Winebits 673: Wine.com sales, restaurant wine, tasting notes

wine.comThis week’s wine news: Wine.com reports 217 percent sales increase, plus restaurants are headed in the opposite direction and another critic ponders the need for toasty and oaky

Wine.com sales: Wine.com, the U.S.’ biggest on-line wine retailer, ended the first six months of its fiscal year with a 217 percent sales increase compared to the previous 12 months. Can anyone say pandemic? Even without the increase in on-line retail caused by the coronavirus, sales for the previous 12 months were up 102 percent. One key to the jump: repeat sales from customers who pay $49 a year for free shipping, similar to Amazon Prime’s free shipping. Sales from those customers increased by about one-fifth more than overall sales for the past 12 months, as more of those customers bought more wine on-line. This raises the question again: How, once the retail world returns more or less to normal, will we be able to go back to thinking of on-line wine as something special, and not something we buy every day?

Not so good news: Tom Wark, writing on the Fermentation blog, asks: “Do we allow a huge swath of restaurants across the country to simply disappear in the wake of COVID and state’s restaurant shutdown orders or do we act to aid these institutions?” This has been the elephant in the room as the pandemic continues, with restaurants — rightly or wrongly — bearing the burst of government restrictions. I don’t know that I agree with all Tom writes, but his piece is well worth reading.

No tasting notes: Guy Woodward, writing in the British trade magazine Harpers, pulls no punches: “Who reaps the benefit, for example, of reading that a wine has notes of  ‘gentian, elderflower, seaweed, mussels, salt spray, chicken stock, sage, fennel, peach kernel, lemon, alkali and wet stone’?” This is the second British shot over the winespeak and tasting notes bow in recent weeks — quite a surprising development, given how entrenched the two are. Again, reason for optimism that some in the wine business understand the need to make wine more accessible.

4 thoughts on “Winebits 673: Wine.com sales, restaurant wine, tasting notes

  • By eric - Reply

    Re the “No Tasting Notes” – as a normal person who likes to consume wine, i’ve always been mystified by these descriptors. i personally can’t smell/taste most of these (maybe bec i have no idea what elderflower is?). but when i took WSET courses – they propagate this BS. Classmates were all over themselves trying to top each other with outrageous smells and tastes. The ones affiliated with the industry (e.g. somms, buyers) were the worst.

    In 2015, this article appeared in the New Yorker magazine – Is there a Better Way to talk about Wine? which touches on the same stuff
    https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/is-there-a-better-way-to-talk-about-wine

    But of course when someone says wine has to be demystified or made more accessible, industry folks interpret that as “dumbed down” and raise an uproar. smh

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      Thank you for both of these comments. I think Eric is spot on — dumbed down, which those of us trying to spread the gospel of wine have been fighting against for yaars.

  • By Jay - Reply

    As a 25-yr wine journalist, and one who has waxed eloquent on subtle flavors and aromas, I have to agree with Guy Woodward. It’s fun for us wine geeks to compare flavor perception with one another but the wine consumer could care less if the wine smells of elderflower or roses. Or tastes of peach or apricot. But that doesn’t mean tasting notes are of no use.

    What consumers do need to know is the style of the wine. How much sugar, acid, alcohol or tannin the wine has compared to some standard medium. Most people know what style of wine they like – it would be helpful for wine writers to describe wines in those terms.

    Example: wine is off-dry with slightly higher than average acid, low alcohol, and soft, nearly imperceptible tannins.

  • By Lawrence Tureaud - Reply

    from the “do as I say, not as I do” dept…

    “Rounded, balanced but still with that tell-tale kerosene-and-lime sappiness and freshness. Sublime.”

    “The most overtly brioche and biscuit-toned of the three, sharpened by citrus fruit and floral notes on a zingy palate.”

    the author of those tasting notes? Guy Woodward..

    I pity the fool

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