Tag Archives: wine rants

A Wine Curmudgeon Christmas Carol

“More Mega Purple. … more. … and even more!”

Scrooge’s post-modern wine Christmas Carol leaves a very bad taste in his mouth

Marley was dead. And good riddance, thought Scrooge. Marley had actually suggested making wine people could afford to drink, and marketing it to consumers who weren’t aging Baby Boomers. Who needs that? sneered Scrooge.

Not him. He was No. 9 on The Most Important and Smartest Wine Geniuses List compiled by one of the wine magazines.

Now, if he could only get rid of that damned Cratchit, his winemaker. She kept insisting on using only pinot noir in the pinot noir and cutting back on the Mega Purple. And she had even been talking using ingredient labels for the wine. Obviously, Scrooge thought, she wasn’t a team player.

Scrooge’s iPhone 11 beeped. The face of a woman appeared with the text. Spam, thought Scrooge, and he deleted it. But the face popped up again.

“Do you recognize me?” asked the face.

Scrooge deleted the text again, but the face was still there. He looked at it, and he remembered his early days at the winery. Man, they had made some great wine then, like those $8.99 California field blends. But what was the point? The wine hadn’t been smooth, so no focus group would have approved.

Scrooge put the phone down, picked up the remote, turned on his 65-inch smart TV. Another face appeared, this time a man with a red beard. “Do you recognize me?” he asked.

Scrooge changed the channel, but the face was still there. Then it faded, and Scrooge saw Cratchit in the winery. She was blending grapes, and Scrooge recognized those damned Rhone varietals she kept trying to sneak in. I told her to dump that stuff, he thought. She knows she is supposed to make merlot, and she also knows it had better be more than a little sweet. Because women don’t like dry red wine.

I guess she didn’t believe me when I told her we only wanted team players, thought Scrooge. And if you’re not a team player, you can look for a job elsewhere – even if it is Christmas and even if you need the health insurance because your son Tim is sick.

Scrooge walked into the kitchen, past the Viking Tuscany range and opened the SubZero Pro refrigerator. He wanted a glass of that fake oak, 15 percent chardonnay that his marketing director said would sell like crazy.

A third face appeared, with glasses, a hat, and a scruffy beard. “I know you recognize me,” said the face.

Scrooge blinked, and then he seemed to be in some sort of home, surrounded by several other ancient winery executives. They were telling stories about the old days, when ordinary people drank wine, and they laughed and smiled and almost cried in their happiness.

Then he was back in his kitchen, in front of the SubZero, and the bearded face was still there: “Well?” it asked.

“I’m just one man,” Scrooge said. “We have to start somewhere,” said the face. And Scrooge nodded in agreement. Maybe those Rhone varietals were a good idea after all.

A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to Charles Dickens, who will hopefully forgive me for taking such wine-themed liberties with his story.

Follow-up: FedEx, why won’t you deliver my wine samples?

wine deliveries

One wine drinker had to put this in his driveway to get his driver’s attention.

The Wine Curmudgeon is not alone — wine drinkers across the country have to chase delivery trucks down the street to get their wine

Friday’s post about my difficulties getting FedEx to deliver wine samples struck a chord. Apparently, given the comments and the emails I got, I’m not the only one who doesn’t get wine delivered, whether from FedEx or UPS.

Texted one friend: “They like to just beep their horn and take off.”

So how do the delivery companies get away with this? No competition, of course. Given three-tier, barriers to entry for alcohol delivery are quite high — lots of regulation and paperwork, 50 laws for 50 states, investigations by state liquor cops, and all the rest. So FedEx and UPS can do what they want, and there is little we can do about it.

Except, of course, to remind them that their job is to deliver packages — not to make us pick them up.

FedEx, why won’t you deliver my wine samples?

fedex

Stop, stop.. you’ve got my wine….

FedEx has perfected the non-delivery delivery – and just in time for the holidays

Dec. 2 update: Apparently, I’m not the only one this happens to.

There was a muffled knock at the front door during dinner on Monday night. I got up from the table, shouted, “Hold on, I’m coming,” and quickly walked to the front door. It couldn’t have taken longer than eight seconds.

But when I got to the door, nothing – no driver on the porch, no truck on the street. There was, however, a sticker on the door, saying I had missed the delivery. In other words, I had suffered another FedEx non-delivery delivery.

I write this post because I don’t know what else to do. I’ve called numerous times and complained, and nothing changes. The non-delivery delivery is not common, but it happens often enough that I made a sign for the front door. It says I’m home and implores the driver to wait. (Would that I had it up Monday night.) A $70 bottle spoiled in October from riding in a hot truck when I got non-delivery deliveries a couple of days in a row.

