? Reading a wine label: The great Tim McNally offers a wine label reading primer, and it's as good anything I have seen. "Who can read this damn thing and make any sense of it at all? Long words, abbreviations, references to places no one ever heard of, and not a mention at all as to what grapes are in the bottle," he writes. "The world ?s worst wine labels, when it comes to disclosing information, are from … the United States. … Our labels tell us practically nothing. Conversely, when you know what to look for on some other country ?s wine labels, you will learn just about everything you need to know about the wine except what it smells and tastes like, which are subjective anyway."
? More than malbec: Dave McIntyre takes a look at Argentina and discovers there is more to the country's wines than the tidal wave of malbec washing up on our shores. "Think fresh, elegant cabernet sauvignon," Dave writes, "plummy, earthy syrah; and juicy bonarda. Most exciting may be Argentina ?s pinot noir. …" It's a well-thought out look at Argentina, and though some of the wines are pricey, Dave finds some great bargains, including a $13 pinot from Nieto Senetiner that I will look for and review here.
? Cava sales soaring: How well is cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, doing in the world marketplace? Consider that export sales are at an all-time high. The Spanish sold 12.7 million cases of cava to the rest of us in 2011, 2 percent more than in 2010. The reasons for this are obvious: Tremendous marketing, great prices and even better value, and quality that has to be tasted to be believed. Right, $10 Hall of Fame? Most impressively, the Spanish are breaking down the wine snob barrier that has always held cava back — the idea that sparkling wine that doesn't come from Champagne (and is cheap) isn't worth drinking.
? What wine companies think: We spend a lot of time on the blog talking about why wine producers do what they do, but we rarely get an inside look as revealing as this, an interview with the man who runs the company that owns Seghesio and Pine Ridge, among others. Says Erle Martin of Crimson Wine Group: "The recession has given consumers an opportunity to explore outside their comfort zone. If they used to fill the cart with $50 Napa Cabernet, now Argentine Malbecs are looking good, or Garnacha from Spain, or other full-bodied alternatives retailing at $10 or lower." The business jargon might slow the piece down a bit, but if you stay with it, you'll get a good sense of how these guys think and why they make the decisions they do.
? Gruet off the hook: A judge has ruled that New Mexico's Gruet Winery can't be included in the lawsuit to recover money from the the 2010 Cap*Rock bankruptcy auction debacle. That's when Laurent Gruet, whose family owns the winery, bid money he didn't have and won the auction to buy Cap*Rock. Walt Nett in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports that the judge said the winery didn't actually participate in the auction and didn't give Laurent permission to bid on its behalf. The trial for damages is supposed to start Dec. 21. Who knew bankruptcy could be this much fun?
? Wine names and labels: An odd story in the New York Times detailing the trend towards cute wine labels and names, including several wines called Bitch. Why odd? Because this has been a trend for at least a decade, and there's nothing in the Times story that is especially new. And it fails to mention Randall Grahm, who pretty much invented this sort of thing. It's one of those stories that one reads and wonders why it was written; nothing in it is especially new. The cranky ex-newspaperman in me wonders if someone from the Times was wandering through a liquor store, saw a wine labeled Bitch, and thought it would make a good story — not knowing that it has been a good story for a long time.
? 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.
A German-Australian study has discovered that consumers decide whether they like wine not necessarily because of what it tastes like, but because of what the label looks like.
The study, noted in Australia's Food magazine, found that "[w]hile both taste and extrinsic attributes influenced a consumer ?s liking for a bottle of wine, packaging and brand were the biggest influences. … While the study shows extrinsic attributes such as packaging can play a more significant role in determining consumers ? liking of wine than taste, [the study found] the best advice for food and beverage producers is to ensure taste and packaging are equally as good."
More, after the jump:
When is a wine made by a winery in your state not from your state? More often than you think.
This is the great conundrum of the regional wine business. The best way for local wineries to market their product is to proclaim its local-ness. But, given the way the wine business works, their wine may not be made with local grapes, but with grapes or juice imported from California or even Europe. Confused? It gets worse. Federal law allows wineries to be appropriately vague about whether the wine is made with local grapes.
All in all, regional wine labeling is a maze that consumers (many of whom are baffled by wine labels to begin with) don’t know they have to negotiate. After the jump — how labeling laws work, what to look for on a regional wine label, and why so many wineries take advantage of this gray area.