If you’ve been out cruising downtown any night this winter, you’ve probably noticed how busy some of the city’s more-popular restaurants have been.
And if you looked twice, you might also have noticed how many of those guests with a glass of wine in front of them were younger women.
That trend gets analyzed in a recent report from the Wine Market Council, which says people in their 20s and early-to-mid 30s now drink almost half the wine bought in the US.
What’s more, in what’s called the “high-frequency drinker” segment, women under 30 women are out-purchasing men two-to-one when it comes to wine.
Now, “high-frequency drinker” isn’t as lascivious as it sounds. According to the WMC, it refers to someone who drinks wine more than once a week. That faction buys and consumes 81 percent of all the wine drunk in America, says WMC.
Again, the WMC report says Baby Boomers account for the largest group in the high-frequency class, but Millennials (those people born between 1978 and 1995) are right behind them, making up 30 percent of frequent drinkers.
How fast the kids grow up. Read more…
The plane had barely lifted out of La Guardia, headed west over the snow-covered country of upstate New York, and I already was thinking about the wines I missed during my brief stay in New York City.
Three days of Italian Wine Week/Vino 2016 in New York City’s Midtown Hilton with a brief interlude at the Tre Bicchieri 2016 International Tour tasting simply wasn’t time enough to do justice to all the wines and winemakers at the two events.
One of the expected drawbacks to having 160-plus winemakers and about 1,000 different labels in one room, as was the case with the two Vino 2016 Grand Tastings, is you simply can’t meet every winemaker even with an afternoon to do so.
Undoubtedly many gems went untasted or there simply wasn’t time to return to re-taste some of the more-interesting wines. I’m certainly not complaining, given the breadth and depth of the wines I did taste, and there are many worse places to be than surrounded by talented and ambitious winemakers.
The wine-cup-runneth-over was something I mentioned at the Vino 2016 tasting to Marco Funiati, owner and general manager of Agricola Messapica in Salento.
“Yes, there are many (winemakers) here trying to attract the American market,” said Funiata. “We don’t have much time to make an impression, and the American market is so big.”
He was pouring his 2014 Salento Chardonnay, an 80/20 blend of Chardonnay and Verdeca. Crisp, fresh and bright, available in the U.K. but still seeking a U.S. importer.
I stopped a few tables away to try Alex Polencic’s Pinot Grigio and although it hadn’t been in bottle long, was impressed by the rich mouthfeel and velvety apple/pear fruit, far different (and way better) than the sea of plonky Pinot Grigios now flooding the U.S. market.
“2014 was one of the most difficult years in the last 15,” Polencic said. “But 2015 was much better” with late-summer rain softening the earlier heat.
Over at the Tre Bicchieri International Tour tasting at the Metropolitan Pavilion, I slipped through the crowd to find Elvira Bortolomiol pouring her family’s 2014 Brut Prior Prosecco Superiore, the 2014 Brut Lus Naturae and the 2015 Extra Dry Bandarossa. Prosecco sales continue to climb and it’s no wonder after tasting the outstanding wines from Bortolomiol and those Maria Luisa dalla Costa was pouring for Graziano Merotto, both from the rugged hills of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG.
This, by the way, was Merotto’s fifth-consecutive Tre Bicchieri, honoring his Cuvèe del Fondatore.
Also of note were the 2014 Lugana Molin and 2014 Lugana Prestige from Cá Maiol on the southern end of Lake Garda. The wines, not surprisingly, were delicious, reflective of the area’s complex history and geography.
And all too quickly the weekend was over.
NEW YORK – Romano Baruzzi took a breath and looked out at the sea of faces in front of him.
“Buona sera a tutti, welcome everyone,” said Baruzzi, deputy trade commissioner for the Italian Trade Commission in New York City. “Welcome to the biggest event promoting Italian wines in the U.S.”
Baruzzi had the opening podium on Feb. 8 for the start of Italian Wine Week/Vino 2016, just ahead of the much-awaited panel discussion titled “On the Bright Side: What’s Ahead for 2016.”
This first-night talk promised to give the many producers, importers and the occasional journalist insights into what the immediate future may hold for Italian wine. While providing a suitable answer for such a complex question is akin to stuffing an elephant into a suitcase, Baruzzi and the other speakers were giving it their best.
