Canada tax, Prosecco USA, Poor New York selection

Canada dry

In Canada KPMG has released a 185-page report commissioned by the City of Toronto on how the city could raise taxes. The report has suggested C$3.9 billion ($4.04 billion) of possible new taxes.

No surprise, alcohol is looked at as a revenue raiser. More possible pain for wine.

Sparkling USA

Prosecco sales in the US continue to soar. Figures published in Shanken Daily News from Impact Databank say the style grew 22.6 per cent in 2015, passing the 4 million case mark.  The Shanken report said: “Less than a decade ago, prosecco was essentially an afterthought in the US market.”

Leading brands are La Marca, Mionetto, Cupcake, Zonin, Lunetta and Ruffino. The down side is price. Prosecco has become trapped in the US$10 to US$15 sector. It’s not a bad place to be but producers are finding it hard to break the US$15 barrier.

Boozy cities

“Paris has been confirmed as the booziest city in the world, with more wine drunk in the City of Light than in any other.”

According to a report in The Drinks Business on June 23. Unfortunately, the article isn’t complete and we couldn’t track down the original research, but apparently:

  • Paris: 690 million bottles of wine annually (per capita, citizens aged 15 or over, 52 litres)
  • Buenos Aires: 457 million bottles (32 litres per capita)
  • Ruhr, Germany: (listed as no.3 but no figures given in the article)
  • London: 369 million bottles annually (no per capita figures)
  • New York: 301 million bottles (12 litres)

The following cities were also included in the article:

  • Milan: 301 million bottles
  • Los Angeles: 241 million bottles
  • Naples: 188 million bottles
  • Madrid: 181 million bottles
  • Rome: 177 million bottles

21 needs a new deck

Below is the Australian wine selection available at the restaurant 21 in New York City. Overall, the wine list is a major work, comprising 1450 selections, drawn from a cellar holding 20,000 bottles, but is this the best they can find from Australia? True, 21 prides itself on the French selection, which is fantastic, but the Australian selection looks like it’s been thrown together, not selected with skill, thought or passion.

Let’s be clear, I’m not saying these wines are not good wines, but is it the best mix of wines? Also, I just happened on the 21 site from another site, so am not picking on the famous restaurant for any reason whatsoever.

Surely the days have passed when big was best. Where is the art of putting a great wine list together? There is plenty to debate on this issue, so please contribute if you want. The TKR take on the ‘21’ Australian selection:

The six white wines (well, five white and a rosé) include three chardonnays and two rieslings. The chardonnays are from Margaret River and are good, though I’m not sure how the 2007 is holding up. The two rieslings are fine Rieslings, and the rosé is fine too. But where is Australian Hunter semillon or something else more interesting?

21 rest white

The reds are dominated by shiraz from the Barossa Valley, and in my view at least four of them are not food friendly. There is so much more that Australia can provide. It’s a pity that such a famous restaurant with a noted wine list has not, it appears, fully researched the range on offer.

New York 21 resturant

9 thoughts on “Canada tax, Prosecco USA, Poor New York selection”

  1. Tony…. Have you seen most wine lists in the US? This is actually one of the better selections wines I have seen in a while even if there are a lot of “big names” The number of wines is impressive and the wineries have a sense of familiarity that is appropriate for what 21 is and the customers that eat there. I say Bravo!!

    Now if you really want to get me going, I could…… But best not to…..

    1. As said Chuck I came across this list by chance. I was not picking on ’21’ but there is so much more to offer then a list of Barossa Shiraz several in my mind not at all food friendly, more a meal in themselves.

      Anyhow it shows there is a lot of work to be done. Thanks for your input I do acknowledge your understanding and knowledge of the US market is far superior to mine.


    2. Firstly Chuck, after those comments, I thought I would get you going….so if this is a good list, can you please send me a list of bad ones?

      What sort of wines are we taking about on the other not so good lists…..critter wines?

      Chuck, the wines on the list have a good reputation no doubt as Tony was pointing out but they are big fat sweet fruit driven wines all from virtually one place, your favourite place. The list could be regarded as boring indeed because they don’t really explore great Australian Shiraz. Sorry mate but it is a one dimensional portfolio of Australian wines targeting the uneducated American palate that does not really know better but they are familiar with the name. That is an easy sell.

