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Boomers And Busts: Sobering News For The U.S. Wine Business in 2013?

Vinted on February 12, 2013 under commentary, wine news

Anyone remember back in 2011, when we talked about the fact that Boomers – who by and large account for the vast majority of current wine sales – wouldn’t be around forever, and so the wine biz really needed to get off of its duff and start thinking about how it would court Gen X and Millenial buyers?

Well, I’ve got some bad news for those who’ve been ignoring that advice.

In the 2013 incarnation of Silicon Valley Bank’s annual State Of The Wine Industry Report presentation, a round-table style discussion between author Rob McMillan (from SVB’s wine division), Paul Mabray of VinTank, Tony Correia of The Correia Company and MJ Dale of KLH Consulting, who discussed the results of the report live in mid-January 2013. During the discussion (uber-interesting for wine geeks and insiders, probably not so much for normal people), McMillan (who is a nice and interesting guy, by the way, something I found out when I had dinner with him at Nickel & Nickel) discussed the sobering fact that the exit of Boomers from the wine market will be a potentially enormous blow to wine sales, and that the Millennial generation requires focus to help fill the expected gap.

To ease in the understanding of this, I’ve taken a graph from the SVB report and “enhanced” it so that the implications are more, well… transparent (click to “embiggen”):

In other words, Boomers don’t just exit the wine market “feet first” (though many, hopefully, will continue to love wine and keep on buying it until they shuffle off this mortal coil); they exit it in droves when they retire. The message is this: if you’re a wine producer who hasn’t been courting younger generations as well as Boomers (And as we’ll see in a minute or two, chances are good that you haven’t), you ought to be crapping a brick right about now…

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Finger Lakes Feature Wins International Wine Book Of The Year

Vinted on September 19, 2012 under wine books, wine news

Summer in a Glass

Today, a quick-hit to tell you that my friend Evan Dawson’s recently-released book Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes just took home the award for “International Wine Book of the Year”at the 2012 Louis Roederer Wine Writing Awards.

I am personally thrilled for Evan, who is having a banner year in 2012 as he kicks ass and takes names across the wine writing spectrum. Evan is the kind of writer whose works make the rest of the on-line wine media world look good.

I’d offer you more thoughts on Evan’s first printed work, but as I’m quoted in it and am clearly biased all I can tell you is that it’s a decidedly well-written humanist take on the stories behind the Finger Lakes wine region. For more non-review thoughts on the book, check out my, well, non-review from a little over a year ago.

Congrats to Evan on such a well-deserved win – my friend, you’re making us proud!

Cheers!

Cellar Masters In Peril As “Weeping Angels” Attack Barrels For “Angels’ Share” of Wine

Vinted on September 18, 2012 under Inebriated Press, wine news

Dispatch from The Inebriated Press

Cellar masters – those who toil in the barrel cellars of wineries everywhere – are being urged to exercise extreme caution when entering their workplaces, as reports of several deaths and disappearances of cellar workers continue to flood municipal law enforcement offices worldwide.

The fine wine region of Rioja – where nearly 60% of all of the deadly cases have been reported to date – seems particularly susceptible, though dozens of cellar workers in winemaking areas throughout the globe have disappeared without leaving a trace, usually after going to work in their dark cellars alone. Others (though a much smaller number) have been found dead with their necks snapped violently.

Barrels in the crime scene areas have excessive amounts of wine missing from them, an extreme case of what winemakers call “the angel’s share” – a portion of wine thought to evaporate during aging in wine barrels, requiring them to be periodically “topped up” with additional wine to keep the barrels nearly full. In many of the reported cases, sightings of life-sized stone statues of weeping angels among the barrels have been reported, only to later unexpectedly disappear without any physical evidence of break-in or other theft.

These strange events took an even more fantastical turn when the Spanish Ejército de Tierra, called into Rioja to assist local law enforcement in the ongoing investigation, installed motion-detection cameras at various points in the subterranean crime scenes near Rioja Alta…

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What’s Next, Le Bastard Surpoids? (Consumers Might Pay More For Difficult-To-Pronounce Wines, So NPR Thinks You’re A D-Bag)

Vinted on July 31, 2012 under best of, commentary, wine news

First, let me say that I normally love NPR. In fact, I consider not having an opportunity to listen to NPR news during the morning commute as the thing that I miss the most about having a traditional 9-to-5 job. But when NPR runs a story titled “Fancy Names Can Fool Wine Geeks Into Paying More For A Bottle,” I cringe.

NPR’s story quotes Christopher Tracy, Channing Daughters Winery’s talented winemaker (for more on Tracy and his wines, check out the coverage of my 2009 trip to LI wine country), but only as a setup for introducing “difficult for Americans to pronounce” grape varieties like Blaufrankisch, and en route to covering the results of a marketing study performed earlier this year by Antonia Mantonakis, a wine researcher at Brock University in Ontario. As reported by NPR:

"Participants not only reported liking the taste of the wine better if it was associated with a difficult to pronounce winery name. But they also reported about a $2 increase in willingness to pay," Mantonakis says.

What’s more, apparently the more that test subjects knew about wine (or at least told Mantonakis they knew about it), “the more easily they got duped into thinking difficult wine names equaled pricier wines.” In other words, we expect Fat Bastard to be inexpensive, but not Le Bastard Surpoids.

I love NPR, but I hate this kind of reporting. I hate it because while there might indeed be meat on the bones in Mantonakis’s study for marketers to explore, the media angle instead is to jump on the all-wine-pros-are-douchebags bandwagon, and throw on non-pro wine geeks as well.

So you know what? Screw NPR for doing that. Screw them, because we wine geeks are not the problem; if a few of us thought fancy names equated to higher prices, than so what? Shouldn’t we be excited that the wines were actually less expensive than we thought? We need more people being excited about wine and getting all hot-and-bothered over those fancy names, not less. The media implication in NPR’s coverage that those wines are somehow bad or cheap and therefore shouldn’t be on the radar of wine geeks is itself insulting to the producers, regions, and wines involved (let alone to the people). And I won’t even get started on the “what constitutes ‘wine geek’ from this study?” arguments.

If you think I’m over-reacting, I invite you to watch coverage of Mantonakis’ experiment and then listen to the NPR coverage that followed, both embedded below after the jump, and then tell me if you think I got it wrong. In the meantime, I’ll go back to my temporary NPR boycott…

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