Winebits 542: Rose reviews 2018 from around the Internet

rose reviews 2018This week’s wine news: Rose reviews 2018, gathered from around the cyber-ether, in honor of the blog’s 11th annual rose celebration

Vinepair: The almost always sensible website offers 25 roses, and “all of the bottles on our list are less than $37, and many come in under $20.” Hence the almost always sensible caveat. The other not so good news is availability – maybe half of these wines will be difficult to find in most of the country. This is not a criticism, but a fact of life in the wine reviewing business. Still, there are fine values, including the Falesco Vitano, a long-time favorite; plus the Bonny Doon and the J. Vidal-Fleury pinks.

Decanter: The English wine magazine recommends 10 roses, almost none of which are available in this country. So why do I mention it? Because two of the wines are private labels from Aldi and Lidl, and if they can sell the wines in Britain, why can’t the two discount grocers offer them in the U.S.? Frankly, I’m tired of seeing Winking Owl white zinfandel at Aldi when they could be selling the rose listed here. It’s just £6, or about US$8.

Forbes: As befitting its readers, two of the wines cost more than $100, and most of the other recommendations aren’t much more in the spirit of rose. One of the wines is so gross that you need an antidote for it, which is why I’m not going to name it. Who wants to be sued?

Rose trends 2018: Try as it might, the wine business won’t ruin pink wine

rose trends 2018Let’s celebrate the start of Rose Week — the blog’s 11th  annual celebration — with the rose trends and non-trends that are dominating pink wine

Tim McNally, the New Orleans wine writer, judge, critic, and radio host, talking about rose trends 2018: “Given the unfortunate development path of pinot noir in America, I guess we should have foreseen what they were going to try to do to rose.”

And that, as well as anything I can write, sums up rose trends 2018. Important parts of the wine business, both here and in France, have decided to change rose into something else, in the same way they changed pinot noir into a fruiter, darker, more cabernet sauvignon-like wine.

More than one-third of the 100 or so roses I’ve tasted this year were made to appeal to some sort of idealized red wine drinker – heavier and less fresh, more alcoholic, and tasting of the tannins and bitterness associated with red wine. That almost all of them cost more than $20 added insult to injury.

In other words, everything that rose isn’t. To which the Wine Curmudgeon says, “Nuts.”

Because, despite these most unwelcome developments, rose is healthier than ever. Yes, there are some truly aggravating pink wines out there, and yes, prices have soared in many cases. But there are still dozens and hundreds of roses that taste like rose and cost less than $12. We’ll feature those wines on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, along with a three-book giveaway on Thursday.

These changes have happened for four reasons:

• Higher prices, of course, are part of premiumization. In addition, more high-end wineries are making rose, so they’re not going to sell $10 wine for $10 (even if they could afford to, which most can’t).

• Many of these high-end producers, especially in California, are known for making red wine. They’re only making rose because it’s trendy (I actually got a news release that sort of said that). So they’re terrified that if they made a fresh and crisp pink wine, their loyal customers wouldn’t know what to do with it.

• Because $25 wine can’t be made the same way as $10 wine. Otherwise, it would be $10 wine. Hence the need to “improve” it – oaking it, for example, or making it riper and more alcoholic, even if that turns it into another kind of wine.

• More expensive packaging and marketing. One of the world’s leading rose makers told me that grape costs for his $10 French rose and for a world-famous celebrity rose were about the same. But, he said, the latter charges twice as much because it spends the difference for a “nicer” bottle and to market the product to the Winestream Media.

Yes, some roses are worth $25 or $30 or $40. But it’s almost impossible to buy a bad bottle of rose for $10. If you spend more than $15, expect it to be spectacular. First and foremost, ignore the hype and buy what you want. Because if we do that, no amount of $25 rose that tastes like cabernet will matter.

More about rose trends:
Seven reasons why we love rose
Pink wine is everywhere, and it’s only April
Who cares who started the rose boom?

