2020 kosher wine year and decade in review – glass half empty

As I am want to do, it is another year on the Gregorian calendar and I have already posted the wines of the year and the QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines of the year. Now it is time for the year and decade in review. I had to wait until now, to talk about the decade in review, because there is a clear disagreement on when the new decade begins, so I went with the non-computer science approach (0-based systems), which is not what most people believe. To this point I quote Library of Congress’s estimable Ruth S. Freitag:

Dilemmas over marking time have been going on for years. In the late 1990s, the Library of Congress’s estimable Ruth S. Freitag famously compiled a 57-page research document titled The Battle of the Centuries, in which she called out people who celebrate any era before its time.

“When the encyclopedia of human folly comes to be written, a page must be reserved for the minor imbecility of the battle of the centuries — the clamorous dispute as to when a century ends,” Freitag wrote. Noting that there was no “year 0” in history, she said, “In fact, there has never been a system of recording reigns, dynasties, or eras that did not designate its first year as the year 1.”

To bolster her argument, Freitag, who was then a senior science specialist in the library’s Science and Technology Division, cited historical records that showed similar disputes had erupted when calendars were turned to 1900.

But even Freitag acknowledged that she was swimming against the tide of popular opinion.

It may seem obvious to many, but there was never a year 0, so let’s go with the obvious fact that the decade has finally passed us and we can discuss it in regards to all things kosher wine. IMHO, I will go with the glass half empty metaphor, as no matter how hard I try, there is no real way to look at this past decade in a glass-half-full approach – give the utter disregard from much of the world for anything approaching wine I would buy.

Where are we now??

Well, that is pretty simple, IMHO, we are WORSE than we were last year, and that was worse than we were in the years before. Essentially, we are continuing the slide down, maybe even at a faster rate, with a slight caveat to the positive on high-end white wines. That would be my summation – hence the glass-half-empty reference.

COVID and what it has done to the kosher wine industry

I could not talk about 2020 in a review, or the decade in a review, without at least mentioning Covid! The clear impact of the Virus on our lives is not wine, or food, or any other material impact. What truly has changed are the people we have lost, friends or family that have been sick or passed, and jobs and families crushed by this pandemic. Those things are REAL and those real things are truly very sad and are hard to move on from.

Yes, we have lost freedom of movement, we have been locked away from our friends and family, but it all pales in comparison to the true loss of life, income, and time. Many, if not all of them, have been lost forever, and that is the true loss and suffering.

Still, there is a need/desire to talk about how COVID changed the wine industry – over the past 12 months. As such, I wrote a post – some 7 months back, and I am shocked and saddened by how much it has not changed at all over these past many months. There were some missing points so let us hit them:

  1. There will be no in-person KFWE or any other tasting this year, sadly. To that point, Royal Wine has made a KFWV this year and I hope you can listen in at least and maybe join in with the tasting as well!
  2. As I stated in the post the online stores have come through. But even more so than that were the local stores that supported the communities and I can only repeat, support your local wine merchants if you have them! Sadly, our merchants, here in NorCal, while they exist, do not quite have what I am looking for, but they are trying – so kudos to them for that! However, those of you on the east coast – BUY LOCAL! Come on, folks! Your local store is there, you have the same taxes, buy local, and make sure they feel the love!
  3. Restaurants may finally be coming back, but wine sales are still very low to zero, and again, why do we need Mevushal?? I pray the biggest outcome of all of this madness is the production of dual labels M and not). I know it is a pipe dream, like a real Shmitta game plan – dream on. IMHO, Mevushal will take a hard hit soon, people will see it for what it is, a sham on the kosher wine market. If a wine needs to be Mevushal then go buy a beer and move on!
  4. The lack of travel and access to wineries is a real issue here. I would have already have been in France twice since my last year in review and Israel, at least once. The lack of access to wines impacts my ability to properly score and grade, but thankfully the UPS/FedEx of the worlds have been doing a yeoman’s job and they do truly deserve a cheer every time they drive by! Please show them the love (from a distance) that they deserve!
  5. Finally, to repeat – the lack of KFWE or any other tasting this year, or even marketing of wines in-person, will further complicate the lack of wine education in this industry and I fear it will sadly slow or hurt the sales of many wineries.

My yearly blog disclaimer about me and wine

I try to get this disclaimer into every year of my posts – but this year – for reasons I do not know, I have been receiving a lot of questions about my posts. So let me be 100% clear here:

  1. I NEVER HAVE AND NEVER WILL receive a penny for ANYTHING I write on this blog – PERIOD!
  2. I do not advertise and I do not receive money for advertisements. I PAY WordPress.com to NOT advertise on my blog. Again, there will never be ads or money on this blog.
  3. The next most prevalent question is: do I get a kickback for anything I recommend?? LOL! People do not know me well to be asking that question! NEVER! I write what I think – almost literally at times, so NO!
  4. Next question – do I receive an item of value for my posts? NEVER.
  5. The only thing I receive, having nothing to do with my posts is access to tastings or wine to taste. Also, I have received passes to KFWE, or this year, the KFWV. The coupon codes are not affiliated links or deals for me! Again, I get no money from this blog – I hope this starts to come across soon!
  6. Am I receiving money or any other item of value from Royal or an affiliate for the use of the ‘MUSINGS’ discount code? Again NO! NEVER!
  7. Do I spend money on my notes or wines? I promise you there are VERY few people in the kosher wine world who spend more money than I do on wines that I DESPISE! Very few! There are loads of people who spend more money than I do on wine – I am not a Macher! But I buy the majority of the wines I taste and post on. In the past year that has changed a bit, but no, I buy most of the wines and it sickens me to spend so much money on wines I would never drink or even cook with! Sadly, that is what I like to do. So, sure if the importer will help me and send me samples, great! I will still post my notes and scores based 100% on the way I see and taste the wine. NOTHING else goes into my scoring.
  8. Finally, I have people in the industry that I call friends. When I taste those wines I always disclaim those as well.

So, that wraps up my yearly post on how I, my blog, or my life is ever gaining anything from the world of wine! I hope that is clear. I do not do any business in wine, I do not sell any wine, I do not transfer wines, I am not a middleman for people who buy wines. I do not in any manner, way, or form, work in the world of wine – period!

Finally, I do help Elvi Wines, at times, to pour wine, at a KFWE or the such, and act as their US contact for the USDA. I have again, never received compensation for those pouring’s. My travel costs are sometimes reimbursed, but that is the totality of my relationship, financially speaking, with Elvi Wines or any other winery or wine business. I am a software architect by trade and that is where I make my money. Be well!

So, again, as I do every year, I will review the past year’s issues and then add on.

Economics

We have too much wine out there for the official kosher wine buying populace. How do I know this? Because the amount of wine being dumped on the non-kosher market for a pittance in countries that no one visits is absurd! Wine is being dumped all over the place, and it is not going to get better anytime soon. Why? Because wineries are still popping up all over the place, and they are making average wine at best!

