Big beer may get bigger–and more irrelevant

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 4.42.37 PMHave you heard–ABI may buy SAB? The resulting company, which could have an alphabet soup of a name, would be the biggest brewer in the world, combining the make of Stella and Budweiser (Belgium-based AB InBev) with the brewer of Miller and 200 other beers, including Peroni, Grolsch, and Pilsner Urquell.

The combined company (MegaBeer Corp?) would have an estimated market capitalization of $250 billion, putting it on par with GE. According to a terrifically detailed WSJ story on the rumored merger, AB InBev dominates 45% of the American beer market. Miller Coors, which is controlled by SAB Miller, takes another 25% of the market. If they were combined, they would control a lot of taps in bars across the country, possibly elbowing out smaller producers and turning bars into essentially branded bars, the equivalent of branded gas stations. But, since this could be construed as antithetical to “tied house” laws, the potential behemoth might just be too much to swallow for regulators: The WSJ suggests that SAB would likely have to sell their 58% stake in MillerCoors probably to Molson Coors, which owns the rest. Still, globally, the merged company would control about 30% of the world’s beer sales.

What’s driving the possible merger? Slowing growth. AB InBev’s second quarter profits fell 32%–with declines in four of six markets, including a 1.7% sales slowdown in the US. While suds have been flat, craft beer has been surging in sales and profitability. Craft beer has something MegaBeer lacks…flavor. Oh, and a good backstory, often locally brewed–all things that sell well with millennials.

So it would be a defensive merger, one driven by the cost-cutting that has become the signature move of 3G Capital, the mover behind the merger. Moreover, their reliance on huge ad budgets seems out of step with the more bottom-up discussion of social media today.

Revenues, cost-cutting, global brands…snooze. Pass me a nice cold Sierra Nevada and wake me when this merger talk is over.

Oxford dictionary admits “wine o’clock”

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 10.01.08 AM

The Oxford English Dictionary has entered the term “wine o’clock.”

Wow, the next thing you know they’ll enter “cougar juice.”

Amazon tests one-hour wine (booze) delivery


Amazon will bring booze to your door in an hour.

It is pretty amazing, even for the logistics champion. I mean bringing anything to your door that fast is pretty astonishing (why ever leave?) but wine/beer/liquor? Some people might become hermits.

The service is currently available only in the Seattle market. Delivery in an hour carries a $7.99 surcharge; delivery within two hours is free. There’s a limited number of products available but does include things as diverse as TVs and some groceries.

The folks at Geek Wire tried it out. They paid for the hour delivery and placed their order for a bottle of Absolut vodka, some orange juice, a six-pack of beer, and some chips. How did it go?

“Thirty-four minutes later, we were pouring screwdrivers in the break room.”

Impressive! Now just throw in some trousseau and you get the wine geeks clicking on the app. And bring the drones! The service delivers from 8 AM – midnight.

Amazon Prime Now is available (sans alcohol) in New York City, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and various other markets.

“Amazon expands Prime Now, offers U.S. alcohol for first time” [Reuters]

Riedel shatters the peace and threatens blogger

“Hell, I thought,” Georg explains, “people think the shape of the goddam wine bottle is significant, why not the shape of the glass? I know I can convince wealthy wine drinkers that it matters, that’s easy. And from there, the unwashed public will follow.”

riedel_shatterDo you really think that is something that Georg Riedel, the Austrian who pioneered matching the shape of glassware with different grape varieties would say? Um, I don’t. The quote was from a satirical piece by Ron Washam, aka The Hosemaster posted earlier this week. Your mileage may vary with the piece, but apparently Riedel was none-too-amused about it and his mood shattered faster than a crystal glass. The Goliath of stemware then directed some American attorneys to send a threatening takedown letter to the blogger! (read the letter)

I’m not a lawyer. But I guess Riedel would have to prove that this posting on August 3 damaged his business? Good luck with that. Frankly, I think the letter will actually attract much more attention to the original post. Further, it could draw ill-will from wine thought-leaders, be they writers or sommeliers or retailers. Or even the unwashed public, to borrow hosemaster’s term, if the word about this spreads. What if there were pushback against Riedel–not over the satire, but over Georg’s heavy-handed response? That is not an implausible scenario and would be a PR disaster for the company, much more so than the original post, which probably only Georg took seriously. (It reminds me of those people who are fooled by The Onion stories…)

What do you think: considering this incident, will you be ordering more Riedel glasses any time soon?

