Tag Archives: wine

What’s Hot in Cold Beverages

What we’ve been drinking:

Infographic via Beverage Marketing Corporation

We worry about an obesity epidemic, but in 2010, we were still chug-a-lugging soda, which remains the most consumed beverage at an average of 45 gallons in a year. And our professed concern for the environment? Last year we drank more bottled water than ever before.

As 2011 winds down, the prognosticators are turning toward 2012. The Food Channel combined the results of its reader survey with intelligence gathered from the market analysts at Mintel, Culture Waves, and the International Food Futurists to identify the top 10 beverage trends that will shape our drinking habits in the coming year.

What we will be drinking:

1. Do-it-Yourself Flavor
 Beverage companies have been experimenting with a profusion of flavors looking for the new blockbuster. Refrigerated cases overflow with lychee water, ginger-peach iced tea, and rhubarb-lemongrass soda. We’ll be taking matters into our own hands with powdered and liquid flavor enhancers that are added to water or seltzer; coffee and tea creamers in new flavors like honey-vanilla crème and white chocolate caramel latte; and Coca Cola’s new Freestyle machine with a touch-screen that turns you into an instant mixologist with more than 100 flavor variations.

2. The Buzz Around Chocolate Milk
Chocolate milk is all over the map. While school districts are questioning its place in their cafeterias, new studies seem to indicate that it’s a better choice than sports drinks for athletes looking to develop more muscle and less fat, and improve oxygen uptake during workouts. New products include straws imbedded with chocolate beads that flavor each sip, and a boozy chocolate milk for grown-ups with the tagline: “Retaste your youth at 40 proof.”

3. Cold Coffee is Hot
The iced coffee market has grown by 20 percent in the last five years. Dunkin’ Donuts, the nation’s largest retailer of coffee—hot and iced—reports that more than a fourth of the yearly, billion cups of coffee it serves are now iced. Iced, frozen, and slushie coffee drinks are available everywhere. Home brewing systems are growing in popularity and you can always grab a pre-bottled iced coffee or ready-to-mix concentrate. Iced coffee is not just for summer anymore.

4. Drink to Your Health
The category of functional beverages is exploding. Bottled waters are enhanced with vitamins and fortified with minerals that claim to battle diabetes, improve digestion, and promote improved bone and cardiovascular health. Sugars are being reshuffled as we steer away from high-fructose corn syrup and back to cane sugar; and away from artificial sweeteners toward natural, zero-calorie plant-based sweeteners like stevia and agave nectar. You can fire up with an energy shot, mellow out with a stress busting anti-energy drink, or sharpen cognition with one of the ‘think drinks.’

5. Simple, Seasonal Sips
The local foods ethos is coming to your highball glass. Beers are going seasonal, artisan distillers are cooking up local spirits, and bartenders are embracing a style that’s been dubbed ‘Market Fresh Mixology,’ whipping up cocktails with natural mixers made in-house and freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices. Even the hotel minibar is now stocked with local brews and regional wines.

6. Fizz-free Combo Meals
Fast food and quick-serve restaurants are looking beyond fountain drinks. McDonald’s is urging its customers in ads to ‘drinkcessorize’ with its new smoothies and frozen lemonade, and Sonic Drive-In is promoting milk shake happy hours. Popeye’s is experimenting with soda-lemonade blends, Burger King has toyed with a breakfast cocktail of orange juice cut with Sprite, and they’re all testing the waters for alcoholic beverages.

7. Craft Beer is Booming
Sales of craft brews are seeing double-digit increases, even while overall beer sales are flat. In the midst of a mature industry, craft brewers are acting like frisky teenagers as they tinker with ingredients and techniques to brew experimental batches with ingredients like fruit, tea leaves, lavender, chiles, and Nutella. There are so many small, independent artisan brewers popping up around the country that most Americans now live within 10 miles of at least one specialty producer.

8. Bourbon’s Rebirth
It’s the biggest bourbon boom since Prohibition. Just a few years ago, distillers were ready to consign the bourbon category to that great liquor store in the sky; today, inspired at least in part by the popular period TV series Mad Men, classic cocktails are making a comeback as the twenty- and thirty-something crowd bellies up to the bar for whiskey—specifically bourbon whiskey. Small batch premium and super premium bourbons are now commanding the same respect and high prices that had been the domain of single-malt scotch. 