This brings me to the same issue, but in more detail. We have lots of horrible wine out there. Yes, I know I am a broken record, get over it. The kosher wine market in Israel and California needs to get better at making wines for a decent price. But I would be happy with just good wine – for a not decent price. The QPR wine list this year was shorter than in the previous year.

Again, besides the price, the overall quality of the wines is just not acceptable. The good news is we have lots of wine, but sadly the quality is not there. We need to raise the quality and then work on lowering the price.

State after 2020 of the Economics of kosher wine

To be fair, the 2018 vintage was a huge lift for Israeli red wines. Sure, there are HORRIBLE 2018 red wines, I had my fill of them. Still, 2018 did have a few good ones, unlike in previous vintages, like the Flam Cabernet Reserve and the Domaine du Castel Grand Vin. HOWEVER, 2019, for Israeli whites and roses were one of the WORST in a long time. For them to have eclipsed the terrible 2018 vintage, in regards to roses, was quite a feat, and they accomplished it with aplomb, and so much more. There were a TOTAL of four 2019 white wines I would buy from Israel, that is it. There was ONE rose from Teperberg that I bought and that died HARD in mid-September, 2020. Overall, last year was the absolute worst, in regards to Israel, and I do not have much hope for Israeli wines, in the future. First, next year, 2022 is a Shmitta year – YAY! On top of that, 2019’s whites and roses were useless, and we have LOADS of it in the shops, meaning, we will not get to the 2020s for a long time. The 2020 vintage had two massive heat waves in the vintage in Israel and California, so I have no HOPE for those wines/wineries unless they picked SUPER early. I have already tasted a few 2020 whites and roses from Israel and California, like I said, no HOPE. I hope we find some good ones, but I have zero expectations for anything good! Though I did like the 2020 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc, so there, a glimmer of hope! I am just not getting my hopes up very high.

The 2018 vintage could not have come quick enough for Cali wines, in regards to red wines. The 2017 vintage was a mess, all around. I had the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignons from all of the major and minor kosher California wine producers and they were all uninteresting, simple. Yes, even Marciano and the ilk. Marciano was what I could only call – very professional and elegant date juice, OMG, was that wine an elegant mess.

If you think California’s 2017 vintage was a mess, Israel’s 2017 vintage was worse. Other than Netofa, once again, 2017 in Israel did not have a single red wine I would buy, nada!

The 2018 vintage continues California’s penchant for glorious even year vintages and poor to horrible odd year vintages. The 2018 Herzog lineup, in regards to Cabernet and other varieties, is fantastic as I posted here. I have tasted enough wines in California to now know that there are good white and some OK to good roses here and to just give up on good red wines from California, outside of select years from Herzog Wine Cellars and Four Gates Winery. It is a sad truth for me and I will continue to try more wines, but for now, as a concept, red wines in Cali are now a two-horse race.

When it comes to whites and roses, Cali is still going strong and I hope the 2020 vintage will be able to salvage something! As I said, the Covenant Sauvignon Blanc is rocking good, as is the Kos Yeshuos Viognier. What else I have tasted so far from 2020 is not hopeful, but I guess time will tell.

Once you get out of Israel and California, things get better! This is where my glass-half-empty mindset goes into neutral. To me, overall, kosher wine has become what I can call – almost mainstream – where our issues are a smaller reflection of the far broader and deeper non-kosher market. That statement alone is a moment to celebrate! The sad truth is we have far too much absolute trash in the kosher wine market. I walked into a kosher wine store and bought 6 wines, not a single one of them got a score above 86. All wines that I would never buy again or drink. In my mind, that is the overall state of the kosher wine market – when you include all the kosher wines on the market today. However, when you look at all the good wines out there, and there are many, what we find is that thankfully there is enough wine out there that I would buy, but I cannot because I cannot buy all of it!

So, if you combine the two bolded statements above – what we get is that I have a glass-half-full mentality for all things kosher wine when you can ignore all the wine out there that is undrinkable! I guess it is best summed up like that and we can move on! My greatest fear is that even though we have lots of good to great wines available they are overshadowed by the garbage that the masses are more than happy to buy and enjoy! The more average to poor wines that the masses buy and consume, the lower the value and importance may well be given to the good to great wines, as in the end, money is what drives the market. If the market is hunkering for trash – then the trash is what we will get in spades.

Europe is doing great! Look, the 2018 vintage for France is less interesting to me than the 2017 vintage from France. Now, when you say “France” you have to be careful, as there are LOTS of regions in France, and not all of them were affected by the heat in 2018. Still, of what I have tasted so far, I will probably buy less of the 2018 wines than from the 2017 wines. Outside of France, Italy is where I have the most hope! You have terra di Seta and now you have Ralph from M&M importers doing great work there. I hope more wines come out of Italy, it has the breadth and pricing to finally make sense for the kosher wine market. Spain, sadly, has become a one-horse race, with Elvi Wines crushing it again and again. Capcanes bowed out after the 2014/2015 vintage, and though many seem to think the 2018 Peraj Ha’Abib is all that and a bucket of chicken, I did not find it interesting at all. It is a ripe and boring wine and is what I have come to expect from Capcanes, truly sad. Do not get me wrong, there is a ton of garbage coming out of Europe, I recently spent 200 dollars on some 10 wines and they all scored 85 and below, all from Europe. So, yeah, there are equal amounts of useless wines being made there as well.

I will repeat the exact paragraph I wrote last year – this is still 100% the same and will probably get worse in the next 12 months, or so.

Essentially, there is too much garbage out there. If the roses do not move within a year, it is upon the importer and stores to work out a deal and get rid of the stock. If white wines like average Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, and so on, are still around after two years, get rid of them. None of these older vintages sitting on shelves is helping the wineries, importers, or stores! The longer bad stuff lies around the more people think white wines are not good. It is not like dropping the wine to 4 dollars will help. Rip the band-aid off and move on.

State of kosher wine after 2020 and the past decade

I have been looking forward to talking about this for a long time. Look, I jumped the gun and spoke about Israel’s lost decade, in late 2019. Yes, it was not a decade, according to anyone’s opinion. Still, the point was that Israel lost the opportunity to make good wine – not in a tough year like 2019 or 2015, but rather for an ENTIRE decade! Yes, there are wines, here and there, that are good, I agree. That is not what it used to be like in the aughts, aka the decade before this past one.

The simple fact that blows my mind is that Israel and Europe swapped places twice in the past two decades – TWICE! At the beginning of the new millennium, aka, 2000, we were at PEAK European wines, we had it all! We had wines that no one even knew about! We had the 2000 Roberto Cohen wines, there were loads of them. We had the 2000 and beyond Mayer Halpern wines from France and some of the first Roussanne being made that came to the USA. We had the wines from Royal, like the epic Chateau De La Tour Clos – Vougeot, Chateau Pontet Canet, Leoville Poyferre, Chateau Guiraud Sauternes, Chateau Lafon Rochet, Francois Labet Puligny-Montrachet, Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte (blanc and Red), Chateau Valandraud, Francois Labet Meursault, those are just a tip of the iceberg. There are names I do not even know or ever tasted! My point is, we were are peak French and European wines, with lots of Italian, Spanish, French, Hungarian, and even Greek wines.

