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WineDude-ism Vs. Yet Another Control State (NH Wine Week, 2014)

Vinted on January 23, 2014 binned in wine industry events, wine news

I keep getting asked what I think about (paraphrasing) “that guy in Philly who got arrested for selling wine.” I happen to live in Chester County, where Arthur Goldman allegedly sold legitimate rare wines from his home, wines that the PA Liquor Control Board don’t offer in their state-run stores.

To the tape:

“More than 2,420 bottles of fine wines valued at $150,000 were seized last week from the home of a Chester County attorney who allegedly ran an underground mail order wine network, authorities said. Arthur Goldman, 49, allegedly has sold rare wines – all unavailable from the state-owned liquor monopoly -from his home in Malvern without a liquor license, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, and is also accused of procuring the wine from a source other than a Pennsylvania liquor store.”

My first reaction was the same as it is to nearly any news involving the prosecution of almost any crimes against the PA liquor code, that it was a bizarre over-reaction by law enforcement. I mean, $150K of material that technically isn’t contraband and isn’t harming anyone is a complete and total waste of a sting operation.

Halfway through the Philly.com news report, it occurred to me that my gnashing-of-teeth hatred of the PLCB is somewhat old hat and uninformed, given that I buy all of my beer from Wegman’s supermarket (which can sell it because it’s acting as a restaurant under PA law) and haven’t spent a penny at a PLCB store in years, since I now get 99.99% of my wine for free. I am no longer a PLCB customer, so my views are skewed.

But then I got to this disturbing bit, which doesn’t take a well-heeled shopper to appreciate: Goldman was charged with “purchasing ‘liquor or alcohol from another source other than a Pennsylvania liquor store.’”

In the Communist-wealth of Pennsylvania, it’s a crime to shop for the wine that you want, if the PLCB doesn’t offer it

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Wine Bloggers = Wine Consumers. Get Over It. (ESC Dijon Bourgogne’s Wine Blogger Study)

Vinted on January 21, 2014 binned in best of, wine blogging, wine news

The ESC Dijon Bourgogne (Burgundy School of Business) has recently wrapped up its three year study of wine blogging worldwide, the results of which have been released in a free whitepaper titled World Wide Wines: Digital Writing on Wine.

This is important not just because it sounds like The Scorpions’ kick-ass live album World Wide Live, but because the ESC Dijon Bourgogne study is the longest and most comprehensive view of the wine blogosphere ever attempted. Is it perfect? No (Exhibit A: calling Paul Mabray and I – now in or forties – the “younger generation of wine bloggers;” maybe compared to the average age of the wine guys writing for traditional wine media outlets…). But given its scope, its incorporation of other important wine blogging studies, and its length, this is as close as we’ve got to a litmus test on the global state of wine blogging.

For me, the most telling and pertinent results of the study come in pages 23-26 (more on that below), in which the study adds further proof to the idea (or what we should now probably consider the fact) that there is no real difference between wine bloggers and wine consumers.

Think that wine bloggers are “wasting” time by talking to one another, and don’t reach “real” consumers who spend their money on wine? Sorry, you’re harboring an antiquated view that doesn’t stand up to common sense, the laws of statistical averages, or the data offered in ESC Dijon Bourgogne’s three year study. If that’s still your view, then maybe you should just go renew your membership to the Flat Earth Society instead of seeing the study details I’m about to present…

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Why Rare Wine Collecting Is Kind Of Like Having Sex With Animals (Thoughts On The Rudy Kurniawan Fraud Trial)

Vinted on January 7, 2014 binned in best of, commentary, wine news

By now, you’ll probably have heard that alleged fine wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan has been found guilty of fraud in court (well, he was found guilty of wine fraud during trial in court, not found guilty within a court, although technically actually he was found guilty within a court room… oh, forget it).

You’ll also, no doubt, be nursing a raging New Year’s Eve hangover. So I’ll try to make this pithy since most likely I will also be nursing some manner of raging NYE hangover.

In the event that you’re a self-professed wine geek who hasn’t yet gotten up to speed on the whole Kurniawan Kerfuffle, I recommend taking a quick diversion over to the fine summary of Kurniawan’s alleged fraudulent activities at NPR, so that you can do a rapid catch-up.

All set? Good. Now I can explain why Kurniawan’s guilty verdict means almost nothing whatsoever to the fine wine market, and why I think it will almost certainly not even make a dent in the purchases of fraudulent wine worldwide.

But, in order to do that, I first need to explain why the collecting of rare fine wines is like having sex with animals

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On The Death Of Sommelier Journal (Or “The Nigh Impossibility Of Building Wealth As A Wine Writer”)

Vinted on November 5, 2013 binned in best of, commentary, wine news

By now many of you will have heard that Sommelier Journal is ceasing publication.

The news came to me via SJ editor David Vogels, who several days ago issued an email to those writers who had contracted work with the magazine. I happen to be one of those writers, having only weeks ago completed a featured story / regional overview on Crete, an article that was to appear in SJ’s November issue. Here’s what Vogels wrote in the email:

“I regret to inform you that Sommelier Journal has suspended publication. We are currently negotiating with a group that hopes to purchase the title and resume publishing the magazine at some point within the next year. In the meantime, we have arranged with Wine & Spirits Magazine to complete the terms of our current paid subscribers with the same number of issues they have remaining (whether in print or online-only).”

The news is sad for several reasons. Sommelier Journal was a bright light among wine publications over the last six years, as any long-time 1WD reader is already well aware. It was probably the only publication that catered specifically to sommeliers, beverage directors, and others in a similar vinous vein who actually cared deeply about building a taste profile for their clientele.

But among the reasons for why the shuttering of SJ’s glossy covers totally sucks, the reason vying for number one in line for the suck-a-thon as far as I’m concerned is the fact that I’m now not going to be paid for the article I wrote for them. That’s work I sweated and bled, based on a journey I took to the region under the auspice that I was on assignment (I’ve reached out to World of Fine Wine about taking it up, but they seem to move pretty slowly, unless they have something they’d like me to promote to you, of course!).

I’d like to say that this development is probably a fluke, but I think it’s actually indicative of a larger issue, which is that paid content in any form is a tough sell, period. Paid content for a niche is even tougher. And as a result, building wealth by writing content about a niche topic like wine is a bit like talking about unicorns or the Easter bunny (or about Easter bunnies riding unicorns): fun to discuss, but ultimately a figment of our collective, wine-soaked imagination…

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