? Whither organic wine? Dave Falchek looks at organic wine, and offers new perspective on something that has raditionally been much less important in wine than elsewhere. "Once the vinous equivalent of an unkempt grunger, these wines now have more polish. There has never been a larger array of eco-sensitive wines." He also offers an interesting take on the differences between conventional, organic and biodynamic wine.
? Looking for a tax shelter? Think wine — or so suggests this website, run by a group called Premier Cru, "Europe's leading fine wine investment house." There is even a chart comparing an investment in wine to the leading stock exchange indexes since 2005, and guess what? Wine has done better. This assumes, of course, that you don't drink the wine you buy, which opens up so many metaphysical questions that it makes the Wine Curmudgeon's head hurt.
? The Greek wine crisis: The country's wine business has collapsed, along with the rest of the Greek economy. Wine is being sold below cost, and consumers are shifting to less expensive bulk wines. Why does this matter to Americans? Because the European financial crisis has softened demand for wine throughout the continent, lowering prices. And lower prices in Europe could well affect wine prices here, as Greek, Spanish and Italian producers look to dump in the U.S. that they can't sell at home.
One of the best things about new media is that it doesn't require a lot of bureauacracy or capital investment to do a story. In other words, when I need to write about something, I don't have to clear it with a boss or wait days or weeks or even months for it to wend its way through a printing plant and delivery truck.
I mention this because, since I first wrote about wine price trends for 2012 in January, a bunch of things have happened to make that post seem outdated. But if I was still writing for a newspaper, I wouldn't be able to ready update the post, and readers would be left thinking that wine prices in 2012 will go up.
Fortunately, since I'm not tied down to a traditional media publishing platform, I can correct that impression whenever it needs to be corrected. I've updated it once, and it looks like it needs to be updated again. More, after the jump:
Remember January's post about wine prices in 2012 (the one with the crummy graphic)? That's the post that said wine prices may finally be firming after four years of declines, and that consumers may not be able to find as many bargains later this year and the beginning of next.
Well, it may be time to reconsider that. More, after the jump:
? Cheaper wine and traffic accidents: States with higher wine consumption have fewer traffic deaths, so why not make wine more easily available? A new study suggests that wine is more socially responsible than beer or spirits, so why not push consumption toward it and away from the others through legal supermarket sales? Said one researcher: "Wine is more likely to be consumed with food. That has an impact. We also suspect that there are different demographic groups that consume this alcohol. Maybe the audience that consumes wine is less likely to drink and drive and be in a traffic accident." A fascinating thought, though the Wine Curmudgeon notes that the study was conducted by researchers in New York state, where there is a huge fight going on over wine sales in grocery stores.
? Because we can never get enough about wine scores: David Duman in the Huffington Post takes on wine scores, calling out two leading members of the Winestream Media, Jon Bonne of the San Francisco Chronicle and Steve Heimoff of the Wine Enthusiast: "… it was discouraging to see their defenses of the system utilizing those same tired arguments used by lesser critics." That's about as harsh as it gets in this business, but Duman didn't stop there. He sounds almost Wine Curmudgeonly: "If you want to be a wine critic who remains relevant for the next thirty years you might want to ditch the rating system now, lest you be stuck wearing the wine writing equivalent of acid-washed jeans and feathered hair a decade too late."
? Consumers and state stores: Here's a shocker: Wine drinkers will break the law to buy cheaper wine if all that means is shopping out of state. Regular visitors here will remember that the Pennsylvania state store system, in which the state runs the liquor stores, has been under attack for being inefficient, bloated and poorly run. This on-line survey says that 81 percent of respondents would rather break the law and bootleg their wine and liquor across the borders than suffer state-mandated price hikes. Bootlegging? Does this mean shoppers will start wearing Wine Curmudgeon-like fedoras?
? Near the center of the universe: There have been a spate of recent articles, not only in the Winestream Media, but in many big-time consumer publications about New Jersey wine. One of the most recent came from the Wall Street Journal (behind the paywall) which revealed that the Garden State is enjoying a wine renaissance. As a long-time and ardent supporter of regional wine, I'll take the good news anywhere I can get it. But it does seem odd that media like the Journal are suddenly discovering New Jersey wine, which has been around for more than a decade. This can be traced to what some media critics call the center of the universe theory — nothing exists until it has been identified and validated by the most important news outlets in the country. And where are the most important news outlets in the country? In New York City, just a short ride down the New Jersey Turnpike from New Jersy wine country.
? Wine prices plummet: Not, of course, for wine we actually drink, but wine the wise guys use to make money — on the Live-ex wine exchange, a stock market for wine. Really. As silly as that sounds. Prices of the 100 top-traded wines fell by an average of 22 1/2 percent between June and December last year ? the steepest fall since the beginning of the recession, reports Drinks Business magazine. The reason for the decline, apparently, is a slump in the Chinese market. The link is well worth clicking on, if only because the story is so bizarre. I've been writing about both business and wine for more than 20 years, and I can barely make sense of it. How anyone makes money trading wine is beyond me — ignoring the fact that the point of great wine drinking it.
? Too much knowledge? Kris Chislett at Blog Your Wine asks a question that I've asked many times here: Why does the wine business do such a lousy job of wine education? "Sure, I can wax poetically with the best of ?em about the meso-climates within this one tiny vineyard parcel within the sub-region of a greater region, which has a sandy loam soil and maritime climate. I just don ?t think that ?s what most people, even the more wine-savvy, can relate to. … I want to help people learn, and I just don ?t think that can be achieved by boring them to death with what for the most part is useless wine trivia." Can't argue with that, can we?
Consumers have been able to walk into wine stores over the past four years and find terrific bargains — displays of 2 for $10 and 3 for $20 wines that were well made and worth drinking, bins of marked down and discounted wines, and $40 wines that cost $20. Sadly, though, that all may be about to end.
Wine prices look like they're finally firming after four years of recession-induced declines. The changes are still tentative, they don't necessairly hold true for all parts of the business, and they may not be as noticeable in some parts of the country as in others. In this, it doesn't look like prices will be higher as much as the obvious discounting will end. But, after interviews with retailers, wholesalers, wineries and analysts, it doesn't look like $10 wine is the new $100 wine any more. Instead, there's a new paradigm: The search for value.
"Wine drinkers are going to have to look harder and wider to find deep deals on known items," says Christian Miller of California's Full Glass Research, who tracks wine prices and consumption. "There will still be values, but they won't be as easy to find. They're going to be in undiscovered wines."
After the jump, why this is happening and what it means:
The wine glut that has held prices down for the past couple of years hasn ?t completely gone away, and holiday wine prices — with a couple of notable exceptions — should remain competitive. Which means there will be bargains for shoppers willing to do a bit of work.
That ?s pretty much the consensus of the retailers, local and national, that I talked to this week, and it dovetails with the holiday wine reconnoitering I did in Dallas over the past five or six days. There is still significant price cutting going on, especially at grocery stores. There, says Polakoff, is where you ?ll find what he called the price busters — wine at cost or not much more, which the supermarkets use to to bring in customers. More, after the jump: