Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New gizmo creates fine wine in mere minutes

If you're living on a Two Buck Chuck expense account -- and let's face it, these days we all are -- but have a taste for a 20 buck Cabernet, then you might consider a new wine-aging gizmo on the market.

It's called the Perfect Sommelier and it ages wine in 30 minutes, rather than years, according to the folks behind TPS. While there are skeptics locally, it's drawing some praise and awe from wine experts like Anthony Dias Blue, Bon Appetit's wine editor, who used it on an Italian Brunello "known for being tight and unapproachable when young." (Brunellos start at $40.)

But the gizmo turned it around, he says.

"Don't ask me how it works, but it works," he says in a testimonial.

Makers of TPS say it works like this: Open a bottle of wine and replace it with a magnetic top. Then place the bottle on the magnetic coaster or base, which also is part of the kit.

Once this process -- which includes the creation of a magnetic field and traveling wine molecules -- is done, the wine reportedly is transformed. After 30 minutes, the bitterness from some of those budget bottles of wine should be gone.

Gregg Wilson of the Artisan Cellar in the Merchandise Mart asked one of his highfalutin wine collector customers, and the customer dismissed it.

"His thought was 'just drink something else if it's not ready.' "

Wilson, fine wines director at the store, says this isn't something you'd use on a 2005 Bordeaux, which isn't ready to open yet.

"But I'm not against it for casual wines that need a boost," he said.

He and others question the need for a product when the market is flush with good, inexpensive wines.

"For people who want to have a nice wine with their meals every day, even in the present economy there are tons of wines for under $10 -- and they're great wines -- that's great," said Gregory Fulham, a wine consultant with a bit of a cultlike following at Binny's Express in Hyde Park, 1531 E. 53rd St.

"For the guy who has to have everything, the latest bar, the latest corkscrew -- great. But in 10 years I want to know where they are. I can see the cart table at the yard sale right now," Fulham said.


Wine Drinkers Still Trading Up

Recent IRI data shows evidence that American wine drinkers are still trading up amidst poor economic conditions. Table wine dollar sales grew 5.7% and volume rose 1.5% in the four weeks to May 18, according to IRI scan data, with growth of domestic wines far outpacing imports. Value of domestic wines grew 7%, while volume was up 2.4%. Dollar sales of imports, meanwhile, rose 1.7%, while volumes declined -2.5%. It looks like the weak U.S. economy is taking its toll on imports as consumers opt for less expensive domestics.

Red and white wines remained relatively steady, with red wine value rising 6% and white wine value growing 6.3%. Volumes of red wine grew 2.6%, while white wines were up 2.5% in the four weeks.

VARIETALS. The same varietals that have shown growth in recent years continued to surge ahead, while Merlot and Syray/Shiraz remained weak. Dollar sales of Cabernet rose 7.7%, while volumes grew 5.9%, according to IRI. Chardonnay sales, meanwhile, rose 4.7% and volumes were up 3.2%. Sauvignon Blanc values jumped an impressive 13.4% and volumes climbed 6.6%. Not far behind, dollar sales of Pinot Grigio climbed 10.3% and volumes rose 7.1%. Once again, Pinot Noir demonstrated the highest rate of growth, with sales up 19% and volumes up 21%. Zinfandel grew 11.5% in value and 6.2% in volume.

Meanwhile, dollar sales of Merlot declined -0.2% and volume was down -0.1%. Merlot has lost 0.7% of dollar share in the four weeks and -0.2% of volume. Syrah/Shiraz saw value fall -5.1% and volume decline -4.2%, with share points down -0.4% and -0.2%, respectively.

REGIONS. California, Oregon and Washington all performed well in the month, displaying dollar sales growth of 6.5%, 20% and 12.1%, respectively. Volumes of California wines rose 2.2%, followed by Washington (8.5%) and Oregon (13.4%).

Out of the big three importers - Australia, France and Italy - only Italy showed growth in dollar sales. Value of Australian wines declined -1.9%, while volume was down -1.7%. French dollar sales declined -2.7% and volume was down -5%. Value of Italian wines, meanwhile, rose 2.2%, but volumes fell -4.9%.

German wines rose 2.5% in dollar sales and fell -7.2% in volumes. Portuguese wines grew 7.5% in value and 1.8% in volume, while Spanish wines climbed 4.6% and 1%, respectively.

Other than Australia and South Africa, dollar sales of new world wines performed well in the four week period. Argentina displayed the highest rate of growth (37.8% in value and 19.7% in volume), followed by New Zealand (25.2% in value and 13.2% in volume) and Chile (6.3% in value and -1.3% in volume). Dollar sales of South Africa declined -14.6% and volume fell


PRICE SEGMENTS. Meanwhile, higher priced wines continued to show promising growth in the four week period, indicating that consumers are still trading up. Dollar sales of the $20+ wine category rose 14.2% and volume grew 10%. Dollar sales of wines in the $15.99-19.99 range grew 14.1% and 13.3% in volume. Wines in the $11-14.99 category saw values increase 12.9% and volumes climb 12.4%. Dollar sales of wine priced $8-10.99 grew 9% in value and 6.9% in volume. Dollar sales of wine priced $5-7.99 grew 1.6%, while volumes grew 1.2%.

The following price categories experienced growth in dollar sales but declines in volume. Wines in the $3-4.99 range grew 1% in value but declined -3% in volume. Lastly, wines priced below $3 grew 0.3% in dollar sales but were down -3% in volume.

Wine & Spirits Daily