Israel, in comparison, was not at its peak, it was doing OK. It had some winners and some real losers. Israel was just about to break out inside of the first decade of the new millennium. Then as 2005 came around, Europe peaked, and I mean peaked HARD and then literally CRASHED to the earth for the remainder of the decade! There would be no more French wines coming out after the 2005 vintage, and even then, it was tiny. Meanwhile, Israel picked up the baton and crushed it until 2008. Right about when France awoke and Israel went into the tank. Now, I understand, that this overview is a comparison of European wines that existed versus Israeli wines that were still good. However, the way I see it, Israel had a chance to own the kosher wine market but they dropped the ball, simple as that.

There was a slight overlap in 2010 and 2011 at the start of the 2nd decade in this new millennium, the 2010 and 2011 Flam Noble and others did impress, while Bordeaux finally awoke again with the 2010 Chateau Lafon Rochet, 2010 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, 2010 Domaine Gachot-Monot Beaune 1er Cru (a shame this was not continued), 2010 Tenuta Monchiero Nebbiolo Barolo (A CRYING SHAME this was not continued), and of course, the EPIC 2010 Chateau Peyrat Fourthon, and others. It expanded in 2011 and then blew open in 2014 with Royal fully returning to the Bordeaux region, thankfully! Israel had by then fallen apart and that is where we are now, having JUST returned to PEAK France. The 2018 and 2019 vintage will have the last thing that kosher wine was missing to return to PEAK France, high-end kosher white wines.

Between the 2018 and 2019 vintages, we will now have access to Dampt Freres Chablis Grand Cru, Gazin Rocquencourt – Blanc, Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault, Clos des Lunes Lune D’Argent, Le Vins de Vienne Condrieu, and Chateau Malartic Blanc! Six high-end wines do not a PEAK make, but we are at the same or higher level of white dry wines than 2000+, and by that comparison, we are at a peak!

Now, here comes the best part, all of the wines, yes, even the 2010 Chateau Fourcas is not drinkable. Even if you go back to the 2005 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, not drinkable, forget the 20019 Chateau Smith Haute Lafitte! This is the issue we need to talk about!

To close out this section – Israel had the chance to build on the first decade’s wins, instead, it went after the obvious and sold out. They made wines that are not differentiated from each other, are painful to consume, let alone taste. They all taste the same, are all painful, with too much oak, too much fruit, and no balance. They made these for the newly minted wine woke and they left behind what was a true opportunity to move into the upper echelons of the kosher wine world, such a shame! All for the good old dollar. I get it, make the money while the going is good, thankfully, we have better places to buy our wines from now.

High-end White Wines are the kosher market’s true success story

If there is any real story in the last few years that has been gaining momentum, in the kosher wine market, it is high-end white wines! We are now finally, getting a taste, or soon will be, of these wonderfully rich wines that existed in the previous French wine Peak of the Aughts

We now have, or soon will have, a few really big names coming out in kosher whites! We have had for 2 years now, a real Condrieu from the South of France, from the Le Vins de Vienne winery. Next, we have the return of Mersault, from the Chablis region, from the Jean-Philippe Marchand. A not so talked about wine is the newly minted Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru, from Domaine de Montille. We have not had a Puligny-Montrachet for some, and the last few were not 1er Cru! Throw on the 2018 Dampt Freres Chablis Grand Cru, then the 2018 and 2019 Gazin Rocquencourt – Blanc, and finally, the 2019 Chateau Malartic Blanc! You can now say – kosher wine is taking the whiter shade of pale – a bit more seriously these days and we are all in for a true treat if this momentum continues further!

Of course, we should never forget the Sauternes that is also rising all around us. Though those are not dry, the 2017 G from Guiraud is showing beautifully, and I hope they will continue with more vintages.

Wines from the 2010s and their ability to enjoy

The strange conundrum we are facing now is the lack of great wines to enjoy at this moment! Why? Because they are not ready to enjoy! Every one of the 2010 wines from Chateau Fourcas to Chateau Peyrat Fourthon, and others, are not ready now and will not be ready for another few years. Even then, they will barely be entering the window and we will need to hold out until, probably, 2015 to start to get a taste for what the wines of the previous decade hold for us.

So, what are we supposed to do until then? Like, come on man! I am not talking about instant gratification here, I have been holding the 2010 wines for 7+ years already. We have these wines but we have nothing from the first decade of this millennium to enjoy now unless you have some Pontet Canet lying around that you need drunk (I know who you folks are – stop laughing it up!!). That is the issue facing the vast majority of us out there, what are we supposed to be drinking now??

Well, to start, I posted my Mid-Range red wines here and my QPR wines of the year here. To me, the mid-range wines, which are wines with 5 to 8 years of age-ability, hit the sweet spot of wanting to enjoy it now or waiting for the tertiary components to make their way in the wines. Some of them can absolutely get funkier and some were never built to do that or were not made in a region where that would be obvious, but they are still good to age or enjoy now.

Outside of that, this is what I call a great problem to have! Thankfully, we have great wines to enjoy in many years, sadly, that is many years away! The co-Kosher wine of the year, the 2018 Chateau Cantenac Brown, is a wine that is so young, I pray I will be able to enjoy it at its prime! Crazy stuff!!

FOMO and YOLO taking over Kosher wine world

You do not need to go to Reddit or listen to podcasts to see YOLO and FOMO taking over the world, it is actually, and sadly, messing with the kosher wine market as well! If you think my examples of PEAK Kosher wine are weak, just look at the number of kosher wine clubs and buying groups. Folks are buying wines they have never seen, tasted, and/or have ZERO track record or even a winery/Domaine behind it/them.

Why? Because FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) has gripped the kosher wine market to the point of their demise. No, the kosher market is not in danger, the clubs are. You cannot keep playing this game, plying the clients with average wines. There are some good wines in some clubs/groups, but the majority of them are useless. The sad fact is that these kinds of drivers create a bad taste in the mouth of the consumers, in more ways than one. You get your shipment and one wine is great and the others are OK, then you look at the bill, and you think, I could have had three cases of Terra di Seta for this price, or 10 cases, depending on the club! That is crazy!

I once bought into that mindset and I bought some wine on spec, what a disaster. Hey YOLO (You Only Live Once) right?? WRONG!!! You may be here only once, but while you are here, act responsibly, care for what you have with the respect it deserves. Heck, if you have money to burn, and would rather burn it than use it, good for you, but for the vast majority of the other YOLO crowd, think before you buy! Yes, you will live without tasting the wine, I promise you! I do! I could care less about so much of the FOMO out there. It is being pumped for the sole purpose of making that person/organization feel special, and to those who buy it. These groups do not exist for altruistic reasons, they exist to either move product, create a market that may well be better without, or for the self-aggrandization of the individual/organization.

