The fight against the anti-alcohol lobby continues

Today's story comes from Decanter, where finally someone is stepping up and saying that the Lobby is doing something foolish for the French (and world) economy.

The person working against the Lobby is Marie-Christine Tarby, president of the alcohol lobby group Vin & Société who says the following:

'We are in an absurd situation where we have to defend the place of wine in French society.'

She also called for the drunk driving laws to remain at their current level so as to not put an undue influence on bottle service in restaurants.

All I have to say about this is that it's about time. I've been waiting for something like this to happen, given that France has appeared to be going the way of the 1910's USA. One would think they would learn from our mistakes, and realize that demonising alcohol, or any mind-altering substance, has the opposite result from the one desired. It makes the substance more enticing to those whom it is prohibited to. A great example is to compare American youth with European youth, especially those raised to believe alcohol is a complement to environment, food, and situation. The European youth tend to have a better viewpoint of the dangers of alcohol, tending to avoid the levels of alcoholism and binge drinking that American youth are experiencing in record numbers.

As European countries tighten their laws about alcohol, they are seeing an increase in drunk driving, alcohol-related deaths, and alcoholism. Rather than realizing there's a correlation between the two things, they respond by tightening things more. America is doing the same, though I believe we've just about reached the end of the tightening, as evidenced by recent bills to allow military to purchase and consume alcohol, as long as they're over 18. NH just had one killed in committee, though the presentation of such a bill is a step in the right direction.


The business of Wine

So I'm sitting here at work (yes, I know, blogging at work is a big no-no, but I have nothing to do until the people in front clear out and I can sweep the sidewalk), thinking about several conversations I've had recently with customers and co-workers.

Wine is a business.

There have been several posts on this topic from some very good bloggers, and I'd like to add my $0.02 in.

First and foremost, the store I work at is intended to make money. Location #2, having been open only a short while, is already posting a profit, which is a wonderful sign. Location #1 is still a wonderful place to explore and find wines you've never heard of. As I continue to work here, I'm learning the ins and outs of running one's own store, and it is not easy. Seeing as how I plan on opening my own one day, here are a few things I've decided are essential.

1. Hire a manager for day-to-day business, general bookkeeping, and other paperwork. Said manager should NOT be responsible for ordering.

2. One person should be responsible for ordering. Whether it's the owner, or a buyer, that person should have no other responsibilities.

3. Communication is key. If the manager is responsible for all hiring, firing, raises, and other personnel issues, then they should keep the owner/s updated on all discussions relating to those issues.

4. Keep staff to a minimum, and do whatever you can to keep them full-time.

5. There must be schedules in place, and everyone must know them. This goes not only for shift schedules, but cleaning, general maintenance, and delivery.

6. Every week should see a new wine. If there isn't room on the shelves because of single bottles left, find a way to get rid of those single bottles. Put them in a bin for people to hunt through.

7. A bottle of something that isn't selling (and is stocked heavily) should be tasted every night.

8. Hold classes. More informed customers means more sales, and higher-priced wine.

9. Taste the staff on what is in-house. Encourage them to go to trade events, and make sure schedules are shifted to accommodate tastings. The staff must be educated. If that means having a rep in to taste everyone on what they have in-house, then so be it.

10. Have books and publications about wine available for sale, and for staff use. See #'s 7, 8, and 9 for reasons.

Those are my 10 points on running a wine store. Obviously some of them are general, and I may add to this later as I think of more, but for now this is good.

Now, to convince my landlord to allow me a kitten so I can rename this blog what I wish to have my future store named: Athena, Nico & Petite Sarai (Aglianico & Petite Sirah - two unusual grape varietals).


Spring has sprung...

And boy is it causing me problems.

Allergies have me down for the count. I'm really not drinking much wine right now (and after spending two days tasting a couple weeks ago, I'm not up to much anyway), and there are many good discussions going on in the wine blogosphere that I don't feel qualified to enter into at the moment, so I'm in a holding pattern until my sinuses decide to stop encroaching on my ears.



Wine Blogging Wednesday, take two.

So the last WbW I considered participating in was supposed to be French Cabernet Franc. I wasn't able to get my hands on a good Chinon, although I did end up having a wonderful one the weekend after, thanks to my aunt and uncle's fantastic wine cellar, and their willingness to put up with the whole chaos-loving family for the Easter holiday.

This week, however, I am able to get my hands on the theme: Old World Riesling.

The website doesn't actually have the theme up yet, although Alder over at Vinography mentions it. So I'll probably head into Manhattan and pick up an interesting one from either Chamber Street Wines or Crush, two of my favourite stores. I've basically exhausted the stock of Rieslings here, mainly because I absolutely love the ones we carry.

Riesling is a fascinating wine. Low in alcohol, usually, it still carries a wonderful body and very smooth mouth feel. Some Rieslings will have a bit of tingle, just enough to make you question your senses. This is normal, as the QbA classification calls for a small dosage to be added as the wine is bottled.

A dosage is added to wines that come from underripe grapes. Champagne and other sparkling wines made in the traditional method will have a dosage, usually a combination of a sugar concoction and yeast to trigger a second fermentation in the bottle, and other times just a bit of unfermented juice from a previous year with yeast (Brut Natural). QbA and QmP Rieslings are underripe grapes, though QbA has a dosage, whereas QmP doesn't. Another wine that has a dosage added is White Zinfandel. Made from underripe Zinfandel grapes (which are *always* red), White Zin is a sharp, acidic wine with little to recommend it. The wineries add a high-sugar dosage to impart some sweetness, which leaves the final product being a clash of flavours and textures, unsuitable for drinking. In the future, instead of grabbing that bottle of Sutter Home, head over to the Italian and Spanish Rosé section. Much better, and for about the same price.

Now that I've gone off-topic, I'm going to go research this. I have a few weeks, and I want to make sure I choose a good, preferably aged, wine.


Italians 'spoofing' wine

This doesn't seem to be a new story, though it is interesting that it comes on the heels of most importers raising prices. There are two stories here; One is about companies like Banfi and Antinori blending their Montalcinos (which should be 100% Sangiovese), the other about cheaper wines having chemicals added.

The latter story isn't anything new at all. To save money, cheap wineries boost certain flavours of wine with chemicals. A decade ago, we were hearing about oak chips being used to 'adulterate' wines. Everyone was up in arms over the concept that California wineries (and Australian, to a lesser degree) were putting oak chips in their must, rather than fermenting in a new oak barrel. As it has been discovered, it makes for pretty terrible wine.

What I'd like to know (and probably won't for a while) is which vineyards are accused of doing so. My guess is that it's the more commercial cheapies, which means none of my wines are affected. I should probably make some calls, though, and find out directly from my distributors whether my two cheap wines are at issue.

In regards to the former story...

Duh. There is more demand for wine these days, especially from the big guys like Banfi. Their vineyards are not getting any bigger, and their vines are getting older, and producing fewer grapes. Which means less must, which means less wine. With the current obsession by collectors of buying futures, less wine is available for public purchase. So they turn to blending to have enough wine for everyone who wants it.

Capitalism strikes again. And they got caught. Oh, big surprise. The Italians aren't very good about things like quality control (their DOC and DOCG classifications don't really mean a whole lot when it comes to quality), but they're great about policing after the fact.

I'm going to go pick up a bottle of tasty Dolcetto. They can keep doing what they want. As long as it tastes good, people will buy it.

ON EDIT: It should be Brunello, not Montalcino.