9. Drinks and a Show
Restaurants like to dazzle us with presentation: the pampering turn of a peppermill; the deft, table side deboning of a whole fish; the oohs and aahs of a made-to-order zabaglione that’s whisked and flamed in its copper bowl. Now we’re seeing the same star treatment for cocktails. Juices are squeezed a la minute, syrups and purees are ladled right under our noses, and mixed drinks are given a deliberately theatrical, tooth-rattling ride in cocktail shakers.

10. How Low Can They Go?
Happy hour has always been a diet disaster, and drinkers, especially women, have always pushed for lower calorie choices. There’s a caloric arms race as the big players compete for the title of the lightest of the light beers on the market. Miller had just released its MGD 64, claiming it to be “as light as it gets” at 64 calories, when Bud Select 55 stole the title with a mere 55 calories in a 12 oz. bottle. Pre-mixed, low-calorie cocktails—a category that barely existed just a year ago—is giving a boost to liquor store sales, and restaurants like Morton’s Steakhouse, McCormick & Schmick’s seafood restaurants, Applebee’s, and even that ode to caloric excess, the Cheesecake Factory, have developed low-calorie cocktail menus.


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The Grapes of Laugh: Wine label humor

Wine marketers have finally caught on to something that other industries figured out eons ago.
Shopping is not a rational activity but an emotional one. Consumers buy with their gut. Of course price still matters to wine shoppers, and they might scan the tasting notes if they’re right there on the shelf, but if they don’t like the label, they’re not going to buy the wine. It really is that simple.

The educated oenophile is still out there, but the average wine buyer isn’t impressed by Old World history, and a ‘good year’ probably has more to do with a team in the playoffs than varietals and vintages. Give him a chuckle with a funny label, and that’s something he knows will go over well with his friends. It’s a gag gift, a conversation-starter at a dinner party. He knows that the label won’t make the wine taste better, but it also can’t hurt.

Wineries use giggle-inducing labels to make their bottles ‘pop’ from the shelves, to grab a shopper’s attention and create a name that will be remembered. It’s also a bit of an inside joke for the winemakers, an irreverent jab at the old elitism, that makes wine seem modern and accessible. Most funny labels fall into one of these categories:

Cutesy Critters
In 2006, the market analytics firm AC Nielsen reported that for new wine brands, bottles with animals on the label sell at double the rate of those sans animaux. Since then, so many vintners have chased that success that the wine aisles bring a fairy tale’s worth of fanciful creatures. There’s Monkey Bay and Toad Hollow, Dancing Bull, 3 Blind Moose, Elephant on a Tightrope, and 47 Pound Rooster (there must be a doozy of a story behind that one).

These are the light-hearted and playful names, often encompassing an insider’s joke; wines like Senile Farms, Jake’s Fault, White Lie, Rock-Paper-Scissors, Moral Compass, Screw Kappa Napa, and Big Tattoo Red.

Salacious and Scatalogical
If the critters represent fairy tales, this category comes from the adults-only section. Split between cheeky and crass, the not-so-subtle and the wholly adolescent, it’s full of labels like Well Hung, Kilt Lifter, Frog’s Piss (yes, it’s French), and enough ‘ass’ variants (Big Ass, Horse’s Ass, Stu Pedasso-try saying it fast) to fill a Cruvinet.

The Punsters
These wit-tinged labels do a lot of varietal tweaking along the lines of InZinerator, Seven Deadly Zins, Bored Doe, Goats do Roam, Cardinal Zin, Chard-No-Way (it’s a Chenin Blanc), and Bouteille Call.

Wine’s image has come a long way from Château this or Domain that.
Not everyone is a fan of this turn, feeling that it cheapens the entire category, and that greater reverence should be shown. The reality is that there is room enough for all kinds of wines. Wine is a mature industry with broad, mass-market appeal, and variety and range come with the territory.

Wine for the Cheap offers reviews, discussion, and genuine appreciation for low-cost labels.


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Eco-Friendly Wine: It’s Not Easy Being Green

.image via Certified International


You’ve heard of the French Paradox? You can call this the Napa Valley Paradox.