To fine-tune my concern, I have no issue around folks making clubs around wines that are readably available for all, and they are just curating the best of them for you – that kind of club is great. The ones that push their one-of-a-kind, special for you wines is where I think the real issues lie. It undermines the benefit of transparency and voice among the consumer and drives people to buy frivolous things, thereby raising the prices in the overall market, rather than bringing value to it.

There is truly little to gain and much to lose. I hope this fad ends soon and goes the way of the dodo bird.

Quality

This takes us to the next subject – QPR (Quality to Price Ratio). I am more than happy to extol when there is a new good wine that is worthy of the QPR moniker. I spent a fair amount of time this past year driving QPR and the need for it in this market. I wrote about this in my yearly review of QPR wines of 2020 and a few times this year in my QPR posts.

To be fair, quality is improving, but with the ever-growing list of kosher wines in the wild, the QPR options are shrinking in comparison. The top line wines in 2020 shrunk, the average scores for them did as well, a lot of that is because of the not so great 2018 vintage in France, at least of what I tasted until that point.

Still, there were many high-quality wines in 2020, the issue lies in the price! The prices are getting out of control. That along, with the poor quality of Israeli wines is shocking.

I hear it all the time, people think I am too hard of Israeli wineries, that I do not understand the public interest for simpler wines. So, let me be 100% clear again – Israeli wineries are not creating anything unique. The wines they do create are all similar in style. Take an average Carignan, Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah, varietals that are created by almost any winery in Israel, and taste them blind. Take the wines out of their bottles put them into similar bottles, and try to pick out the Cab, the Merlot, the Syrah, DO IT! If you are honest, you will find these wines do not taste like Cab or Merlot, or Carignan. They do NOT! They all taste the same, too much oak, too much fruit, and nothing unique.

Time will come when winemakers will wake up and all of a sudden, flabby, unbalanced, sweet, and over-oaked wines will fall out of favor. At that time, all of those that chased the golden ring will regret it. Their names will be associated with wines people do not want. Until then, Israel, enjoy the date-juice, enjoy the overripe, out of balance, and 100% not unique wines. Sell to the masses, but realize there is always a cost to selling out, sadly it comes when you least realize it.

I want to stress this over and over, take for example Terra Gratia, a nice enough wine from the famous Marciano Estate winery. I bought one bottle of the 2014 vintage, and even that I regret. Look at the price! It is somewhere at 130 dollars retail, maybe 110 wholesale? For the money, it is not even close to logical! Same for many other crazy new French wines being imported – BEFORE the Tariff conversations! It is nuts! When you can have a wine like 2017 Chateau Royaumont, Lalande de Pomerol or the 2017 Les Roches de Yon-Figeac, Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru for half to less than half of that price, and both are better in every way than the 2013/2014/2015/2017 Terra Gratia, you have to ask – WHY??? Come on, I hate picking on the obvious – but really? 250 dollars for 2016 Herzog Special Reserve Oak Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon Generation VIII? That wine screams Napa Cabernet specially made for Robert Parker and Michel Rolland all at once!

I get it, prices are set by what can be sold. If there are enough people out there willing to plonk down 225 dollars for a 2016 Herzog Special Reserve Oak Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon Generation VIII, then good for Herzog! Now, if you want a Herzog wine that was worth 225 dollars – all day and all night, that was the 2006 Herzog, Generation VIII, Cabernet Sauvignon, To Kalon, a year before there was such a thing as single-vineyard Herzog Cabernet Sauvignons. It was worth 225 dollars back in 2006 and it is worth far more than that now!

French wine costs

This issue is not new. I posted about this when I traveled through Bordeaux with Menahem Israelievitch. I have also spoken about this issue here, and not much fallout is visible yet, so far so good. That was late 2016, and the kosher 2014 vintage was just released. The prices on the 2014 vintage were high, but in a zone that worked and there was even a QPR or two, like the 2014 Chateau Montviel and the 2014 Les Roches de Yon Figeac.

I told people to buy LOTS of 2014 because while 2015 and 2016 were being hyped up like crazy, the 2014 prices were far more reasonable. Also, the 2014 vintage will show, in the future to be more controlled and fruit-focused, in comparison to the hotter 2015 and 2016 vintages. Still, no matter how much I warned people, and myself, by the way, I am still shocked at the 2016 vintage pricing.

The 2016 wines have come and gone and most are sold out already, from Royal Wine’s side anyway. They were all very expensive and that was before the 25% Tariff was dropped on October 18th, 2019.

The 2017 prices are seemingly inline with the 2015 prices, which were a bit below the 2016 prices. The 2018 vintage is coming in at the same prices as 2016, so no joy there. Thankfully, 2019 will be coming in much lower, akin to 2015, from what I hear.

In the end, as we are here today, the best vintage from Bordeaux, in the past decade, is 2009 and 2010. Sadly, there are almost NO kosher wines from those two years – NADA! Yeah, there is the famous 2009 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, the 2010 Chateau Lafon-Rochet, the 2010 Chateau Fourcas, and not much else. So very sad. After the 2009 and 2010 vintages, IMHO, for the world of kosher wine, that disclaimer is VERY important, the next best vintage was 2014. Many will say, this is stupid because different regions had better outcomes in different vintages, true, but that is not the question. The question is, list the best vintages from Bordeaux, as a whole, over the past 10 years. So, again, 2014/2016/2015/2017/2018/2011/2012/2009/2010/2013. This will annoy people, good! That is the point of conversation. From a kosher wine perspective, 2014 had the highest-grossing scores than any other vintage so far, outside of the 2009 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte and the 2010 Chateau Lafon Rochet. However, overall, from a gross scoring perspective, in other words, from a view of how many good French wines were there in that vintage, 2014 is the clear winner. The 2009 and 2010 vintages were so small, again kosher wine wise, and so poorly distributed, at that time, that there is no way it can be anywhere else, IMHO.

In the end, does it matter? No. What matters is that over the past 8+ years we have been blessed with so large a plethora of wines that it is impressive. It has now surpassed the peak of 2000 or is close to doing that very soon, that we can truly say we are living in PEAK European wine time. Which should truly make everyone happy, I pray.

Still, there is too much wine out there and we have examples of wines that are not here yet! The 2018 Les Roches de Yon-Figeac is still in France, why? Because 2017 has not even begun to sell! Why? Because 2016 is still being sold here in the USA! This is just one example of the slow sale of certain wines. Sure Tariffs (more on that below) do not help, but overall, this is a large and growing issue. We clearly have a glut at certain price points and then we have wines that are priced a drop too high which makes certain people think they are too expensive, and then others, who see the wine as too cheap, and as such the wine sits there in a glut-zone! Crazy! IMHO, who cares what the price is, if it is a good QPR wine 26 dollars or 46 dollars, it is worth buying, within reason of your budget of course. But the thought that it is too low or just a few dollars too much – that is messed up!

