Last week in the NYT, Eric Asimov highlighted the wine program at Nice Matin, a restaurant on the Upper West Side that has remarkable breadth of offerings, depth of vintages and sharp pricing. This apparent wine lover’s idyll was not always this way: only in the past few years have the owners built up the wine program, in part by purchasing the cellars of now-defunct restaurants. Further, the wine director “prowls through a network of collectors and winery owners, seeking mature older vintages to add to the list.”
Across town and upstate, specialty wine shops such as Chambers Street Wines and Crush Wine and Spirits or Grapes the Wine Company, often broker collections of rare older wines that individual collectors are selling. And even though wine auctions have shifted to Hong Kong with astonishing speed over the past couple of years, the gavel still does come down on wine lots at places like Sotheby’s and Christie’s here in New York.
All of these facets of the wine business mean that, with a bit of effort, a wine enthusiast can hunt down an enormous range of rare bottles in New York. It is arguably the best city on earth for wine lovers.
But the status quo is under threat thanks to new proposed legislation in Albany. Read more…
A surplus of wine in the past couple of years has led to closeouts, which, in turn, has led to the proliferation of daily deal wine sites. But there are now so many that it can be hard to keep up with them all. Thus the new site winehoarder.com.
Still in beta, the site aggregates offers from the leading “flash sale” sites. Beyond detailing the sales, the site also offers various “social” features, such as voting up the deals and discussion boards. Still embryonic, it could grow into something useful with more participants. But one thing that is useful now is that it provides a record of the wines offered a the various flash sale sites and usually those sites make it difficult to see what exactly they’re offering without clicking through.
Anyway, I like the idea since late one evening, probably after too much cru Beaujolais, I once thought about doing such a site myself! What do you think–obviously the site’s not much of a looker yet, but is this better than scanning 50 emails a day? Or is the flash sale world of wine sales so fast moving that such an aggregator site is not quick enough for you to score the deals you want?
SIPPED: more Zin Man
The ad about Zin man, riffing on the Old Spice guy, got a big thumbs up from all of you. So I asked the Paso Robles folks for a few more details about their ad. While they wouldn’t provide details about how much it cost, they did say the ad was shot in Paso Robles using a professional actor (not a vintner) as the star. They are planning 8-10 more ads this year.
SPIT: Celebrity status
Out of disbelief, a wine store clerk in Manhattan refuses Matt Damon’s credit card for the star’s impulse purchase of $1,200 of wine, insisting that he pay cash. Which store was it? And which wine was it? [latimes with video]
RUNG: alarm bell
A French researcher warned a Bordeaux trade group this week that the region will be too warm to grow red wine grapes to long-lived wines–by as early as 2050. When will Norway develop a premier cru? [AFP]
SIPPED: foreign takeover
Concha y Toro, Chile’s #1 wine producer, is buying Fetzer’s three million case production for $238 million. How will this affect consumers of Bonterra, or Fetzer’s other brands? Probably not at all. Concha y Toro shares in Santiago were up 7% on the news. The Chilean currency has appreciated by 21% against the greenback in the past two years. Will other domestic wineries be in the sights of foreign companies? [WSJ]
SPIT: critter labels
In case we needed any further indication that critter labels have jumped the shark right off the wine bottle, Yellow Tail is now suing a more recent arrival for infringing on the wallaby. [WSJ]
The BBC explores laser bottle etching, stealth mineral placement, and bubble codes at Chateau Margaux, all weapons in the current fight against counterfeiting. Whether these measure can outsmart fraudsters remains to be seen.
Will this stiff drink, now on the table in Harrisburg, lead to the end of the PLCB? The state-run system that bestows such snappy names on its wine stores as #5801 is in a rough patch. As seen in the picture at right (and the accompanying Times story details), the opening hours of this store are limited and the prices, selection and knowledge of the staff may not be all that great either at some state-owned stores. The new kiosks have bombed. Consumer dissatisfaction may be growing as is chatter about privatization. Even though previous governors have floated the idea only to meet with failure, the stars seem to be aligning for reform. While this is something most Pennsylvania wine consumer would likely raise a glass of hard-to-find wine to, the logic that will carry the day for public officials is about money. Read more…
“The length and precision of the stream are just unbelievable.” No, this is not something from Urology. They actually have a wine spitting contest in France! [France24]
Will India develop a thirst for wine? Maybe after it reduces its thirst for 150+% tariffs & taxes. [WSJ]
SPIT: human interaction
Remember those wine vending machines in PA? WalMart wants in. Redbox DVD? Check. Wine from kiosk? Check. Humans? Nil. [The Consumerist]
SPIT: 7-eleven wine
Millennial “would rather die” than drink wine sold at 7-Eleven. [Thomson Family Vineyards]
A&P grocery stores, which purchased Best Cellars in 2007, filed for bankruptcy yesterday. Given that Royal Ahold (owner of Stop & Shop) is already circling, the new, merged company could be called Stop & P. [Bloomberg]
SIPPED: foreign ownership?
