Tag Archives: wine news

Jim Caudill: 1950-2019

jim caudill

Jim Caudill

Jim Caudill was a consummate professional, as well as a hell of a nice guy. How do you say goodbye to someone like that?

Jim Caudill was a professional, and I can’t think of higher praise for someone who does what we do. And I can’t believe I’m never going to talk to him again.

But Jim died over the weekend, and so I won’t.

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.

There’s a Go Fund Me page in honor of .Jim and his Sonoma County property, Windborne Farm

Winebits 623: Baby Boomers and wine, three-tier, hard seltzer

baby boomers

“Maybe I should buy some White Claw instead?”

This week’s wine news: A warning for those depending on the Baby Boomers to rescue the wine business, plus Total Wine appeals to the Supreme Court, and hard seltzer outsells vodka

Pointed language: How is this for telling the wine business what’s what? “So if your wine clubs are full of people between the ages of 55 and 75, and you’re just trying to grind those guys to death in the last few years, be thinking about that transition.” That’s the blunt warning from a top wine analyst, speaking at a recent wine trade show. Robert Eyler told his audience that the wine business has not been able to convince Millennials to drink wine. Hence, given the aging of the Baby Boomers, who still support the market, the wine business could be in big trouble.

Bring on the Supremes: Retailer Total Wine, struck down in Connecticut for challenging the state’s minimum pricing law, will appeal to the Supreme Court. This case, if accepted by the court, has the potential to further upset three-tier following this summer’s Tennessee retailer decision. Total is arguing that Connecticut’s pricing laws are no different from an illegal price-fixing conspiracy, since everyone knows the prices ahead of time and no one can deviate them from them.

Still growing: Hard seltzer, those cheap, easy to drink, low alcohol products like Truly and White Claw, account for some 2.6 percent of the U.S. booze market – more than vodka, the best-selling spirit. That’s triple the share from a year ago, according to a recent report. That works out to about 82 million cases – almost 10 times the amount of Barefoot sold in 2018, which is the top selling U.S. wine brand.

Winebits 622: Supermarket wine, ingredient labels, Kroger wine

supermarket WineThis week’s wine news: Sommeliers pick supermarket wine, plus another shout out for wine ingredient labels and Kroger expands its on-line wine business

Interesting choices: Vinepair asked sommeliers to pick quality supermarket wine, and what struck me as how un-supermarket so many of the wines were. How many of us go to the grocers to spend $60 for a bottle of Jordan cabernent sauvignon? And you can tell many of the sommeleirs had not bought wine at a grocery store lately, given the number of hard to find European wines they selected. Still, it was good to see Dallas’ Barbara Werley select Chateau Ste. Michelle and Houston’s Jay Pyle pick the Matua sauvignon blanc, a top $10 wine.

Thank you: Mike Veseth, The Wine Economist, says “I believe that wine, beer, and spirits will eventually be required to list their ingredients and nutritional data. I wonder what would happen if wine were to take a voluntary step and be more transparent now as a way to shape the narrative?” Which is good news for those of us who have fought long and hard for ingredient and nutritional labels and to convince to join the 21st century. Veseth’s reasoning is well taken: “We might think wine is special — and it is in many ways — but we shouldn’t assume that it is immune to the forces that are making transparency, accountability, and technology more important every day.”

Good luck: Kroger has expanded its on-line wine store to 19 states and Washington, D.C, offering – get this – some four dozen wines “selected by winemakers and sommeliers for their quality, value and flavor profiles.” I wonder: Is it a coincidence that one of the wines is the Matua sauvignon blanc? You can check out the store at this link – just click on one of the states listed in the menu. Selection is limited, and most of the wines aren’t well known. But it is intriguing that Kroger is trying something that mighty Amazon gave up on long ago.

Winebits 621: 1 Wine Dude rant, grape glut, Robert Parker

1 wine dude

Joe Roberts: “Some of us have been sounding warnings for almost an entire decade.”

This week’s wine news: 1 Wine Dude’s Joe Roberts takes on premiumization, plus the grape glut worsens and the Wine Advocate is sold

• “Impending hangover?” Joe Roberts, who writes the 1 Dude Blog, doesn’t mince words: “It seems that, in focusing on selling higher and higher priced wine to a dwindling set of older consumers, the U.S. wine business has painted [itself] into a corner. …” I asked Joe about the piece, which rips the wine business as few others have, and he pointed out he has been warning the wine business about its follies for as long as I have. Maybe we can beat this premiumization thing after all.

• “A steep decline?” California’s grape glut continues to get, well, gluttier. The Napa Valley Register, the industry’s hometown newspaper, reports that “2019 has been a year where it’s tough to sell grapes and bulk wine.” In fact, even Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon – the epicenter of premiumization – has plummeted in price. Quality cabernet, says one broker, has been selling for one-quarter to one-third the price of past years. This almost certainly points to lower wine California wine prices – if not in the next six to eight months, then by the end of next year.