Kosher wine consumer and their choice

As stated, there are thousands of kosher wines released every year into the market – and while we do not all get to taste all of them, the majority of them are not for polite company – to say it nicely. Still, when the consumer walks into the store – he/she continue to be inundated with wall-upon-wall of these wines and the knowledge is not there for these wine buyers.

Nothing has changed in that fact since the passing of Daniel Rogov in 2011 (yes that will be 10 years ago, come November), and while many have tried no one can take his place, IMHO. In his stead – the wine shop owner now is in charge of helping or pushing his/her wines onto the consumer.

I have been having conversations with wineries more and more, and as they talk to me about their wines, along with how the wines are distributed (more on that below), they all come back around to the issue of education. Of course, they bring it up as a way to separate themselves from the crowd and to let their wines shine more – against a wall of competing wines. However, I find the idea a MUST-have for wineries going forward, educating the world about their wines, and allowing the consumer to see if they like their wines and why. Wineries need to go out and visit wine stores and wine events and talk about why their wines are unique, special, tasty, and different. I can pick on Israel and their wines all day, but the one thing they do correctly, is they get out there, and SELL! I see them at wine stores in Israel, France, and the USA. My Facebook page is filled with Israeli winemakers in all countries selling their wares.

The sad fact is, as stated above, that with COVID-19 buyers will have even less information and education to work with for this coming kosher wine buying season. Sad indeed.

Distributors and Wine access in Chicago and West Coast

Well, the fact that Royal Wine Corp. is the biggest Gorilla stomping around in what can almost feel like an ant farm when describing the tens of other small kosher wine importers, is hilarious.

Most ask who cares who imports the wine? The answer SHOULD be no one! Sadly, and this has been a consistent rant for years now, Royal and distributors continue to short sell areas where there is a large Jewish and kosher food presence. Gabriel Geller has made it his mission to improve Chicago, and over this past year, in many ways despite what Royal is doing in Chicago! Chicago, is a wasteland, in regards to kosher wine selection. Walk the aisles and it is clear, Royal and many others, do not care about Chicago. What is interesting, and the proof is derived from online merchants, Chicago is a solid place to sell kosher wine! Sadly, Royal and others have ignored it despite themselves. Further proof has been Geller’s success in the past year!

Indeed, things have improved in Chicago over the past year, even with COVID-19 and all insanity that it brings. There is hope now, IMHO, as new people are being brought in to manage Chicago, from different distributors, and I hope it will make a difference.

Still, the fact is that wine selection is a disaster. Like last year, my friend in Chicago continues to try to buy cases of the lovely 2018 Pacifica Riesling, a very nice wine, and a wine that would sell GREAT in Chicago, especially at its price point and the fact that it is Mevushal. He can STILL NOT buy it, PERIOD! He went to a well-respected wine store, that sells 95% non-kosher wine, Binny’s, and he asked them to get him a case of the wine. They tried and could not buy it. To make matters worse, Binny’s can get the other wines from Pacifica, just not the Riesling! It is this kind of arbitrary coverage of wines that drives people crazy.

The same story goes for Los Angeles. The wine coverage there is worse than in Chicago if that is even possible to imagine! Even worse, is that nothing has changed at all, in regards to L.A. over the past year. IMHO, it has only gotten worse. No one cares about L.A., outside of the Herzog Winery, and that goes for Royal and all the other importers. In the end, the only real options we have are kosherwine.com and onlinekosherwine.com. The other wine stores on my blog ship, but the overall cost of the wine is cheaper with Kosherwine and Onlinekosherwine, as they have no storefront, and their shipping is either free or discounted. Still, I had many successful and wonderful orders with Skyview and I would recommend them in a heartbeat, as well.

Now, when you control supply how can you truly gauge demand? When I talk with Kosherwine and others, there is a LOT of demand from California, and I guess that is the only real way to play it out here. Sadly, the idea of going to a wine shop in LA does not exist. The only real option is The Cask in Los Angeles. The pricing has changed and is now far more competitive, though the selection while nice, is really limited. Glatt Mart is essentially dead, it has little to nothing going on there. While, Western Kosher, has a nice selection, the wines there clearly do not move well. So, is the lack of wine selection and movement because people do not buy wine at stores in LA? I do not think so, when I was in those stores the word was, we want more, we want to have NYC like wine stores. I replied, support the Cask, support Western, prove you want it, and maybe it will happen. Until then, there is Kosherwine and OnlineKosherWine.

In the end, I have NO issues with what Royal or other importers are doing, they sell where the buying action exists. The only aspect that annoys me is the lack of access to certain wines in the Chicagoland and Los Angeles areas, but that is something we can all work around, thankfully.

Online Taxation evens the playing field with stores and extra Tariffs are on hold

US State Taxes

A simple follow-on from the previous discussion of online merchants like Onlinekosherwine and Kosherwine is taxation. On June 21st, 2018 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of retail establishmentsIn the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court said times have changed to such a degree that online retailers no longer qualify for “an arbitrary advantage over their competi­tors who collect state sales taxes” by claiming they don’t have a physical presence in a state.

So, why do I bring this up? Well, Kosherwine is already charging me California tax on my orders, and I am sure other online establishments will be joining them soon enough. When that occurs, it will go farther towards evening the playing field with brick and mortar merchants, and maybe they will have a chance to compete. Still, online merchants do not have storefronts. Time will tell if it helps with the war between online merchants and brick and mortar merchants for the souls and dollars of kosher wine buyers.

Impact of Covid on retail shops

Over the past year, this has worked for the online purveyors better than anyone had ever imagined. Look at kosherwine.com, they continue to stock the horrible wines, but that is not their fault, people buy these horrible wines. However, the far more interesting part, is how quickly, they run out of stock of wines like Netofa and others, at reasonable prices. Sure, they are short of the pocket, when it comes to more obscure names, and sadly, while Netofa is doing better, they are still a bit obscure. However, the overall movement of the stock is impressive.

The same can be said for other online purveyors, like Grow and Behold, I have their newsletter and they are consistently out of stock of meats. This HUGE change of buying habits will ease a bit, but it will NOT turn back to the old ways, retails stores are in for a world of hurt. Both in the kosher and non-kosher markets. Mark those words down, sadly.

Tariffs

In regards to Tariffs on European wines, things only got worse! In the past, we lived under a haze of 25% Tariffs from all European wines that are UNDER 14% ABV (alcohol By Volume), and Italy and Portugal had been spared from this initial Tariff that went into place on October 18th, 2019. Sadly, any loopholes, like 14.5% ABV wines that were sold in France at 14% ABV but sold here in the USA as 14.5% ABV, and other such shenanigans, are now closed. Starting January 12th, 2021, any wine above 14% and below, are subject to the 25% Tariff. It still does not affect Spain or other locales, mainly it is a penalty on France and Germany.

