Tag Archives: sweet wine

winerant

Four things that would make wine more fun to drink

wine

“Why didn’t the label say this was a sweet red wine?”

Four things that would make wine more fun to drink after a summer and fall spent traveling and tasting, because I really don’t want to have so many wine complaints:

? Better restaurant wine pricing. I mention this yet again not because I expect it to change, but because so few people in the restaurant business truly understand. I had a restaurateur approach me at a recent event to tell me how wonderful her wine list was. “We’re the only restaurant in this area that cares about wine,” she said. The list? Not awful, and even a couple of interesting bottles, but every wine, even the $8 Big Wine riesling, was marked up at least three times. This restaurant in a tiny town in Arizona was charging $40 for crappy grocery store wine, and the woman was proud of the list. How am I supposed to answer that?

? Back label honesty. I did a tasting this week for cheap holiday wines for a Dallas publication, and what struck me — besides how awful so many of the wines were — was how little the back label description had to do with what the wine tasted like. Soft, syrupy cabernet sauvignons without any tannins were described as elegant, while chardonnay made with so much fake oak that it hurt to swallow were said to be rich and full bodied. How about truth in labeling: “We made this wine to hit a certain price, and it really doesn’t taste like much, but what do you expect for $8?”

? If the wine is sweet, call it sweet. Why does the wine business insist on confusing consumers by leaving sweet off the label when the wine is sweet? I realize that the industry has taught “real” wine drinkers that sweet wine is inferior, and that only old ladies with cats drink it. But I’m tired of tasting wine labeled as dry that is sweet, and I have heard from many consumers who feel the same way. Besides, isn’t it possible that sweet wine labeled sweet would sell better?

? Lidl can’t get to the U.S.too soon. The German discount grocer, known for its quality cheap wines, broke ground on a U.S. distribution center last month, and should start opening stores in the next couple of years. If Lidl does wine in the U.S. the way it does in Europe, those of us who care about cheap wine will have an alternative to the wines in the second item in this post. Or, as my brother emailed me during a trip to Europe, “Love Lidl — great wine selection.”

For more on making wine more fun:
? Wine education: Four things you don’t need to know about wine
? Five things that make me crazy when I buy wine
? Five things the wine business can do to help consumers figure out wine

wine news

Winebits 395: Prosecco shortage, sweet wine, label fraud

Prosecco shortage ? Plenty of bubbly: The Wine Curmudgeon has not mentioned the news reports over the past several months heralding a Prosecco shortage, mostly because the “shortage” made my reporter’s stomach hurt. It’s the just the kind of “news” that offers an excuse for price increases — coincidentally, as the euro drops — and it turns out my hunch wasn’t far from the truth. The head of the Prosecco consortium, which oversees production of the Italian sparker, told Wine Business Monthly that supply increased almost 18 percent in 2014, and that there is no shortage. “We call on those who write, market and educate people about wine to do their part to inform the public about what Prosecco represents as a specific wine of place year,” he said.

? Deciding what is sweet: Sweet wine is making an impression in Canada as well as the U.S., as Bill Zacharkiw writes in the Montreal Gazette: “There still seems to be some confusion about the role of sugar in wine, as many of these emails ask what the relationship is between residual sugar and quality. But there are other interesting questions as well.” Which he answers quite intelligently, noting the same thing that I have found. It’s not sweetness itself that is the problem with sweet wine, but how badly made too many sweet wines are. Says Zacharkiw: “I cast no judgment here. In the end, you choose what you want to drink. I simply want people to know the facts, and believe you should have access to all the information in order to make an informed choice.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

? Fix the label: Remember how those “artisan” spirits were going to fight to the bitter end the lawsuits accusing them of not being especially artisan? Templeton, the Iowa producer using whiskey from Indiana, has settled, and I would expect more settlements to follow now that a precedent has been set. The Templeton co-founder said his whiskey’s marketing ?should have provided more clarity,” in one of those wonderful understatements that I so enjoy. Hopefully, the wine industry, with its artisan and hand-crafted claims for brands that make hundreds of thousands of cases, is paying attention.

winereview

Cupcake wine review 2015

cupcake wine review 2015 ? Cupcake Moscato 2013 ($10, purchased, 9.5%)

? Cupcake Red Velvet 2012 ($10, purchased, 13.5%)

When the Wine Curmudgeon finishes a day of wine judging, he usually gets a beer or glass of whiskey to cut the taste of the sweet wines that we judge at the end of each round. After tasting the two wines for the Cupcake wine review 2015, I needed a couple of belts of Wild Turkey.

It’s not so much that the Red Velvet, the legendary Cupcake sweet red blend, and the Italian moscato were sweet, which I was prepared for. Rather, they were sweet in that cynical, Big Wine, better living through chemistry way that drives me crazy. Sweet doesn’t mean bad; the best German rieslings are some of the world’s great wines.