Rose celebration 2018 begins on Monday

rose celebration 2018

Yes, I’ve tasted almost all of these in my search for the greatest cheap roses.

Win three wine books during the blog’s rose celebration 2018

The blog’s 11th annual rose extravaganza begins on Monday — rose celebration 2018. This is the second consecutive year we will devote an entire week to celebrate all that is wonderful about rose. Because, despite all the foolishness that has taken place over the past couple of years, rose remains one of the world’s great cheap wines.

Plus, of course, giveaways — three wine books on Thursday when I list the the best roses available this season. There will be rose news and reviews all week as part of our rose-fest, as well as state of rose in 2018 on Monday.

Until then, enjoy this commercial from the mid-1970s for Carlo Rossi Vin Rose — long before there was a Winestream Media, when the wine snobs thought rose was a flower, and the hipsters’ parents were still in high school.

“Reasonably priced at $40:” Wine premiumization is out of control

wine premiumizationWine premiumization may be working for producers, but the loser remains the wine drinker

The following arrived in a news release the other day: These “wines are reasonably priced between $15-$40 — ensuring excellent price-quality ratio.”

Where do I begin to parse the failure of the post-modern wine business, as demonstrated in that sentence? Am I the only one who sees that most wine drinkers don’t consider wine costing more than $15 as either reasonably priced or having an excellent price-quality ratio?

The wine business has fallen all over itself in the past 18 months throwing as much crappy $20 wine on the market as possible, because one very smart man noticed some of us were willing to pay more for wine. He called the trend premiumization, and his point made sense: If you have more money, you’re willing to spend more money.

Which is what happened in the U.S. when the recession ended. Sales of higher priced wines increased significantly, and the average price of a bottle of wine in the U.S. rose to almost $10, the highest in history.

Welcome to the promised land

The wine business, particularly in California, saw premiumization as the promised land – a way to raise prices without necessarily increasing quality. Hence higher profits, which had been squeezed during the recession, as well as the need to sell less wine to make the same amount of money. If I make $10 wine, I need to sell 10 bottles to make $100; if I make $25 wine, I only need to sell four. And if I sell five, I’m better off than selling 10 bottles of $10 wine. Who wouldn’t want that?

The result, according to a study from Internet retailer, has been flat U.S. wine consumption. “This means for every headline about a brand growing 10-20%, another one is shrinking by a similar amount,” says the report. “With little to no organic industry growth, it’s all about battling competitors for market share.”

In other words, the pie isn’t any bigger, but there are more producers charging more for us to eat it. So we’re the losers, as the quote at the beginning of the post shows.

Forgotten facts

Here’s what the wine business overlooked in its haste to embrace premiumization:

• 95 percent of the entire U.S. population – not just wine drinkers – will never buy a $20 bottle of wine. That’s from the Wine Market Council, which studies these things for the wine business. So premiumization excludes 9 ½ out of 10 U.S. adults – hardly a way to make wine more popular.

• Let’s say I buy two $40 bottles of wine a week, which the Wine Market Council says “a high frequency wine drinker” might do. That’s $320 a month – or about as much as it costs to lease an Audi A3 Cabriolet. I love wine, but I know what I would do with that money.

• The rise in sales of more expensive wine, given that overall wine sales are flat, means people are buying less cheap wine. The assumption has been that consumers are trading up from their $4 and $5 bottles to $20 bottles, which only a winery could believe. What’s more likely is that older wine drinkers, who bought much of the very cheap wine, aren’t drinking as much. They’re either dead or have cut back as they got older. The same thing has happened in beer and Big Beer is in a panic. This would raise the average price of wine without actually increasing the number of people who drink it.

So we’re stuck with reasonably priced $40 bottles of wine. Whatever that means. Hopefully, we won’t be stuck much longer — since I don’t need any more reasons to worry about the future of the wine business.