      You may class them as the great Wines of Australian and if this is the case, then I have to say that you harbour a one dimensional palate with a preference rather than a real understanding of great Australian Shiraz. Guigal, Chave, Clape and many others not just in France such as Clonakilla, Giaconda, De Bortoli, Carlei (had to throw that one in!) don’t taste like them and do you regard them as great?

      The list is a one dimensional showboat backed with Parker points for consumers who cannot make a decision and that’s OK. So let’s give them the obvious stuff and nuke their taste buds with they stuff they know….you know, big is better. Is this what 12 is about?

      Tony is right, the list is a lazy one, not well researched at all. You as a knowledgeable Australian Shiraz ambassador should know better and tell the Americans that there is life after hot climate styles sweetened with 200% sweet US oak or maybe you just don’t get it (and you have had a long time to work it out).

      The thermonuclear producers love your comments and will support you but hopefully one day you will enjoy the finer things in life….it’s all about the evolution of the palate! Maybe I am wrong about your comments and that you have a great appreciation of Australian Shiraz but not about Tony’s point which I believe is true to the core. By the way, do a little research and determine which is the only taste sensation you are born with…hint, there is only one and from you will unlock the secret of how to sell beverage the easy way in America!

      1. You are all correct. The list is indeed one dimensional and predictable in the extreme. However, after spending quite a bit of time trying to sell wines in the US over the last few years, I have to say that this list offers a much bigger selection of Australian wines than most others.

        Balanced? No. Representative of the breadth of Australian wine? Hell no. BUT, it does offer 23 wines and that is a greater numerical representation of Australian wine that I have seen on the vast majority of US wine lists. The great majority of them have no Australian section at all. Most sommeliers in the US would still maintain that they actually don’t need one.

        And yes Tony, we have a lot of work to do the address the problem. We fight on.

  2. Love the interaction. As you have all pointed out, it’s not the quality of wines when assessed individually. But let’s not get hung up on the old ‘size matters’ debate, nor whether ‘mine is better than yours’. To me, the issue is that collectively this group of wines isn’t likely to entice anybody back to Australia, nor instantly appeal to somebody who’s new to it, nor make easy money for the restaurant. The logic of creating a profitable and easily sellable Australian list has changed.

    First, the selection is too deep in some areas and too shallow in others. I love Margaret River Chardonnay, but are four necessary? The Shiraz is almost exclusively warm-climate style. Could be replaced with more diversity in varietal and/or region. Are fifteen Shirazes actually necessary?

    Second, there are a too many double-ups of producers (Torbreck, Leeuwin, Penfolds) that crowd out the lines. Leave depth to the Bordeaux pages. Rethink selling Australia away from multiple vintages from a single producer to offering more diversity and breadth. Have one producer’s chardonnay, but another’s cabernet for example.

    Third, too many old vintages. If they haven’t already sold, why/how will they now? Doesn’t matter whether they’re age-worthy, who’s buying them with a meal? (I venture this is not specific to the Aussie category, and of course common to a list of this size). Wines that collect dust represent foregone revenue. I would counsel de-listing some wines and making them available by somm special recommendation, replacing their spot with more current selections/varietals. This of course requires a commitment that’s very hard to get from a sommelier and staff pulled in many directions. Ideas welcome.

    Fourth, it’s an odd mix of retail/collector wines. Billi Billi shiraz 2010 at $49? I can pick up the 2012 for $12.99 downtown at Astor Wines. Torbreck RunRig 2004 for $450? It needs to be drunk, not collect dust. Again – disregard quality individually – but are these wines jumping off the page for a floor somm or diner? Do they hinder or help the Australian section as a whole?

    Fifth, most important actually. Where’s the ‘steal’ on here for Australia where the value is so enormous it would’t make sense to buy the same varietal from another world region? That’s often what appeals to floor somms. For example – a Sicilian nerello mascalese may be a superb pick for somebody who likes Nebbiolo but can’t fork out for Barolo, and the somm may suggest that. What are the wines here where value clearly outweighs Rhone or California? Is it Streicker 2007 Cabernet at under $100 for the Bordeaux drinker?

    Sixth, follows from 5- no pinot noir, no semillon, one grenache, no alternative varietals. There’s AMAZING value in these categories of Australian wine (in the market) and this restaurant is missing out.

    In sum, any section should be making money for a restaurant rather than taking up precious storage area. The logic of constructing a lucrative Australian section has changed / is changing, and the list hasn’t kept up. I would take a smaller section prioritizing fluidity that stays fresh over a ‘classic’ list of Grange vintages. How do we convey such a logic for Aussie wine sections to trade?

