Tag Archives: Wine Curmudgeon

Wine Curmudgeon Wine Sample Index: Heavy weather ahead for the wine business?

wine sample indexPremiumization’s role in the wine slowdown

It’s not scientific, but the Wine Curmudgeon Wine Sample Index indicates that the wine slowdown is here

The wine slowdown, much written about and much discussed, has officially arrived. How do I know this? The Wine Curmudgeon Wine Sample Index.

The wine sample index is my highly anecdotal and decidedly un-mathematical system for gauging the health of the wine business. When business is good, and no one needs a cranky ex-newspaperman to review their wines, I get fewer samples. When business isn’t good, then I get more samples – including bottles from high-end producers who usually dismiss me as not worth their time.

And this spring and early summer, I have received more samples than I’ve gotten since the recession, maybe three or four times the usual amount.

As noted, this is highly anecdotal and decidedly un-mathematical, and I’m not sure the blog’s official statistician would approve. But the pattern has been there since the blog started in 2007. During the recession, I got more wine than I could drink, including $100 bottles. But the samples dried up in the couple of years after the recession ended, when wine sales recovered and premiumization took hold. I don’t write about the kind of wine that has dominated the market since then, so why send me something to review?

But now, apparently, they need me. I’m getting samples from producers who haven’t contacted me in years, and they’re sending wines that cost $25 and more.  Just the other day, in fact, an email me offered a case of wine, only one of which cost less than $24 and five of which cost more than $30. Hasn’t the marketer ever read the blog?

Also intriguing

More samples are coming from people who want me to write about their wines in the hope that my review will generate retailer interest as opposed to sales. They want to use a good review to place the wines in more stores in more parts of the country. That also happens more often when wines sales are slow.

In other words, any port in a storm, and this storm is beginning to look particularly intense. Know that samples are an expensive form of marketing – not just the cost of the bottles, but the cost of shipping, which can run as high as $100 a package. But wine sales are so flat and so many people are so worried that spending all that money to send me samples looks like a better investment than letting the bottles languish on a warehouse shelf.

Will this storm turn into a category 5, Hurricane Wine Recession? The sample index can’t tell me that. One sign of optimism: I still don’t get asked to attend trade tastings, where producers and distributors show off their wines for writers, retailers, and the like. Those invitations ended after the recession, too. So if trade tasting emails start to arrive, then maybe it is time to batten down the hatches.

Winebits 600: The Wine Curmudgeon has ulterior motives and is trying to destroy the wine business edition

Wine Curmudgeon

“Dude, you’re so not good for the wine business. Why are you trying to destroy it?”

This week’s wine news: The cyber-ether is ablaze in criticism of those of us, including the Wine Curmudgeon, who want people to enjoy drinking wine they can afford to buy. Because, of course, we’re up to no good.

July 3 update: Thank you for the kind words in the comments and your emails. Frankly, I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been. The blog’s readers have always supported what I do and are the reason I keep doing it even when too many in the wine business wants me to sign off on selling $12 wine for $25.

Take that, Curmudgeon: Dwight Furrow, writing on the Food and Wine Aesthetics website, wants to know where people like me get off offering wine advice. After all, all we want to do is destroy wine and make money in the process. He links to the Jamie Goode post I wrote about earlier this year, and agrees with Goode that people like me are part of some vast conspiracy that has it in for “wine experts.” We’ll ignore for a moment that I am incapable of evil mustache twirling and that the only conspiracy I believe in is that Microsoft tried to destroy Linux. What Furrow misses, as Goode did, is that wine criticism is seriously flawed, and that responsible, legitimate critics who aren’t so-called cheap wine slime like me (Eric Asimov, for one) think so. So let’s figure out a way to fix the problem instead of pronouncing judgment on everyone else.

