Tag Archives: wine news

Winebits 200: Pinotgate, wine apps, mommy drinking

? Judge upholds sentences: Decanter, the British wine magazine, may not care all that much about most of the U.S. wine business, but it does love to follow the Gallo pinot noir scandal. Or, as the magazine calls it, "the notorious Red Bicyclette fake Pinot Noir case." The entire story is worth reading, and not because a French appeals court upheld the sentences of those convicted of selling syrah and merlot to Gallo and pretending it was pinot. Read the story for  Decanter's wonderfully English tabloid slant to the case, in which it tars everyone involved with the brush of scandal. One other note: No one, even at Gallo, is quite sure which bottles of pinot had the syrah or merlot in it instead of pinot. So if you see a bottle of 2008 Red Bicyclette pinot noir on a store shelf (and there may still be some), you could be buying a piece of history.

? The failure of wine apps: Paul Mabray, one of the smartest people in the modern wine marketing business, takes a look at wine apps for smart phones and pronounces them dead on arrival. "We want to believe differently but the reality is the the bells are ringing for the current apps ? get better than 'most promising' or R.I.P." Which makes perfect sense. You hear about all sorts of apps, but when's the last time you've heard about a wine app? Mabray lists nine reasons why the apps don't make a difference; my favorite is the last one: "Reference apps are great but all of their content be already be found through a major search engine or just by asking your friends/followers/fans on a social network." Yes, let's duplicate free content, charge people for it, and then wonder why we're not making milliions.

? When should mommys drink wine? This is more the province of my pal Tom Johnson at Louisville Juice, who follows mommy wine with a keen eye and a sharp keyboard, but the item is too interesting to pass up. In the wake of the Missouri mother whose child disappeared while mom was drinking too much wine, the TODAY Moms blog asks: "Is drinking on the mommy job a no-no?" Writes the blog: "We ?ve all had those days when we think, to use the old, un-PC expression, 'My kids are driving me to drink.' And while grown-up time is crucial for our sanity, is it anything goes after dark?" The Wine Curmudgeon, who does not pretend to be any sort of expert when it comes to raising children, wonders why the question needs to be asked. Passing out drunk, children or no, is rarely a good idea.

Winebits 199: Hall of Fame, cheap wine, wine labels

? Six chosen for Hall: Peter Mondavi of Charles Krug heads the list of six men elected to the Vintners Hall of Fame. The other five are Albert Winkler of University of California-Davis; Joe Heitz of Heitz Cellars; former Beringer winemaker Myron Nightingale; Mendocino County's John Parducci; and long-time winemaker Richard Sanford. Eugene Hilgard, one of the fathers of modern soil science, was selected by the nominating committee. This year's balloting seemed to go much more smoothly than previous years, thanks to the absence of wine writer Robert Parker, who was not nominated this time (and still deserves to be in the Hall). The Wine Curmudgeon voted for five people: Mondavi, writer Bob Thompson, Sanford, labor leader Caesar Chavez, and Chateau Souverain founder Lee Stewart.

? Wine Enthusiast best buys: The Winestream Media comes in for a lot of criticism on the blog, but I try to be fair. Hence these kind words for the Wine Enthusiast's 2011 list of 100 best buys for $15 or less. Most look to be solid choices, and if there were some wines that I would quibble with (Kenwood zinfandel for $14 seems a bit much) and what look to be some availability issues, they did have to find 100. Still, the top 10 were especially impressive, including the blog's favorite wine, Tormaresca Neprica at No. 8; Bogle sauvignon blanc at No. 3; and Pacific Rim riesling at No. 1 (a tad high, but I think they're focusing on the sweet wine market, which seems to be so popular these days).

? French labeling laws: The French wine police have charged a colorful Loire winemaker with violating the country's very strict labeling laws, and the winemaker seems to be daring the authorities to put him in jail. Decanter has the story, and though it's difficult to follow — these are French labeling laws, after all — the gist is that the winemaker, Olivier Cousin, has repeatedly violated several laws to protest what he says are flaws with the regulations for his region. He has been charged with mislabeling and bringing the appellation into disrepute, which carries a ?37,500 (US$51,400) fine or up to two years in prison. And they think they have it bad in California.