There was talk of a 100% tariff on European wines, in retaliation to France’s e-Tax. Thankfully, that has been put on hold for now, but only God knows where this will finally fall. If the 100% Tariff were ever to happen, it would be a death knell to almost all the kosher wine importers, period! Not even Royal would eat that. Further, we would not pay DOUBLE what we kosher consumers ALREADY pay for kosher wine. So yeah, if that ever happens, kiss French wine goodbye, other than the crazy cheap QPR wines.

Dollar to Euro/NIS Exchange Rate

If the crazy Tariffs were not bad enough we now have a weak dollar! YAY!!! So, USA buyers are now facing the double whammy of expanded tariff criteria and a nasty drop in the Dollar to Euro Exchange rate over the past 6 months. In today’s money, that change alone is a close to 10% hit. On top of the 25% wider hit, we are seeing a large tax being placed on the kosher wine buyer who likes French and German wines. I hope you are starting to understand a bit more of my glass-half-empty mindset! Sadly.

White and Rose wines – simply put 2020 was a disaster (worse than 2019)!!!

OK, I get, you guys are eternal optimists, I get it! I understand, but you were not subjected to the crap show that I was tasting all those horrible 2019 white and rose wines, this past year. Let me be very clear, they were a disaster! I know, I am repeating here a bit, mostly because I hated it! This came after a slightly less horrible 2018 rose and white wine vintage. I thought we had hit peak disaster in 2019 with whites and roses, but good news, for all of you eternal optimists out there – you have 2020! Yes! The heat waves that ravaged Israel and California will clear you out of that happy at home mindset – so I greatly fear. maybe we will be happily surprised, but of what I have had so far, it will take a very sure hand to save these wines.

Throw in the smoke damage, the heat waves, and the overall mess that was California, come harvest, and yup, I have very little optimism left. Still, it will take a huge failure to beat the 2019 harvest! MASSIVE!

Except for Netofa, and Kos Yeshuos (they are almost always solid), and a small smattering of wines from the northern hemisphere, 2019 was a disaster! There was the very nice Matar, Pescaja Terre Alfieri Arneis Solei, the EPIC O’dwyers Sauvignon Blanc, the newly minted Chateau Lacaussade, Vieilles Vignes, the Flam Camellia, Shirah Gruner, Covenant Sauvignon Blanc, Vitkin Israeli Journey White, and the Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc. That is Netofa Latour White (the 2019 Domaine Netofa which was boring), 4 Kos Yeshuos wines, and 7 wines from the Northern Hemisphere, and 2 from New Zealand.

Still, I think of it so poorly, as there were 7 QPR Winners from 2019 out of 75 wines. That is still close to 10% and I guess that is what we get from 2019. Where it gets horrible is when you throw in the roses! OMG! Then it becomes an utter disaster. The number jumps to 2 Rose winners + 7 white winners = 9 WINNERS out of 140 wines! PAIN!

I will repeat my previous statement regarding roses – they are an embarrassment to the kosher wine industry, as a whole, and they should stop making them. This is interesting because the 2020 rose vintage will be the largest ever, in both quantity and labels, which terrifies me and makes me so sad. Time will tell, if they are ANYTHING like the past, it will be the biggest kosher wine failure in a very long time.

As stated last year, for this year in review – this is a literal copy: the 2018 rose vintage was truly an embarrassment for the kosher wine industry, either each winery gave up caring, or they felt that quality is not the standard anymore, all that mattered was a product and pink color. I bought/drank NO rose this past year. I tasted loads of them and drank a few of the ones I bought for the tasting. However, I bought NONE after that. I hope that is telling given that I like Rose! Very sad!

Thankfully, we have some real winners (in no specific order) from Yarden’s and Gamla/Gilgal Sparkling wines (not a white wine per se), 2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, 2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 2018/2019 Netofa Latour White, 2017 Netofa Tel Qasser White, 2018 Pacifica Riesling, 2018 Koenig Riesling, 2018 Jean-Pierre Bailly Pouilly-Fume, Sauvignon Blanc, 2019 Pescaja Terre Alfieri Arneis Solei, 2019 O’dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc, 2019 Chateau Lacaussade, Vieilles Vignes, 2018 Elvi Wines Herenza White, and 2018 Hagafen Dry White Riesling.

A nice list of wines for sure, but in comparison to what is out there it was a disaster. This after we saw a very clear uptick in white and rose wine interest. It is a true shame that there was so much garbage there waiting to greet the newly minted white wine drinkers. I hope they followed mine and Gabriel Geller’s list of white/QPR wines to enjoy.

Yes, we are getting more white wines, and some of them are exceptional, even if they are very expensive! Also, wineries are finally getting the message! Roses need to be here in the USA by March, at the latest! All roses need to be in the USA before Passover 2021! Simple! Why is this so hard?? Rose is not a wine that needs massive work, nor difficult stabilization, or aging, bottle it and let’s get them on the boat NOW!!!

While folks like Recanati have images of the 2020 Recanati Rose, Gris de Marselan on their pages, or their Sauvignon Blanc from 2020 on their pages now, that means nothing to us USA consumers who cannot go to Israel! Folks we need the wine here not on the Facebook pages! We need that darn wines on the store shelves in the USA!!! Please!! Get the wines here ASAP and on the shelves!!!

Cabernet continues to be king

Well, another year, and nothing has changed. The number one selling wine varietal in the kosher wine world – is the king of wine – Cabernet Sauvignon. Really? There is ZERO originality here. People will buy the wine as long as it has a high price, a nice label, and good kosher supervision! The product or quality is not important. How do I know? I stood at KFWE for many years pouring wine, and watched people ignore Elvi’s wonderful wines (I was pouring for Elvi in LA) and go instead to drink UNDRINKABLE and UNSPEAKABLE wines – because they were Cabernet Sauvignon!

They would come by the table and ask – what is the most expensive Cabernet you have? Not what is good? Not what is special? Just the highest priced Cabernet Sauvignon!

Now, who is to blame here? The NYC kosher wine drinker and every drug dealing distributor that pushes these wines! A cab here or there is one thing – but Herzog itself sells maybe 18 or 20 Cabernet Sauvignon by itself!

The same goes for many large wineries, the number of Cabernet is absurd and non-proportional to what is good for the trade. In the end, wineries make what sells, and as I stated before, and especially for red wines like Cabernet if the public changes its mind – that is a lot of cabs to sell!

Fads work great until they do not! Bell bottom jeans, pet rocks, come on we were stupid enough to buy ROCKS and drag them around! This too will change and it will be painful for the one holding all those wines. Folks like Netofa Winery, Vitkin Winery, and others are trying their best! I commend them and I hope things will move more in that direction than into another 20 new Cabernet Sauvignon labels.

