Tag Archives: wine trends

Seven reasons to celebrate rose for the blog’s 13th annual pink wine extravaganza

rose wineThe world – and wine – may be increasingly complicated, but we still have rose to chill, sip and enjoy

The blog celebrates its 13th annual Memorial Day and rose extravaganza this week. That means 15 or so rose reviews over three days, starting Wednesday, as well as a giveaway on Thursday. Wine glasses, anyone?

So here are seven reasons to revel in all the glory that is pink wine:

• It’s still mostly cheap and well made. I wrote this in my early rose posts, when only cranky ex-newspapermen and assorted wine types liked rose. And, despite its popularity, $10 will still buy a terrific rose. How many other kinds of wine can we say that about?

• Producers large and small may be tarting up chardonnay and red blends, but they’ve mostly left rose alone. Yes, some so-called “dry” rose is as sweet as a lot of sweet reds. But this isn’t widespread, and it hasn’t turned into the scourge I once feared.

Even canned rose can taste like rose. Too much canned wine is made so it can be sold in a can, and quality is secondary. But more canned rose than you would think tastes just as it should – dry, crisp, and fresh.

• It’s widely available, whether you shop online, at a local retailer, or in a supermarket. That we can buy quality rose from the supermarket Great Wall of Wine gives me hope that wine may not be doomed.

Big Wine makes great $10 rose. Thank you, wine gods (and Big Wine marketing types for staying out of the way).

• Almost every wine region in the world produces affordable, quality rose. How many other kinds of wine can we say that about? We might want to avoid Spanish chardonnay at all costs, but Spanish rose is among the best there is.

• Rose unites wine snobs with people who think rose was invented about the same time as Instagram. Would that more things in wine were able to do that.

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Winecast 45: DCanter’s Michael Warner and wine retail trends during the duration

Michael Warner

Michael Warner of DCanter

Our wine purchases during the duration? Cheap and cheerful, says this Washington, D.C. retailer

Michael Warner, the co-founder of DCanter, a neighborhood wine shop in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, has seen all the reports about wine buying during the duration: More expensive wine to treat ourselves, lots of this and some of that, and even boxed wine. But he thinks he has seen something significant at this shop, which has more affluent demographics than most.

“Cheap and cheerful,” says Warner, whose store is seven years old. “People are buying less expensive wine. They’re not entertaining, which is when they would buy more expensive wine.”

In this, he says, his customers are buying more vinho verde, the cheap Portuguese fizzy wine, as well as half bottles. That’s because those who live alone want wine for dinner, but don’t want to waste it, and that’s what half bottles are for.

We also talked about:

• That wine delivery and Internet sales have become as important as the studies suggest. Dcanter sold more wine on-line in the first two days of D.C.’s stay at home order than it did in the previous three years.

• The need to update delivery and on-line ordering regulations to reflect the 21st century. DCanter’s customers who live in Maryland,  just a couple of miles away, can’t get delivery. But those in Virginia, also a couple of miles away, can. How much sense does that make?

• The obstructions in the wine supply chain thanks to the pandemic, and that it is becoming more difficult to find imported wine.

• Wine retail websites, and how too many of them look and work like they were put up during GeoCities’ heyday.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 11 minutes long and takes up 4 1/2 megabytes and was recorded on Skype, the blog’s unofficial podcast software.

60 days in: Your favorite WC posts during the duration

favorite

No doubt more of us would wear masks if we all looked this stylish.

You’re looking for wine advice, crappy wine TV ads, and Barefoot wine (still)

Blog traffic has evened out since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., and we’re back to more or less normal daily numbers. The intriguing thing? Traffic was approaching holiday season levels for the first couple of weeks of April. I’m guessing people wanted to find quality cheap wine to stock up on, and what better place to find those wines than here?

Cue GIF of WC patting himself on the back.

The good news is that the pandemic outlook seems to be better. But that doesn’t mean we should be any less careful.  So stay home unless you need to go out (and no, the mall food court isn’t a necessity), wash your hands, and keep out of sneezing range when you go to the supermarket.

Your favorite posts during past 60 days:

Ask the WC 1: I figured out why this seven-year-old post has been so popular — cava recommendations. You wanted to stock up on good, cheap bubbly, and why not?

• The Kim Crawford TV ad: I’m not the only who dislikes it, and that dislike has been shared by increasing numbers of visitors.