Winebits 198: Regional wine notes

? North Carolina wines produce: Money and jobs for the state, that is, to the tune of a $1.28 billion impact, reports the Winston-Salem Journal. The Wine Curmudgeon, during his years in the newspaper business, was sceptical of economic impact studies. But having seen Fredericksburg, the heart of the Texas Hill Country's wine region, before and after the growth of Texas' wine industry, I'm more inclined to believe the studies. When I started going to Fredericksburg in the early 1990s, there was one motel. Today, there are a dozen, and more bed and breakfasts than it's possible to imagine. Fredericksburg was always a pleasant tourist town, focusing on its German heritage. Now it's a tourist town, where restaurant prices are on par with any big city in the state.

? What legislators don't understand: Too many state and local officials don't see the economic impact of wine (like my pals at the Texas legislature). So they should read this: A winery in Cody, Wyoming, is opening in a location that used be a company that made metal fastenings. This is the kind of thing that those of us who believe in regional wine keep insisting is going to happen as the world we live in changes economically and culturally. Because if it can happen in Cody, Wyoming, imagine what a little support could do in places like Texas and Virginia.

? New Georgia winery: And its owner wants it to be part of the local food movement: "My goal is to have a glass of wine, fresh bread from [the local bakery] and fresh sausage from [the local butcher] all in one place." This is refreshing to see. Too often, local wine is seen as the step-child of local food, as not quite good enough for all those tomatoes and pork.

Winebits 197: Steve Case, Geyser Peak, $3 wine

? Virgina wine gets big name: That would be the same Steve Case who founded the original America Online, and turned it into an Internet powerhouse as important in its day as Google is today. Almost everyone who used the Internet at the turn of the century had an AOL email address. Case wants to buy Sweely Estate near Charlottesville, which gives Virginia a true big name, deep pockets investor. Why is that important? Because regional wineries are traditionally undercapitalized. Case, who made a bundle when he merged AOL with Time Warner in a $350 billion deal in 2000, has the cash to take the Virginia winery to the next step — improve the quality of the wine and do increased regional and then national distribution, which is something most non-California wineries can't afford to do. This is just another example of how Virginia is starting to challenge New York and Missouri as the top regional wine state in the country, while Texas, once considered a player, is taking giant steps backward.

? Geyser Peak bankruptcy? Lew Purdue at Wine Industry Insight (behind a pay wall) reports that Geyser Peak and its corporate parent, Ascentia Wine Estates, may be close to bankruptcy. If true, it would be among the biggest casualties of the wine industry recession. Geyser Peak, which produces quality grocery store $10 wine, has had three corporate parents over the past couple of years, as the biggest wine brands have been buying and selling labels in a furious effort to appease stockholders and reduce expenses in the wake of flat sales.

? More $3 wine: Fresh & Easy, the West Coast high end convenience chain, is expanding its line of $3 wines. Called Big Kahuna, the wines have been the retailer's best seller since their introduction in 2007. Fresh & Easy will sell cabernet sauvignon, merlot, rose, shiraz, tempranillo, sweet white and crisp white for about $3. Consider that $3 wine is now a staple of some of the country's biggest and most prestigious retailers, including Walmart, 7-Eleven, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods, and you'll begin to see a pattern emerging. Unless, of course, you're in the mainstream wine business, and desperately need to sell overpriced $15 wine whose only attribute is a cute label.

Winebits 196: South African wine, Trump Winery, trademarks

? Race and wine: A terrific piece in the New York Times about one of South Africa’s first — and only — black winemakers, that also offers insight into the country’s wine business. Says the winemaker, Ntsiki Biyela: “Somehow I fell in love with the ever-changing content of wine. Wine is never the same today as it is tomorrow. It even depends on where you drink it and who you are with and what mood you are in. It ?s a very, very nice thing.”