Good enough versus wines I would buy

My wine scores are defined here and while some think wine scores are useless – I cannot agree. To me, there are so many wines out there that even if I score them an 89 or even a 90, they would not be wines I would buy!

Again, that is clear as day in my scoring. So, when I say, man, this sucks, there are truly few wineries in Israel from whom I would buy their wines, which means that while some make some good wines, none are worth my time for real. It means that they are not special, they are not something I need or want. They are OK wines – they are just not interesting or unique in any way, as I stated above.

More and more, wines of Israel are just that – boring, uniform, all the same, searing and burning tannin, oak juice that makes me want to spit out splinters, and fruit so over the top that nothing could survive tasting it.

Nothing elegant, nothing desirable, nothing special – just a copycat of the winery next door, just with another month of oak so that they can say they left the wine in oak longer!

Sure, this may sound like my previous statement of how badly Israel is making kosher wines, but I wanted to stress that while some may be making OK wines – they are just that! OK! That is not what I buy and it is not what I hope most wineries aspire to. How long can a country continue to make oak and date juice and think it will work? I guess time will tell!

Wine corks

I am so happy! Truly I am! More and more I am seeing people use DIAM corks for wines that will last 10 years or more, NOT just the 1-year wines, like the 2015 Haut Condissas that uses a DIAM cork. Then you have IDIOTS who use REAL corks for a rose or a simple Sauvignon Blanc! WHY!!! Why push your luck? NO ONE CARES!!! This year, I got to see the big daddy of them all, Chateau Giuraud used DIAM cork on their 2017 Chateau Guiraud Sauternes, 1st Grand Cru Classe 1855! This is what we are talking about! No more taint here thank you very much!!

I am sick and tired of people talking about the romance of a cork. People, this is wine, and wine is meant to be enjoyed. The cork is irrelevant! Surveys show people do care for the POP sound, but that sound is irrelevant on a sub 20 dollar bottle of wine. PERIOD! Use DIAM or better use screwtops, or use glass stoppers. They are all FAR BETTER options for anything other than maybe Lafon Rochet, Malartic, or Leoville Poyferre. Also,

Please I beg you to stop putting a real cork into a simple wine bottle. When I buy roses and whites for a tasting I have to buy 2 bottles because at least ONE or more of the wines are corked. THIS IS MADNESS!! Insanity! Why? These wines will be dead by the end of the summer and here I am, and others I am sure, throwing out a wine because the marketing manager swears by cork. Get a new marketing manager!! NO ONE CARES about wines that are 1-3 year wines. Stop wasting money and move on! Please! We will all be happier for it!

Domaine Netofa is CRUSHING it in the USA!

This may be the biggest story of the year! Last year, it was that Netofa Winery was back in the USA! This year, the big news is that they are doing very well and that they are the Winery of the Year on my yearly top wines list! Yes bigger than the Tariffs! Having Netofa back in the USA is huge! Bigger yet is that it is really selling well and they are finally being accepted by folks, other than myself, who have been raving about this winery for years!

It was a combined deal to bring in the wines between Royal Wines and kosherwine.com! My many thanks for this, I can now save my limited baggage space for Yaccov Oryah wines!

Sparkling wines are blasting off

Sparkling wine is not a thing that you press, bottle, and ship. Unless we are talking about the DISGUSTING cheese and cabbage flavored Pet-Nat, real sparkling wines take time to produce. Anywhere from 2 years (after you add in shipping and resting time) and many more for vintage sparkling wines, like the Yarden Sparkling wines. I posted my top sparkling wines late last year – there are some really solid options, just please BE CAREFUL with this nouveau-riche Brut-Nature, Non-dose, or Zero-Dosage wines. They are not new in concept, they are JUST new to the kosher wine market and they are an absolute joy for 5 months and then they fall apart – and I mean quickly! Like off a cliff and then splat!

Last year there was a crazy shortage of sparkling wines. Thankfully, distributors figured it out and we now have a consistent, but limited, supply for folks. Enjoy it when the getting is good!

I do not care, I love Yarden’s sparkling wines and I think they are a far better deal and a far better representation of what I am looking for in sparkling wines. Throw in the price and availability and it is a slamdunk.

For those seeking the Real McCoy, I would stick with the Laurent Perrier.

Finally, PLEASE drink more sparkling wine! I do not get it at all! Some people think sparkling wine is ONLY for New Years’ (Jewish or Gregorian). That is total bunk! Sparkling wine exists. After all, it is a true joy because it pairs with literally ANYTHING, appetizer, soup, cheese, cholent, steak, main course, dessert! You name the dish sparkling wine works! It is that simple! Buy some Gamla/Gilgal Brut, pop it for Shabbat, and see for yourself!

Shmitta starts at the tail-end of 2022

I have been railing on this subject for as long as I have cared about Israeli wine. Now, I honestly could care less! Israeli wine has taken such a hard turn that it really will not matter to me. My favorite Israeli winery, Netofa Winery, does not make wine in Shmitta years, so I can skip that. Yaacov Oryah makes wines in Shmitta years and that is fine, I enjoy his white and Orange wines and I will hopefully be allowed to travel to Israel at that time and I will taste them, B”H. Outside of those wines, you have Vitkin Winery, which makes some great white wines, and those too I can taste in Israel. Outside of them, I will happily and blissfully ignore the insanity of Shmitta wine.

It has been decades and Israel and the American/European kosher supervising organizations have steadfastly ignored the word Shmitta. To them, it is a year that does not exist. Look, I have covered this topic, I know I am being a jerk here about how I could care less about this now, very much akin to how the OU/OK feel. However, I have written about this subject many times. The sad fact of life is that wine is not just a drink that I enjoy. To thousands of people in Israel is a way of life. One cannot just stop making money or living! The blessing that God promises his support for letting the ground lie fallow is not currently active. Still, there are wineries in Israel that do lay fallow. Netofa makes no wines at all during Shmitta years. Gvaot made some (whites in general or roses). Other wineries lay down pruning sheers and harvesters.

The biggest issue has always been around kosher supervision, and sadly on this, nothing has changed. Western kosher supervisory organizations do not recognize almost any Shmitta wines unless they are made on lands that are 100% owned by non-Jews. There are very few to none of those kinds of wine. So, what do you want wineries to do? Just go home and say God will support us? This is not a new question! It is a question that was answered from the beginning of the State of Israel and before! Sadly, only Israeli kosher supervisions accept the answers and that is where the issues lie.

Every 7 years we bring this up and every 7 years it is ignored by the masses. In 2015 the vast majority of wineries just went with Heter Miechira because no one cares about the Otzar Beit Din, outside of maybe Yarden and Gvaot. Why? Because with all the headaches of the Otzar Beit Din approach there were few to no benefits. No other kosher supervisory organizations agreed to it and as such, it was a tax on the wineries for no added gain or benefit. I would be SHOCKED if more wineries went back to Otzar Beit Din and honestly it does not matter. Either you believe in Shmitta wines or you do not, it is just that simple.