Organic tends to cost more than its conventional counterparts. It’s true for produce and dairy, meats and cleaning products. But when ‘organic’ appears on a wine label, it actually commands a lower price. […]

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Running With Liquors



.Let’s bid adieu to the year of drinking dangerously.

In the past year, legal highs hit new lows. We saw wine in to-go cups, caffeine-fueled binge drinking, and bros icing bros. We paired drinking games with every media event from the World Cup to the State of the Union Address, and learned that heavy drinkers live longer than teetotalers.

As we emerge from our national hangover, let’s look back at the drunken year that was.

The liquid arms race.
Most beer has alcohol by volume (ABV) of about 4-6 percent. Occasionally you would see something in the teens or even cracking 20 percent. Until last year. Brewers battled for the title of strongest beer on the planet, shattering limits that had held for millennia. Although it has since toppled, for a brief, shining moment BrewDog Brewery was the titleholder for its astonishing 55 percent ABV blond Belgian-style ale which it inexplicably bottled inside of  taxidermied squirrels, rabbits, and weasels.

A bottle and glass will work well too.
Alcohol delivery methods got gimmicky, techie, and just plain ridiculous. We saw the self-serve wine pump and wine vending machines. Whipped Lightning put grain alcohol and flavorings in a pressurized can to create Whipahol®, and the KegMate combined an iPad and a beer tap for the ultimate party app.


Perfect for the little one’s lunchbox.
In 2010, we witnessed the introduction of sippy cup wine and Hello Kitty Pinot Noir. Milkshakes got boozy, chocolate milk hit 40 proof, and My Jello Americans treated jello shots like Play-Doh.

It’s not like it was a slow news year.
It seemed we just couldn’t look away. We saw our share of semi-riveting celebrity DUI arrests. A YouTube video of a drunk stumbling up a hill got more than 3 million hits. 21 of Billboard Magazine’s top 100 songs of the year contain lyrical references to drinking and drunkenness.

Theories abound.

We are a country that has always enjoyed a good stiff drink, but this has been something special. Perhaps, like the 1930’s repeal of Prohibition, a nation in the grips of recession needs to drown its sorrows in a cocktail glass. Or maybe it’s the sexy glamor of Mad Men-style drinking. Or it could just be that a beer costs less than a gallon of gas, a movie ticket, or a fast food hamburger.

Looking ahead, we hope to move beyond the gimmicky contrivances and welcome a return to civilized, traditional forms of imbibing. Let’s be inspired by Roger Sterling, who summed up his old-school philosophy of drinking:

My generation, we drink because it’s good, because it feels better than unbuttoning your collar, because we deserve it. We drink, because it’s what men [sic] do.

(Roger Sterling, Mad Men; Season 1, Episode 4)

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Things Hipsters Like: Wine

Friends don’t let friends drink PBR

The cool kids are drinking wine.
That’s right; they are taking a pass on canned beer and putting down the bong for a nice Shiraz.

In the last seven years, 21- to 27-year-olds have increased per capita wine consumption in the United States by 40 percent—the largest increase in the wine industry’s history. They already make up 21% of core wine consumers- people who drink wine three or more times a week- and there’s another 20 million of them turning 21 over the next five years.

Twenty-somethings start drinking wine in earnest right out of college. Unlike previous generations who grew up with little more than a glass of Chenin Blanc with the Thanksgiving turkey and a New Year’s champagne toast, they learned at the knee of baby boomer parents who were responsible for the wine boom of the 1980’s. Their parents passed to them a comfort and fluency that allows them to approach wine casually, with little of the reverence and pretension of earlier generations of wine drinkers. […]

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Are Wine Ratings for Suckers?

image via Cornichon.org


Two thumbs up for this movie.
Four stars for that hotel.
The twirl of an Olympic ice skater, our approval of the President; even the red-orange-yellow of our national security level.
We do love the shorthand of rating systems.

Few things are rated as extensively as wine, and few ratings wield the influence of the 100-point scale for wine. And none is more controversial. […]

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Single-Serve Cup ‘o Wine Flies Off Shelves


http://www.conagrafoods.com/images/brands/product_jpgs/hunts_snack_pack.jpg + See  full size imageLe   Froglet wine-in-glass


Grocery stores in England are struggling to keep up with customer demand for Le Froglet. Basically a lunchbox pudding cup with a stem, Le Froglet is a single-serve plastic goblet of French wine with a tear-off lid.

