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07.22.2009

Wine Signs of the Times

I'm not sure why, but there has been a spate of interesting developments in the wine world in the past few weeks, all of which bear paying attention to by anyone interested in where the wine industry is going these days.

I'm normally not one to simply rattle off lists news stories, but these are all so interesting that I can't pass up the opportunity to share them.

We're Talking Mainstream
The fact that Amazon.Com is getting in the wine business has been old news for a while, but two more giants of American retail just announced they were also going to make a play for wine drinkers. Starbucks will begin selling wine (albeit crappy wine) in it's new concept stores. They will be joined by Walgreens in catering to those folks who want a bottle of wine to go.

Yes, China Will Change the Wine Market
As if we needed any more proof that the Chinese market will have a profound impact on the world of wine, the Chinese government's main investment fund just invested $365 million dollars to buy a 1.1% stake in Diageo, one of the world's largest wine companies, which itself has been investing in opening up the Chinese market for its products. Time to get Vinography translated into Mandarin for sure.

Your Wine Lists Rule Us Like Robotic Overlords
A recent study by the Cornell University Center for Hospitality Research on best practices for wine list creation has revealed that even the tiniest changes to wine lists result in significantly different buying behavior by consumers. You didn't know that you were more likely to buy a more expensive bottle of wine if the price was listed without a dollar sign in front of it, did you? But you are indeed a sheep like the rest of us. The study revealed other interesting tidbits, like the more wines on the list the better it performed up until the number of wines hit 150, after which sales dropped. Or, contrary to much popular belief, the study showed that wine-by-the-glass programs did not lead to a higher number of sales of bottles. And then there were the head slapping common sense facts that were reaffirmed: organizing your wine list by terms like "fruity" "aggressive" or "sweet" was a recipe for lower sales, and having recognizeable high-end wines on your list was a recipe for higher sales.

Freakonomics Folks Drink Too Much Wine
I've been surprised by a rash of wine related articles on the New York Times Freakonomics blog, which indicates to me the possibility that either journalists are drowning a lot more sorrows these days, or statistics become a hell of a lot more fun when you're drunk. In any case, the most interesting of these posts has been an analysis of a recent report from the Society for Wine Economists about the relationships between the adjectives used to describe wine and the perceived (and real) value of the wine. In short, it's not clear whether adjectives common in tasting notes about top wines mean that these are flavors inherent in these wines, or that they are imposed on the wines by critics who know the wine is expensive when they are writing the notes.

Enjoy.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud