Good Saturday morning! Here’s your list of the latest wine-related news I’ve been reading this past week. (Including one by yours truly.) There is a lot of good stuff here, so, once again, I hope this proves interesting, if not useful. Let me know your thoughts…

From the Press

Wine Enthusiast: Digital Wine Sales are Booming, And Some Wonder if They’ll Last

By Stacy Briscoe


The novel coronavirus pandemic and shelter-in-place orders have forced the wine industry to shift focus toward digital sales and marketing. The latest Nielsen data shows alcohol e-commerce has more than doubled compared to this time one year ago. Wine has enjoyed the largest success, making up nearly 70% of total online retail sales tracked in the report.

It’s no surprise that wine clubs previously dedicated to the online sphere have seen a substantial uptick in business. READ MORE…

Napa Valley Register: Napa Valley wineries plan for tasting room reopenings

Frog’s Leap Winery plans to utilize the large property to space out guests for wine tastings once its tasting room can reopen. Photo Courtesy Frog’s Leap

Anticipating the day when winery tasting rooms can reopen, the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) this week submitted its proposed guidelines for tasting room operations in a COVID-19 world.

NVV’s winery safety protocol task force has reviewed recommendations from groups like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as from local health officials, said Michelle Novi, associate director of Industry Relations.

The group has recommended creating a “phase-in” approach for bringing employees back to work on a case by case basis; maintaining social distance between employees and guests; establishing maximum occupancy for the physical tasting room spaces; and that both employees and guests wear face coverings during the tasting when possible. NVV will also recommend wineries operate on appointment-only systems.

“Every winery is going to be different, but these measures were designed to be feasible for everyone,” Novi said. READ MORE…

Paso Robles Daily News: Paso Robles Wine Alliance updates members on making plans to reopen wine tasting rooms 

Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance Executive Director Joel Peterson

Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance Executive Director Joel Peterson on Wednesday issued an update to its membership about plans for possibly re-opening wine tasting rooms in a limited way. However, there is no date certain yet as to when that might happen.

“Until the State communicates exactly what will change on Friday, and the county meets and certifies the readiness to loosen restrictions to advance in Phase 2, wineries cannot have in-person tastings,” Peterson says in the letter. On Tuesday San Luis Obispo County said ‘Phase 1’ re-opening cannot begin on Friday, May 8.

The county says it cannot implement this framework until three things happen:

1 the state lifts or modifies its Shelter at Home order,
2 the state allows for local control, and
3 the county issues another executive order moving to Phase 1.


wine-searcher: The World’s Most Wanted US Wines—Not Napa

By Don Kavanagh

© Thinkstock | There’s no room for white – or even blue – when it comes to US wine, just red.

This isn’t about Napa, let’s get that clear right from the start.

This is instead a list of the most searched-for wines made in non-Napa America and, while we aren’t going to include Napa, we do have to talk about it. And we also need to talk about Bourbon.

The sheer distortionate weight of Napa on the US wine scene simply can’t be ignored; it is almost literally the elephant in the room. Bourbon is also having a similarly heavy effect, displacing many famous wines that you might think would be high up any list of America’s most-wanted wines.

Let’s look at some figures. READ MORE…

James Beard Foundation: The 2020 James Beard Award Nominees

We are proud to announce the nominees for the 2020 James Beard Awards presented by Capital One. This announcement comes on what would have been the 30th Anniversary James Beard Awards in Chicago. Over the past few months COVID-19 has upended the restaurant community in every facet. During this time the Foundation has turned its attention to supporting the relief and rebuild efforts, postponing Awards activities to instead focus on the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund, which to date has disbursed more than $4 million to independent, locally owned restaurants around the country. After consultation with chefs and restaurateurs across the country, the Foundation decided to announce the 2020 nominees and honorees, and set the dates for this year’s remaining Awards events, which recognize work done in 2019.

The announcement was livestreamed via our Twitter account and co-hosted by VISIT PHILADELPHIA President and CEO Jeff Guaracino and the Beard Foundation’s CEO, Clare Reichenbach. READ MORE…

Decanter: Wine Photographer of the Year 2020: The winners


Meike and Dörte Näkel of Meyer Näkel Credit: David Weimann / Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year 2020

The awards ceremony was held online for the first time since the competition’s inception in 2011, with winners announced in a live-streamed event on the evening of 28 April. Renowned food photographer David Loftus was the chair of judges, whose panel included Decanter contributor and wine writer Joanna Simon, as well as winery representatives Magui Chadwiz of Viña Errazuriz and Vitalie Taittinger of Champagne Taittinger. READ MORE…

Wine Enthusiast: Can a Restaurant Operating at 25% Capacity Ever be Profitable?

