Thanks to shortfalls in state budgets, state authorities are increasingly looking to liberalize liquor distribution according to a piece in the WSJ yesterday. The issue is in play in at least Washington State, Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Vermont.
Privatization could be a mixed bag for wine enthusiasts. Read more…
Is Riesling a hard sell? Has the bubble burst on his Champagnes made by those who grow the grapes? Just how good is 2009? On Tuesday, I pulled wine importer Terry Theise aside at the trade tasting of his New York distributor, Michael Skurnik Wines. We discussed these topics–and more. To the tape!
2009—great vintage or the greatest vintage? Read more…
SIPPED: Jancis, rocked
A German sommelier who goes by the nom de internet of Finkus Bripp drops by Jancis Robinson’s house to interview her. No exploding microwaves, sadly, but worth a look nonetheless. [Wine on the Rocks]
SIPPED: slim bottles
The wine bottle makes good on its resolution to lose weight: Tesco introduces an ultralight glass bottle that weighs just 300g, or, significantly less than normal bottles. That means more wine shipped around the world, and less packaging. Take a look at the bottle over on wineanorak.com.
SIPPED: more freedom of shipping
A federal appeals court affirmed a lower court’s ruling that Massachusetts law could not offer free shipping to in-state wineries over 30,000 gallons a year while preventing out-of-state wineries from shipping. Wineries producing more than the 12,618 case limit rejoiced at the ruling–as did free trading consumers. [AP]
SIPPED: the “new normal”
What’s in store for the wine biz? “Slow growth, lower prices and younger fans who are drinking more at home than at fancy restaurants.” [Wines & Vines]
SIPPED and SPIT: new wineries
The number of new wineries in the USA increased by six percent, according to Wine Business Monthly. Although this is up, the growth slowed to from 15 and 10 percent in 2006 and 2007, respectively. It was the same growth rate as last year. Related question: does the US need six percent more wineries?
SPIT: invitations. SPIT: glassware
All the talk this long weekend was about the White House state dinner. And perhaps to the surprise of wine lovers, it wasn’t about the two typos and at least one disastrous food-wine pairing on the menu! Instead, it was about the “party crashers,” Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who waltzed into the formal dinner without being on the guest list. It turns out there is a winery angle: they are owners of a Virginia winery that has filed for bankruptcy. While various creditors are making claims, the worst offense to one visitor to their Oasis Winery was the plastic cups in the tasting room!
SIPPED: logistics photos! Mmmm!
The Daily Mail published photos of 36 million bottles of wine in an English warehouse. Although their Christmas angle was different, they do note two interesting things: first, that Constellation self-distributes in England, unlike the US; and, second, they ship wine not glass by bottling all the wine in the UK after importing it in 25,000 liter bulk tanks.
SIPPED: ultra-premium wine
Want to upgrade from Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve wines? The Sonoma-based wine group now offers something new: customers who drop $30k get to taste and talk with the KJ head winemaker who will learn their wine preferences and produce a case of wine (12 bottles) with custom labels. Only $2,500 each! [Luxist; ht @ItalianWineGuy]
Photo via Facebook
Donald St. Pierre, an American and a prominent importer of wine to China, receives an extensive profile in the current issue of the New Yorker (the food issue). He arrived in the country in 1985 thanks to a position with American Jeep and in 1996 he started importing wines after forays into other things such as scrap metal, lingerie, and Chinese and Russian ammunition. Here’s a taste of the early days: Read more…
SIPPED: the hard question; SPIT: advertorial
During what looked like an innocuous segment on Thanksgiving wines, Evan Dawson, a local TV news anchor, asks Leslie Sbrocco, wine book author and TV host, some tough questions. And they’re not about the turkey. Tune in to about 1:50 when he asks her about the Beringer wines she recommends: “Do you have a relationship with them that involves any sort of compensation?” Her reply: “Yes, this media tour is with the Beringer portfolio of wines.” The FTC would be proud of Dawson! [13WHAM]
SPIT: double standards
Speaking of the FTC, Blake Gray, former wine columnist for the SF Chronicle, has a lengthy post decrying the fact that the new FTC regulations come down harder on blogs than they do traditional media. [Gray Market Report]
SIPPED: funding freer trade
Frustrated by interstate shipping laws that thwart the ability to purchase wine out of state for 47 states? Consider bidding on wine lots in an auction to benefit the Specialty Wine Retailers Association, which fights legal battles for freer trade.
SIPPED: red wine
Chocolate milk, of all drinks, tries to muscle red wine out of the health news headlines: According to recent research as reported in the NYT, “flavanoid-rich cocoa” found in chocolate milk appears more effective at reducing inflammation that leads to atherosclerosis than regular milk! But the effects still aren’t as pronounced as with red wine. I can see it now: the choco-cabernet smoothie!