? New Virginia winery: Dave McIntrye reports on one of the first public sightings of Virginia’s new Trump Winery (with a picture), although there wasn’t very much Trump wine to taste. “Visitors to the Trump tent were given tastes of Kluge SP sparking wine (which was consistently quite good in my experience) and the Albemarle viognier, ros and red blends.” Maybe we can get Trump Winery to participate in Regional Wine Week? The man himself at DLW 2012: Colorado?

? Court to Budwesier — not so fast: Those of us who have been following the various name contretemps in the wine and alcohol business will be glad to know that a court has finally had enough. Europe’s highest court ruled that Anheuser-Busch, which makes Budweiser, must share the Budweiser name in the United Kingdom with the Czech Bud jovick Budvar. You’ll need to follow the link, since the story is quite confusing, but apparently, each brand has been using the same name for its product for decades. If only U.S. courts were so wise.

Winebits 195: Joe Bastianich, alcohol regulation, wine truth

Some really fine writing in the cyber-ether in the last week or so, and more than worthy of a second look:

? You're in big trouble, Joe Bastianich: The Italian Wine Guy's Mom is mad at you. What were you thinking, calling a rose — our beloved rose — a bisexual on The Today Show? I can't quote verbatim what Elissa Cevola told her son (since this is a family blog), but it's enough to note that one of the mildest words she used was fool. And that Mrs. Cevola thinks Joe is not nice enough to his mom, the chef and restaurant owner Lidia Bastianich.

? It's black and white: Tom Johnson at Louisville Juice wants to know why state regulators are threatening to ban an urban-themed alcoholic beverage, Blast, yet don't seem worried by a similar drink, which has no hip-hop connotations. Writes Tom: "Seventeen states attorneys general have banded together to protest Blast. Interestingly, none have joined to protest the recent release of Bacardi Classic Cocktail Pi a Colada, which, like Snoop Dogg ?s Blast, contains fruit flavors and sugar, but clocks in at a whopping 15 percent alcohol. The Pi a Colada mix is marketed primarily to white suburbanites. It ?s probably just an oversight. I ?m sure the attorneys general are going to line up against Bacardi soon."

? Right on, sister: Please, please, please read this, wine industry. Forget your focus groups and your scores and your shelf talkers. This, from the Hairpin blog, which is apparently aimed at your target audience — middle-class women of a certain age: "For some reason wine has become this thing. This huge inflated pompous thing that people have invented corny language around, jacked up costs for, and made intimidating as all hell. Then you find yourself retreating to your couch with whatever's cheapest and goes well with sweats, or smiling through a glass of something at a dinner party that you can't pronounce and aren't sure if you're supposed to enjoy, instead of actually enjoying the wine." The Wine Curmudgeon wishes he had written this. Boy, do I wish I had written this.

Winebits 194: Cold climate wine, wine trademarks, wine scandals

? Cold climate winners: Three wines won double golds at this month's International Cold Climate Wine Competition, which doesn't sound like a big deal. But the wines weren't sweet, and they were made with grapes that aren't viniferia — so yes, it is big news. Cold climate grapes are hybrids, and most of them are relatively new. This means they're more difficult to work with (especially for the regional wineries that make wine with them), and there is relatively little known about what kind of wine they make. So that three wines — two from Minnesota and one from Vermont — were that good and weren't sweet speaks volumes about the progress being made to make wine with odd grapes in places that aren't associated with wine.

? Label legal battle ends: Those of us who have been following the various wine trademark disputes (here and here) will be glad to know that a third case has been settled. Yellow Tail and The Wine Group, whose lawyers were battling ferociously over whether a kangaroo on one label was too much like a kangaroo on another label, have settled their case. No details were disclosed, which is probably just as well. The Wine Curmudgeon probably couldn't stand all the legal excitement, and would have take to his bed.

? Top 10 wine scandals: The British Drinks Business magazine runs down the top 10 wine scandals of all time, including two of my favorites — Red Bicyclette's non-pinot noir and Austria's antifreeze wine. And who says wine is a bunch of stuffy old guys sitting around a room sniffing and spitting?