You’re probably asking: How can this happen? Isn’t it FedEx’s job to deliver packages? My answer: Apparently not. The company probably sees its mandate, using the cooperate speak so popular these days, as “partnering to provide supply chain logistical support.”

Say it with metrics

In this, it likely measures success with metrics: How quickly does the driver complete the route? How long does it take the driver to make each delivery? How many many deliveries can the driver make each day?

Which of course, says nothing about delivering packages. Or, as the wine publicist who sent me the $70 bottle wrote after she checked on what happened at her end: “The very conscientious gentleman we work with at our warehouse said that while he shared our grief, he also said that FedEx couldn’t give a horse’s patootie when it comes to ground deliveries.”

Wine complicates the situation, since it requires an adult signature. The driver just can’t leave the package and zip back to the truck, but has to wait for someone to come to the door to sign the handheld. That means the driver takes longer to make the delivery and longer to complete the route than the metrics demand. And from what I know about metrics, no employee wants to get caught in metric hell. So the driver does a non-delivery delivery.

The irony here is that FedEx’s CEO threw a fit after a recent New York Times story that said the company finagled Congress so it wouldn’t have to pay any federal income tax. The CEO was so angry that he practically challenged the Times publisher to a duel. I’m not one for pistols at dawn, what with my eyesight. But I do challenge someone at FedEx to explain to me why I had to drive to a Walgreen’s on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to pick up a package that someone paid FedEx to deliver to my house.

One final note: I lost my temper when I called customer service and cursed, which was inexcusable. The customer service rep didn’t deserve that, and it does nothing to resolve the problem. I hope he accepts my apology.

How do you write about quality cheap wine when the system is rigged against it?

Look out! They’re shelling us with premiumization and the wine tariff!

You keep a stiff upper lip, try to ignore the frustrations and complications, and soldier on – because quality cheap wine is worth it

How do you write about quality cheap wine when the wine industry and the federal government have gone out of their way to make quality cheap wine an anachronism?

Because, as we celebrate the blog’s 12th birthday, that’s the situation I find myself in. Premiumization and the 25 percent European wine tariff have made it all but impossible to find the kind of $10 and $12 wine that’s worth writing about. I feel like a character in one of those British Raj movies where the garrison is stranded in a fort on a remote hilltop and we’re being picked off one by one and we know the relief column isn’t going to arrive in time.

Yes, there is still plenty of cheap wine on store shelves, but just because a wine is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth drinking.

So what’s the Wine Curmudgeon to do? Carry on, of course. What else is a stiff upper lip for?

The irony here is that I seriously considered ending the blog after this final birthday week post (with a Hall of Fame wrap-up in January). And if I had known about the wine tariff when I was pondering the blog’s fate this summer, it would have been that much easier to close it after 12 years.

Changing my mind

But two things happened to make me change my mind: First, and most practically, the site’s hosting company charged me for another year in August. So, if I closed the blog with this post, I would have been stuck paying for nine months of service I didn’t use. Second, four people whose opinions I admire and respect pointed out that if I didn’t keep doing this, who would? And that despite my frustration with the blog, there is and will be a need for it.

For the frustrations have been endless. These days, it’s not just about paying homage to our overlords at Google or dealing with out-of-touch producers and distributors and too many incompetent marketers. Or fending off the sponsored content and the fluff pieces that so many others in the wine writing business have turned to in an attempt to make money at something where there is little money to be made.

These days, it’s about making sense of a business that is divorced from reality. Which, frankly, makes me feel like I’m using a croquet mallet to comb my hair.

Consider just these two items: A group of Washington state wine producers, faced with declining sales, say they aren’t worried since the wine they are selling is more expensive. Meanwhile, Italian pinot grigio producers, also faced with declining sales, want to know how to sell more expensive wine to make up the difference.

Making money the hard way

Am I missing something here? Aren’t declining sales a bad thing? Shouldn’t an industry do something to reverse the decline, instead of furthering it by raising prices?

But not, apparently, if it’s the wine business in the second decade of the 21st century. Because, of course, premiumization. I’ve probably written entirely too much about the subject, but mostly because I can’t believe anyone in wine still takes it seriously. Though, and this is welcome news, there are others who are beginning to question its validity. Damien Wilson, PhD, who chairs the wine business program at Sonoma State University, is blunt: Premiumization can be a path to ruin, since sales decline and higher prices scare off new wine drinkers.

The less said about the tariff the better. It’s as counterproductive as premiumization, and its adherents are blinded by politics to economic reality. That the tariff could forever wreak havoc on U.S. wine consumption is beyond their comprehension.

