Winebits 151: Champagne, restaurant wine, Pinotgate

? Champagne sales slump: I suppose this isn't news to any of us who have been paying attention, but someone did feel the need to write a report. Champagne sales — that is, sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France — fared worse during the recession than the rest of the sparkling wine business. Champagne sales fell by 3.6 percent in 2009, which is an amazing figure, and more than twice as much as non-Champagne sales fell. Until, of course, one realizes that it's almost impossible to buy a bottle of Champagne for less than $20, while there are dozens of quality options that aren't Champagne, such as Spanish cava, Italian bubblies, and U.S. brands like Domaine Ste. Michelle for much less than $20.

? The quality of restaurant wine: Tom Johnson at Louisville Juice picked up this nugget (and how does he always find these things?). A CNN blogger who doesn't drink wine decided to sample a pinot grigio from the wine list at a national Italian chain. The result was predictable. "It tasted like rubbing alcohol turned bad." Which, as regular visitors here know, is one of the Wine Curmudgeon's common complaints about poorly made Italian pinot grigio. Reporting this item gives me the chance to do three of my favorite things — rail against the quality of restaurant wine lists; lament that too many people are introduced to wine through poor quality restaurant wine lists; and note something that puts a TV journalist in a less than complimentary light (once a newspaperman, always a newspaperman).

? Gallo pinot fraud: Gina Gallo, the heir to the empire, says the 2009 Pinotgate scandal, in which E&J Gallo's Red Bicyclette label sold some 1.5 million cases of fake pinot noir from the Languedoc in southern France, was a disaster. "As a company we want to be squeaky clean, and we are scrupulous in declaring alcohol levels and other matters, so of course it was an embarrassment to us," she told Decanter magazine. This is, as far as I can tell, the first time an important Gallo official has commented on the scandal, which included criminal prosecutions and convictions in France.

2 thoughts on “Winebits 151: Champagne, restaurant wine, Pinotgate

  • By Denton Holland - Reply

    …Couldn’t agree more with your comment about mediocre restaurant wine lists. I think it’s generally the bartender who does the buying, & he’ll stock whatever his distributor (Oh, this is Texas…Should distributor be all-caps?) wants to get rid of. Further, it seems even those restaurants that offer decent wine do in industrial strength glassware. You’d think, as they’re marking the stuff up 300%, they could put in a quality glass.

  • By Steve Winston - Reply

    Pinotgate may have been a disaster for Gina Gallo and E&J Gallo Winery but it was “Pastagate” that as a disaster for the Spanish Table stores when the Gallo Winery’s legal department quashed our sales of Pastas Gallo, Spain’s favorite fideua. Gina has yet to mention being embarrassed by our rough shod trampling.

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