The Christmas and New Year’s wine of the weeks will post on the Monday before the holiday
• The Christmas and New Year’s wines of the week will post on the Monday before each holiday, since the blog will be off on both Wednesdays. Plus, our New Year’s wine suggestions will appear on Dec. 26.
Don’t work so hard. No one is reading these posts, anyway.
These six posts weren’t necessarily the best read, but they were among my favorite posts of 2019
Welcome to the Wine Curmudgeon’s fifth 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 2019 and that didn’t get enough attention the first time around.
Again, these aren’t the best-read posts; Google takes care of that. Barefoot wine, anyone? 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:
• Premiumization, overpriced wine, and consolidation are nothing new for wine. In 1947, one wine critic lamented the lack of quality cheap wine; another wrote in the early 1970s that California was focused too much on expensive wine and not enough on wine people could afford to drink.
• Sweet Chianti, anyone? Because smooth. Because soft. And because women don’t want to drink dry red wine. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?
I’ve known Jim since I wrote about wine for a Fort Worth newspaper. He did marketing at Hess, Brown-Forman, and most recently at Treasury Wine Estates. At each, he always returned phone calls and emails, always gave an honest answer to a question, and never once complained if I wrote a review that didn’t fit the company line. Jim would just send me another sample. How is someone like that going to be replaced?
Three things – among very many – stand out:
• Jim knew the ins and outs of how Big Wine worked, whether it was the complexities of pricing or how to sell lots of wine in supermarkets. And he was happy to share his knowledge with me. I have an email, and I’m looking at it now, that he sent for a story I’m trying to get a handle on. I took many PhD seminars the wine business from Jim, and just because I was curious.
• When Treasury released its 19 Crimes virtual reality wine labels, Jim emailed me. This is a great story, he wrote. We’re doing something that no one else is doing. Jim, I wrote back, I don’t like the wine, and I don’t think wine should be sold because of the label. Yes, he emailed me in return. But I figured you would have a more open mind about something as intriguing as this. And he was correct – I should have had a more open mind and not dismissed the labels because I was feeling cranky.
• Jim was in Dallas to attend a major wine event when he worked for Hess, sponsored by one of the big wine magazines. We met for a glass of wine beforehand, and he asked if I was going to the tasting. He could even get me in. “Jim,” I said, “the tasting will be full of over-priced, snooty wine and over-priced and snooty people. Why would I want to go?” Later, I asked Jim how the event went. He laughed. “Remember what you told me?” And then described a woman who came to the Hess table, saw it wasn’t expensive enough, and walked off.
In all of this, Jim Caudill was a nice guy, and we don’t have nearly enough of those in the wine business. So long, my friend.
Scrooge’s post-modern wine Christmas Carol leaves a very bad taste in his mouth
Marley was dead. And good riddance, thought Scrooge. Marley had actually suggested making wine people could afford to drink, and marketing it to consumers who weren’t aging Baby Boomers. Who needs that? sneered Scrooge.
Not him. He was No. 9 on The Most Important and Smartest Wine Geniuses List compiled by one of the wine magazines.
Now, if he could only get rid of that damned Cratchit, his winemaker. She kept insisting on using only pinot noir in the pinot noir and cutting back on the Mega Purple. And she had even been talking using ingredient labels for the wine. Obviously, Scrooge thought, she wasn’t a team player.
Scrooge’s iPhone 11 beeped. The face of a woman appeared with the text. Spam, thought Scrooge, and he deleted it. But the face popped up again.
“Do you recognize me?” asked the face.
Scrooge deleted the text again, but the face was still there. He looked at it, and he remembered his early days at the winery. Man, they had made some great wine then, like those $8.99 California field blends. But what was the point? The wine hadn’t been smooth, so no focus group would have approved.
Scrooge put the phone down, picked up the remote, turned on his 65-inch smart TV. Another face appeared, this time a man with a red beard. “Do you recognize me?” he asked.