Better shipping options as more sales go online

I left this one until the end as this one annoys me to no end! I understand, to me, as stated above, wine is my enjoyment – it has NEVER been any form or manner of business, and nor will it ever be in the future. Still, to many, like online purveyors of wine, it is exactly that!

Well, where does that leave us, the kosher wine consumer? I can tell you that having bought from almost every conceivable online and retail wine store – there is a huge difference in the overall customer satisfaction.

Here is my growing list of issues that I wish wine stores would take seriously and give a damn about – because so far – none of them do them all! Yes, I swore on my blog – that should tell you how much this annoys me! Again, some purveyors do some of these things – none of them do ALL of these things, and I am ignoring the dreams I have tagged as “dream ideas”.

  1. Basic customer communication. Amazon has taught us trained us to expect and get great customer service. Sadly, they are not in the kosher wine business, at scale, yet. However, we have been trained to expect it and to get it and when we do not, it shocks us.
    1. Basic communication is the hub and structure of a good customer relationship for online purveyors. Remember, that retail stores have this all locked down, for the most part. When you walk into a retail establishment they know who you are, most of the time and they have the wine and you walk off with it. That end-to-end customer interaction is something that online purveyors cannot provide, out of the box. They can strive to communicate with you and be clear about every step of the online buying experience, much like how Amazon does, sadly, none of the online purveyors have met this standard as of yet.
    2. Even if we cannot get Amazon customer service or retail customer service what about timely communication? What about emailing the customer after the order (not the rubberstamped email that is auto-delivered) with a status of when the order will ship and if the items are actually in stock? What an idea? I know shocking!! Why would I ever want to communicate with my customer? That would be too human!
  2. Talking about inventory – can we get vintages to be 100% consistent on a website? I do this for a living, NO NOT wine! We already spoke about that! I am a software architect who has worked in e-commerce for more than 20 years. I know how to get this done, and it is not that hard, sadly, online purveyors want to make it hard for themselves and their customers!
  3. (Dream) What about Amazon-like prime shipping options for kosher wine? Yeah, I get it, this is a business and these purveyors are not Amazon. Still, Amazon and others have proven it is about service and that is where all these purveyors are missing the point!
  4. Stock is in constant flux and a single online purveyor rarely has all of what we want. This issue is partly on the purveyors, but mostly this is on the distributors and the consumers. We are scaling up our buying online like crazy and as such, we are putting a load on not only the online shops but we are also pushing the importers and distributors beyond what they normally have seen in the past.
    Now, I get all of that. Still, it has now been a year, and those excuses are not viable anymore. We should never be hearing, Oh the distributor has too few workers on the floor. Why? PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is now readily available everywhere and we have passed the largest of the waves of this virus (I pray), we should not be hearing that excuse anymore. Nor should we hear that the wines from the distributor were not on the latest truck? Why not? This is the kind of lack of foresight and care for customers that infuriates me! These are excuses I hear all the time and still hear. The answers are always the same – not my problem. In other words, go somewhere else where someone cares enough about your business. No single or group of people are that important or matter any longer. The Virus has changed the online shop landscape and will continue to do so, sadly it will also mean that the customer service will continue on a downward trajectory until there is ONE purveyor that makes it their mantra! Until then, the price will be the only differentiator and the rest is fully ignorable. The LEast common denominator service is what we will be receiving going forward until one or more online or retail shops decide it is time to change the paradigm.
  5. (Dream) What about temperature-controlled or at least measured deliveries?? We are currently in the throes of winter but spring and summer are quickly approaching. What about this year we put away all concerns about heat damage from shipments? The ultimate dream would be temperature controlled labels on bottles. Or maybe a blockchain dataset for each bottle as it moves through the supply chain. All of those ideas are layers upon the base issue which is, we cannot and have never measured temperature – as it comes to wine delivery and storage! Why? Simple and lowly fish has been measured for decades! When I go to the Japanese fish market by me, it has a tamper-free temperature control on each fish that comes frozen from Japan. This is not expensive guys! Why can we not have it on the bottles?? Even if we do not want to move this overall issue upstream to the wineries and bottling lines, what about shipping? What happened to my 2018 XYZ Wine from the moment it left France and made its way to me and all the hands in between? Does anyone know? Nope!
    Ok, I get it all of this is too much! I hear you fish is simpler in your minds. I know I will hear from all of you! Again, I shake my head, supply chain semantics is too much for you all. OK, what about the VERY last-mile?? Huh?? Can I please know that the LAST shipment from the store to me was done correctly? Do I have that right?? Yes or no?? According to the kosher wine world – so far – no! I do not have the right or permission to ask for anything other than to pay the bill for the wines I bought!
    All other thoughts/issues/concerns belong in the digital bit bucket. Why? Oh, I can tell you! This is a business, this is not a wine blog, we cannot do any of that! Those are the answers I get consistently. All we can do is give you horrible service and barely ship the wine to you – more on that below!
    Also, the vast majority of you are on the east coast and could care less about anything I write about online purveyors. The wines appear in a day and there are no major issues. The overall happiness you will feel and the service you will receive is inversely related to how far west you are of the Mississippi River. The further west you the worse the service you will get. All you east-coasters do not care and I get that. Once again there is a Califonia tax for all things kosher wine – PUN intended!
    The more transparent we are about the state of the product we buy the more open buyers will be as the temperatures heat up – mark my words!
  6. Finally, the most obvious of outcomes is the actual receiving of your wine! Well, I have been consistently not able to get that without a fair amount of headaches. I have received broken bottles, no bottles, fewer bottles, broken boxes, boxes that fall apart. Boxes whose tape falls off. It is clear to me, that basic shipping expectations for kosher wine, overall, is an afterthought. The simple truth is this, we west of the Mississippi, have few options and as such can be treated and managed in the way that works best for those purveyors. I get it. yet another penalty for living in California.

If you get an inkling that I am at my end, in regards to wine shipments, the service, the pricing, the overall outcome, you would be 100% CORRECT! I bought a lot of wine and had lots of wine shipped to me, the number of incidents, issues, and annoyances of the list above is untenable long-term. Time will tell. For now, I am fine-tuning the list of purveyors and starting to focus on those that give a damn.

WRAP-UP

To wrap this all up, it is quite simple. We are blessed with a plethora of good wines. We still need to wade through 10x or more of garbage to get to those wines. Israeli wines, white wines, and roses are a mess and it is even harder to find the diamond in those roughs.

Overall, those of us who are safe, warm, and healthy are blessed. Be well and hopefully, things will start moving in the cup-half-full direction sometime soon!

Posted on February 9, 2021, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Dessert Wine, Kosher French Wine, Kosher Orange Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher Sparkling Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Industry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Phenomenal post, so many great points that needed to be made, spot on, thanks!

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