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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Duval-Leroy Set to Exploit Second-Best

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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 25 - 2010

You've gotta love The Onion! Going to college in Chicago in the early '90s meant that The Onion (which started in Madison, WI) was my comic meat every week. Even after it caught on nationwide around the turn of the millennium, it kept its edge, perhaps becoming even snarkier. Here, America's Finest News Source steals the show again with this little gem about an under-appreciated group of potential wine drinkers, bringing Champagne producer Duval-Leroy into the mix (probably unbeknownst to them...):

Champagne Company Develops New Second-Place Beverage

VERTUS, FRANCE—In an effort to provide second-place finishers with a taste of the champagne enjoyed by true winners, vintner Duval-Leroy unveiled a new sparkling wine Monday designed to be bitterly consumed by runners-up. "'Deuxième' balances the sweetness of near-triumph with the acrid aftertaste of once again falling just short," company spokesman Henri Babineaux said. "It is less effervescent but higher in alcohol content, ideal for sipping quietly in a rapidly emptying locker room." Babineaux added that the new beverage will be available in a screw top, allowing consumers to get stinking drunk without having to fiddle with a goddamn cork.

It's too bad this isn't a real news story rather than fake news. Of course, too often the real news, as it gets more politicized, seems to be heading toward fake news anyway, leaving an acrid aftertaste all its own.

Anyway, kudos to The Onion for their backhanded acknowledgement of runners-up everywhere, and for putting something in their glass, too.

Popularity: 5% [?]

Grenache of More than One Hue

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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 9 - 2010

Cincinnati MagazineI have a new article in the April issue of Cincinnati Magazine. This month's topic is Grenache of multiple colors, expressly Grenache (the original Noir) and Grenache Blanc. You can find a link to the article by clicking on the magazine's logo to the left, or by clicking here.

In the article, I barely mentioned the most fascinating of the three varieties, Grenache Gris. If you can lay your hands on some, you'd be lucky. Le Roc des Anges, an estate in Roussillon in southern France, makes an old vine white that is 90% Grenache Gris, and gives off such a seductive aroma that you'll wonder where it has been all your life...or maybe not, but I did!

Popularity: 5% [?]

The Politics of Three Tiers

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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 8 - 2010

I'm politically infuriating to partisans because I don't have knee-jerk reactions to most political issues, simply because they are too complicated. For this reason, I do have knee-jerk reactions to partisans of all political persuasions. So here's a knee-jerk reaction for you: what in God's name could Sarah Palin POSSIBLY have to say to the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America? No doubt her message of deregulation at their annual convention was well-received by the Three Tier System advocates at WSWA. If her intention was actually to stir the pot, well, then she deserves some credit.

Three Levels of Bureaucracy to Get You Your Wine
If you don't know what the Three Tier System is: tier one is the supplier (whether winery or importer), tier two is the wholesaler that creates a portfolio of wines to sell to tier three, which is the retailer or restaurant that gets the wine to you. In some states a wholesaler is required to distribute wine to retailers, in others you can buy directly from the supplier, if they are willing to ship it to you. The system is also a flashpoint for many people, in part because there are some very large wholesalers who have been known to abuse their dominant positions within the distribution networks.

An Argument that Would Be Better off Dormant
But that explanation isn't the principal purpose of this missive, really. Nor am I suggesting that Palin's presence at the convention was for no other purpose than to drive attendance (perhaps it was, but I really couldn't care less). All these things do dovetail together, actually, as I am reacting to an old argument I heard again this past Monday: apparently many, many, many people still like to decry the Three Tier System and the way it costs us--wine consumers--more money, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, yeah--the wineries aren't going to sell a wine for any less than it would retail for on the shelf at your local shop. If the argument were that wineries will make more money, and that's good...then I'm with you! Most wineries have a tough time given the costs of not only making wine, but selling it. The old saw goes like this: "How do you make a small fortune making wine? Start with a large one."

It is a fallacy to assume that wineries will sell their wine to consumers for the same price for which they sell it to wholesalers. It is economic common sense: if the wine is selling for $50 on the shelf, why would a winery be satisfied with selling it to a customer already willing to pay full price? If you go to a winery, you'll find that's what they already do. So what incentive do they have to sell it for the price at the next tier down, $33 (which is roughly the retailer's cost)? Of course there's no way they would sell it to the consumer for the $25 (roughly) that the wholesaler pays them. Pricing schemes won't change, with or without the Three Tier System.

Practicality Has No Peer
There are other more cogent issues that surround the Three Tier System, but they are long and boring (for an entertaining look at a Three-Tier Experience, click here.), and as I'm at a loss for a better alternative, here my little practical defense of it. If the regulations on alcohol sales are lifted, wholesalers will become much more vulnerable to the whims of the market and they may lose access to some wines. They are still, I submit, crucial to the business. As a professional with long-time experience as a wine buyer for both retail and restaurants, I was happy to work with as many as 20 wholesalers, because this small group was able to provide me with the selection of over 2,000 wines I carried as a retailer. I would not be happy to work with the over 1,500 sources I'd need in order to provide a similarly broad selection without wholesalers. As someone who has occasionally had difficulty with follow-through, why would I want to do that? Can you imagine the paperwork involved?