Once you get past the imprudence of introducing yet another single-use, disposable plastic item into the waste stream, it is easy to understand the product’s appeal, in a down-market kind of way. The convenience and freedom of glass- and corkscrew-free portability even outweighs the less than stellar reviews received by the wines. […]

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Chubby Hubby: It’s Not a Myth


What was once an anecdote is supported by mounting evidence: we really do ‘let ourselves go’ when we’re in a relationship.

Cozying up on the couch with Netflix and a pizza. Intimate dinners complete with wine and dessert. Lazy Sunday mornings with bagels and the newspaper.

Of course you’re getting fat. […]

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Does Sarah Palin Drink Chardonnay?

image courtesy of Behance Network

Hand over that wine list, buster!

Women wine drinkers have overtaken men. Women buy more, spend more, drink more. And it’s not the proverbial glass of Chardonnay– red wine is favored by a wide margin.

Women and wine are a natural match. […]

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Private Label Beer

House beer makes its move.

We have grown comfortable with the concept of house wines. Gone are the days of wine by-the-glass or carafe whose only virtue was a low price. House wines today are more likely to be high quality bottlings  that are selected for their ability to complement the menu. Now we see restaurants doing the same for beer. […]

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Stemming the Flow of Red Ink: Publishers’ wine clubs


The Wall Street Journal has one. And the New York Times. Playboy Magazine too.

We’re talking about wine clubs; the newest revenue stream for struggling publishers.
Readership is down. Advertising is going the way of the web. Online content has been resistant to monetization.

What’s a news organization to do?

Newspapers and magazines have turned to selling wine as a new way of generating revenue from readers. There’s nothing new about the business model. Classified ads were the traditional way for publishers to take advantage of the communities they created. With subscriptions dwindling and the advent of free Craigslist classifieds, a diverse group of publishers has applied the same principles to wine clubs. […]

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Hungover? You need food!


The office party.  The neighbors’ open house. Nogs and bubbly and toddies.  A little too much holiday cheer?

Forget about the hair of the dog; you need food.


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The Champagne Bubble


Champagne has always been prone to cycles of boom and bust. It takes many long years for production to be established, but demand fluctuates with the vagaries of the economy.

Earlier this decade the Champagne industry saw three straight years of record sales, mostly due to exports to the booming economies of China, Russia, and India. Demand was so strong that France’s appellation system approved an historic expansion of nearly forty new growing areas to be added to the Champagne region.

Then the economy stalled. The customer for entry-level luxury wines evaporated. Conspicuous consumption– the bling that had fueled high-end Champagne sales– fell out of fashion. As the euro rose against the currencies of France’s trading partners, demand fell further. It was like a perfect storm for Champagne. […]

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Message in a bottle (140 characters or less)

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Twitter is launching a wine label.
The micro-blogging social media site is venturing into wine making as a side project and charitable endeavor. Twitter has partnered with Crushpad, a DIY winery and Bay Area neighbor to produce a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay. Bottled under the label Fledgling Wine, $5 from each $20 bottle sold will benefit Room to Read, a non-profit organization that extends literacy and educational opportunities to children in the world’s poorest regions. […]

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What recession? A girl’s got to eat.

photo courtesy of triplepundit.com


The economy might be slowing, but not our appetites.
We’re not eating any less, but we have made budget-driven adjustments to what we eat, how we shop, and where we are having our meals. Most of us are eating out less, more often choosing to cook and entertain at home. We still seek variety in our food and dining choices but more often find it in our purchases of prepared foods and specialty grocery items. […]

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Winemaking and Reality Television: a most unusual pairing

048ec4aa29e54e5a8bb5d338322dfb58Later this month, PBS debuts The Wine Makers. Airing nationwide during California Wine Month, the show takes 12 contestants to Paso Robles along the Central Coast (the wine-growing region seen in the movie Sideways), where they compete in a series of wine-making elimination rounds. They work the harvest, the crush, staff a wine tasting bar, and demonstrate their wine smarts in a Q&A round. The last wine maker standing wins the opportunity to launch a wine label with 150,000 bottle production. […]

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