LVMH, the luxury goods company whose portfolio ranges from Louis Vuitton handbags to Dom Pérignon champagne, has made their first acquisition in Burgundy. The group has purchased Domaine des Lambrays just outside of Morey-Saint-Denis with its 21.9 acres of vineyards, including the Clos des Lambrays grand cru as well as several premier cru sites. Although the Clos des Lambrays has produced wine since the 14th century, the sellers were the Freund family who have owned it since 1996. The price was not disclosed. Production is about 35,000 bottles with an average retail price of $165 according to LVMH. Thierry Brouin, the estate’s chief winemaker who has overseen the last 35 vintages, will stay with LVMH.
Even though the holding is relatively small for the publicly-traded LVMH–a bauble for owner Bernard Arnault–it does signal a possible shift to corporate ownership. Part of Burgundy’s appeal to wine enthusiasts is that, in contrast to an area of corporate ownership such as the Médoc, the owners actually live on the ground and make the wines. Whether this is the thin edge of the wedge of corporate ownership remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure: LVMH is not a discounter, so don’t expect any price declines.
More: “LVMH acquiert le grand cru de Bourgogne Clos des Lambrays” [lesechos.fr]
Photo credit: Arnaud 25 / Creative Commons
In my wine classes, people often ask me, “What’s the best wine app?” I’ve been using wine apps since the early days of the app store and have generally found that they try to do too much (“a million logically possible food-wine pairings”) or too little (only offer limited price comparisons). But now when I am asked, I have an answer: Delectable.
The main feature that makes Delectable the standout wine app is its incredible optical recognition. Out to dinner and enjoying a wine? You could simply snap a picture to remember, always a good a idea. But if you take that picture with the Delectable app, it will upload it to their servers, have all their minions pore over it, and then actually fill in all the relevant data. I tried beat the app with a few dimly-lit, hard-to-read labels or obscure micro-production wines and it nailed them all. (Some users have reported that it does have trouble Hellenic wines–apparently, it’s all Greek to them.) The only downside was that it could take a while to recognize the label–ten minutes in one case–but, as I say, I couldn’t stump it. The relevant information about the wine is loaded and the user can rate the wine on a sliding scale ranging from frowny face to smiley face. Using it over a longer period of time not only gives you a log of which wines you’ve had, but also which grape varieties and regions, which is a terrific way of subtly encouraging you to try more of each.
The force behind the company is Alex Fishman, who graduated from Carnegie-Mellon in 2006 and later joined Palantir, the Silicon Valley company, now valued at $9 billion, that does a lot of work for the NSA and the CIA in counterterrorism (here’s a backgrounder in Forbes). Fishman told me over coffee in New York recently that after he had been at Palantir a few years, CEO Alex Karp supported him to pursue his own startup. Fishman said he had always been into food but found wine daunting.
“If you have a mission-driven approach to creating a company, you can do incredible things, such as fight terrorism,” Fishman said. “Our mission at Delectable is to make the world a more delicious place.”
Moreover, it had to be easy (it doesn’t involve typing), mobile (it’s only on smartphones) and intuitive (the smiley-face ratings).
Fishman underscores Delectable’s contribution: “Nobody really had a data set of every SKU and nobody had it on mobile. Ours is the most complete dataset right now.” Comparing the database structure to Cellartracker, he says that the Cellartracker database has a limited number of fields whereas his database structure could have infinite fields for tagging and coding wines.
Fishman is at his most animated when speaking of Delectable’s “social graph,” a fine-grained look at wine: not only where it is produced but where it is consumed and which users are the key influencers. He’s thrilled with the community aspect of the free app, which has been downloaded 2.1 million times. “We know what’s trending, we know which regions are hot,” he said. The most popular regions for Delectable users are California, Champagne and Burgundy, he said, which offers a perspective on the active user base.
“Everyone wants to discover new wines. Wine nerds want to engage with each other. Regular folks want to get ideas,” he said pointing to various leading sommeliers and California winemakers who use the app.