No thanks.

My thanks, however, go to Sarah Palin for providing me with a shameless use of her name as a search term. And I'll keep my wholesalers, regardless of whether I can mail order wines or not (I happen to live in a state where this is now legal), I'm only willing to pay for but so much shipping, and wholesalers, especially the good ones, make my job easier, and I hope I return the favor.

Nothing like a friendly, colleagial relationship with your sales rep to help get things done. Perhaps Congress will figure that one out before I cash it in....

Popularity: 6% [?]

Another Reason to Love Anderson Valley

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Posted by Burke Morton On February - 7 - 2010

Anderson ValleyAnderson Valley Winegrowers Association is staging one of the greatest wine festivals in the country: the International Alsace Varietals Festival on February 20 & 21. This is another, yes another!, reason to love the Anderson Valley, jewel of Mendocino. I find the Pinot Noirs from Anderson Valley to be among the most compelling in the world, and here they are hosting wineries from all over the world, showcasing their wines and doing what more people need to do: promoting the consumption of white wine, which has fallen on hard times because of a "lack of seriousness" factor. Here's an excerpt from their press release:

Anderson Valley, because of its cool climate, provides ideal growing conditions for Alsace varietals. Brought to the valley in the late-1960s, Gewürztraminer from Husch Vineyards, Lazy Creek Vineyards, and Navarro Vineyards soon defined the region for early wine explorers. Today, more local producers craft Alsatian-style wines, including Claudia Springs Winery, Esterlina Vineyards, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Londer Vineyards and Raye's Hill Vineyards & Winery, among others.

Consider attending this great event, if you can--you'll get to taste Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, and Auxerrois from all over the world, and the local wineries will be having open houses. If you can't go, try out some of the wines from the estates listed above. I am particularly fond of Handley and Esterlina, but that's only because I have had a long history with those producers. When you do try them, I don't think you'll be disappointed (unless you want an oaky chardonnay instead....).

Popularity: 4% [?]

A Ringing Glass of New Year’s Wine

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Posted by Burke Morton On December - 31 - 2009

Bott-Geyl and a game of TroubleWe are getting started early on New Year's Eve--dropping in a brief post to wish everyone a Happy New Year. We're staying in this year (saves money on the babysitter) and we've already gotten into the Bott-Geyl Crémant d'Alsace. Our kids are old enough that we are willing to let a game of Trouble drag on until 10pm on New Year's Eve (those are my four pieces still stuck at the beginning!), especially when we can have something to drink.

Crémant d'Alsace is a long time favorite of mine, in part because it is one of the the best sparkling wines to drink any time--affordable and delicious. I treat Crémant in the same manner I would a Prosecco (a sparkling wine--also the name of the grape variety--from Italy) or a Cava (sparkling from Spain): it is proof that one SHOULD DRINK BUBBLY OFTEN, because few things can make us as happy as a good glass of sparkling wine.

In the Glass
I love the Bott-Geyl Crémant, by the way--it is dangerously good...it is so easy to drink that I could polish off the whole bottle myself, but that never ends well! It is a crystalline wine with peals of flavor that points to a fair amount of some of Alsace's noble varieties in the mix (Crémant d'Alsace is most often a repository for Pinot Blanc...not considered "noble" in Alsace). Special thanks my friend Denise for showing me the way to the Bott-Geyl!

I'll finish by repeating myself--drink sparkling wine often (and this one would make a great choice!)--because you don't need to celebrate to have bubbly!

Happy New Year!!!

Popularity: 4% [?]

Yellow Tail Jumps on a New Bandwagon

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Posted by Burke Morton On December - 7 - 2009

I'm not sure this is actually "news"--it certainly isn't of the "Oh, the Humanity!" variety--but it touches the nerve that controls my distaste for/distrust of Yellow Tail and other critter wines.

I'm not a fan of savvy marketing techniques when it comes to wine (other packaged goods, shampoo, cross-your-heart bra, second-rate beer, sure...the memory of a good ad almost makes Bud Light taste like something). One of the attractions of wine for me--albeit a secondary one--is that as an agricultural product, it doesn't bear a slick promotional campaign very well. So, Yellow Tail is Crowdsourcing the name of their new unoaked Chardonnay. Frankly the world needs another unoaked Chard like it needs a hole in the head, and I'm afraid that Yellow Tail is jumping on this bandwagon a bit late. Crowdsourcing refers to getting your users to name your product, which should mean that the brains on the business have been drained of originality, but probably is an attempt to drive consumer loyalty.

If you choose to enter (please don't), your prize will be a CASE OF THE WINE. Oooooh, that's an anticlimax! They've probably tried something like "Gotta Get Me Some Tail" as a slogan, so, if you are keen to enter, I imagine that something similarly punny for the name of the Chard would be the winner.

I pass this around because I loathe this kind of approach to wine sales, and I want to convert you to my side. I'll spare you the diatribe I just deleted, which was reasonably persuasive but too long and no one was going to read anyway. I hope you can infer my position....

Popularity: 4% [?]

Video Today


You don't need to speak French to know that the iPad can double as a Champagne Sabre.... Happy New Year!

Popularity: 65% [?]

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