Vino 2016 attracted more than 160 Italian wine makers and their representatives, most of them proudly showing off their latest vintages to almost that many importers and buyers while other winemakers, reported as high as nearly one-third of those present, simply were seeking someone trustworthy in whom to entrust their wines.
“We have more than 1,000 labels here this year,” Baruzzi said during his opening remarks. “I hope everyone can find a (business) partner in the U.S.”
But as many smaller Italian winemakers learned during the two-day event, hope may be their best hope. Read more…
Looking out at a well-lit seminar room on the second floor of the midtown Hilton Hotel, at tables laden with wine glasses and lined with eager listeners, McCoy informed her audience that “It couldn’t be a better time for wines from southern Italy.”
It was a theme to be repeated, although never again quite as succinctly, throughout the all-too-short run of this year’s Italian Wine Week presented by the Italian Trade Commission. Subtitled “The Grandest Italian Wine Event Ever Held Outside of Italy” and focusing this year on wines from Calabria, Campania, Puglia and Sicily, the event (this year was its fifth edition) brought together about 200 Italian wineries (not all from the south and about a quarter of which were looking for a U.S. importer) and countless importers and distributors and other wine-trade people.
Among the many memorable remarks from the week’s speakers and guests:
“This week there is a peaceful invasion of Italian producers and wine experts.” – Maurizio Forte, Trade Commissioner and Executive Director for the Italian Trade Commission.
“The U.S. market is the most-important market for Italian wine; we export almost $1.5 billion per year.”– Maurizio Forte
Wines from southern Italy are largely unknown to the U.S. market because “most American tourists still do not visit Southern Italy.” – former wine director Charles Scicolone.
“They are a ‘hand-sell, meaning that it often takes talking about these wines and explaining them to the customer in order to get them to try a bottle or two.” – Charles Scicolone
“People want to know who you are, not just your wines.” – Chad Turnbull, president of New York-based importer Savorian, Inc., told the producers. “One of the most fundamental things you can do is to introduce yourself to your market.”
“Puglia and Calabria are at the edge of the western world.” – blogger/importer/Italophile Jeremy Parzen. “They just needed a small nudge to enter the modern world of winemaking.”
“When you taste (the wines of southern Italy), it’s hard to imagine what the wines were like 20 years ago.” – Elin McCoy. “These were wines you didn’t want to know about.”
“Sicily is sexy; it was sexy even before the wines were so good.” Roberta Morrell, president and CEO of Morrell Wine Bar and Café, New York City.”The good reds came before the good whites…now the whites are fresh, fruity and minerally.”
“I’m consumer driven. If you can’t say it, you can’t buy it.” – author/wine educator Kevin Zraly.
“In Italy, people mostly eat at home.” – restaurateur/ author Lidia Bastianich. “First, because good eating means eating their mother’s cooking, nobody makes it better, and secondly, because of the economic crisis that is currently afflicting the country.”
“Buying a wine made in Italy means buying a piece of wine history from a country that has made wine for a thousand years.” – journalist Luciano Pignataro.
As this space noted earlier, voters in Colorado will face the question whether to allow grocery stores to sell wine, spirits and full-strength beer.
Since that posting, a new consideration has arose.
Kroger Co., the country’s largest supermarket chain and owner of the eponymous Kroger grocery stores as well as King Soopers, City Market and others, has “proposed a plan that would let a private distributor oversee how much prominence brands get in stores,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Plus, the WSJ goes on, the alcohol companies will be asked to pay for the distributor to find shelf space. (The original article is behind the WSJ paywall but you can read a summary here in an article from Money magazine).
In other words, pay for exposure.
Already this sounds like bad news for locavores supporting small-batch producers.
Not every small winery, brewer or distiller will notice the change. Many of them are too small to use state or national distributors and many of them sell most of their product through the front door.
But for those who depend on a distributor, or simply rely on the willingness of a retailer to find room on a shelf, the Kroger proposal is bad news.
Finding a place to sell small-batch wine, beer and spirits already is tough; just ask the winemakers, distillers and brewers who make weekly rounds of stores, making sure they haven’t lost shelf space to large distributors also trying to find space for their products.
