Oil prices as champagne

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Modified chart via Ian Bremmer

Depardieu to star in French “Sideways”

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Gérard Depardieu (The Belgian resident and Russian citizen) will star in a new buddy film set on the wine route in…Beaujolais.

The film, entitled Sait-Amour after the Beaujolais appellation, is evocative in theme to Sideways, the 2005 Oscar winner. In Saint-Amour, Depardieu plays a farmer who seeks a rapprochement with his son by taking a tour along a wine route–a real one, not just doing the circuit of wine stands at the agricultural fairs. Throw in a young driver named Mike and a love interest…et voila.

It will be interesting to see if the film, released in March of this year in France, will have as big an impact on the Beaujolais region and wines as Sideways did for Santa Barbara and Pinot. I’m guessing no. First, it’s a French release and the French already know the charms of Beaujolais. It could go some distance raising the reputation of the region, which for many people, remains tethered to the quick-to-market Beaujolais Nouveau. Second, for it to have much of an impact here, it would have to be remade in English, which would probably mean shifting the location to the US. Oh, but wait–we already had that with Sideways. So, yeah, I don’t see this as providing much of a fillip to Beaujolais in the US.

Can’t hurt though! And I, for one, look forward to streaming it. Trailer follows below. Read more…

Wine apps: finding the best

Jay Jacobs took my NYU class this past semester. He’s getting into wine and is a techie so he was interested in the latest wine apps. He ended up downloading a few–including one in beta–and test driving them so I invited him to write up his findings here.

By Jason Jacobs

“Just tell me the app that shows me the best wines and how to buy them.” I hear you. But as you might guess, all apps are unique, and there is usually no one app that’s perfect. So what I’d like to explore is an overview of four of the biggest wine apps on the market today, and why each of them might be worth your time—or not.

A quick bit about me – I work on the mobile team at a startup in NYC as the product manager for our app. And while I live in the world of apps, I am just recently getting into wine. Hopefully this gives me a unique perspective that allows me to work through a series of wine-related apps and figure out which is the right one for you.

What I’m looking for:
1) Easy to Use and Understand
2) Easy to Buy Wines
3) Helps Me Discover New Wines

The four apps I’ve chosen to review here are two dominant ones that help log and select wines, Delectable and Vivino, as well as two new wine apps, Banquet and Wine Ring. The three concepts are what I’ll be keeping in mind as I’m using these apps since I assume these are the major goals for the people downloading them. One of the apps stands out above the rest and earns a “thumbs up” from me. The others are either solid or emergent, and the fourth still has some way to go. Read more…

Gov Cuomo deals wine shipping a setback

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Late on Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have made wine shipping easier for New York wine retailers. The bill protects wine retailers from being penalized by the NY State Liquor Authority for potentially violating the laws of other states. That’s right: other states.

In vetoing the bill, Cuomo said that he did not want to make New York a “haven for entities intent on breaking other states’ laws, avoiding other states’ legitimately imposed taxes and regulations and selling to minors with impunity.” (see full text of the statement)

Why would the Governor veto a bill that both houses passed by 90% last summer? Your guess is as good as mine. But that language about selling to minors is usually the hallmark of wholesalers’ argument against liberalizing wine shipping–technology exists to collect taxes and provide age verification. Now it remains to be seen if the legislature will override the veto with a two-thirds majority.

The Governor also called on the SLA to hold “a series of roundtables” on how to modernize the industry starting next March. We shall see if these roundtables include any consumer representatives but since a recent SLA ad hoc committee did not, I will not hold my breath.

The bill stems from a long-running case of Empire Wine, a retailer in the Albany area that is active in internet sales. The SLA had sanctioned Empire for violating other states’ laws and the legislature saw that as overreach, thus passing the bill.

Kurniawan wine gets crushed

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Check out these wines–could almost be a photo from an auction catalogue, right? Well, except for the “COUNTERFEIT” stamp on each bottle. oh, and the minor detail that they are arranged in a landfill.

