New York Times jumps on the wine in a box bandwagon

This morning at 9:30 am, Tuesday August 19th, the single most emailed story on the New York Times website was not that Obama has decided a running mate, it was not the war in Iraq, it was not the Olympics.  Here’s the true measure of the popularity of wine in today’s culture: it was about boxed wines.

A full third of all wine sold in Italy today is packed in Tetra-Pak.  The boxed wine selection in most stores is about five times the size it was three years ago (with several prominent large brands taking up less and less space, I might add).  It’s all about finding better, but not best, juice in boxes for the sake of convenience and environmental karma (plus value, of course).

(Sidenote: I still think that if a prominent Napa Valley Cabernet producer, somebody with a stellar reputation, released a TINY amount of their wine in box format — imagine paying $300 for a 3L box! — it would generate enough buzz to be the story of the year.  Talk about free advertising!)

However, the really interesting part is to be found here, in the New York Times comments section.  If you want to keep on the pulse of current public opinions, the newspaper comments section is a good place to find the more aggressive, passionate, and loud voices (that inevitably influence the more passive and quiet ones).


Fresh Taste Festival this Sunday!

The Twin Cities Fresh Taste Festival is happening this Sunday on Nicollet Island.  A great celebration of organic, sustainable, and biodynamic wines with special guests from around the world.

Taste the ultimate in local fare, at the peak of the summer harvest season.  Guest chefs will be discussing local ingredients, farms, co-ops, and farmers markets.

World Class Wines will have a booth at the show (along with many of our favorite wineries), so please stop by and say hi!

For more information go to, or click on the FRESH TASTE FESTIVAL tab at the top of this page.

Hope to see you Sunday!

“14 is the new 10”

Gig Tickets, by Flickr user Limowreck666

Gig Tickets, by Flickr user Limowreck666

Do you ever catch yourself listening to a conversation (or, in this example, the radio) and something is said that grabs you and sticks in your brain and you can’t shake it out?

On Sunday August 3rd, on Sound Opinions (Sunday nights on The Current … quite possibly the best music show on the radio today), the hosts had special guests Sean Agnew, Mitchell Franks, and Jake Szufnarowski.  These three guys are smaller venue rock show promoters from around the country and have seen the ups and downs of decades of promotions and shows.

(Sidenote: As they talked, it became clear that in the music promotion business, not unlike the wine business, the bigger guys are getting bigger — and as we know bigger isn’t always better — and the smaller guys that keep their heads about them are getting creative, working with modern business models, and starting to have the time of their lives.  A classic David and Goliath story.  Quite interesting. Click here for footnotes on the entire show.)

Anyway, I regret that I don’t know which person said it, but when he did it stuck to me:

“14 is the new 10.”

And what he was referring to is the shift in small show ticket prices that has happened just in the last few months.  Last year, charging $6 to see a show was a bad idea … people wondered if it’s going to be worth it, wondered if there is a good band on the roster, and wondered if they should go somewhere else.  But if you charged $10 you got a significantly higher rate of attendance and return, in addition to a higher class of attendees.  It became a win win for the band, the promoter, and the venue.  (The last time this price shift happened, according to this experienced promoter, was circa 1988).

All of the sudden, because of the shift in the cost of goods and transportation, $14 is the new $10.

So when figuring out the retail line up in your store, keep this story in mind.   Your customers may grumble, and of course there are still great bargains out there, but the baseline for quality has changed in value. And on wine lists, more so than anywhere else, don’t hesitate to put a $14 glass of wine out there.  It’s the new 10!

Shipping containers 101

Shipping Containers.  Image by Flickr user melted_snowball

Shipping Containers. Image by Flickr user melted_snowball

They move the wine we love.  They transport millions of tons of goods across the oceans.  They are shipping containers, and like everything else, the price of using them is going up.

In the quest to help you understand the true costs involved in the wine business, it’s important that you read this snippit from an article in today’s New York Times about the cost of shipping containers.

Australian wine, which has dominated the under $8 market thanks to one brand alone, will obviously be the most affected … it’s a long trip from Sydney to the shores of California.  That is to say, that particular brand and others in its price range will be feeling a bigger hit vis-a-vis a percentage of their price.  But this transportation increase will be felt throughout the system and with any and all imported goods.  It’s suddenly far cheaper to consider American wines for the ‘affordable pour’ at your restaurant!

From the New York Times:

The cost of shipping a 40-foot container from Shanghai to the United States has risen to $8,000, compared with $3,000 early in the decade, according to a recent study of transportation costs. Big container ships, the pack mules of the 21st-century economy, have shaved their top speed by nearly 20 percent to save on fuel costs, substantially slowing shipping times.

The study, published in May by the Canadian investment bank CIBC World Markets, calculates that the recent surge in shipping costs is on average the equivalent of a 9 percent tariff on trade. “The cost of moving goods, not the cost of tariffs, is the largest barrier to global trade today,” the report concluded, and as a result “has effectively offset all the trade liberalization efforts of the last three decades.”