  3. Ok…. I’ll bite….

    A few things….

    As most of Tony’s readers hopefully know, I have been a champion of Australia’s diversity of wines for going on three decades now. I have been fortunate to have accumulated my foundation of knowledge through many visits to your country and hosting many of you on our shores here. And if there is anything I have learned, there are Australian wines for every type of consumer, retailer, or sommelier in America.

    Indeed, my success as a retailer was based on matching the style of a winery/region with the preference of the consumer. If you want a big red, Barossa will be a region to look out for. Like minerally laced tannins in your shiraz, the Seaview subregion in the McLaren Vale is where it is at. Cool-climate sparking shiraz, call my friends at Craiglee.

    I’m not going to get in a name dropping contest here, it will do me no good as my next career step will require me to meet face to face with many of the wine directors that would be front listed in order to answer your question. Instead, let’s consider the dilemma of an Australian CEO who wants to solicit the business of a Fortune 500 company.

    Naaaahhhh… It’s New York City, the international hub of business… Let’s make it a Fortune 50 company. To do so, the Aussie CEO is ready to check out the top restos in NYC where he will ensure the Yank gets a chance to drink the best of what Australia has to offer to seal the deal. And, to make it a fair challenge, let’s say the Yank doesn’t know the difference between Australia and New Zealand.

    There are hardly any Michelin restaurants in NYC, or across the US for that matter, where the Aussie exec could find any wines from Australia. And if he does, it’s the wines that Tony noted in the post that started this debate. No Aussie wines? How about a Marlborough savvy. Same country right? Out of luck. No kiwi wines on our 100 page+ wine list. This is not a problem limited to a resto here and there, it is a big problem, not only in NYC but across the country. There is much work to be done.

    Serge, I agree with what you say but at The 21 Club, what I saw was a wine list that at least paid respect to Australia’s wine industry and in fact, showed a bit of depth. In the wine world, the glass is half empty or half full and given my druthers, I could make this response an epic rant against people and places, spiking somms and restos, in a feeble attempt to think that my words on this blog could change the wine lists that treat Australian and New Zealand wines with a contemptuous attitude that is truly insulting. But it is best now not to engage in burning bridges but focus on building them instead.

    I gave props to The 21 Club because at least they have a section of the wine list where I can begin the discussion of what Australia can offer. At the places of higher stature across the country where wine lists don’t even carry Grange or Torbreck or Astralis (or Cloudy Bay), the conversation has to start so much further back down the track. But most importantly, our friend, the Aussie CEO, can at least go to The 21 Club and show the Yank some really good gear. And hopefully he can help, in a small way, to show the Yank what Australian wines are all about.

    Serge, I totally hear what you are saying. I miss you… let’s clink glasses soon. Hugs???

  4. I agree with everyone but let’s be grateful for small mercies. I’m heading to London where no name SEA awaits me in every boozer I go to . On one issue alone 21 does lack class. No Yalumba Grenache or Cab / Shiraz or Viognier no Carlei !!
    We must remedy.

  5. Next time you are there [New York] TK just ask the sommelier if they have a more extensive list of old vine wines rather than just the standard list of new-fangled grafted wines.

  6. All very sage thoughts and robust commentary from the above. I may say to those that question about depth or selection on lists, this is one of the strongest lists I see day-to-day in the USA as Chuck cites — We may gripe a little about representation and depth, let’s try to just get back on the list(s) first, then we can talk about depth and range… and yes I do agree there are a slew of wines that could be on this list plus many other in the USA of this gravitas: like Mack Forbes, Tollpuddle, Tahbilk, Dalwhinnie, Mount Pleasant, Pikes, Arras, Delamere Vineyards, Campbells…However, this is all well n’ good…and we can cite our opinions all day….but you are all missing one key point here….The depth and distribution of Australian wine whether on a list or not is at the fundamental mercy of the now consolidated goliath distribution houses… they do not nurture brands, nor build brands anymore, nor do they have the capacity to hold the hands of brands, let alone hand-sell… to which most, if not all Aussie wines need in our recovery stage… some very unfortunate truths…but pure reality — Simply stated, if the wholesaler does not take it out or genuinely believes in your wine…it will not be distributed…plain and simple…fix this major issue, and we’ll see wines list like we see in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne all over again here in the USA… I live in hope that these days return one day…I know from my end… I will never give up the fight!

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