So much for that strategy: In 2012, Robert Parker sold the Wine Advocate to a group of Singapore inventors. The goal, the company said at the time, was to expand the reach of perhaps the most influential magazine in the history of wine to China. So the news that France’s Michelin Guide has bought the 60 percent that it didn’t buy in 2017 probably speaks to the end of the strategy. The story in the link is mostly a puff piece that really doesn’t explain what’s going on, but there’s a sense that Michelin’s need to expand its food and wine review business trumped whatever plans an independent Advocate had or could afford.

Winebits 620: Birthday week 2019, or the end of the Internet wine search

Internet wine search

Please, please, Google — help people find this really terrific cheap wine.

Birthday week 2019 wine news: Internet wine searches matter less and less, plus our overlords at Google and poor Linux

How quaint: More visitors got the blog from RSS and email between November 2018 and November 2019 than ever before, about three-quarters of you. That’s up from about two-thirds a year ago. Long gone are the days when people found the blog by searching for a great cheap wine to drink. Remember this? This is annoying, since I want people to find great cheap wine by searching for it on Google. But that’s not how the Internet works these days, thanks to our overlords at Google.

Speaking of Google: The search giant’s web browser, Chrome, was the most popular, with about 45 percent of traffic. Interestingly, that’s about 25 percent less than its worldwide market share. The main reason for that, I think, is that almost 60 percent of visitors get here with an iPhone, and Chrome isn’t Apple’s default browser.

Poor, poor pitiful Linux:  How disrespected is my beloved Linux when it comes to the blog? It totaled 0.7 percent of visitors, just a notch above the total for four Windows operating systems hardly anyone uses anymore (Windows XP, 8.0/8.1, and Vista). Which means, I suppose, that we will have to keep waiting for the year of the Linux desktop.

Wine Curmudgeon most popular posts 2019

popular posts 2019

Looks like it’s time to crank out another Barefoot epic.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s most popular posts 2019

The blog is truly part of the Internet as we celebrate its 12th annual Birthday Week.

This means two things: Its reason for being is not necessarily cheap wine, but whatever Google sends its way when someone searches for a wine, a wine term, or wine news. Only the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame made the top 10 list this year. In the old days, two, three and even four Halls of Fame were among the 10 most popular sites.

Second, that the blog is truly international — Beijing was the top city for visitors, with 3.6 percent, easily ahead of Chicago and New York, while Guangzhou (1.1%) was eighth. The U.S. remains the top country, but its share declined by about one-quarter, while China moved up to second from fourth last year.

Meanwhile, traffic was down a couple of percentage points. I think. The blog still got approximately 600,000 visitors between November 2018 and November 2019, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be more precise without paying for a sophisticated third-party app. Google Analytics, for example, says I got about one visitor a month.

What else happened between 2018 and 2019?

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

• A different Barefoot wine post took the No. 1 spot this year, Barefoot wine: Why it’s so popular. This 2016 post replaced the long time No. 1, Barefoot wines (again): Value or just cheap?, written in 2010. It dropped to third. And there were three Barefoot posts in the top four.

• The most common search term was “Wine Curmudgeon,” followed by “residual sugar in wine.” Apparently, Google has associated the site with my efforts to label sweet red wine as sweet, instead of pretending it’s dry.

The most popular posts from 2019 — as well as a couple of other highlights — are after the jump: Continue reading

Winebits 619: Premiumization, presidential wine, alcohol consumption

premiumizationThis week’s wine news: Another expert says premiumization is hurting wine, plus wine for world leaders and U.S. alcohol consumption

• “Doom loop:” Who knew a big-time market analyst would agree with the Wine Curmudgeon? Sonoma State’s Damien Wilson says premiumization “can be a path to ruin.” He even has charts and statistics to prove his point. Wilson, writing for Wine Business International, says “European wine market history shows that failing to recruit new wine consumers is the last thing the U.S. wine sector should be doing right now. As the number of wine consumers in the U.S. has stalled in recent years, the local wine sector should avoid profiteering in favour of new market investment. Here is where the US wine sector’s global leadership in business practices can come to the fore.” In other words, higher prices for the sake of higher prices scare off new wine drinkers and then demand slows. And we’re where we are today – flat growth and overpriced wine.

• World power wine: What does one serve the president of France and the Chinese premier at a leading international trade show? High-end French wine, of course. France’s Emmanuel Macron and China’s Xi Jinping sampled three amazing bottles – Louis Latour’s Corton Grancey Grand Cru 2010, Gérard Bertrand’s Château L’Hospitalet 2016, and the Cheval Blanc 2006. That’s about $900 worth of wine, though the Bertrand is a comparatively inexpensive $35.

U.S. booze consumption: The typical U.S. resident drinks the equivalent of about a case of wine a year, according to the OECD, an international group that tracks a variety of economic indicators. The agency’s 2019 report on beer, wine, and spirits consumption shows that the U.S. is not only exactly average for the 36 countries in the survey, but that consumption is almost unchanged from 2007. So it becomes even less clear what the neo-Prohibitionists are complaining about.

Photo: “Modern wine tasting” by kellinahandbasket is licensed under CC BY 2.0