Residual sugar in wine: Note to wine business: Wine drinkers want to know how sweet you’re making their wine. So why not be honest with us?

Changes in the three-tier system after the pandemic: How do I know this post has made an impact? Because I lost a dozen or so email subscriptions in the couple of days after it ran, always a sure sign I annoyed someone.

• Barefoot wine, three times: Because Google. In those deep, dark nights when I grow despondent about the future of wine, I think about the time and effort I put into the blog, and that it doesn’t matter because Google sends people to these three posts. And then I get even more despondent.

The wine bottle workout: Because Google, again. This was a bit of humor that no one paid much attention to when it ran almost three years ago. But if you’re stuck at home and start searching for “workout,” I guess it shows up.

The Grocery Outlet cheap wine story: Note to wine business: We want to find retailers who sell quality cheap wine. So make some for them to sell.

The Mafia winery story: Just wish there was a way to update this, short of repeating denials from the winery’s corporate headquarters.

What’s missing? The do-it-yourself “Wine during the duration” post. It’s pretty damn funny.

Photo (and mask): Lynne Kleinpeter, using a Creative Commons license

Texas restaurants and alcohol to go

alcohol to goNew state alcohol to go law has helped restaurants stay in business, and the change may be permanent

Shawn Virene, who owns the Houston restaurant a’Bouzy, doesn’t mince words.

“Hopefully, this will keep going for a while,” says Virene. “It’s really helped us with our cash flow during all of this. It has allowed us to pair wine with food and sell it at a reasonable price.”

The “it” Virene is talking about? The decision to allow Texas restaurants to sell alcohol to go during the coronavirus pandemic. a’Bouzy sells out its daily takeout specials – dinner for two, plus a bottle of wine for the cost of the wine in most restaurants. The wine specials, plus selling margarita setups, he says, has allowed him to hang on during the pandemic-caused restaurant closure in Texas.

And he may get his wish about the rule changes lasting longer than the duration. Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, a Republican, tweeted this week that “Alcohol-to-go sales can continue after May 1,” when Texas lifted its statewide stay at home order. Wrote the governor: “From what I hear from Texans, we may just let this keep on going forever.”

As Virene noted when we talked this week, the changes are as welcome as they are unprecedented. Texas does not allow restaurants to sell wine or spirits to go; the very idea is regarded as blasphemous, and even BYOB is heavily restricted. Meanwhile, the state’s open container law is written so that those of us who legally take an unfinished bottle of restaurant wine home could still be arrested.

So we truly are in a brave new world, as I noted in last month’s three-tier post.

The reason for the change? Because it boosts business, and easier access to alcohol, so far, does not seem to have made anything worse. Virene makes 100 to-go dinners daily, and he sells out by early afternoon. At his prices, that’s understandable. The most expensive dinner, crab-stuffed flounder for two, costs $69, and that includes a bottle of Champagne. Most are $44 or less, including coq a vin plus California merlot for $44; lasagna and Chianti for $32; and Taco Tuesday with Rioja for $39. The margarita setup, enough for a half-gallon with Jimador Tequila Silver, costs $32.

Virene says he can afford to do that because he doesn’t mark his wine up 3 to 4 times the wholesale price, which is standard restaurant practice. Rather, his markup is less than 2 to 1, because “I would rather sell you two or three bottles and know you had a good time, instead of selling you one bottle and know you went home thinking you had been ripped off.”

That’s the Wine Curmudgeon’s approach to restaurant wine. In this, Virene says other Houston restaurants seem to be adapting his to-go policy, thanks to the changes in the law. Maybe they will adapt his pricing policy, too.

Liquor law faceoff: Which state has the silliest?

Vote for the silliest liquor law in the U.S.

Voting is closed, and the winner is Indiana and its foolishness about not selling cold beer. Minimum pricing in Connecticut and Michigan were second. Thanks to everyone who participated.

We’ve talked a lot about the three-tier system during the duration, so what better way to continue the discussion than with a poll — pick the silliest liquor laws in the country.

The choices are hardly complete; that Mississippi isn’t listed says something about how silly the rest are. No doubt, I could have included something from almost every state. If I did miss one, leave it in the comments. Those of you who get the blog via email may have to go to the website — click here to do so.

