Vol. 1 No. 15 reign of ‘terroir’?

TB must apologize for being so remiss in updating the blog but have been doing a lot of reading and thinking since the last issue. Still, no excuse, but here are some of the things I have observed over that time.

1. Use and misuse of the term ‘terrior’ in blogs. Terroir is kind of like je nes se pas, as in something you detect but are unable to define. A blog recently referred to the ‘terroir’ of Lodi wines. Lodi! This is not to denegrate these wines but there is a difference between a ‘well-made’ wine and a wine of great character, thus terrior. That does not mean they aren’t good value, but it depends on what you expect in a wine. For instance, what if you tried five, or ten wines and found them all good but with no distinctive qualities. Is that what you want to buy? Hold that thought for a minute…

2. The great wines of the world have their own terrior, but through the efforts of wine critic, Robert Parker, and his friend, global wine consultant Michel Rolland, winemakers are adjusting their wines to suit the tastes of these two and other wine writers. Why? Because they can make more money with a 90 or 95 rating than an 88. There are perhaps half a dozen (or more?) wine raters now so the odds of getting a 90 or higher from one of them is improved. After all, they are not all looking for the same thing in a wine…and did it occur to you that what you, the end purchaser, likes that matters most? It is you, dear reader, that should decide what you want in a wine…that makes you go back and buy another bottle…or case. but if you just buy based on ratings you may never find that wine…your find!…that you love enough to make your ‘house wine’. This implies that unless you are blessed to be wealthy you can afford enough of the wine to serve your needs.

3. This leads to still another issue: wine snobbery. When TB first began this project, he considered something like “ending wine snobbery”, but then what is a wine snob?…or a ‘reverse’ wine snob as one fellow blogger has titled his blurb? His thrust is that you needn’t pay more than $20 for a bottle of wine (if you do, are you thus a wine snob?). He then uses a rating system that factors in taste  – and a negative price factor – to come up with an overall rating on an 8 point scale. Be it 8, 10, 20, or 100, I want to know what the rater is looking for so that if her tastes don’t match mind I can go on to another wine critic to get a rating. I actually prefer the UC Davis 20-point scale as I have tried it on wine novices and find it simplifies judging wine. But there is still a problem. It is judging a wine on quality alone not a distinctive wine. In the end, TB chose as his mot: demystifying wine, not for wine snobs. Now there is a topic that can produce hundreds of blogs, right?

4. Let’s go back to that $20 maximum price: you will get for the most part, a well-made wine but not a stand-out. Furthermore, you will eliminate most wines made by real producers. Real producers? I mean the non-corporate, family wineries who don’t produce a 100,000 cases, or whatever, giving them incredible economies of scale. Isn’t that who you would really like to support: someone making a quality product, often organically (by not using pesticides, natural yeasts, etc – note that there are reasons to not use natural yeasts in controlling fermentation, but on a smaller scale it can be done). This overlaps on sustainable and bio-dynamic production which is more expensive but often with the end result of a better product. Moving into this range means wines that are more in the $20-35 price segment. Not, to TB at least, in the realm of priced for the wine snob. No, to TB, a wine snob is someone who buys on ratings alone, and adjusts her likes to what she is told to like. Lettie Teague, who writes a weekly column in the Wall Street Journal, is an honest writer who ‘calls ’em as she sees ’em’. Her last column was on sins of people in the wine industry. Sins? How about the sommelier who pours you a glass and then describes in detail what you are tasting – isn’t that like giving you a book then reciting the story and telling you to enjoy? Another of the sins is wine shops that pepper their inventory with stickers showing the ratings of most of the wines. One of TB’s pet peeves is the server, intent on selling you more wine, pouring behind your back, or dumping the rest of the bottle in someone’s glass. I have experienced and seen friends experience, getting pie-eyed because they lost count of how much wine they drank because they didn’t see their glass refilled…again and again.

5. I know of one blogger who refers you to a wine he has rated (and often following a rating by a seller), that offers you a chance to buy direct by clicking on the link. Without accusing said blogger, how can she be independent if there is an incentive to sell the wine. TB has never, and never will, accepted anything for a favorable plug…period. But then, TB is not out go get rich, but merely provide information to fellow wine-lovers (note he did not say ‘oenophiles’ – enough of enophiles!). Instead, TB hopes you will regard his efforts at truthfulness positively and if…and when…his book is published be inclined to buy a copy, but that is up to you.

