Archive for February, 2008
Welcome to the 2nd edition of the Weekly Wine Web Wrap-up, where Dude highlights the wine news stories of the past week (complete with snide Dude commentary, of course!).
Cover Globally, Vinify Locally
The highest profile wine news coverage of the week is likely this article in U.S.A. Today, which details the growing trend of ‘micro-brew’ wineries in urban areas that source their grapes and/or juice from rural vineyards. A handful of these wineries and their winemakers in NY and the midwest are featured by name (thus ensuring that their websites crash and their ISP demand additional hosting charges for their traffic overages).
“Pardon me, old chap, but can I have my $36,000 back?”
The UK Press Association reported this week of a Zafferano restaurant customer (in London) who returned a bottle of the legendary 1961 Ch. Petrus that cost the bargain price of £18,000 (about $36K USD), under the complaint that it might have been a fake. The restaurant told him that the wine was off-tasting anyway – a case of sour grapes, perhaps…?
Whew-yew! Now you can pay even more for Yellowtail!
ABC news in Australia reports the comforting news that the recent oversupply of cheap Aussie wine is on the decline, which should result in a halting and then reversal of the recent declining price trend for those wines locally. Presumably, they’ll be shipping those more expensive bottles of Yellowtail over to the U.S. since we seem to be drinking it up, even though most of them taste like plonk…
When We Got There, There Was No ‘There’ There
Don’t you just hate it when you fly to Bordeaux to visit the Chateau of your favorite French wine only to find when you get there that the place doesn’t exist? Me too. So do the British, as do the Fédération des Grands Vins de Bordeaux, according to this story in the Times Online. Apparently some Bordeaux wineries are selling wines under multiple labels, with specious references to non-existent Chateaus. The crackdown has begun in earnest against this practice – which has been outlawed in France since 1993. So to be fair we should give them about 20 more years to get things under control…?
Poisoning The Youth of Canada?
The St. Catharine Standard ran a story of a movement in Canada to introduce their younger drinking generation to Canadian wine. Youth that was weaned on Canadian wine? Does that include ice wine? Plus they have free health care, almost no crime, and legalized marijuana. Dammit, why couldn’t I have grown up in Canada!!!
“Does That Come in a Double D?”
Uhm… uhhh…, well, you just can’t make this kind of stuff up, can you?
A bra. That holds wine. You know what? Put Chateau Y’quem in anything and I’ll probably drink out of it…
U.S. Kicks Britain’s Butt Again!
And finally, despite the fact that British Airways has the venerable Jancis Robinson picking their wines for them, Fox reported that American Airlines bested the competition for in-flight wine quality in a recent international face-off (wine-off?). While it’s too bad that you may need several stiff drinks at 30,000 feet just to deal with AA’s notoriously poor service, as least those drinks will be the best that an airline can offer!
UPDATE (1PM ET): I’d like to send out a special welcome to all of the PA State government folks who, according to my site stats, have been reading this post. The wine world wants to know your viewpoints on these topics, so please shout ’em out in the comments section of this post if you’re inclined.
I suppose by now it’s no secret that I can’t stand the archaic, and probably unconstitutional three-tier monopoly wine distribution system still in effect in some states, including my hometown in the “Communistwealth” of Pennsylvania. The lucky numbers of you out there in blogosphere-land that are allowed to purchase the wine of your choosing, for a fair price, and have it shipped directly to your doorstep don’t really know the suffering that we unlucky hordes in PA have to deal with when shopping for wine.
Most readers will remember the board game Monopoly, in which players compete to take control of the highest amount of properties and services that they can, resulting in fees so high that the other players go bankrupt trying to pay them. States that operate under a monopoly of wine sales and distribution (like PA) are kind of doing the same thing, but in real life.
These stats should be abiding by the decisions of the Supreme Court and open up their borders to competition from wineries and direct shippers. The trouble is, the State monopolies have a crap business model, and they’d get handed their own jock straps in a fair capitalist marketplace. So instead, they are willing to go to extremes to protect their monopoly position.
