Tag Archives: wine news

Winebits 653: Tony Terlato, Canadian direct shipping, recycled beer

Tony Terlato

Tony Terlato

This week’s wine news: Legendary importer and producer Tony Terlato dies, plus one Canadian province won’t make it easier to buy wine and Guinness recycles leftover beer

Tony Terlato: Tony Terlato, whose self-named company was one of the U.S.’ leading wine importers and eventually became a high-end producer as well, died last week. He was 86. Among Terlato’s accomplishments: Popularizing Italian pinot grigo in the U.S. I was lucky enough to meet Terlato in the blog’s early days, at a massive high-end California wine tasting in Dallas. He was polite and a gentleman, even though he had no idea who I was. Terlato’s philosophy always struck a chord with me, even though his wines were usually too pricey for the blog: “No matter what you’re doing, if you’re not making decisions for quality reasons, you’re going backwards. Quality is the only thing that endures.”

Ontario says no: Canadian liquor laws, if not quite as convoluted as many of those in the U.S., have their own special charm. The province of Ontario, for example, has decided not to make it easier for its residents to buy Canadian wine from elsewhere in the country, reports WineLaw.ca. Currently, Ontario residents can’t buy wine directly from a producer in other provinces, but must buy it from the province-owned liquor stores, the infamous LCBO. Apparently, the LCBO didn’t want to lose its monopoly.

Beer into Christmas trees: Hundreds of thousands of unused kegs of Guinness have been used to fertilize Christmas trees during the coronavirus lockdown, reports Britain’s Press Association. The project is one of several undertaken by the Irish brewery to use millions of liters of stout, beer and ale from closed pubs and bars. This is only the second time Guinness reduced operations to the minimal level required to keep its yeast stocks alive in the past century.

The Trump zombie wine tariff is lurking over the horizon

wine tariff

The Trump zombie tariff is lurking over the horizon, which means the price of European wine could double.

Why haven’t we been able to kill the Trump zombie wine tariff, which is bad economics and bad public policy?

Just when it seemed safe to drink European wine without worrying that it could double in price, the Trump zombie wine tariff is lurking over the horizon.

That’s the 100 percent tariff on almost all European wine, which the Trump Administration proposed in February. The administration backed off then, raising tariffs on European airplane parts instead. Which made perfectly good sense, since the original trade dispute was about airplane parts.

But the proposal is back. Last week, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative proposed tariffs on nearly $3.1 billion worth of European products and that would raise the current wine tariff from 25 percent to 100 percent.

In other words, effectively doubling the price of European wine in the U.S. Some have gone as far as to call the 100 percent tariff the worst threat to the U.S. wine business – imported and domestic – since Prohibition.

None of this makes any sense, and not just because this whole thing is about airplane parts.

• The world economy is in recession. So why would any sane person consider raising taxes?

• The coronavirus. So why would any sane person consider raising taxes?

• France’s so-called digital tax on U.S. companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google has somehow become part of the dispute, though why the federal government needs to protect these giga-billion dollar behemoths is beyond me. And doesn’t President Trump hate Amazon?

The good news, if there is any, is that most of the people I talked to say the tariff proposal is likely empty bluster, more posturing from an administration that has perfected bluster. Two wine industry officials, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said they didn’t expect the 100 percent levy to be approved. One, who has been closely involved with negotiations, said, “My personal view is that the most likely outcome is no change” until the final World Trade Organization ruling later this year on the original aircraft parts dispute.

Having said that, this is no time for slacking off. After all, we all know how difficult it is to kill zombies. Hence, if you oppose the 100 percent tariff, you can leave a comment with the U.S. Trade Representative at this link. The comment period ends on July 26.

Image courtesy of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, using a Creative Commons license

More on the zombie wine tariff:
Trump Administration backs off 100 percent wine tariff
Welcome to Sherwood: Robin Hood takes on the wine tariffs
Panic wine buying

Winebits 652: Restaurant carryout booze, local rose, cheap local wine

carryout boozeThis week’s wine news: More restaurants opt to sell carryout booze, plus Illinois wineries embrace rose and local wine needs to be more affordable

Restaurant carryout booze: More restaurants see carryout booze, including wine and cocktails, as a way to help the weather the duration. Which is pretty damned amazing, since this was illegal in most of the country before the pandemic. In Texas, for example, the governor has signed an order allowing restaurants to sell to-go cups, just like New Orleans. This is mind-boggling; most of Dallas was dry in some way until a decade ago, and the state is still famous for its dry counties. Perhaps even more amazing? A suburban Chicago restaurateur is selling wine at retail for carryout and not phony restaurant prices. She hopes to make up the difference in volume – an amazing concept, yes?

Local rose: Just when the WC gets all flustered about the future of Drink Local, I read this in the Southern Illinoisan newspaper in downstate Carbondale (where, a long time ago, I was a general assignment reporter). The Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Alliance launched an aggressive and seemingly expensive marketing campaign this spring to make rose Illinois’ official state wine, and “unite” the industry with a common product. Give the WC’s enthusiasm for Drink Local and pink wine, what could be a better idea?