Hopefully, this has made up for the self-made ‘drought’ (sorry Californians), and given you pause on what you seek in a wine. In Jancis Robinson’s latest blog, she commented on her version of wine snobs who get on every mailing list of hard to get producers and cause more price escalation and hording. What is a bottle of wine worth? Take the word of Heidi Barrett, consultant to many of the top wineries in Napa Valley after hearing that an Imperial (six-liter bottle equal to eight 750ml bottles) of her Screaming Eagle sold at the Napa Valley Wine Auction for $500,000. As author George M. Taber writes in Judgment of Paris, that works out to $22,944 per four-ounce glass (purchased by a dot-com multimillionaire). Barrett, while obviously pleased by the price, said this, “It’s wild. you drink it, and it’s gone. My brain doesn’t get it.” Neither does TB’s, especially when there are people can’t afford their next meal. Oh, well, let them eat cake, right?

Off to get a glass of wine…

Trader Bill

©Copyright 2015 TBOW, all rights reserved.

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How did Trader Bill originate? It was conceived by me as a way of providing information summaries of global financial markets so that friends and associates could bring themselves up to speed on events and changing market conditions upon their arrival at work. In addition, it provides information on speakers and economic releases that day with consensus estimates and level of last release so that the reader is prepared to react, or knows how the market might react upon the release of information. Who is Trader Bill? Initially any reference to me was as ‘i’. This is to remove the aura of ego and to suggest that i am but a humble reporter, albeit with 35 years of investment experience. Investments are demanding of ego, however, or one would not feel that he was qualified to manage someone else’s money in the first instance. Therefore i needed an ‘alter-ego’. Like Winchell and Mahoney, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy and especially Trader Vic and Mai Tai’s! Why Trader Vic? Because he was a likeable man who delivered pleasure to his customers and knew exactly what their desires were. The reason for the alter ego became obvious once I introduced Trader Bill into my commentaries: people started asking what Trader Bill thought. They had never asked me what I thought before, but suddenly they wanted to know what TB thought! Now mind you they KNEW that I was Trader Bill but for some reason he became bigger than life. Maybe it was the small ‘I’? What does Trader Bill try to do?His goal is to educate from his years of experience. Consider that most of the traders and people managing investments weren’t even around in 1987 for the crash! Consider that Graham and Dodd, and even Warren Buffet are not relevant to them, too old hat. Their historical perceptions of markets and fundamentals (earnings, price/earnings ratios, bonds, debt service coverage) are irrelevant in this fast moving world. This is the NEW ECONOMY, or is it? How did your style originate?Years ago i found that i had a knack and talent for writing. In addition, i developed an ability to analyze market news about 15 years ago. It took the Crash of ‘87. Prior to that i was just listening to what others said about the economy. But bond yields had been soaring in ‘87 yet the stock market just kept hitting new highs. That was when i began to learn about markets. i have both a dry and witty sense of humor (some call it inane!). Therefore i attempt to make even the worst news somewhat amusing: whether it is the absurdity of an economic release, or the comments of a CEO. This is trading desk humor (or gallows humor). It isn’t politically correct but it does ease tension. Ironically, it is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (in the Navy they say: it’s always darkest before it’s pitch black!), that allows you to be more objective in your analysis, as bad as a situation is there will still be a tomorrow! You will see that i practice three-dot journalism, a style made famous by San Francisco reporter Herb Caen, whom i idolized. At least to me it is effective. What is so special about your analysis?Frankly, i don’t know that it is special, but at least it beats “the market closed down today on profit taking.” What i do know is that most of what you read is spat out without considering whether or not it is rational, like the above statement. Is it right? Sometimes yes and sometimes no, and that is the key to what is different about my analysis: it is meant to make you think. Is Dan Rather right or is Trader Bill right? If it causes you to stop and think about it, regardless of whether you agree, i win! Because THAT is my goal…not to have you think i am a guru, got that? Bet you never heard that ANYWHERE before in my business! Instead they want you to think just how smart they are but remember in this business if you are right 60% of the time you ARE a genius! Another thing that is different is when i am wrong on an analysis i will tell you, not hope you forget what i said. So now you have the tools to do what the speculators and hedge funds do: challenge authority, and if you make money it is because YOU did it not me. i was just a tool, your flunky to do the grunt work and let you decide…course you could be wrong too but at least you looked at the big picture. But the goal is also to have fun! This shouldn’t be a business of hushed tones and grim faces. It is a living, breathing thing and nowhere else in the world do you have the odds as much in your favor as here. Just beware of the guy who wants to put his arm around you and tell you he is your friend. So there you have it. I hope you select me as one of your sources for market information. If you do I promise to work my best for your financial success. Trader Bill

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