And this, too: I’ve been writing about wine and the three-tier system for more than 20 years, but I’ve never seen anything like a recent post in something called Alcohol Law Review. Apparently, those of us who oppose the three-tier system are lying scum who want to make money off the deaths of others. As near as I can tell, if we change the three-tier system in any way, we’ll end up with tourists dying after drinking tainted booze, as happened recently in the Dominican Republic. The enemy here is the same one as in Furrow’s post: “Various economic interests” who want to overthrow the system so they can get fat and rich. Who knew? I thought I just wanted to buy cheap wine more easily.

And don’t forget this one, either: Jamie Goode is back at it, reminding those of us who like cheap that we’re not only wrecking the environment, but that our greed ruins the wine business: “The race to the bottom in terms of price points sucks life out of the wine category. It also sucks out all the profit.” I would argue that the £5 wines he’s talking about are Barefoot and their ilk in the U.S., and the last time I checked, Barefoot owner E&J Gallo was one of the richest and most profitable companies in wine. But what do I know? I’m trying to ruin the wine business and feather my already fat and corrupt nest.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite posts of 2018

favorite posts of 2018These five posts weren’t necessarily the best read, but they were among my favorite posts of 2018

Welcome to the Wine Curmudgeon’s fourth annual year-end top 10 list — not the most-read posts on the blog, which anyone can do. These are among the best posts I wrote in 2018 and that didn’t get enough attention the first time around.

Again, these aren’t the best-read posts; Google takes care of that, still sending visitors to the epic, more than eight-year-old, “Barefoot wines (again): Value or just cheap? essay. These are the posts that I enjoyed writing, thought were important to write, or both.

Here, in no particular order, are my favorite posts of 2018:

• Three-tier strikes again, as the only employee in Amazon’s employee-less Go stores is in the wine section. The conundrum is not just Twilight Zone-ish, but a big deal in the retail business; witness this story in the Chicago Business Journal quoting the post.

The Champagne glass conspiracy, because we can’t just drink wine, we have to drink wine out of the most expensive glass possible. Right, Hosemaster?

Premiumization out of control: We’re told that spending $40 for a bottle of wine is more than reasonable. I didn’t understand why more people didn’t read this — it was one of my best rants in 2018 and it was about one of my favorite subjects.

• How many wine blogs feature original fiction? I didn’t do an April Fool’s or Halloween parody this year, but I did write about aliens and the riddle that is the wine score.

• Finally, a post that wasn’t especially well received, but should have been: Cheap wine isn’t worth drinking just because it’s cheap. I’ve been arguing this throughout the blog’s 11-year history, but I’m finding increased resistance to something that seems obvious. I know why: Wine prices have gone up and wine quality has gone down over the past couple of years, so people are making do with crappy cheap wine. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy abut it, and I certainly wasn’t in this post.

More on the WC’s favorite posts:
Favorite posts of 2017
Favorite posts of 2016
Favorite posts of 2015

Bogle wins 2018 cheap wine poll

2018 cheap wine poll Bogle wins 2018 cheap wine poll, its fourth victory in five years; Columbia Crest finishes second for the second year in a row

And it wasn’t even close.

Bogle has won the 2018 cheap wine poll, the sixth annual. It was Bogle’s fourth title in five years, and it took almost half the votes. Washington state’s Columbia Crest was second with 18 percent, while Other was third, with dozens of wines and wine brands getting single votes, including many that cost more than $10.

Barefoot, the most popular wine on the blog and more or less the best-selling wine in the U.S., finished sixth. It had finished seventh each of the previous three years.  Finally, Two-buck Chuck, the Trader Joe’s private label, finished last once again — something it has done every year of the poll.

Frankly, given the quality of some of Bogle’s wines this year, its victory speaks more to the sad state of cheap wine than anything else. When even Bogle — a brand I have waxed poetic about for more than a decade — starts adding sugar to some of its dry red wines, we’re in big trouble.

This year’s results are below. You can find the results for 20172016, 2015, 2014,  and 2013 at the links.  I’ll probably retire the poll after this year unless the blog’s visitors clamor to do it again in 2019. It’s not so much that Bogle keeps winning; rather, it’s that cheap wine quality has sunk so far that it seems silly to ask people to reward poorly made wine.