Not just in England: Oz Clarke, one of the patriarchs of modern wine writing, says English wine won’t become more successful or more popular until more people can afford to buy it. This is a lesson that emerging wine regions, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere, never seem able to understand. It’s one of the biggest problems with Drink Local, where producers don’t understand that people are more likely to buy $15 wine than $30 wine, no matter how noble the $30 wine is. Clarke told a wine seminar that it was crucial to get “really good bottles of still wine in front of people for the same price as, say, New Zealand.” Wise words, indeed.

It’s not local wine when you’re buying grapes from another state

local wineColorado craft brewer says its new wine is innovative, but it’s the same approach Big Wine uses

Craft beer made name its name on authenticity and honesty. This was in marked contrast to Big Beer, which kept selling the same worn out and bland fizz for no other reason than because that’s what Big Beer did.

So what happens when a craft beer producer moves into wine? Does it bring the same authenticity and honesty that it brought to beer? Not, apparently, if it’s a leading Colorado craft producer called Odell Brewing.

Maybe Odell Brewing has a reason for making its wine with out of state grapes instead of those from its native Colorado — which is hardly craft, authentic or honest. I asked, but never heard back from the company. Maybe someone there truly believes the twaddle in its news release, that Odell claims it “is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of modern American wine.” And that “we’re committed to making wine that is just as innovative as our beer.”

Because making wine with out of state grapes is the sort of thing that small wine producers criticize Big Wine for doing, and that those of us who believe in Drink Local have been fighting against for years. It’s neither innovative nor boundary pushing; rather, it’s just a way to cut costs, since those grapes will probably be cheaper than buying Colorado grapes.

And Odell’s wines – a red and white blend, plus two roses, and all made with grapes purchased from Oregon and Washington – are hardly breathtaking. And that the wines will come in cans? Not exactly innovative, either, not in the middle of 2020.

Let’s be clear here – Odell can do whatever it wants, and I’m not criticizing the company for making wine. Rather, it’s because Odell is pretending that its wine effort is something that it’s not.

In fact, I can’t help but think that someone at Odell and its wholesaler, Breakthru Beverage (the third biggest in the country) wanted to duplicate the almost unprecedented success of Cooper’s Hawk. That’s the restaurant and winery chain that uses California grapes no matter where its stores are located. For one thing, Breakthru is mentioned in the second paragraph in the news release, and that’s just odd. Why would anyone care who the distributor is?

So good luck to Odell – just don’t expect anyone who knows local wine to pretend your product is local.

podcast

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.

Winebits 650: Canned wine, wine advice, half bottles

canned wineThis week’s wine news: Will aluminum shortage slow canned wine’s growth? Plus, sensible advice in a new book and the popularity of half bottles

Canned wine: Two blog readers reported an absence of canned soft drinks during supermarket visits recently, which seemed odd. Who runs out of diet Coke? Turns out the pandemic has screwed up the aluminum supply chain, thanks to increasing demand for canned beer during the duration. Says one supplier for the wine business: “We have to ensure that we don’t get into a toilet paper situation.” In addition, some beer and wine producers have seen price gouging from can suppliers.

Keep it simple: A new wine book has given the WC reason for hope. “‘How to Drink Wine” (Clarkson Potter, $17), by Chris Stang and Grant Reynolds, wants to make wine as accessible as possible. Says Stang: “Wine can be intimidating for some people. Some might think they don’t have the time to ‘be into wine.” You can learn by just drinking wine with friends and talking about it.” Sound familiar? And lots more welcome than most of the “advice”” we get from the wine business?

Bring on the half bottles: The 375 ml bottle, not especially common before the pandemic, is enjoying a resurgence. Reports the Wine Enthusiast: “Easily shippable for virtual tastings and a sensible substitute for by-the-glass service, the small-format bottle is especially suited to pandemic life.” One East Coast retailer increased his half-bottle inventory by 60 percent, and several retailers have told me they can’t keep the smaller size in stock.

Join the Wine Curmudgeon for a virtual Happy Hour tonight

virtual tasting

“Damn. Who knew a WC virtual tasting would be this popular?”

The WC will taste two great cheap wines, take questions, and maybe even go off on a rant or two

Blog readers spoke, and the Wine Curmudgeon made it work – with lots and lots of help from my friends at the American Wine Society. Hence, a virtual happy Hour at 7 p.m. EDT tonight. Best yet, everyone is welcome, even if you’re not a member of the AWS.

So what will we taste? Cheap wine, of course – one of the blog’s favorite roses, the La Vieille Ferme, as well as one of the best cheap pinot noirs out there, from the always top-notch McManis family.

Don’t have those? Not to worry – drink what’s on hand, and we can visit anyway. I’ll talk about why I do what I do and why cheap wine is important, discuss the two wines, offer a few thoughts about wine during the duration, and perhaps go off on a rant or two. Plus, of course, take questions. Click this link to join the fun; the AWS uses Zoom for their events.