So let me shepherd my ammunition, keep my head low, and hope against hope that the relief column gets through. And keep a very stiff upper lip.

More Birthday Week perspective on the wine business:
Have we reached the end of wine criticism?
• 10 years writing about cheap wine on the Internet
• Premiumization, crappy wine, and what we drink

How about some $5,000 holiday wine?

holiday wineDig deep, because who wouldn’t want to buy a $5,000 holiday wine?

If you spend $5,000 for a bottle of wine, do you actually drink it? That, to me, would be the most fascinating part about a wine auction next month at Christie’s in New York. Among the variety of rare wines for sale: a red Bordeaux, tthe 1990 Chateau Haut-Brion, expected to fetch between $4,000 and $6,000. And such a deal: it’s a large format bottle, an imperial, the equivalent of eight regular-sized bottles.

We’ve discussed this before on the blog: These auctions, their fantastic prices, and the idea that people who pay this much money for wine don’t necessarily drink it. Instead, they keep it in their cellar and show it off like an Old Masters painting or a rare postage stamp.

A good friend of mine, who associates with a much more Gatsby-esque crowd than the Wine Curmudgeon does, says he once knew someone like that. The guy would invite him over to look at the wine, but not to drink it. My friend, after this happened several times, asked the guy when he was going to open a bottle. “Never,” the guy said. “These aren’t for drinking. They’re for looking.”

Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

The other thing worth noting is the price discrepancy between the French and California wines in the auction. The top estimated prices for California are about $600 a bottle, which is about half of the top price for a variety of red Bordeaux and Burgundy. Which makes this about the only place where paying $300 for a bottle of Shafer, a top Napa cabernet sauvignon, can be seen as a bargain.

Photo: “A Great Selection” by toddwight1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

TV wine ads: King Solomon wine, because “Tonight … the king is in town”

This 1984 King Solomon wine commercial knows what it’s about: “33 percent more wine than the regular size”

The Wine Curmudgeon’s TV wine ad survey has found the good (very little), the bad (almost all) and now this — a 1984 spot on a local Philadelphia station for something called King Solomon wine.

This ad is odd, and not just because of its content. For one thing, Pennsylvania was a control state (and still mostly is), so the only place to buy King Solomon wine would have been a state store. And, given this is a concord wine sold because it’s cheap, it’s difficult to believe a state store would have carried it. Apparently, the company that marketed it was well known in Philadelphia, producing a variety of off-brand spirits and wines. so maybe it had some clout with the state.

The other thing I can’t figure out: What does a genie have to do with the Biblical King Solomon?

Still, the ad is on message: The wine is cheap, there’s a lot of it, and it will get you drunk — “a big, bold, two-fisted wine.” How many other TV wine ads actually say what they mean?

Video courtesy of Hugo Faces via YouTube

More about TV wine ads:
Is this the greatest TV wine commercial ever??
Hendrick’s gin: How to do a TV booze commercial
TV wine ads: John Gielgud makes a quick buck plugging Paul Masson

Four 2020 wine trends that you don’t need to worry about

Pass the piquette, please.

These four 2020 wine trends are more click bait than anything else

The Wine Curmudgeon is constantly on the alert for wine foolishness and silliness, since those things usually mean someone is after your money. So when several experts posted their 2020 wine trends, my hooey meter went into overdrive.

Hence, four 2020 wine trends you don’t have to worry about:

Cannabis-infused wine. Yes, legal weed is still it its infancy and it may yet prove to be the next big thing. But so far, it has been a disaster. How big a disaster? Just ask Constellation Brands, which dumped more than two dozen wine brands this spring to focus on cannabis. Along the way, the company has invested at least US$4 billion in Canadian weed producer Canopy, and Canopy has yet to turn a profit.

Pop-up wine bars. Apparently, the experts didn’t consider liquor laws or the three-tier system, which would make this almost impossible in most of the U.S.

Piquette. Lots and lots of websites and experts ask sommeliers about the hippest trends, since they figure sommeliers are hipper than the rest of us. Thus, piquette. This isn’t exactly wine, but is fizzy and has low alcohol, which do seem to be legitimate trends. The catch? Piquette is made by just a handful of small producers on the East Coast, which means that no one will be able to buy it unless they visit a bar or restaurant which has a very hip sommelier.

Organic wine. This was going to be huge when I started writing about wine 20-some years ago, and it still shows up regularly on trends lists. But organic wine has never caught on in the U.S, and shows no signs of catching on now. Organic wine, organically-made wine, and biodynamic wine have a tiny part of the U.S. wine market, probably in the single digits.