me. This has happened two or three times this year, where a PR firm offered me wine at the end of last year and the same wine a couple of months later. And then a couple of months later.  Once again, this speaks to how much wine is sitting in warehouses, unsold and unloved.

• Virtual tastings, where I have to try and find the wine to taste with the producer. I don’t mind buying the wine, since I do so much of that anyway. But what’s the point of inviting me to a virtual tasting when I can’t find the wine to taste?

• Pleas for money. I’ve never seen this. Ever. But I one email I got from a wine trade association asked to help them find money to expand their marketing efforts during the duration. We’ll ignore the fact that my job isn’t to help them sell wine, but doesn’t asking for money from complete strangers smack of quiet desperation (to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau)?

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Winecast 46: Richard Hemming, MW, and why wine writing isn’t necessarily objective

richard hemming

Richard Hemming, MW

“Why should [consumers] trust us? They shouldn’t, necessarily,” says Singapore-based wine writer

Richard Hemming, MW, a Singapore-based wine writer, wrote one of the most amazing blog posts I’ve ever read: Wine writers can’t be objective given the incestuous nature of the wine business, and consumers need to know that this prevents us from always being objective.

It’s one thing for me to write that, which I’ve been doing as long as there has been a blog. But if Hemming, firmly part of the Winestream Media — initials after his name, consulting work, and articles for important magazines and websites — writes this, it speaks to how messed up wine writing is.

Hemming doesn’t disagree. But he also doesn’t see a solution, since it’s difficult to make a living as a wine writer. So we have to depend on the kindness of strangers, with all of the compromises that entails. In this, Hemming notes, there’s a difference between a compromise, like not writing something that would offend a source, and corruption, such as taking money for a positive review.

Needless to say, I don’t agree. But Hemming’s point is well taken, and he hits on one of the key questions facing post-modern journalism, wine or otherwise: What’s going to replace the ad-supported model that paid for newspaper and magazine reporting in the second half of the 20th century? Because, so far, it isn’t the Internet.

The other thing worth noting? The post was easily the best read on Hemming’s blog, and most of the comments — from wine writers, of course — agreed with him.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 15 1/2 minutes long and takes up 9 megabytes. Quality is good to very good; I still haven’t figured out how to get the most out of Zoom.

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Winecast 45: DCanter’s Michael Warner and wine retail trends during the duration

Michael Warner

Michael Warner of DCanter

Our wine purchases during the duration? Cheap and cheerful, says this Washington, D.C. retailer

Michael Warner, the co-founder of DCanter, a neighborhood wine shop in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, has seen all the reports about wine buying during the duration: More expensive wine to treat ourselves, lots of this and some of that, and even boxed wine. But he thinks he has seen something significant at this shop, which has more affluent demographics than most.

“Cheap and cheerful,” says Warner, whose store is seven years old. “People are buying less expensive wine. They’re not entertaining, which is when they would buy more expensive wine.”

In this, he says, his customers are buying more vinho verde, the cheap Portuguese fizzy wine, as well as half bottles. That’s because those who live alone want wine for dinner, but don’t want to waste it, and that’s what half bottles are for.

We also talked about:

• That wine delivery and Internet sales have become as important as the studies suggest. Dcanter sold more wine on-line in the first two days of D.C.’s stay at home order than it did in the previous three years.

• The need to update delivery and on-line ordering regulations to reflect the 21st century. DCanter’s customers who live in Maryland,  just a couple of miles away, can’t get delivery. But those in Virginia, also a couple of miles away, can. How much sense does that make?

• The obstructions in the wine supply chain thanks to the pandemic, and that it is becoming more difficult to find imported wine.

• Wine retail websites, and how too many of them look and work like they were put up during GeoCities’ heyday.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 11 minutes long and takes up 4 1/2 megabytes and was recorded on Skype, the blog’s unofficial podcast software.

Winebits 643: Wine archaeology, consolidation, periods and spaces

wine archaelogyThis week’s (mostly) wine news: Archaeologists recover centuries-old wine bottles, plus impending wine industry consolidation and whether a period at the end of a sentence gets two spaces or one

Old wine bottles: Regular visitors here know how excited the Wine Curmudgeon gets about wine archaeology. So there’s this: Scottish researchers have uncovered a massive mid-18th century glass factory whose cone furnaces once towered over the port district of Leith and supplied wine and whisky bottles to all corners of the British Empire. The Wine Spectator reports that the factory, near Edinburgh, may have produced as many as 1 million bottles a week. The factory’s downfall? The American Revolution, which cost the factory most of its business with the newly-independent United States.

More consolidation on the way? The Wine Economist tells us to expect consolidation among wineries and wholesalers sooner rather than later, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Writes Mike Veseth: “Although much is lost in generalization, there is a tendency for larger distributors to focus their value chain on bigger retailers and larger wine producers.  Scale matches scale matches scale. This pattern magnifies an on-going movement to a two-speed wine market with those in the middle range (both domestic and imports) squeezed in the process.” This is not good news for consumers in wine business, which is already top heavy: the five biggest wineries make more than three-quarters of the wine sold in the U.S., while the three biggest distributors control more than half of the market. Fewer and bigger companies will restrict our choices even more.

Periods and spaces: This item, courtesy of Lifehacker, has nothing to do with wine. But it’s a welcome respite from wine and the coronavirus – a discussion dealing with a significant post-modern writerly conundrum: How many spaces follow a period at the end of a sentence? The answer, of course, is one. The confusion comes from typewriter days, when we used two spaces – period, space bar, space bar – to set the new sentence off from the old. But post-modern word processors don’t need our help to set the new off from the old. Still, the argument comes up every once in a while, and the Wine Curmudgeon is always happy to remind younger consumers how much silliness their elders get into.

Photo: “Wine” by CyberMacs is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

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Winecast 44: Clara Klein, Sunday Vinyl

Clara Klein

Clara Klein, Sunday Vinyl

Stuck at home? Then there’s nothing wrong with $12 white Bordeaux, fast food, and pantry staples, says Clara Klein

Clara Klein, the lead sommelier at Sunday Vinyl in Denver, bought a house in October. Six months later, she was unemployed, courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hence, the reason for this podcast — Clara offers smart, insightful perspective on wine and the restaurant business during the duration. I’ve known Clara for a couple of years from judging the Colorado Governor’s Cup, and she understands that not all wine costs $100 or needs to be Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. How many people in her line of work are willing to admit that?

Clara is also a passionate supporter of local restaurants, local jobs, and local food. And her plea for federal aid to help save local is one of the best I have read or heard. If four out of five restaurants close because of the pandemic, do we really want the one restaurant left to be a national chain?

The good news is that she has plenty of inexpensive wine at home, and she and husband Ian Palazzola (laid off from Denver’s Acorn) have been able to cook, drink wine, and spend time together. Which, she says, doesn’t happen much. Finally, a mea culpa: Sunday Vinyl is in Denver, despite my saying it was in Boulder twice.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is almost 11 minutes long and takes up 4 megabytes. The sound quality is very good; we’re back with  Skype, the blog’s unofficial podcast software.

Photo courtesy of 5280, using a Creative Commons license