Let the Dude enlighten you by way of an example…
- Let’s say that I badly wanted a wine that was not available for purchase through the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB). This isn’t difficult, since their selection, in the Dude’s opinion, is poor.
- Let’s also say that I spied a nice little beauty of a wine for sale on the Internet from someone else in another state. For this example, we’ll go to the way-cool folks at Domaine547, who sell all manner of tasty vinos. On their website, I spy the 2006 Scholium Project Gemella, Lost Slough Vineyard, and decide that I want a bottle for myself. (I checked – the PLCB doesn’t have it).
- Let’s assume that Domaine547 is a licensed direct shipper with the State of PA. That would mean that a) the PLCB doesn’t carry the wine so b) I’m allowed to order it from Domaine547 so long as they’re a licensed direct shipper with the state, provided that the following mandatory charges are added:
“The Direct Wine Shipper will have a shipping charge, and must add a $4.50 handling fee, Pennsylvania’s 18% liquor tax, 6% sales tax (and 1% sales tax in Philadelphia & Allegheny counties).”
Following is a rough estimate of what this would cost me, before shipping charges are added:
Wine Sale Price: $34.99
PLCB Handling Fee: $ 4.50
PA Liqour Tax (18%): $ 6.30
PA Sales Tax (6%): $ 2.10
PA County Tax (1%): $ 0.35
That’s an extra $13.25 out of my pocket. The additional charges constitute nearly a 40% premium above the sales price. At that level of markup, I might as well buy the wine in a restaurant instead of trying to have it shipped to me home. Imagine trying to buy something really pricey to being with, such as a case of Ch. Petrus (at upwards of $700 per bottle) with that kind of markup. Most PA state residents simply wouldn’t bother. And neither would the on-line wine sellers – it’s just not worth their time, because the state customers are unlikely to view it as a reasonable expenditure. That’s a “Lose – Lose” situation. Except for the state of PA, who are winning. At my expense.
The bottom line is that this system does not support real competition or competitive pricing – it amounts to a token gesture to appear to be opening the borders of the state to direct shipping (in this case, “direct” means shipped to a PLCB store, where you then have to go to retrieve it). In reality, all this system does is bolster the existing state monopoly on wine sales and distribution.
And finally, consider also that many high quality wine producers are shunning the State of PA because of state regulations that require them to add PA labels and bar coding to their wines. Why? Well, according to sources quoted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, PA wine labels actually reduce the value of high-end wines because of the state’s reputation for poor wine storage, bad customer service, and overall expense of doing business.
In the words of Public Enemy, we’ve got to Fight the Power!
“Arsenic is edible. Only once.”
So reads the quote at the top of this week’s Food Review Weekly over at HeatEatReview.com. The Dude is featured in the Drinks section thereof. You can check it out here.
The Eats section of the same has a link to a story about Caffeinated potato chips… which seems, well, just too damn odd!
Anyway, hope everyone in blogosphere-land is recovering well from their night of Superbowl watching. Personally, the Dude’s team is the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers, so he took not a small modicum of pleasure in seeing the Pats fall short of winning the big game (but I’ve just got a case of sour grapes, because the venerable Pats have denied my Steelers so many AFC Championship victories in the last several years).
Just in time for the not-so-Super-Superbowl (or any party occasion during these last few brink winter weeks), Jason Whiteside, my partner in crime over at 2WineDudes, has written a great article about soul-warming big red wines that are perfect for staving off the nasty chill of Winter, for the current issue of Philly’s Main Line Magazine.
[ Just a bit about Jason, so you know why you should trust him when you read his stuff: Jason is a fellow CSW, was previously a Sommelier & Wine Consultant on the Dutch/French Island of St. Martin, and is part of the Wine Educator staff at ChaddsFord Winery. Like the Dude, Jason also holds the Level 3 Advanced Certificate in Wine & Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. He’s got bad-ass wine smarties. ]
Jason shares both bargain and splurge wine recommendations for each of the Big Red varietals that he features in the article, so you can put your newfound red knowledge to good use immediately (or at least before the weather warms up).
You can check out the article on-line here (go to page 108).