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Vin de Napkin - Bipartisanship ... at the Wrong Time

If you’re not familiar with HR 5034, by the end of the week you will be.  It’s an H1N1-like acronym for the wine set.

I’ll spare the gory details because there are a number of unanswered questions and reacting vehemently without context creates assumptions and we all know what happens when you assume ... you get tea baggers.


Or, you get the beer wholesalers taking the “weasel in the hen house” route before their cause with craft brewing becomes a significant issue ...

You can get caught up on HR 5034 here, here, here, and here.

The thing that I want to know is, with a draft of a bill introduced by two Democrats and two Republicans, when did the two parties working together become fashionable?  I must have missed it on MSNBC and FoxNews.



Vin de Napkin: Mock Outrage

I read Lewis Perdue’s muckrucking at Wine Industry Insight last week.

His mock outrage and pot stirring regarding Gallo and “Le’Affaire Red Bicyclette” certainly plumbs new lows in wine-related online scandal-making.  At the least, his approach to reporting is in line with his fiction writing and the old axiom, “Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.”


Lewis Perdue left a comment on this post indicating that he has presented facts and there is more to be disclosed.  While I acknowledge that his story is based on factual information, I still believe it is a story of fanning a small spark to see if it becomes a fire.

The gist of Perdue’s assertions are based on the following items:

Gallo maintains that only the 2006 vintage of Red Bicyclette and only the Pinot Noir was compromised by fraudulent dealings in France.

A conviction is in place for the French parties who supplied Gallo.  Gallo is cooperating with U.S. authorities for what other proactive measures may be necessary as a result of their unwitting involvement in the varietal labeling fraud.

Perdue sought an answer on whether Gallo would also be recalling the 2008 Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir, and nobody responded to him.

Subsequent to those facts, Perdue goes into a lengthy dissection of Gallo public statements and the alleged truthfulness of the statements.

Here’s the problem I have with Perdue’s piece and the Red Bicyclette situation in general: 

1) Gallo is a victim of a significant hypocritical double-standard in the wine business.

2) Pinot Noir is notoriously difficult to produce inexpensively so the notion of what constitutes an $8 Pinot is already compromised by peer expectation

As industry members and enthusiasts, we celebrate the agricultural roots of the business, the ‘done on a handshake’ nature of business and trust, the fact that, somehow, the wine business has been immune to the inured corruption that is prevalent elsewhere.


Yet, when one of our own is a victim of what, by all accounts, has been a violation of a trust we come out of the woodwork and start poking and prodding and demanding some sort of Brutus-like falling on the sword – to an extent that is above and beyond what is necessary, particularly when a mis-labeled wine is a victimless crime with no individual repercussions in the form of harm.

Gallo thinks that 2006 is the only wine that was mis-labeled (and through which the company was mislead).  The 2006’s have been removed from the market.  End of story. 

I’m no Gallo apologist, but I’ll go one step further and suggest that if the victim was any winery or wine company besides Gallo they would be receiving our closed rank sympathy and support not the dubious inquiry protected by the First Amendment.

For reasons I don’t understand, Gallo is the Empire to the rest of the wine business’ Rebel Alliance.

I purchased the 2007 and 2008 Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir and the 2005 Syrah to ensure I had my own baseline on the wines.  I purchased each of them for $7.99 at my local grocer.

In Perdue’s piece, he quotes a couple of online writers who sanctimoniously say, “It doesn’t taste like Pinot Noir as I know it.”  Yeah, no kidding.  Strawberries at the grocery store shipped in from Latin America don’t taste like u-pick strawberries, either. 

Allow me to clue these guys in – A lot of Pinot doesn’t taste like Pinot including a bunch of $30+ bottles from the Central Coast and most all Pinot Noir under $15.

To me, the Red Bicyclette Syrah has characteristics of French Syrah and it’s refreshingly non-manufactured tasting at this price point.

Similarly, the Pinot Noir has characteristics of Pinot Noir that costs $8, most of which has Syrah blended in anyway—including 7% Syrah in the ‘08.  Does the Red Bicyclette taste like an ethereal, light, delicate mystery that has provided orgasmic revelation – no, but then what do you expect when you buy a nationally distributed Pinot Noir at $8?

You expect exactly what you get – something that tastes like wine and is inoffensive. To me, the following is manifest truth related to Gallo:

Because no harm to the public is involved, Gallo is required to do exactly what they have to by virtue of the law – which they’ve done by removing the 2006’s from the market and cooperating with the appropriate authorities.

For $8 bucks, I wouldn’t be embarrassed to serve Red Bicyclette wine at a party

The fact that no consumer complained about a supposed lack of Pinot Noir-ishness says more about consumers of $8 wine then it does Gallo’s business practices

The only thing I require of a Pinot Noir in this price range is …



Vin de Napkin - Slice of Vice

There is a reason why having a hunk of bloody rare red meat, a Manhattan and a cigar holds a tantalizing allure for many a man—it’s because it’s legal, but practically verboten in a world gone safe like the blunted edge of a set of safety scissors.

It’s living on the edge ... without having to go to the trouble of doing anything illegal.  Let’s face it—nothing fun is really, theoretically, good for you.  Except wine.  Wine seems to be good for you ...

... and, that’s the problem ...  I really don’t want to see any more research reports about how wine is so ... so ..., well, darn healthy.  It’s kind of a buzzkill.  Yeah, I know, of course, wine is a drink of moderation.  I’ve got that.  Still, wine would be infinitely more interesting if it were considered more of a vice instead of mainstream health tonic enjoyed by “Ladies Who Lunch” after their pilates class.

For that reason, I was glad to see this recent report with the headline, “Red Wine Could be Bad for You, Says New Research.”

Just saying ... sometimes being bad, is good ...



Vin de Napkin - More Questions than Answers Edition

More doodling on the back of a napkin about the crazy world of wine ...

Inspired by these stories:

Vatican Encyclical

“Three Dolla Koala”


A Critics Sour Grapes


The Purest Expression of Bottled Water Ever

Center for Internet Addiction



Vin de Napkin - Dubious Research Edition

More doodlings on the back of a wine stained napkin ...

I don’t mean to pick on university professors or researchers, but I can’t help but notice that the preponderance of research that comes out, specifically wine-related research from universities, is usually pretty lame. 

Yeah, I get the “publish or perish” notion, but is our academia sector now reduced to studying whether its more important for a winery to build a brand or to focus on high-quality? I suppose these two things can be mutually exclusive of each other, but on the branding front, didn’t Proctor & Gamble figure out this brand marketing thing 60 years ago?

The world is littered with “better” products that weren’t marketed well ...  you have to be a savvy marketer to survive these days ... in wine or any consumer product category.

Excerpt from a Lubbock Online regarding a Texas Tech wine marketing study:

High brand awareness is more likely to lead to brand survival than high perception of wine quality, according to the study. It tracked the fates of 25 Texas wineries since 1991, when more than 900 Texas wine enthusiasts rated the quality and name recognition of the wineries’ products.

Researchers found an unmistakable trend: the more recognizable the brand, the better its rate of survival. They found no such link between quality ratings, so wine makers may be better off investing in marketing rather than expensive grapes, the study indicates.

With so many brands to consider, Texas consumers tend to put more weight in a wine’s cover than its content, the study also suggests.

“A lot of wineries put so much effort into improving the quality, but not as much attention is being paid to marketing. This study shows it needs to be done,” said its lead author, Natalia Kolyesnikova



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