Posts Filed Under commentary

It’s Time For the PLCB to Die (or “There is NO Cabernet Franc”)

Vinted on June 17, 2010 binned in commentary, PLCB

It’s been a while since I railed against the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Not that they haven’t deserved a good railing in the interim, I’ve just been busy with other topics, and the PLCB has been busy raiding PA bars at great taxpayer expense and with no justifiable reason, so they’ve been dealing with plenty of bad press anyway.

But this week, something got published that I had to rail against.  Because, quite honestly, the news is an embarrassment for Pennsylvania taxpayers whose hard-earned cash is going to help fund a government that is supposed to be controlling wine sales in the state, but instead is taking a puke all over customer service and adding almost no value to the average PA consumer.

This news comes by way of Lew Bryson’s excellent blog Why The PLCB Should Be Abolished (hey, at least you know where he stands), recapitulating a Scranton Times-Tribune blog article by David Falchek.  In said blog post, Falchek describes a friend’s encounter at a PLCB wine & spirits store in which a PLCB employee denied the existence of Cabernet Franc.

Not the existence of a particular bottling or brand of Cabernet Franc. The employee denied the existence of Cabernet Franc itself.

Yes, I am totally serious, and No, I have not been drinking…

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The Upside of Wine Globalization

Vinted on May 20, 2010 binned in best of, commentary

Yeah, I know right? 

There’s an upside to more and more wine being made more and more in an “international” style by more and more producers in more and more regions?

Yes, there is.  Yes, I’m serious.  No, I haven’t been drinking too much wine while writing this.

First, we need to explain what the “international” style is, which essentially is the advent in recent years of big, extracted, jammy, heavily-oaked, high-alcohol wine (both red and white).  Robert Parker, who is the “1” in the 1 and 1/2 of the wine critics that move the majority of the wine market (Jim Laube at Wine Spectator is the “1/2”), likes the style and awards it high scores, which in turn allow producers of those styles to charge higher prices and then the market takes over to influence other producers to follow suit when making their wines so that they can sell more and charge more, etc., etc., blah-blah-blah. 

The result, according to the detractors, is wine going the way of fast food, like McDonald’s taking over small family restaurants in Europe; everything becomes the same and we lose regional originality.

The whole phenomenon was more-or-less lambasted in the film Mondovino, which if you haven’t seen it yet, will give you a crash course in all things “style international du vin.”

Go ahead and watch it.  I’ll wait.

Done?  Okay, cool, let’s get back to what’s right about the Disney-ification and McDonald’s-ization of the modern wine market…

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Baby’s Got Malbec (Heading to the International Malbec Days in Cahors)

Vinted on May 17, 2010 binned in commentary, on the road, wine news

If you live in the U.S. (and chances are high that if you’re reading this, you are in the U.S.), then it’s likely that you’ve been drinking some low-priced Malbec wine lately.

Don’t take my word for it – for some hard data on Malbec drinking trends in the U.S., you can check out a recent article by Laura Saieg on WineSur.com:

According to a report issued by Nielsen, in the last 52 weeks, the consumption of Malbec grew by 60%. This makes Malbec the best performing variety in the US market… In 2009, in spite of the pronounced decline of American economy, there was a consumption increase of 6 million cases with respect to 2008. Most of these cases were within the retail price bracket of under USD 10 per bottle. This was due to the fact that, in response to the crisis, consumers changed their habits and chose less expensive wines. Americans changed from consuming less expensive bottles to focusing on obtaining the best possible value. Restaurant wine sales fell by 6% to 9% this year as consumers, under tight budgets, stopped dining out and preferred to stay at home and buy wine at wine stores.”

Maybe you’ve had one (or several) of those extra 72 million bottles of Malbec consumed in the good ol’ U.S. of A. last year?  Looks like we can’t get enough of the stuff.

What’s most interesting, from a marketing / consumption / trending standpoint, is that you probably had that bottle at home while overall you were drinking less expensive wine (in both senses of the term).

By any measure, that’s a big coop for Malbec producers during the global recession, and it will be interesting to see if the trend continues.  It’s unclear from the WineSur.com article if most of the Malbec that we Americans gulped down was from Argentina, but it’s not unreasonable to conclude that.

Which might be why the French, who invented the stuff, are coming (possibly quite late) to Malbec bandwagon party…

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