Tag Archives: wine writing

Winebits 596: Tariffs, wine writing, wine prices

Wine pricingThis week’s wine news: The booze business has discovered it doesn’t want tariffs, either, plus wine writing’s unique demographics and expensive wine doesn’t guarantee quality

No tariffs, please: The Wine Curmudgeon is not the only one who understands that tariffs are a mug’s game. Most of the booze business’ leading trade groups, including the Wine Institute, have asked the federal government to drop plans to tax European Union products. The story, from Shanken News Daily, is a bit convoluted, but the gist is that even people who never agree about anything else agree about this: “Entry level, everyday products are going to be affected just as much as high-end imported products,” said the CEO of the group that represents wine and spirits wholesalers.

An exclusive club: Tom Natan, writing on the First Vine blog, discovers one of the wine business’ underlying truths, “the uniform racial makeup of the wine writing world. … at least the part I experience at meetings and conferences — seems to be populated almost exclusively by White people like me.” He parses some intriguing numbers, including that almost one-quarter of U.S. business owners and bosses are women, but that only 4 percent of wine and spirits businesses are owned or run by women. And only one-fifth of those 4 percent are women of color. This is in marked contrast to food writing, he writes, which is much more diverse. Natan looks for reasons why this is true, but misses something else: Does this lack of diversity explain why the wine business is so obsessed with expensive wines – the kind that are preferred by its older, wealthier demographics?

Not so fast, expensive wine: Dan Berger, writing in the Santa Rosa Pres-Democrat (in the heart of wine country, no less), warns us that “wine buyers willingly accept being fed a diet of misinformation — or no information at all. They continue to buy wines based on marketers’ fictions, accepting lies or faux facts, and believing high prices indicate high quality.” And, just to be sure we understand, Berger asks: “Can you imagine buying a car without first gaining specific details about its specifications, and without taking a test-drive? How about buying furniture off the web that doesn’t give measurements or the material from which it was made?” But, and as been mentioned here many times, wine drinkers do that regularly, because we assume that wine is different than cars or furniture.

bloggers

The fifth do-it-yourself wine review

do it yourself

Drinky gets it now: How could he have missed the red wine’s playful mushu pork elements?

Once more, we take aim at winespeak and pomposity — the blog’s fifth do-it-yourself wine review.

The annual do-it-yourself wine review remains one of the most popular posts on the blog. And why not? You too can sound just as foolish as those of us who get paid to do it. Because doesn’t everyone want to write something as memorable as “My, I find this wine to be complex yet simple in its approach to life. It lifts my spirits and appeals to my inner child while satisfying my need to be an adult.”

So write your own wine review, using the drop-down menus in this post. Just click the menu and choose your favorite line. Those of you who get the blog via email may have to go to the website — click here to do so.

As always, thanks to Al Yellon, since I stole the idea from him, plus Luke Rissacher’s wine review generator and Lawrence Sinclair at Quora, from whom I also stole some great stuff.

In the glass, this red wine:

I smelled the wine, and:

I tasted the wine, and:

All in all, I’d say the wine:

More do-it-yourself wine reviews:
The second do-it-yourself wine review
The third do-it-yourself wine review
The fourth do-it-yourself wine review

Winebits 582: Wine scores, corkage, nutrition labels

wine scoresThis week’s wine news: A Swiss study finds wine scores continue to be unreliable, plus an Aussie restaurant jacks up the corkage fee and a consumer group consortium asks for nutrition labels

Not really: David Morrison, analyzing wine scores from two top U.S. critics, does not mince words: “I have rarely seen scores differ by this much — 13 points is a lot of quality-score difference. It is pertinent, I think, to ask whether these two people were actually tasting the same wines!” In other words, his math confirms what those of us who don’t use scores have said for years. Scores, at best, are an overview. At worst, they’re damaging to the wine business, confusing consumers and putting people off wine they might otherwise like.

