Tag Archives: wine on TV

Winebits 447: Pennsylvania wine, Judgment of Paris, wine on TV

Pennsylvania wineThis week’s wine news: Pennsylvanians may be able to buy in the supermarket this fall, the 40th anniversary of the Judgment of Paris, and a new wine TV show.

Maybe by Thanksgiving: Pennsylvanians may be able to buy wine in the grocery store by the holiday if all goes well, reports the Post-Gazette newspaper in Pittsburgh. The well-written piece explains the obstacles to be overcome and the bureaucratic tussle to be negotiated for grocery stores to sell wine for the first time in the state’s history: They need to get a retail license, renovate their aisles to make room for wine, and to work with distributors to make sure wine shows up at the store. For example, since no distributor in the state sells to grocery stores now, wholesalers will have to set up the process from scratch. Again, another example of how cumbersome and outdated the three-tier system is.

Judgment of Paris: The Wine Curmudgeon mentions the 40th anniversary of the most important event in the U.S. wine business after Prohibition again for two reasons. First, this Jancis Robinson story focuses on Steven Spurrier, the Briton who put the Judgment together, something we don’t see much of in this country. Second, as you read this, I’m in Colorado with Warren Winiarksi, whose Stag’s Leap cabernet sauvignon was chosen best red wine in the blind tasting. Perhaps Warren and I can find time to record a podcast while we’re here if he doesn’t mind recounting yet again how the California wines bested the best wines in France.

Making wine on TV work: The Wine Curmudgeon has often lamented that wine makes for lousy TV, because an interesting wine TV show could help boost wine’s popularity in the U.S. That may change in August, though, when Hulu airs the English “TV Wine Show” featuring two British actors who apparently make women swoon – Matthew Goode (hope he doesn’t read this) and Matthew Rhys. I have not seen the show, but will watch it and review it. Goode and Rhys are going to have to be very sexy to overcome the plot description, though, which sounds like another wine TV yawner: “[W]ine pros travel the world to experience international wine culture from experts.”

TV wine commercials and their legacy

TV wine commercials and their legacyKen Ross, at The Republican newspaper in Springfield, Mass., has a fine critical eye for TV wine commercials:

In commercial after commercial, for years and years, television ads created an elitist aura around wine that simply won’t go away. You need to live in a castle or wear a cravat to drink wine. You need to enunciate your words slowly and listen to Beethoven. You need to drive a Rolls Royce or have long, flowing blond hair that moves in slow motion.

Which is something that has been noted here several times. Wine ads on TV are decidedly unoriginal, especially when compared to commercials for beer and spirits. The orginal Miller Lite ads were groundbreaking, and even the recent Captain Morgan rum ads are interesting, if a tad silly.

But not wine. As Ross writes, “Watch a few wine commercials and you’ll start to notice a striking similarity from one bland ad to the next, especially during the ’70s and ’80s.” The reason? The wine business has spent the past 40 years using intimidation to market its product, bludgeoning us with Ross’ cravats. Wine isn’t fun like beer or rum, and you’d better not buy it for that reason. Or we’ll make fun of you.

Ross thinks the situation has improved, and links to 11 ads that he says demonstrate the change. One of them, for a brand that apparently isn’t made any more, is a nifty take-off on the old Grey Poupon mustard ad, and another, for an English wine retailer, captures exactly how terrified most consumers are when they browse a wine shop.

But that those two aren’t strictly wine commercials, and that four others on the list aren’t either, speaks to how pitiful most wine commercials remain. One reason for that, I think, is that the best wine marketers, companies like E&J Gallo and The Wine Group, which makes Cupcake, don’t do TV ads. If they did, they might reach Miller Lite heights (and a YouTube video for Gallo’s Barefoot line, promoting its non-profit Soles program, hints at that).

Or, with a little luck, they could scale the summit of the greatest wine commercial of all, Orson Welles for Paul Masson in the 1970s (courtesy of DarianGlover on YouTube):

Winebits 202: Cheap wine, postal service, wine on TV

? Drink cheap wine: Slate, which just fired its wine writer, has an odd piece claiming that most wine is overpriced, criticizing Slate for recommending expensive wine, and advocating that we drink wine that costs less than $10 a bottle. Sound familiar? The post is intriguing to say the least, and the comments are so harsh that you'd have thought that Brian Palmer, who wrote it, is telling Americans to run down the street naked. I don't say it's odd because Palmer likes cheap wine; after all, the Wine Curmudgeon is perhaps the foremost enthusiast for cheap wine in the country. Or that he argues that one reason why European wine consumption is so much higher than ours is that prices are so much lower there. Rather, it's the dig that the article takes at Slate, and, by implicaton, departed wine columnist Mike Steinberger. Are some axes being ground?

? Delivering wine by mail: Anyone who doubts that the Congress no longer has a grasp on reality need look no further than this — a proposal to let the U.S. Postal Service deliver wine. Currently, the postal service is forbidden to handle booze, but the usual group of bi-partisan senators wants to change that as a way to boost revenue for the cash-strapped agency. What their proposal doesn't take into account is HR 1161, the anti-shipping bill that aims to eliminate the very shipping that this bill wants to allow. If I had the stomach for it, I'd look and see which of this bill's sponsors has also spoken favorably about HR 1161. But I don't have the stomach for it, because I'm afraid of what I would find.

? TV wine programsKris Chislett at BlogYourWine offers some clear-eyed analysis about why wine makes for a lousy TV show, noting that the programs are usually too long and the format is usually as visually dull as reading a wine magazine. This is something that I have always wondered about; somehow, programs on HGTV about people buying homes are a hit, but wine shows, to quote Chislett, "put me to sleep faster than 4 glasses of Australian Shiraz ?.laced with horse tranquilizers." He thinks one failing is a lack of personality, which may be true. On the other hand, even someone with a TV persona would have a difficult time making a Wine Magazine-style discussion — "Doesn't this wine have cheery notes of leather?" — worthwhile.