By Emily Saladino



Ricardo Molina stocked up on three weeks’ worth of fajita fillings before he reopened Molina’s Cantina last weekend in Houston. It’s an insurance policy against market fluctuations due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“If the food supply is going to get tight, those prices will start to creep up, and then we won’t be able to offer the same menu,” explains Molina. His grandfather opened Molina’s Cantina in 1941, and it’s served generations of Houstonians.

Molina is one of countless restaurateurs navigating a rapidly evolving landscape. Last week, Texas governor Greg Abbott rescinded shelter-in-place restrictions across the state. As of May 1, Texas restaurants can serve guests seated at least six feet from one another in dining rooms filled to 25% capacity (50% in certain rural counties).

In doing so, Texas joins Tennessee, Alaska, Georgia and other states reopening consumer-facing businesses like restaurants, gyms and salons. Regulations vary. In Alaska, restaurants can operate at 25% capacity, with tables at least 10 feet apart. Tennessee restaurant dining rooms are at 50% capacity, while Georgia permits 10 diners every 500 square feet. Louisiana has outdoor dining only.

Public health concerns aside, the wave of newly opened, heavily restricted businesses present several economic quandaries. It’s hard to run a profitable restaurant in the best circumstances. Can any restaurant make money if its capacity is significantly reduced? READ MORE…

Wine Titles Media: How to survive and even thrive when marketing your brand during COVID-19

Speaking at a live webinar for Wine Australia, founder of Mastermind Consulting, Trish Barry shared her tips for marketing success in this challenging time. “Those who supercharge their e-commerce offering and get their online house in order will be the ones who succeed. It goes beyond just a sale though,” she said. “Nurturing relationships and offering value to your customers has to be at the heart of your plans.”

Ms Barry and the Mastermind Consulting team work with a portfolio of food, wine and lifestyle brands across Australia and provide insight on what is achieving results during a time when social distancing has changed the way we all do business. Ms Barry said she and her team are keen to assist as many Australian and New Zealand wineries, restaurants and travel operators as possible to survive this period of uncertainty.

“It’s certainly not business as usual and for those who have been putting off moving fully into the digital space, this is a wakeup call,” she said. READ MORE…

Blogs Worth a Read

I have a new page listing the Blogs I follow with regularity. Here are just a few posts from this past week I think are worth a read. Shoot me a note if you have suggestions or want your blog included.

Oz Wine Review: Start Pouring Your Wine Over Ice

Does Noble One work better on the rocks?

As a winemaker, what you do when tastes change and the style of wine you make is no longer fashionable?

Answer – you get everyone to start pouring your wine over ice.

I think that’s a terrible idea (why water down great wines? Just drink them how they’re meant to be drunk) but the bid to stay relevant/reinvent is real. And for producers of rich, sweet wines, the numbers don’t lie – consumers just aren’t drinking ‘dessert wines’.

So why not try something new? READ MORE…

Vinous: Winemaking and Wine Marketing in a Plague Year

The “racking goat” used by Dominus Estate to enable a single worker to rack a barrel.

In just the past couple of months, the novel coronavirus has profoundly changed the production and sale of wine around the globe. In this roundtable interview, 35 producers get specific about the challenges they are facing.

As you are unlikely to be visiting wineries in the immediate future, I thought I’d bring the producers to you. Specifically, I asked them how they have been affected by the new reality of COVID-19. READ MORE…

GuildSomm: State of the Sommelier

Master Sommeliers Sabato Sagaria, John Ragan, Melissa Monosoff, and Geoff Kruth engage in a conversation about the state of the sommelier industry and offer insight on how beverage professionals may adapt to a changing hospitality landscape. WATCH HERE…

SpitBucket: A New Tool to Help Promote Online Wine Events It’s designed to be easy for anyone to use. All you have to do to upload an event is to create a login via FaceBook or Google. We also have an email login option that we’ll keep as long as it’s not being abused. The aim is to maintain some accountability on who is submitting events. Once you’ve created a login, you can input an event on any date by filling in the details below. The listing will then need to be approved by admins who will make sure it is a legitimate event before going live. READ MORE…

And when you’re done reading that…give this next post by Amber a read:

Now is the time for wineries to think BIG with online wine events

The fascinating thing about putting together, as well as attending numerous online wine events myself, has been seeing the different approaches to these events.

Some have been very creative such as Peltier Winery in Lodi hosting “Wine and Comedy” shows featuring their winemaker with a professional comedian. Or Tinte Cellars in Woodinville doing Facebook takeovers with local musicians. Other wineries, shops and entrepreneurs are hosting cooking events, yoga, pajama parties, painting classes and even tasting parties centered around solving murder mysteries.

People are having fun, creating worthwhile and engaging events–taking advantage of digital platforms that give their brands a larger reach.