Speaking of distress sales, a French blogger wonders if a Chinese bidder may emerge for Heidsieck Champagnes. Sure, one may come forward, but it will have to do better than India’s United Breweries, which received a “frosty reception” bidding on Taittinger in 2006.
FIJI water LLC, which recently shut down production in a showdown with Fiji’s (military) government but then caved, will be turning their water profits into wine. In a merger of all caps, FIJI will be acquiring JUSTIN vineyard in Paso Robles. The FIJI CEO noted that JUSTIN has “fantastic products” and is “not a distressed asset.” According to Bloomberg, the Resnicks, the billionaire owners of FIJI, are the biggest growers of citrus, pomegranate, almonds and pistachios in the U.S.
SIPPED: another round
Will the Supreme Court extend to wine retailers their previous decision that liberalized winery shipping? We may find out since the Specialty Wine Retailers’ Association has appealed. [AFP]
SPIT: bubble pricing
An economist has some advice to wine collectors: Sell your Lafite. Now. [WSJ]
SIPPED: end of an era?
“I think we’ve just come out of 15 years of wine criticism where there was really only one point of view.” SF mag tracks the evolution in California wine styles.
SPIT: inoculated discussion
If you’ve ever had a question about yeasts in wine, it’s likely been discussed on this epic thread on Wine Disorder.
Chateau Angelus will be James Bond’s choice of red wine, reports decanter.com. The movie had an “unbelievable” impact on sales of the St. Emilion wine, says owner Hubert de Bouard. No word of how much, if anything, the tie-up cost. Just think what it would have done if he picked a cabernet franc from the Loire!
SIPPED: more sizzle
After recent successes in Hong Kong, auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s graced New York with sales this past weekend. The Sotheby’s sale grossed $5,403,527, blowing away the estimate, and the Christie’s topline was $3,652,140, a high for them for this year. Absentee bidders from Asia featured prominently.
SIPPED: fizzle (not fizz)
While Napoleon Bonaparte could always find a reason to have Champagne, whether in victory or in defeat, Remy Cointreau has found a reason not to: lack of profits. The cognac and spirits maker has engaged a bank to find a buyer for its unprofitable Champagne businesses, which include Charles Heidsieck and Piper-Heidsieck. Interested in their margins? Poke around their helpful web site where they lay bare the financials of their divisions, including €96.7mln sales for Champagne with a €4.0mln loss. [Bloomberg]
SIPPED: spooky vines
NBC is developing a series (not yet even a pilot) revolving around a “troubled family desperate for a fresh start that takes over a Napa Valley winery whose ancient vines possess dangerous mystical powers.” Aha! All those ancient vines in Napa… [deadline.com]
Across three countries in recent weeks, grapes have been illicitly picked off the vines. In Washington State, 2,000 pounds of mourvedre grapes were stolen in what the vineyard manager described as “a professional job – a complete and clean illegal harvest.” In Germany, grapes destined for a small production wine called Sintfang-Cuvée were found missing a day before the scheduled harvest. And in the Languedoc, according to the Telegraph, one farmer had 35 tons picked clean, wiping out his annual crop.
Are these incidents related? It seems a far-fetched that there’s an international grape heist gang in operation. But that’s what an unnamed French detective told the Telegraph that “a wine mafia gang” targeting “some of the best grapes.” He elaborated: “We are undoubtedly dealing with the kind of upmarket criminals who steal old master paintings and antiques to order.”
Really? There was the attempted vine poisoning/extortion at Domaine de la Romanée Conti earlier this year and that surely qualifies as one of the best vineyards in the world. But 35 tons of grape with a value of $20,000 as was the case in Languedoc? A German wine that is not even commercially available but rather given to the town councillors? These hardly sound like “some of the best grapes” in the world. At any rate, it is sad to see the fruit illegally plucked from the vine.
Will this outburst lead to the rise of Chateau Razorwire, a fenced vineyard with a panopticon in the center? Of course, back in the day, some of the best vineyards in Burgundy were “clos,” or walled vineyards. Chateau Razorwire would have a tad less charm.