France to ICANN: You can’t!

The French government is not happy about the prospect that internet users will soon be able to type in .wine and .vin instead of .com.

Mercifully, it isn’t another example of France’s bizarre neo-Prohibitionists at work again. Instead, the Minister of Digital Affairs (!) is protesting the new internet suffixes, known as generic top-level domains (or gTLDs), on the basis that cybersquatters could pluck such cherries as champagne.wine or bordeaux.vin right out of the ether, while having nothing to do with the wines of the region. Since these are protected names under international treaty, France is threatening Read more…

Union Square Cafe is the latest victim of rentmageddon

A few weeks ago, Wylie Dufresne announced that he had been forced to close his pioneering restaurant WD-50 on the Lower East Side as of 11/30. The reason is that the building will be razed and a new apartment building will go on the site; and said he hoped to reopen elsewhere soon. Then Rouge Tomate announced they will be leaving their spacious locale next to Barney’s as of August 9, citing rent. They will be relocating to an unspecified location “downtown” later this year.

Now, the monstrous Rentmageddon sweeping the NYC restaurants has claimed another scalp: Union Square Cafe. The iconic restaurant that opened 30 years ago on East 16th street and contributed to revitalizing the Union Square has fallen victim to rising rents and will close at the end of next year. USQ also hopes to move to a new location, though one has not been announced. Julia Moskin has a good, if sad, story on the trend in the NYT that is today’s must-read. She says that USQ paid $8/sf or $48,000/yr back when it opened; now the rent may be as high as $650,000 as international retailers, banks, and pharmacies have driven up rents. She also mentions that Marco Canora and partners at Hearth restaurant have been hit with a 65% increase in rent–this year.

Moskin asks Danny Meyer, whose other restaurants include Gramercy Tavern and The Modern as well as Shake Shack, why he doesn’t just pay for a renovation and the increased rent out of his own pocket? Because it doesn’t make financial sense, he says, making the analogy that it would be like doing a million-dollar renovation on a studio apartment.

In twisting the knife for fine dining, the landlord is quoted as saying that he thinks a Shake Shack would do well in the space.

Wine economics: How much does that bottle cost?

economics wine Have you ever wondered about wine economics–what are the costs of a bottle of wine? While the industry, made up mostly of private companies, often keeps margins shrouded in mystery, I spoke with one vintner who broke down the price of barrels, corks, grapes as well as the three tiers for me. And since that vintner was Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena and Barrett & Barrett, he offers perspective on a range of (higher-end) wines. I also dig up some info on lower-end wines.

Margins are something that always pique the interest of consumers. So check out the piece over on wine-searcher.com and let us know your thoughts.

The quest for vin glou-glou in California

vineyard cali
While the story of the stylistic shift in California winemaking (dubbed, inter alia, the “New California”) is arguably the most exciting story in American wine in the last decade, one aspect has been a stumbling block: price. Particularly as it relates to lower-priced, highly drinkable wines, known variously as vin de soif or glou glou wines. It’s something we’ve discussed, oh, here, here, here, and here previously.

So I was glad to see Wine & Spirits taking up the topic in their June issue. Their piece points to the price of grapes as the main obstacle, saying that at $1,000/ton, it’s possible to make a $20/bottle wine but $2,000/ton is “pushing it.” This has pushed the glou glou producers to far-flung parts of California and to pursue less premium varieties that are still refreshing.

Given that a wine that sells for 2 euros at a small domaine could easily sell for $10 here after all the markups, another way to make domestic glou glou production more financially viable would be to sell directly to consumers. Alas, given the three-tier system, that would reduce it to in-state sales. But even if drinking a glou glou wine were only an option locally in California? There’s still a lot to be said for that.

Coravin halts sales because of exploding wine bottles

Screen Shot 2014 06 02 at 11.15.55 PM Coravin, the maker of a wine preservation device that costs $300, has stopped selling new units and urges owners of existing units to stop using the device because of a hazard of exploding bottles. In a release, the company says it knows of seven bottles that have exploded with one causing lacerations to the user. The company is working on a solution.

The Massachusetts-based start-up has raised over $11 million in stock and bond offerings. The product, formerly known as the Wine Mosquito since a needle pierces the cork to extract wine one glass at a time and inject inert gas to preserve the rest, has garnered praise as well as provoked some trepidation among collectors.

The full notice follows after the jump. Read more…

A $1.6 million oops in Napa

pity the fool A Napa vintner hired a consulting enologist to cook him up a “cult” wine. It didn’t work out, the wine got flushed and the vintner is now suing the wine consultant to the tune of $1.6 million. See the Napa Valley Register for more details.

Who was that who said “I pity the fool who chases points”? Confucius? Mr. T?

World wine consumption: USA up, France down

world wine consumption The OIV, an international wine organization based in Paris, released their annual report of the state of the wine world last week.

In it, they showed the US market becoming the largest in the world for the first time. Even though this got some play last week, we already broke out the foam fingers a couple of years ago when another organization declared the US the world’s biggest wine market. Of course, in per capita terms, we’re still a relative weakling.

Still, the trend in world wine consumption is clear: the US is one of the few big, growing markets in the world. France sagged a tremendous amount year-over-year (see chart), making one wonder if there was a methodological problem. Also of note in their report, China actually showed a decline.

Anyway, we’ll raise a glass to these statistics–all in the name of keeping the USA at the top of the list!

See the OIV report

Fake wine first-hand

drc wine label Last week, a story broke about The White Club, a group with $25k annual dues that staged lavish, wine-centric dinners around the world. We mentioned the fill-and-refill scam in Friday’s post about fake wine.

Since then, some details have emerged about the attendees. Jancis Robinson published a post detailing how she had attended three of the White Club dinners and was “taken in” by the organizers (adding, “My colleagues John Stimpfig and Neal Martin were too.”). She suspects that the wines at the first dinner, outside of Copenhagen, were mostly real. By the second dinner, in Bern, the pouring was taking place in another room. And by the third dinner, in November 2011 in Hong Kong, she writes that the organizer “by this point must have thought I was a real mug because it was quite clear that many of these wines were not at all as they should be. It was all decidedly embarrassing.” She has removed any comments about the wines from her site.

Neal Martin, author of Pomerol and Wine Advocate contributor, has yet to comment on The White Club. Over on WineBerserkers, a commenter posted one of Martin’s tasting notes for a Petrus 1970 from one of the dinners: “This is probably one of the finest bottles of Petrus I have encountered. Drink now-2030. Tasted September 2012.”

Old bottles are famously variable. In fact, there’s a saying that there aren’t good wines, there are only good bottles. Apparently there are also fake bottles. So, remind me, what’s the point of tasting old wines (especially not ex-cellar) and publishing notes on them? At the very least, participants should be obliged to take a big shot of skepticism before proceeding.


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