Holiday cheap wine book extravaganza: Free shipping

cheap wine bookBuy one cheap wine book or 10 – you’ll get free shipping. What better way to shop for your favorite wine drinker?

Click on the link and buy a cheap wine book and get free shipping in time for Christmas. What better way to celebrate the holiday season than to buy three or four books? Demand has been so great that this is the last weekend I’m running the special, so order by midnight on Sunday.

Check out normally, and I’ll credit the free shipping when your order is processed. Also note that we’ve streamlined the WC web shop, making it easier to use. And, as always, I sign every book bought from the WC web shop. Just leave a note when you order the books.

The WC needs your help in choosing the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame

Hall of FameSend me your suggestions for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame, so we can show the wine business we want quality cheap wine and not the plonk they want us to drink

The 2019 $10 Hall of Fame will appear in one moth – Jan. 4, 2019. And I truly need your help to find wines worthy of induction this year.

I always ask for – and appreciate – suggestions when I compile the best cheap wines of the previous year. But I’m asking earlier this year because prospects for the 2019 Hall are not good. As I wrote last year, the warning signs for 2019 appeared in 2018, and the situation has deteriorated since.

This was easily the worst year for cheap wine since I started the $10 Hall at the turn of the century for a Dallas magazine. Prices are up, quality is down, and added sugar seems to be everywhere. Too many producers don’t want to sell us wine, but alcoholic fruit juice. Even the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier blend, once a Hall of Fame staple, has been tarted up with residual sugar.

What makes a $10 Hall of Fame wine?

• Price, of course. The wine should not cost more than $12 or $13; I’ve increased the limit over the past couple of years because of price creep.

• They should be varietally correct and without obvious flaws. In addition, they should be balanced and interesting enough to buy again. In other words, honest wines. I can’t emphasize this enough. Chardonnay should taste like chardonnay, French wine should taste like French wine, and so forth. Otherwise, what’s the point?

• A wine is not worthy of induction because it’s cheap; there’s a difference between quality cheap wine and wine that is made cheaply. We’re seeing entirely too much of the latter these days.

• Availability. No wines sold by just one retailer, like Two-buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s. My term is generally available – you should be able to buy the wine at a quality retailer in a medium-sized U.S. city.

Leave your suggestion in the comments to this post or . I start working on the Hall during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, so keep that in mind if you have wines to recommend. And thanks for your help and continued support – we’ll get through this bad patch and make the wine business understand they can’t continue to foist this plonk on us.

Wine Curmudgeon most popular posts 2018

most popular posts 2018The Wine Curmudgeon’s most popular posts 2018

The blog enjoyed the best year in its 11-year history between November 2017 and November 2018, with some 600,000 visitors in one form or another. You can be impressed; that I did that with my nickel and dime operation speaks to how desperate wine drinkers are for intelligent, well-written, and unbiased information in the post-modern wine world. Of which you can read more on Thursday in my annual state of the wine industry rant and essay.

The key here is “in one form or another.” Some two-thirds of blog readers never visit the blog anymore, but access it through the daily email or an RSS feed. This is a tremendous change. As recently as a couple of years ago, those figures were reversed. This skewed some of the top post numbers in 2018, since people who don’t come to the blog aren’t counted in the same way as people who do. Internet analytics are even murkier than the three-tier system.

Nevertheless, if the way people use the Internet changes, the blog will change with them.

What else happened between 2017 and 2018?

• Blog readers continue to get younger (maybe half younger than 40) and the number of women continues to increase (perhaps as many as 2 1/2 out of five). Again, murky counting.

• The Barefoot wine value post, written in 2009, was No. 1 for the fourth consecutive year. And it wasn’t even close, with almost one-third more hits than the No. 2 post. I have accepted this as the blog’s fate, and will just update the top of  the post with links to more current Barefoot reviews.

• More than three-quarters of the blog’s actual visitors arrived via searching, the highest ever. The most common search term? Barefoot wine, of course.

The most popular posts from 2018 — as well as a couple of other highlights — are after the jump: Continue reading