The blog is mostly off today -- the Wine Curmudgeon has spent the holiday weekend recuperating from judging in the International Eastern Wine Competition. For your entertainment, this video (courtesy of littlesuzie89 at YouTube), the English comedy duo Fry and Laurie doing some wine tasting. "You won't show this, will you -- I'm a wine merchant."
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.
• Red Rock Malbec 2008 ($10, sample): This Gallo brand is one of the most popular restaurant wines in the country, and it's easy to see why. It's fruity, not offensive or overdone, and offers consistency from vintage to vintage.
• Pennywise Petite Sirah 2008 ($12, sample): Black pepper, a little tar and black cherry. Nicely done, and on a par with the Bogle, probably the best of the $10-$12 petite sirahs.
• El Coto Rioja Blanco 2009 ($10, sample): My new favorite limited availability wine, with $10 Hall of Fame qualities -- this Spanish white has a bit of lemon and is very clean and crisp. But good luck finding it at retail.
• Mumm Napa Brut Rose NV ($22, sample): Always dependable California sparkling wine is even better than usual. Look for bright strawberry fruit and bubbles that don't want to go away.
Memorial Day traditionally marks the beginning of summer, so what better time to discourse on rose -- one of the Wine Curmudgeon's favorites and a style of wine that is too often overlooked?
The quality of rose has improved dramatically over the last decade. I don’t know that I have actually tasted a poorly made rose in the past couple of years. Some of them have been too expensive, but that’s another story. Usually, you can buy quality rose for $10, and often less.
The most important thing to know about rose is that it isn’t white zinfandel (or white merlot or whatever); roses are pink wines made with red grapes, and roses aren’t sweet. Why are they pink? Because the red grape skins are left in the fermenting grape juice just long enough to color the wine. That's how all wine gets its color, in fact. White wine is white because the skins aren't used to color the wine.
The Wine Curmudgeon is suffering a pinot noir crisis. In the old days, which weren't that long ago, there were two kinds of pinot noir -- red Burgundy from France and New World pinot noir from Oregon and California. They didn't exactly taste alike, but at least they had something in common -- they were made with just pinot noir, had low alcohol, low tannins and reasonably subtle fruit flavors (though the New World wines were more fruity than the French).
Today, pinot noir is all over the place. There are high alcohol pinots, some at 15 percent and more. There are blended pinots, some with as much as one-quarter syrah or grenache (a development that led to the Great Pinot Noir scandal last year). There are tannic pinots that taste like cabernet sauvignon. And there are incredibly fruity pinots, like Mark West and Cycles Gladiator, that are perfectly fine save for the fact that they don't taste like traditional pinot.
I'm acutally in quite a metaphysical quandary about this. If one believes, as I do, that people should drink what they want, then I have no right to criticize their choice in pinot noir. Yet these wines are not pinot noir as I know them. What's a Wine Curmudgeon to do?
For the time being, drink the La Posta (about $15, purchased). That it is from Argentina makes it unusual enough, but so does the fact that it inhabits the middle ground between traditional and new-style pinot noirs. It doesn't have all the fruit of the latter, but it also doesn't have the earthiness and subtlety of the former. It's also a bit thin, which is more of a function of its price -- $15 is practically giving pinot away these days. Drink this with lighter-style red meat, and even salmon and roast chicken.
Katy Jane Bothum, the executive director of the Texas Hill Country Wineries, is one of the world's great supporters of regional wine. So when she promises that this weekend's Austin Wine and Music Festival will be 100 percent local wine (as well as so much other local stuff that even I'm impressed), it will be well worth a visit for those of you who are in the area.
The great Jane Nickles, another ardent supporter of local wine, will present a couple of seminars, and Micky and the Motorcars, one of my favorite Austin bands, is scheduled to perform. Ticket and winery information is on the festival Web site. (There is also a rumor that the Wine Curmudgeon will appear at the festival next year.)
• 2010 Wine Blog Award finalists: The nomination process is still a bit unwieldy, but the finalists have been announced -- five each in eight categories. You can vote here. And no, the Wine Curmudgeon was not nominated. But I'll always have my squirrel award.
• What about wine blogging? The prestigious Columbia Journalism Review has looked at wine blogging and rehashes the usual arguments. It also includes this, one of the silliest lines that may ever have been written about wine writing: "Wine is, after all, a complex drink, and it needs to be analyzed in a complex way, usually by someone with a deep understanding of wine or by someone with credentials, such as a WSET advanced degree." The writer is kidding, right? I'm going to write more about this, probably next week.
• British want minimum pricing: The new British government's decision to ban "below cost" alcohol sales has garnered the support of the Tesco supermarket chain, the third largest retailer in the world and Britain's biggest, reports Decanter. The minimum pricing policy is aimed at cutting booze consumption and thereby alcoholism. It has been quite controversial in Britain, where many retailers sell beer for less than it costs them, and for as much as bottled water.
This is how well-run the International Eastern Wine Competiton is -- it survived the Wine Curmudgeon being placed in a minor role of authority. I had to oversee my judging group on the second day of the three-day event. That meant I had to record the scores for the wines we judged -- and do some math in the proicess. I'm still shuddering.
Having said all that, I had a wonderful time and it is one of my favorite competitions to judge. If nothing else, I always get to taste some wonderful New York rieslings that aren't available in Texas. My report is here, and it is updated with results.
And what would the IEWC be without a picture of me in my lab coat (courtesy of my pal Dave McIntyre)?