My favorite, of course, is Utah’s Zion curtain. It’s mostly gone, but not to worry: The state has other safeguards to protect children from the glamour of working in a bar.


Poll image courtesy of The Fine Print, using a Creative Commons license

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Winecast 44: Clara Klein, Sunday Vinyl

Clara Klein

Clara Klein, Sunday Vinyl

Stuck at home? Then there’s nothing wrong with $12 white Bordeaux, fast food, and pantry staples, says Clara Klein

Clara Klein, the lead sommelier at Sunday Vinyl in Denver, bought a house in October. Six months later, she was unemployed, courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hence, the reason for this podcast — Clara offers smart, insightful perspective on wine and the restaurant business during the duration. I’ve known Clara for a couple of years from judging the Colorado Governor’s Cup, and she understands that not all wine costs $100 or needs to be Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. How many people in her line of work are willing to admit that?

Clara is also a passionate supporter of local restaurants, local jobs, and local food. And her plea for federal aid to help save local is one of the best I have read or heard. If four out of five restaurants close because of the pandemic, do we really want the one restaurant left to be a national chain?

The good news is that she has plenty of inexpensive wine at home, and she and husband Ian Palazzola (laid off from Denver’s Acorn) have been able to cook, drink wine, and spend time together. Which, she says, doesn’t happen much. Finally, a mea culpa: Sunday Vinyl is in Denver, despite my saying it was in Boulder twice.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is almost 11 minutes long and takes up 4 megabytes. The sound quality is very good; we’re back with  Skype, the blog’s unofficial podcast software.

Photo courtesy of 5280, using a Creative Commons license

Greenwashing, wine, and Earth Day

greenwashingCelebrate Earth Day by understanding the difference between greenwashing and wine that’s truly green

Wednesday is Earth Day, an annual event that reminds us that we need to treat the planet with more respect. As such, it’s the perfect time to talk about greenwashing – a marketing technique where producers, manufacturers, and other companies describe their products as environmentally friendly or sustainable even though they may be nothing of the kind.

Sadly, greenwashing is not uncommon in wine. This is the time of year when wine writers are inundated with news releases touting how green a wine or a wine brand is, even if the product in the release isn’t especially ecological. That’s because green products are rated more highly by consumers, and especially by the younger consumers who aren’t much interested in wine.

So why not flog green wine? It’s made of plants, isn’t it? How much greener does it need to be?

A lot, actually, and starting with the glass bottle. Wine bottles are notorious for their excessive carbon footprint, and even wine critic Jancis Robinson, who is about as establishment as wine critics get, has seen the light: “Consumers as well as producers really need to rethink the issue of wine packaging.” That so much wine is shipped in glass bottles all over the planet just makes a bad thing worse.

The other handicap facing wine? It’s almost impossible in this country to figure out how green a wine is. Federal laws regulating organic wine are confusing and contradictory – an organic wine is legally different from a wine made with organic grapes. Organic wine is mostly about not adding sulfites, while wine made with organic grapes is closer to what we think of when we think organic potatoes or tomatoes.

There’s sustainability, and then there’s sustainability

In addition, the leading sustainability standard, promulgated by the Wine Institute trade group, defines sustainable as winemaking practices that “are environmentally sound, socially equitable and economically viable.” Does this mean sustainability only makes sense if it’s profitable?

Several years ago, I wrote a green wine magazine story, and an organic viticulture consultant in northern California put it plainly: “Consumers assume that wine, by its very nature, is pure and natural to begin with. Ask most consumers, and they don’t equate a vineyard with a factory farm the same way they do for other products. Vineyards are beautiful, and don’t look like a picture of a factory farm.”

In other words, wine is made of plants, isn’t it? How much greener does it need to be?

This is not to say that many growers and producers don’t take green seriously. I’ve talked to many who spend extra time and money to do the right thing, and sustainability groups in the Napa Valley and in Lodi have produced impressive results.

But it’s just so damn easy to greenwash wine. A recent survey found that consumers were more likely to buy wine that used terms like sustainable and organic — and this makes it worth noting that more than two-thirds of the wines called out in the infamous arsenic lawsuit in 2015 could have been certified sustainable.

So the next time you see an ad touting a winery’s stewardship of the earth, give it a second look. There’s stewardship, and then there’s greenwashing. It’s the least you can do for Earth Day.

Image courtesy of GreenBiz, using a Creative Commons license