? FTC will investigate alcohol ads: The rise of social media has had an unintended consequence — exposing underage consumers to wine, beer and spirits ads that they might not have seen before. After all, how many 12-year-olds read the Wine Spectator? Hence the news that the Federal Trade Commission is requiring the major alcoholic beverage advertisers to detail their use of digital marketing and data collection practices. Adweek reports that in 2008, these companies spent just 2 percent of their marketing buget on new media, but that regulators expect that that figure has increased significantly over the past several years. In fact, says the story, the biggest booze producers have found social media to be quite effective at reaching younger consumers, and telling the difference between young and too young in the cyber-ether is quite difficult.
? Did top critic take cash? That's what a Montreal newspaper, La Presse, is reporting. The French-language newspaper says former Wine Spectator critic James Suckling was paid C$24,000 (about US$24,200) by the Quebec liquor authority, which runs the province's wine stores, and the hint is that it was for favorable reviews. This is the latest in a series of pay for play scandals among the Winestream Media that included Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. The Wine Curmudgeon is shocked, shocked, to learn that gambling is going on.
? Decanter readers don't want cheap wine: Decanter, the English wine magazine, has been accused of "unashamed elitism" in a letter from a reader. So it ran a poll asking if it should review cheaper wines. The answer? Not really. Only 27 percent of respondents said the magazine should review more wines costing less than 10 (about US$16), while the rest said either the current policy was OK or that maybe wines for less than 15 (about $US24) would be acceptable. This is yet another example of why there will always be an England.
? Ouch, that hurts: Lest anyone thinks that the Wine Curmudgeon is especialy cranky about California wine, consider this from Anthony Gismondi in the Vancouver Sun: "There isn ?t much California wine under $20 of any interest in this market unless you are a fan of wines that have no sense of place or that pander to marketing types who are bent on dumbing down wine to the level of Coca-Cola, and in the case of the reds that includes getting some cola flavours into the wines." No doubt this criticism, which is becoming increasingly common, will be disregarded by the wine business. After all, Gismondi is Canadian, and they spell funny, too.
? Make your own fake wines: Businessweek thoughtfully offers this guide to producing counterfeit wines in the wake of yet another counterfeit wine scandal. My favorite bit? That taste is no guarantee that the wine is fake, since the taste of wine changes as it ages — and since most fake wines are aged, the buyer is stuck. Those $10 wines I write about are sounding better and better, no?
? Forget the pairing — put it in the wine: Drinks Business magazine reports that a chocolate-infused wine called Chocolate Shop has surprised its creators with what the the story calls surging demand, selling 100,000 cases in the U.S. in 2011, and perhaps as much as 50,000 cases in the United Kingdom this year. The brand is doing so well, in fact, they are looking at new products, including caramel and and white chocolate wines.
? 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?