SIPPED: symbolic pricing
Joe Montana’s 500 acre estate that spans the Sonoma-Napa county line, is up for sale. The former 49ers QB, who also has a wine label, listed the property at $49 million. [WSJ]
SPIT: symbolic pricing
7-Eleven, the chain of 15,000 convenience stores, has announced their own wine label, Yosemite Road. Instead of pricing it at $7 and $11 a bottle for symbolic purposes, it will retail for $3.99. Aha! Maybe this will be the home of the choco-cabernet Slurpee? [AP]
SIPPED: another city winery
Hong Kong eclipsed New York City as the wine auction capital of the world this year, that we know. But this just in: Hong Kong has had a winery in the city limits since 2007. [CNN]
SIPPED: web voting
The website Foodbuzz recently distributed some blog awards and this blog won the category “blogger you would most want to be your personal sommelier.” Thank you for your votes but my question is, true to blogger stereotype, does that mean I have to pour wine in my pajamas? [Foodbuzz]
Bordeaux prices may be coming down sharply. But then will they be going up?
Diageo Chateaux & Estates was a major buyer of Bordeaux futures for the better part of the last three decades. In fact, according to one California wholesaler quoted in an AFP article, their buying (along with Costco), created “an artificial level of implied demand from the US — the wine estates set their prices based on this perceived demand.”
But things changed. The wines of the rainy 2007 vintage received weak reviews on the whole and demand slackened for pre-buying during the recession. Diageo Chateaux & Estates had committed to the vintage as they had in the past. Now, they are left with a large inventory of wine that needs to be significantly discounted as it arrives in the US. According to the AFP story, they are dumping the 2007s and previous vintages on the US market to such an extent that trucks are even coming from Mexico to scoop up bargains!
While lower prices sounds like good news, the AFP story neglects the question of future vintages. The low prices of the 2007s may be fleeting because Diageo has now decided to get out of the Bordeaux futures business. As of the 2008 vintage, US retailers have had to pursue different, smaller scale strategies for buying Bordeaux wines as futures to the extent that there has been demand. Now the 2009 vintage has gotten huge advance praise and financial markets have rallied, replenishing the bank accounts of some Bordeaux consumers. So while the demand side for future vintages may be coming back, the economies of scale that DC&E had on the supply side have been removed making a tempting conclusion that prices will move higher.
However, if the Diageo demand was “artificial” as witnessed by the current dumping, the prices could remain lower for several years. And with so many lavishly praised recent vintages already available in the market, Bordeaux buyers may think twice about the need to buy futures on unbottled wine. Indeed, American buyers are “skeptical” according to a recent article on Dectanter.com.
For any retailers out there, what is your recent experience with Bordeaux futures and how will Diageo’s bowing out affect the way you do business? And for consumers, is it “game over” or “game on” for Bordeaux futures?
Remember the saga of Sierra Carche? Here’s a reminder from our earlier coverage: “What happens when a reviewer tastes a good bottle, but some consumers buy what appears to be a completely different product? Think it couldn’t happen? Guess again and behold the saga of Sierra Carche 2005.”
Well, last week I met that consumer, Robert Kenney (right), whose dogged pursuit of Jay Miller popped the cork on this saga. Kenney purchased 48 bottles of Sierra Carche and has opened 18 of them, “hoping for a good one” but instead has found Jay Miller’s term “undrinkable” a more apt descriptor. I joined Kenney and a dozen other tasters for a blind tasting organized by Daniel Posner, a partner in the wine store, Grapes The Wine Co. in White Plains, NY.
Posner greeted the tasters in his apron as he pulled burgers off the grill outside the store. But his real work had happened well before the tasting even started, coordinating the lineup. He managed to find four bottles of Sierra Carche from two different lots of the wine (astute readers may recall mention of a third lot, #7033, but bottles from that small lot/bottling proved elusive). Posner selected similar wines, including wines rated 93 – 99 by Jay Miller at the Wine Advocate ranging in price from $6 to $150.
It was the worst tasting I have ever attended. Although the burgers and company were good, the wines were abysmal. I’ll spare you the play-by-play (if you want it, see Dale Williams’ funny account–I was sitting next to Dale). Suffice it to say, among the wines, there was one note that kept recurring: “Nasty, VA meets green pepper with a dash of jalepeno overlaying a bed of silage.” Other terms bandied about included burnt rubber, bacterial issues, fermenting/rotting hay, roadkill, and roadkill with burning rubber that ends up in a hog “lagoon.” Read more…