Scrooge changed the channel, but the face was still there. Then it faded, and Scrooge saw Cratchit in the winery. She was blending grapes, and Scrooge recognized those damned Rhone varietals she kept trying to sneak in. I told her to dump that stuff, he thought. She knows she is supposed to make merlot, and she also knows it had better be more than a little sweet. Because women don’t like dry red wine.
I guess she didn’t believe me when I told her we only wanted team players, thought Scrooge. And if you’re not a team player, you can look for a job elsewhere – even if it is Christmas and even if you need the health insurance because your son Tim is sick.
Scrooge walked into the kitchen, past the Viking Tuscany range and opened the SubZero Pro refrigerator. He wanted a glass of that fake oak, 15 percent chardonnay that his marketing director said would sell like crazy.
A third face appeared, with glasses, a hat, and a scruffy beard. “I know you recognize me,” said the face.
Scrooge blinked, and then he seemed to be in some sort of home, surrounded by several other ancient winery executives. They were telling stories about the old days, when ordinary people drank wine, and they laughed and smiled and almost cried in their happiness.
Then he was back in his kitchen, in front of the SubZero, and the bearded face was still there: “Well?” it asked.
“I’m just one man,” Scrooge said. “We have to start somewhere,” said the face. And Scrooge nodded in agreement. Maybe those Rhone varietals were a good idea after all.
A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to Charles Dickens, who will hopefully forgive me for taking such wine-themed liberties with his story.
Texted one friend: “They like to just beep their horn and take off.”
So how do the delivery companies get away with this? No competition, of course. Given three-tier, barriers to entry for alcohol delivery are quite high — lots of regulation and paperwork, 50 laws for 50 states, investigations by state liquor cops, and all the rest. So FedEx and UPS can do what they want, and there is little we can do about it.
Except, of course, to remind them that their job is to deliver packages — not to make us pick them up.
There was a muffled knock at the front door during dinner on Monday night. I got up from the table, shouted, “Hold on, I’m coming,” and quickly walked to the front door. It couldn’t have taken longer than eight seconds.
But when I got to the door, nothing – no driver on the porch, no truck on the street. There was, however, a sticker on the door, saying I had missed the delivery. In other words, I had suffered another FedEx non-delivery delivery.
I write this post because I don’t know what else to do. I’ve called numerous times and complained, and nothing changes. The non-delivery delivery is not common, but it happens often enough that I made a sign for the front door. It says I’m home and implores the driver to wait. (Would that I had it up Monday night.) A $70 bottle spoiled in October from riding in a hot truck when I got non-delivery deliveries a couple of days in a row.
You’re probably asking: How can this happen? Isn’t it FedEx’s job to deliver packages? My answer: Apparently not. The company probably sees its mandate, using the cooperate speak so popular these days, as “partnering to provide supply chain logistical support.”
Which of course, says nothing about delivering packages. Or, as the wine publicist who sent me the $70 bottle wrote after she checked on what happened at her end: “The very conscientious gentleman we work with at our warehouse said that while he shared our grief, he also said that FedEx couldn’t give a horse’s patootie when it comes to ground deliveries.”
Wine complicates the situation, since it requires an adult signature. The driver just can’t leave the package and zip back to the truck, but has to wait for someone to come to the door to sign the handheld. That means the driver takes longer to make the delivery and longer to complete the route than the metrics demand. And from what I know about metrics, no employee wants to get caught in metric hell. So the driver does a non-delivery delivery.
The irony here is that FedEx’s CEO threw a fit after a recent New York Times story that said the company finagled Congress so it wouldn’t have to pay any federal income tax. The CEO was so angry that he practically challenged the Times publisher to a duel. I’m not one for pistols at dawn, what with my eyesight. But I do challenge someone at FedEx to explain to me why I had to drive to a Walgreen’s on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to pick up a package that someone paid FedEx to deliver to my house.
One final note: I lost my temper when I called customer service and cursed, which was inexcusable. The customer service rep didn’t deserve that, and it does nothing to resolve the problem. I hope he accepts my apology.