More on premiumization:
The premiumization backlash
Premiumization, crappy wine, and we drink
Premiumization: Prices in the real world

Wine of the week: Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Fire Road sauvignon blancNew Zealand’s Fire Road sauvignon blanc is more than a one-note, grapefruit flavored white wine

The problem with most inexpensive sauvignon blanc is that only has one flavor – overwhelming citrus. This is particularly true of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, which pioneered the style. Pick up a bottle in the grocery store, be it Monkey Bay, Oyster Bay, Starborough, or whatever, and there is usually only one flavor – grapefruit. And that’s where Fire Road sauvignon blanc comes in.

The Fire Road sauvignon blanc ($12, sample, 13%) is more than a typical citrusy New Zealand sauvignon blanc. The citrus is noticeable, but it’s not just grapefruit — maybe a little lime, too. Plus there’s a bit of sweet tropical fruit in the middle to balance the citrus, and even a note of herbs to add more oomph than one expects at this price.

In this, it demonstrates that sauvignon blanc can be complex and interesting, and especially for around $10. This is something that many in the Winestream Media don’t want to believe; in their view, sauvignon blanc has always taken a back seat to chardonnay. Nuts to that.

Drink this chilled with seafood – shrimp marinated in olive oil, parsley, and garlic would be terrific.
Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Winebits 541: Iced tea wine, wine delivery apps, and a new cork wine closure

iced tea wine

Just like a screwcap, but made of cork.

This week’s wine news: First coffee wine, so why not iced tea wine? Plus, developments among wine delivery apps and a cork closure that doesn’t need a corkscrew

Yes, it’s sweet: If there’s coffee wine, why not iced tea wine? Natchez Hills Winery, near Nashville, Tenn., has released a wine made with 100 percent sweet tea, fermented just like grapes are to make wine. And, since canned wine is trendy, says the winery’s news release, it comes in a can. What have we wrought with Drin

k Local? I haven’t tasted this, and not sure I want to (I drink unsweetened tea), but any Southerners in the audience who are brave enough are welcome to take notes and send them in. We’ll get them on the blog.

Wine at your door: Liza Zimmerman, writing for Forbes, updates the overcrowded world of wine delivery apps like Drizly and Minibar: They remain mostly local, retailers are increasingly wary of letting someone else handle their delivery, and opportunities abound. Sort of, anyway, given Amazon’s withdrawal from the market and the increasing presence of grocery store delivery services like Instacart.

Just like a screwcap: Hate corks, but miss the cork popping when you open a bottle of wine? Then consider wine using the Helix closure – it has threads so it can be unscrewed, but is made of cork . The catch? It’s not on many wines yet. The most interesting bit? That Anorim, the world’s leading cork producer, is the company that developed the Helix. I guess if you can’t beat screwcaps, you might as well copy them.

So long, Kuvee wine gadget – we won’t miss you

kuvee wine gadgetThe Kuvee wine gadget failed, says its CEO, because we didn’t appreciate it

The post-modern wine world has surrounded us with foolishness, overpriced wine, and declining quality. That’s what makes the news that the Kuvee wine gadget has failed so refreshing.

The Wine Curmudgeon does not gloat in other people’s failure. Rather, the point here is to acknowledge the good sense of the U.S. wine drinker – that we recognized the Kuvee for what it was: A pricey gadget that didn’t do anything.

As I wrote about a year ago, when the cyber-ether was full of Kuvee hype: “It tells you what the wine is, offers tasting notes, and gives you a chance to order more wine. In other words, almost everything the back label does without spending $150 and being forced to buy wine from Kuvee.”

Of course, the people behind the gadget didn’t acknowledge this. It’s our fault it failed. The company’s CEO blamed “the difficulty of educating the public about the product” as one of the main reasons for its demise. No kidding – just like it’s difficult to educate me about the true value in those emails from African princes who want to give me $1 million.

One bit of silliness down, another gazillion to go. Now, if we can just find a way to get rid those $25 roses that taste like red wine and come in heavy bottles that cost more than the wine inside it does.