Fishman sees this community aspect as giving a firmer commercial footing to small wineries. “Wine has been incredibly undemocratic,” he said referring to the once-dominant role of critics. “We had to make it democratic or traditional winemaking will die.” Delectable has partnered with a couple of dozen retailers from around the country that it deems among the best, such as K&L and Crush Wine and Spirits. The app now offers an option to purchase a wine via this network once a user uploads an image of it. He says they receive most clicks to purchase on the weekends and, thanks to geolocation, they know that many of those users are ordering while out to dinner at restaurants.
Will data be used for good or evil? Fishman told me, “We aim for good. Our data won’t be used for focus groups and the trade.”
In my use of the app, I have found the community aspect the most underwhelming. Posting the same photos on Instagram and Delectable, I got many more “likes” on Instagram–but I have more followers there too. Fishman aims to change that by making Delectable “THE wine community” within a year. He also aims to hire more engineers and speed up the optical recognition; hopefully, a cellar management component will be added. With their access to capital and connections in Silicon Valley, this is definitely a company to watch.
If you buy a wine at a store that is flawed, many states have laws that allow you to return it. But what if you don’t like it? Well, you could always try suing the retailer if they won’t take it back.
And that’s what Phillip Seldon, the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine, did. After receiving an email offer from the store, he bought six bottles of CVNE Rioja for $12.99 each from Grapes the Wine Company in White Plains, NY. According to the New York Law Journal, Seldon claims that the email stated that the store’s staff was “very impressed” with the wine and that it received a score of 91 from the Wine Advocate. More from the NYLJ:
Seldon, after deciding that he didn’t like the wine, demanded a refund. When Posner refused, Seldon contested the charge for the wine with American Express. In an email to AmEx, Posner called Seldon “a disgusting human being.” Soon after, Seldon sent the store an email saying he would sue, explaining, “I have nothing better to do with my life,” and filed the suit.
The judge dismissed the case, saying “plaintiff has not demonstrated…that there was any falsity or anything other than plaintiff’s assumptions were incorrect.”
Seldon’s lawyer said he would appeal.
“Patron Who Didn’t Like Wine Loses Suit Against Retailer” [NYLJ]
Vineyards and wineries can post some photos to social media that let us know what’s going on in their corner of the world. Here are a few worthwhile ones:
Starting in the southern hemisphere, this one is a photo of the Craggy Range Te Muna Road vineyard in New Zealand. It’s taken by drone and, since you know our love of all things drone and wine related, we had to post it for you. Queried via DM, the folks at Craggy Range said the drone belonged to an employee and was used for fun, not in any particular vineyard application.
This is from Rhys Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains, posted with the comment “Very warm weather has really accelerated #vintage2014. Horseshoe Pinot is most advanced we have seen on April 2.”
Emily Spillman Domaine Genot-Boulanger in Meursault tweets the above photo with the comment: “Obligatory ode to new beginnings. Raise your glass to the future 2014 vintage! #budbreak #bourgogne #meursault”
Responding to Jeremy Seysses, Luca Carrado at Vietti in Barolo tweets about what he’s been up to at night–looking out for his buds: “Alternative nights hunting /picking bugs eating new buds Big problem also in #barolo this spring”
The post This week in vineyard photos: drones, buds, caterpillars appeared first on Dr Vino's wine blog.
Some wine news these days seems beyond parody because the headlines read as if they were ripped from The Onion. In honor of April Fool’s Day, here’s a smattering of recent wine stories–see if you can spot the wine spoof in our bluff the reader challenge.
A. The Wine Advocate is set to release new “luxury lifestyle” magazine entitled “100 Points by Robert Parker.”
B. James Suckling has a crystal wine glass marketed as “100 points.”
C. A “Miracle Machine” was touted, which would turn water into wine in three days.
D. The French Senate debated a motion to declare wine part of the national heritage.
E. An organic grape farmer in France may be jailed and fined for not using pesticides.
F. Hail has ruined the vintage at Hong Kong’s only vineyard.
G. The SF Chronicle ran a piece about the “eco-friendly” next generation of vintners who love deer hunting and Porsche racing.
H. There really is a line of wines branded as Wine for Dummies.