ben o'donnell

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Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Can't Hear the Music

When it comes to the seemingly natural pairing with the music world, wine is tone-deaf: Some lessons in how not to sell a wine

Posted: December 17, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

Some Boston University School of Public Health professors and students were jamming out pretty diligently to produce a recent study tallying alcohol brand mentions in 720 Billboard-charting songs from 2009 to 2011. "The most striking finding was that alcohol-brand references are concentrated among a small number of brands [in pop music] …," according to the research published in Substance Use and Misuse. "Four brands alone—Patrón tequila, Hennessy Cognac, Grey Goose vodka and Jack Daniel's whiskey—accounted for more than half of all alcohol-brand mentions."

Yes, here we are, 17 years after Biggie Smalls proclaimed "Cristal forever!" on Jay-Z's "Brooklyn's Finest." Wine fervor among young people is at an all-time high—especially for bubbly and rosé, which are the most party of all wines. Yet most wine brands are still clueless on how to get a shoutout and a lucrative lyrical plug when, as the study shows, there are plenty of outs to be shouted: 64 brand mentions in 720 songs. But for wine? Two Moëts and two Cristals in the "urban" genre, plus a Dom Pérignon in a country song.

Dec. 15, 2013 Issue  :  News

What's in a Glass? Study Shows Wine Drinkers Don't Know

Posted: December 15, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

What Happens When the Moscato Music Stops? Part 2

Is the mass-market fizz pulling up the premium styles? And what does the future hold for Muscat once the bubble bursts?

Posted: November 15, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

A few years ago, I wrote a feature about Jorge Ordóñez & Co., a relatively new winemaking outfit from the heavyweight Spanish importer, in the foothills surrounding his native city of Málaga. The wines of the region were typically sweet wines made from Moscatel de Alejandría grapes left to raisinate on the vine or on straw mats. Ordóñez began making four wines in this style, plus a dry Moscatel called Botani.

My visit in 2010 predated the Moscato madness, so I shot an e-mail to Victoria Ordóñez (she oversees operations on the ground) asking if the thirst for Moscato had swelled upward past the $9 price point to wines of Ordóñez's caliber--the Botani retails at about $17. Sales were indeed up.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

What Happens When the Moscato Music Stops?

Can the gold rush reach more venerable styles of Muscat, or will its collapse leave the wine's reputation in shambles?

Posted: November 14, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

Australia soaked the world with critter labels. Zinfandel was lobotomized into a candy wine. Italian bubbly became an '80s ad jingle. California Merlot got overplanted, then yelled at in a popular movie. You know what happened next: The producers who got intoxicated on mass-market success didn't lift their premium counterparts with the rising tide-instead, they eventually torpedoed the whole category.

After the inevitable crash in market share and reputation, each of these regions or wine types floated facedown for years, even decades, before their recent renaissances as wines capable of depth and nuance. (Australia and Merlot are still swimming upstream, arguably.)

What next, then, once Moscato hits the iceberg?

Oct. 31, 2013 Issue  :  News

Hail Devastates French Vineyards

Posted: October 31, 2013  By Suzanne Mustacich, Ben O'Donnell, Bruce Sanderson

Oct. 31, 2013 Issue  :  News

Wine Ties Beer in Beverage Battle

Posted: October 31, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

News & Features  :  News & Features

Matching Masters: The Wine-and-Food Pairing Shoot-Out

José Andrés, Emeril Lagasse, Danny Meyer and Jean-Georges Vongerichten take on a challenge of plating and pairing

Posted: October 29, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

News & Features  :  News & Features

Cristal Shines on Through the Years

A vertical of Louis Roederer’s prestige cuvée back to 1990 shows a flashy wine that’s no flash in the pan

Posted: October 28, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

News & Features  :  News

What's in a Glass? Study Shows Wine Drinkers Fail to Gauge Serving Size

A study concludes that glass shape and other factors cloud judgment in determining what's a single serving

Posted: October 8, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

The World's Most Exclusive $20 Wines: Brunello

For some wine categories, the price of entry is too high for most, but daily-drinking alternatives can send out the vibes of the real deal

Posted: October 8, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

Brunello di Montalcino, the pure Sangiovese in the heart of Tuscany's wine country, is an expensive wine to make. Land is pricey and there's not much to go around. Producers are required to sit on inventory for two years in oak and four months in bottle—but the expected protocol is that the wines not reach the market until five years after the harvest. It's a cost passed on to the consumer: You're hard-pressed to find a bottle under $40 on the shelf.

Two Tuscan value categories can offer an impressive alternative to Brunello: Rosso di Montalcino and Morellino di Scansano.

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