Competing for premium shelf space just got harder, as writer W. Blake Grey assets here, against national distributors who can pay for better positioning.
Grocery store chains in Colorado again this year are expected to ask voters to be allowed to sell full-strength beer, wine and other spirits, something currently reserved under state law for liquor stores.
Petitions being circulated spout blather like “produce jobs,” “increase consumer choices,” “lower prices” and “economic development.” Sounds good on the surface but like most arguments, this one isn’t black and white.
From a liquor-store owner’s view, a grocery store selling wine or booze means unwanted competition in an already tight market.
“There’s just no possibility I can go out there and compete with grocery stores,” said Kim Schottleutner, chair of the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association and owner of DTC Wine and Spirits in Greenwood Village, in an interview with Channel 7 TV in Denver.
Industry watchers say if grocery stores get beer, wine and spirits, many of the state’s small liquor stores, already operating on a tight margin, may disappear, along with the jobs they provide and taxes they pay.
“You will affect jobs. You will affect businesses,” said Schottleutner. “That’s something that the petitions aren’t telling anybody.”
Keep Colorado Local, formed by the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association and the Colorado Brewers’ Guild, says the state risks losing nearly 1,600 independent liquor stores, 287 craft breweries, 135 wineries and 46 distilleries.
Fewer competitors won’t mean lower prices or better selection. Have you been into a state-owned liquor store in Utah, one of the 18 states that are state-controlled?
The wine/liquor selection is limited because every store sells only what someone in the state office mandates. Want something different? Drive to Colorado, something Utahns already do.
According to the Huffington Post, Colorado is one of only five states that limit grocery stores to selling 3.2-percent ABV beer. The exception is that each chain in Colorado is limited to one full-strength license.
Another concern is the impact grocery store beer sales will have on craft brewers.
“We have a lot of craft beers that come in here on a day-to-day basis, from vendors that would like to see new placement,” said Schottleutner.
One argument for the success of craft brewers and distillers in Colorado is that liquor stores are able and willing to make room for new brands from small companies, something grocery chains can’t do because of limited shelf space reserved for national brands.
“It’ll kind of create an issue in the market where you’re only getting the top-selling brands,” Gaele Lopez with Beverage Distributors of Aurora, is quoted in the same Channel 7 interview. “A smaller brewery might have to close.”
An editorial last year in the Denver Post said Kevin DeLange, founder of Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora, said his business never would have achieved its success if not for Colorado’s regulations allowing breweries to self-distribute directly to liquor stores.
As is the case with any small producer looking to increase market options, DeLange said he poured samples of his Vanilla Porter and Apricot Blonde beers to owners and managers in neighboring liquor stores in efforts to entice them to sell his beers.
“We can go in there, and we can negotiate visibility and get the product in within a week,” Lange is quoted in the editorial.
However, Lange said he was rebuffed when he went to the Safeway store in Littleton, the chain’s only Colorado store (see the Huff Post entry above) that can sell full-strength beer.
“(The manager) actually chuckled,” DeLange is quoted as saying. “He said, ‘You have to go to California. You have to ask the home office.’ It took four months. There is no decision made at the local level of where they display products or signage.”
One argument for booze in the grocery store says it will break the monopoly held by liquor stores. Do you seriously think one City Market/King Soopers will compete (have lower prices) than the rest of the chain?
Walk into most Grand Junction liquor stores and someone’s there to help you find the right wine, beer or spirit. Ask for help choosing a wine in a grocery store and maybe you’ll get a produce clerk, onion in hand. Not fair to either person but for now, he or she is your only hope.
Local liquor stores also means your money stays in the community instead of the pockets of far-distant corporate stockholders.
In Grand Junction, the bigger stores –Fisher’s Liquor Barn, Andy’s Liquors, it’s a short list – may survive by cutting costs (that means jobs) and capitalizing on customer service, something large-chain grocery/liquor stores can’t provide.
But look at it this way.
I’m sure Little Sammy will be happy to run across town to the mega-box grocery store for bread, milk and a pint of Jack.
It gives him one more chance to try that fake ID.
(This column originally appeared in the Dec. 22, 2015 issue of the (Grand Junction, Colo.) Daily Sentinel.)