While a lot of wineries are doing fantastic jobs focusing on retention and taking care of their wine club members with personal, one-on-one virtual wine tastings. Far too many wineries are limiting themselves to the same formula. Take a look at the listings on Virtual Wine Events or just Google and take a gander at Facebook event postings. You’ll see the same script. READ MORE…

Jancis Robinson: Possible solutions to the 2019 en primeur conundrum

The UGCB would announce this month that the main campaign around the 2019 vintage will take place – travel restrictions permitting – in spring 2021, at which point the 2020 vintage will also be available for tasting at those châteaux who choose to show the two vintages together.

Châteaux, in concert with their local brokers and with the négociants of the Place de Bordeaux, would release a proportion of their 2019 crops as a first tranche in May, June or July 2020. To have any chance of success, it is essential that the prices reflect the current, dire economic situation – in the same way that the release of the 2008 vintage reflected the financial crisis at that time. Some châteaux may release 20% of their crop, some 40%, some 60%, some even none – depending on their needs.

It is important that négociants enter into the spirit of the exercise, passing on the wines, after taking their margins, at prices which reflect the attractive release prices declared by the châteaux. Some négociants may well opt to hold on to much, or all, of their first tranche acquisitions, waiting for the second tranche to appear, before striking a price.

If quantities of the 2019 vintage appear at attractive prices this side of summer 2020, trade and consumers may be happy to buy enthusiastically – even if wines have not been subject to the normal scrutiny.

This could be a win–win solution, inspired by Bordeaux’s history, and some of its best traditions. And if offering two vintages for comparison together in spring 2021 proves unsuccessful, or too confusing, then Bordeaux can easily return to business-as-usual – in what we hope will be a thriving, post-pandemic world – for the 2021 vintage. READ MORE…

Avalara: How to comply with new virtual tasting samples guidance

For wineries, breweries, and distilleries, tastings are an incredibly important way to generate sales and build loyalty with buyers. With most of the tasting rooms around the country closed because of the COVID-19 crisis, producers are turning to virtual tastings to replicate the experience of the physical tasting room. These typically come in the form of a recorded or live online guided tour of one or more products.

Recently, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), in its Third Notice of Regulatory Relief, added a new section to provide guidance on how to conduct virtual wine tastings. Wine Institute has listed requirements provided by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) on a tasting samples resource page. The Wine Institute page also tracks the list of states that have approved the practice of shipping samples for virtual tastings. We compiled a summary of best practices for complying with the guidance from TTB, California ABC, and state regulatory agencies. READ MORE…

Avalara: What our has to say about COVID-19’s impact on consumer spending

As a result of stay-at-home orders, some of what we found in the data was expected, while other findings were surprising. For example, our data showed that consumers were still regularly buying boats and golf equipment despite a decline in other leisure-centric purchases. Perhaps social distancing is easier on the golf course or open water, or maybe folks are just optimistic about summertime. At a high level, our data found that the most in-demand products and services were those that can be digitally sourced to help consumers navigate their new normal at home, with most industries supporting key home activities, like exercise and learning, seeing a 100% increase or more in customer traffic. READ MORE…

SOVOS ShipCompliant DtC Shipments Continue to Increase as Buying Channels Shift

The direct-to-consumer wine shipping channel continues to grow each year, with a 7.4 percent increase in value and 4.7 percent increase in volume in 2019. But starting mid-March 2020, as the pandemic progressed, and buying patterns shifted to rely heavily on ecommerce, we’ve seen a significant spike in growth over last year’s numbers. The DtC channel continues to provide an alternative way for consumers to get their favorite wines, especially right now, as many retailers are closed. Based on data from Sovos ShipCompliant, Wine Vines Analytics and Nielsen, here is a snapshot of how the DtC wine channel has changed as a result of shelter-in-place orders:


The Wine Gourd: The Most Admired Wine Brands are very different this year

Surprisingly, the top-ranked brand is new (Catena Zapata, from Argentina; pictured above), which has never happened before (except the first year!) — it normally takes a couple of years to work upwards to the top echelon. Furthermore, two out the top four are actually new (the other is 19 Crimes, from Australia). This is quite a high turnover at the top. (Note: Symington is also listed as new this year, but it owns Dow’s Port and Graham’s Port, both of which have each appeared in two previous lists.) READ MORE…

bw166: Beer, Spirits, & Wine – Packaged Imports Grow +5.50% By Value Over Last Twelve Months through March 2020, Packaged Exports Flat

Total beverage alcohol imports (including bulk and packaged) grew +6.50% by value over the last twelve months and grew +4.90% by value over the last three months. 27.4% of all imported beverage alcohol by value came from Mexico over the last twelve months.

BriscoeBites officially accepts samples as well as conducts on-site and online interviews. Want to have your wine, winery or tasting room featured? Please visit the Sample Policy page where you can contact me directly. Cheers!

**Please note: all reviews and opinions are my own and are not associated with any of my places of business. I will always state when a wine has been sent as a sample for review. Sending samples for review on my personal website in no way guarantees coverage in any other media outlet I may be currently associated with.**

Leave a Reply