Yikes: A Swiss wine merchant claims an Australian restaurant charged him A$8,000 (about US$5,700) to bring eight of his own bottles to dinner. The story, from London’s Daily Mail newspaper, doesn’t have quite as many facts as I would like, but seems to be legitimate. This practice is called corkage – when one brings their own wine, the restaurant charges a corkage fee. It ranges from $10 to $30 a bottle; this way, the restaurant can make up for the lost sale but not gouge the guest. In this case, though, the Swiss claims he was charged $725 a bottle, about five times the value of the wine. It’s good to see Australian wine service can be as shabby as service in this country.

Yes, labels: So much for the Wine Curmudgeon’s good intentions. I promised that last week’s post would be the final effort on the blog  about ingredient and nutrition labels, but then this happened: The Center for Science in the Public Interest and 67 other groups have asked the federal government to require labels “covering alcohol content by percentage and amount, serving size, calories, ingredients, allergen information, and other information relevant to consumers.” Which, of course, is what I have been begging the wine business to do for years.

grocery store wine

Some not so happy Valentine’s Day wine reviews

valentine's day wine reviewsWhy do Valentine’s Day wine reviews offer so much overwritten prose and overpriced plonk?

Valentine’s Day brings out the worst in the wine business – overwritten prose and overpriced plonk. Is it any wonder the Wine Curmudgeon refers to it as The Holiday That Must Not Be Named?

Hence the following, which – sadly – demonstrates the point after the most basic of Google searches:

• From something called The Spruce Eats: “… Cupid claims some serious turf when it comes to wine for your Valentine.” If so, Cupid should know better than to recommend a 7-year-old rose, which would likely taste like pink paint varnish.

• Did you know that “It seems most women enjoy sweeter, sparkling, and rose wines. … Most men like red wine. …”? That’s the wisdom from Wine Club Reviews. Does that mean the Big Guy and I, with our love of white Burgundy, don’t count as men?

• Most of the wines recommended in this Town & Country post are more than adequate, if a bit pricey. But doesn’t someone at a big-time magazine like Town & Country care about writing? Am I the only one who thinks a line saying that one wine is “just like the slightly sweet kiss from your special someone” should be edited with extreme prejudice?

• And, to show that even Google and Amazon aren’t perfect, this: “Shop Valentine Wine – Amazon – Free 2-day Shipping w/ Prime‎.” Which, of course, is illegal in the U.S. and explains why the link goes to listings for wine glasses and wine t-shirts.

Paid posts: Welcome to the 21st-century world of wine blogging

paid posts

Who cares if the wine tastes like vanilla cherry cough syrup? We’re being paid to say nice things about it. Stop acting so 20th century.”

Who cares about integrity or honesty or legitimate reviews? I’ll just run paid posts

The following email, asking me to run paid posts for a wine club, shows just how little the wine business cares about the people who buy its products. I’ve changed the name of the wine club (which is reasonably well known) so I don’t get sued; otherwise, it’s verbatim:

Hey Wine Curmudgeon Team,

Big Time Wine Club wants to create some new partnerships with influencers. Our wine club works with acclaimed wineries and vineyards to curate a portfolio of highly rated wines from all over the globe, and then bring those wines to lovers of great wine across the US. You have great blog posts, and I want to find out if we can work with you to create new content around a few of our featured wines. We have some ideas on potential Spring themes, but we are more than happy to talk with you on your ideas for incorporating wine!

We have wine available to send, some paid placement budget, and an affiliate program. I’d love to get your thoughts on the best way for us to work together. Are you available to talk wine this week or next?

The jargon is annoying enough, but what’s worse is asking me to pimp for their products — “create new content around a few of our featured wines.”  The only thing in the email that’s fair to consumers is the affiliate program, in which I’d get a tiny, tiny commission if anyone bought one of the wines I pimped for. The rest is an insult to me and to everything the blog stands for. As well as to you.

But hey, why not? It’s the 21st century. Facebook sells our personal information to dirty trickstersGoogle censors the Internet for the Chinese . The world’s biggest beer company owns a leading beer review site. So why shouldn’t I take the wine club’s money? It’s all about the cash, right? Integrity? Honesty? Principles? That’s just crap for cranky ex-newspaperman, who still think they’re supposed to write for their readers. That’s just so quaint, isn’t it?

Needless to say, I sent a polite email declining their offer. But how many of my colleagues didn’t?

The Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite posts of 2018

favorite posts of 2018These five posts weren’t necessarily the best read, but they were among my favorite posts of 2018

Welcome to the Wine Curmudgeon’s fourth annual year-end top 10 list — not the most-read posts on the blog, which anyone can do. These are among the best posts I wrote in 2018 and that didn’t get enough attention the first time around.

Again, these aren’t the best-read posts; Google takes care of that, still sending visitors to the epic, more than eight-year-old, “Barefoot wines (again): Value or just cheap? essay. These are the posts that I enjoyed writing, thought were important to write, or both.

Here, in no particular order, are my favorite posts of 2018:

• Three-tier strikes again, as the only employee in Amazon’s employee-less Go stores is in the wine section. The conundrum is not just Twilight Zone-ish, but a big deal in the retail business; witness this story in the Chicago Business Journal quoting the post.

The Champagne glass conspiracy, because we can’t just drink wine, we have to drink wine out of the most expensive glass possible. Right, Hosemaster?

Premiumization out of control: We’re told that spending $40 for a bottle of wine is more than reasonable. I didn’t understand why more people didn’t read this — it was one of my best rants in 2018 and it was about one of my favorite subjects.

• How many wine blogs feature original fiction? I didn’t do an April Fool’s or Halloween parody this year, but I did write about aliens and the riddle that is the wine score.

• Finally, a post that wasn’t especially well received, but should have been: Cheap wine isn’t worth drinking just because it’s cheap. I’ve been arguing this throughout the blog’s 11-year history, but I’m finding increased resistance to something that seems obvious. I know why: Wine prices have gone up and wine quality has gone down over the past couple of years, so people are making do with crappy cheap wine. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy abut it, and I certainly wasn’t in this post.

More on the WC’s favorite posts:
Favorite posts of 2017
Favorite posts of 2016
Favorite posts of 2015

Top British wine critic: Don’t trust the Wine Curmudgeon

Wine Curmudgeon

“Hmmm.. what should I write to ruin wine today?”

British wine critic Jamie Goode warns wine drinkers against people like the Wine Curmudgeon

The WC can’t be trusted. Or so says British wine critic Jamie Goode, one of the most respected voices in the wine world. Writes Goode: “Beware the consumer wine champion.” His cry has electroned its way way through the cyber-ether to hurrahs and huzzahs, and one U.S. blogger even called Goode’s stand “courageous.”

Who knew I was the problem bedeviling the wine business? I could have sworn it was overpriced, crappy wine. But no, writes Goode. His argument: That wine critics who do what I do are frauds, and that it’s wrong for us to say that any wine that someone likes is OK to drink. We’re full of “faux outrage” at the wine business and we have an insidious, unspoken goal — to foist simple, sweet wines on the consumer instead instead of interesting, complex ones.

Which I do all the time, of course, evilly twirling my mustache. (And I guess Goode didn’t see this rant.).

Goode doesn’t mention me by name, and I assume he has no idea who I am; we travel in completely different wine worlds. But his description of the threat to the future of wine is spot on with what I have done for 11 years on the blog. Hence this post, since I consider myself part of the solution — the problem is with those who insist that wine should be difficult to understand and require its users to practice medieval alchemy to drink it correctly. Besides, the closest I come to belonging to any international cabal is my enthusiasm for Linux. And we know how much good that has done.

I have no idea why someone as well-spoken and as intelligent as Goode would write this, which is more like the sort of blather that appears every so often in the Wine Spectator. I argue for interesting, complex wines all the time. I just want them to be fairly priced and to come without reams of winespeak. And it would be nice if they were generally available.

Goode even says wine critics shouldn’t review mass-produced wines, since restaurant reviewers don’t write about McDonald’s. Which doesn’t explain why movie critics review poorly-made slasher films and car magazines review pickup trucks.

A friend, who sent me the link to Goode’s post, said it was probably a dog whistle, and likely had more to do with internal British wine politics than anything I’ve written. And he may be right.

Still, it’s worth repeating the philosophy that has helped the blog earn its place in the wine world: First, I love wine and I want to share my passion with everyone who finds it confusing and who is afraid of it. Second, there is only one wine rule: Drink whatever you want — just be willing to try something different.