The hammer fell on these bottles as you can see in the series of photos after the jump. If by hammer you mean garbage compactor. Yes, the US Marshals destroyed over 500 bottles yesterday from convicted wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan. Previously, they had put over 4,700 bottles they deemed not fake on the auction block–along with Kurniawan’s Lamborghini and other seized assets. Read more…

Policy shift jeopardizes New York wine lists

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New York City is arguably the best place on the planet to be a wine consumer. A crucial contributing factor to this status is the abundance of wines available. While breadth of that bounty, from Assyrtiko to Xinomavro, and talented people making wise selections can be found in many places throughout the US, what really places New York at the apogee of the wine world is the depth of older vintage and rare wines available. These quicken the vinous pulse of the city and if you have not tried some, consider a splurge (while back-vintage Burgundies are pricey, it doesn’t always cost an arm and a leg to uncork a time capsule from the Loire, Germany or Northern Italy). Whether these flow through shops as well as onto restaurant wine lists their source remains the same: private collections.

A new proposal threatens to restrict that flow. A proposal currently before the regulatory body for wine in New York aims to effectively shut down this trove of exciting wines. Private collectors would be barred from selling wines from five (for whites or rosés) to ten years (reds) from the vintage they were made. Moreover, they could not sell any wine within two years of purchasing it. Oh, and if you don’t have the original purchase receipt then you can’t resell it.

Recent changes in the way super high-end wines are allocated by NY wine distributors mean that shops and restaurants receive and ever-smaller amount of top wines. Thus buying some younger wines as well as older can help round out a wine list or a shop’s offerings, making them the objects of a wine geek’s eye.

Levi Dalton has a good piece on Eater about the effect of this on restaurants. Check it out.

Most other states prevent shops and restaurants from buying directly from consumers. So New York will still have wine even if this goes through. But it is a big step in the wrong direction; no wine consumer anywhere in America wants to see fewer choices in the marketplace.

What’s particularly galling to consumers in New York is that there is no consumer representative on the working group that put together the proposal. (Full list follows below–note there are no retailers present either). And the new Chairman of the State Liquor Authority, Vincent Bradley, applauded Governor Cuomo for his selections. So make your voice heard by writing the SLA about private collections at: Secretarys.Office@sla.ny.gov January 14 is the next date for discussion.

Read more…

Winston Churchill spent $150k a year on wine

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We all knew that Winston Churchill had alcohol in his veins for a good part of his life, but how much did all that grog cost?

The Economist reviews a couple of new biographies about Churchill, one of which looks at his finances. (No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money. By David Lough.) Although he was born into an aristocratic family, he didn’t have lots of money. but he knew how to spend it on Cuban cigars, polo ponies and Champagne. One vinous tidbit that emerges from the balance sheet analysis: they write that between 1908 and 1914 (his early years in politics) “the Churchill household spent an average of £1,160 on wine alone each year—£104,400 ($145,000) in today’s money.” Gives me a hangover just thinking about it!

Churchill also had some other memorable quotes about wine. In the War, he said, “Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne.”

“Champagne should be cold, dry, and free,” he said at another time.

And, finally, he is renowned for a few zingers, including this:

“Dinner would have been splendid…if the wine had been as cold as the soup, the beef as rare as the service, the brandy as old as the fish, and the maid as willing as the Duchess.”

To the victims go the spoils? Rudy’s wine, auctioned

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Is this the first Kurniawan wine auction bidders can trust?

Last year, Rudy Kurniawan, 39, started serving a 10-year jail term for wine counterfeiting.

Starting tomorrow, the US Marshals will be auctioning off 4,711 bottles of wine the seized from Kurniawan.

“It may sound ironic that we are selling wine that belonged to a convicted wine counterfeiter,” said Assistant Program Manager Jason Martinez of the U.S. Marshals Service Asset Forfeiture Division, “but we are duty-bound to recoup as much value from the sale of these authentic wines as possible to compensate those who were victims of his fraud.”

To the victims go the spoils? It will be interesting to see if the Kurniawan stigma keeps bidders away or if the third party authentication done by Michael Egan who was one of the principal expert witnesses for the prosecution will assuage those fears. (Stephanie Reeves of Houston is also appraising and authenticating the bottles.)

The wine has been stored at a California wine storage facility while Rudy Kurniawan himself is serving his sentence at the Taft Correctional Institute.

Bidding for the wines on the block begins online tomorrow and continues on December 1. There is no buyer’s premium at the US Marshals’ Kurniawan wine auction. And, well, caveat emptor.

See the lot listings


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