Blech. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Viva Zalto!

Pop: Champagne delivery in 10 minutes

Have you ever urgently needed a bottle of Champagne? How about one delivered to you in 10 minutes?

Well, for all your romantic, corporate celebration, and dinner party needs, if you live in London, you are in luck. And, in a surprise, there are no drones involved! Gett, a ride hailing app service, is debuting the Champagne delivery within a limited part of London and only one brand of bubbles–Veuve Clicquot yellow label. The price is £50 ($75), apparently not that much of a markup over retail but still overpriced for mediocre champagne, and it does include two flutes. Interestingly, Gett will be using cabbies-in-training (who are studying for the notoriously difficult exam that black cab drivers must pass in London) to perform the deliveries on scooters.

The only crucial question: will it be chilled but not shaken?

Could this come to the US? It’s possible but it would vary by location since different municipalities have different rules and regs governing the sale of alcohol. But where there’s a will, there’s possibly a way!

HT Business Insider
Photo: Gett

UNESCO recognizes Burgundy’s “climats” and Champagne’s hills


UNESCO added wine regions to their list of World Heritage sites at Saturday’s meeting in Bonn. The 1,247 “climats” of Burgundy as well as the Champagne hillsides received official recognition as cultural sites.

UNESCO_burgundy_2Campaigns in each French region supported the bids as well as the French government since UN member states are limited in nominating sites in their own boundaries. Burgundy’s campaign video appears below (in English) with more details on their site. Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti led the campaign for Burgundy’s inclusion; above he is congratulated after the vote in favor.

The vineyards in the regions now receive an extra level of protection from future development and they qualify for additional financial aid for preservation and may get a fillip from additional tourism. A new Cité des Vins is slated to open next year in Beaune with the aim of welcoming 90,000 tourists. What do you think: will this make you want to visit more? I was pretty much sold at the word Burgundy…

St. Emilion in Bordeaux received World Heritage status in 1999, the Mosel in 2002, and Barolo and Barbaresco were recognized last year. There are 1,031 sites now on the list. Read more…

Things heating up in Europe

Things are heating up in Europe–not just in Greece. A searing heatwave has the continent in its grasp.

Burgundy, which is known for producing wines more winsome than boxum, will have four days in the 100s (39C+) this week–and the balance in the 90s. Yikes. Searing temperatures are expected in Bordeaux, Barolo, Brunello and Britain as well to name a few places starting with “B.”

Generally, grape vines don’t like excessive heat. The later in the grapes’ ripening process the heat wave comes, the more difficult it can be to manage. This pamphlet (pdf) from Australia–no stranger to heat waves with a monster one in 2009 that pushed temperatures up over 100 for 14 days–states that the main effects are a loss of crop and reduction of quality. Mitigation strategies include irrigating vineyards during heatwaves, which may be an option in Barossa but not in Burgundy.

The last heat wave that had in impact on French wine was 2003, which was the hottest summer since 1540. The wines from that vintage got a lukewarm reception initially (except for the shootout at the St. Emilion Corral over the Pavie 2003) and they have aged poorly. Sadly, the 2003 heat wave also accounted for tens of thousands of deaths across France. Fortunately, that isn’t likely to be the case this time around.

Sadly, such hot summers in Europe are likely to become more frequent, even “commonplace” by the 2040s. In a study released last year, researchers from the Met Office, Britain’s weather service, predicted that once every five years Europe will have “a very hot summer.”

While it is too soon to tell how the 2015 vintage will work out, the vines will be under heat stress the next few days. Bonne chance.




Jill Bernheimer, the owner of Domaine LA in, well LA (6801 Melrose Ave) posted this vinous tribute to SCOTUS today on Instagram. Brilliant!


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