But wines made to be sweet for sweetness’ sake? No thank you — and the moscato went past even that to sweet tea territory. There was a little orange-ish moscato aroma, and then some sweetness. And more sweetness. And, in case you missed it, even more sweetness. No acidity, no freshness, just lots of sugar. Assuming my math is correct, it may be as much as 10 percent residual sugar, about one-third higher than a typical Old World moscato, and with one-third more alcohol. In this, as my old pal Tom Johnson noted, it’s Boone’s Farm for Baby Boomer grandchildren (with the resultant sugar-fueled hangover).

The Red Velvet, though even more a product of post-modern winemaking, was more like wine than the moscato. It had flavors — a sort of cherryish, chocolate thing — as well as tannins and acidity. There wasn’t much of either of the latter, but enough so that you could drink it and not go into a sugar coma. Serve it chilled with hamburgers and it’s drinkable in a way the moscato isn’t, even for those of us who prefer more balanced sweet wines.

It’s also why wine needs ingredient labels. Cupcake says Red Velvet has zinfandel, merlot, and petite sirah, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a couple of other grapes, as well as MegaPurple grape juice concentrate for added color. Plus, what Cupcake describes as a “unique oak regimen” smells and tastes like caramel-flavored fake oak.

So one yes, the Red Velvet, and one no, the moscato. In this case, .500 is not a bad average.

For more on Cupcake wine:
? Cupcake wine review 2014
? Cupcake wine review 2013
? Cupcake wine review 2012

 

wine of week

Wine of the week: Sara Bee Moscato NV

sara bee moscato Sweet wine is not easy to review, and this doesn’t even take into account that a lot of sweet wine isn’t worth reviewing — poorly made, sweeter than Coke, and as cynical as a carnival barker. Many of the Wine Curmudgeon’s readers — half? more? — will skip this review in annoyance and some will even cancel their email subscription in disgust.

But let it not be said that I am easily intimidated.

The Italian Sara Bee Moscato ($7, purchased, 5.5%) is one of the best sweet wines I’ve tasted in years, and especially at this price. Yes, it’s sweet — probably somewhere around a high-end soft drink like Jones Soda — but there is plenty of orange fruit aroma, common to the moscato grape, apricot, some wonderful “fermentato,” which translates into light, fun bubbles, and even a bit of crispness (usually missing in most sweet wines at this price).

I drank it with some delicately-spiced Indian takeout, and the sweetness correctly played off the spice. It would also work as a dessert wine; something with chocolate, perhaps? Sweet wine drinkers, of course, won’t bother with any of that. Chill it well, add an ice cube or two if you want, and enjoy.

So what’s the catch? The Sara Bee is made by Santero, a dependable producer of grocery-store priced Italian sparkling wine, but this is a private label for the Trader Joe’s chain. This means two things: Trying to get information about the wine is almost impossible, since Trader Joe’s doesn’t like to return phone calls, and you can’t buy it anywhere else. If you’re in a state without a Trader Joe’s or one that doesn’t sell wine — in New York and Pennsylvania, for instance — you’re out of luck.

This is a $10 Hall of Fame wine, but because of the availability problems, I probably won’t add it next year. But if you have $7, are near a Trader Joe’s that sells wine, and are curious about the Sara Bee, don’t hesitate to try it.

wine news

Winebits 323: Sweet wine, three-tier, high alcohol

Winebits 323: Sweet wine, three-tier, high alcohol

Where do we go? Obviously, not anywhere where three-tier doesn’t exist

? Bring on the Apothic: E&J Gallo, one of the biggest wine companies in the world, is making a play for the British market, and is using its sweet red wine to do the job, reports the Harpers trade magazine. The article describes Apothic as a blend of five grapes, though doesn’t mention that it helped pioneer the sweet red movement in the U.S. Rather, it quotes a Gallo official, who says the wine is “very different from previous Gallo brands, and very polarizing.” Still, he says Apothic is selling better than expected, and has been picked up by most of the country’s major grocery stores. It’s odd that Harpers doesn’t mention that Apothic is sweet; its stories are usually better reported than that. Did the writer leave it out on purpose or just not know? Or figured no one in the UK wine business would care?

? Play that dead band’s song: The Wine Curmudgeon has often noted that Alabama can be in a completely different universe when it comes to wine distribution and sales, even allowing for the eccentricities inherent in the three-tier system. Like this. And this. But this one is nifty, even for Alabama. The state legislature wants to pass a law that would make it more difficult for retailers in Montgomery County, which includes the city of Montgomery, to switch distributors. Imagine the clout that’s required to get a bill like that through, which benefits just a handful of companies. It speaks to the immense power of distributors and why three-tier remains so well entrenched in the supply chain.

? But it’s in Scientific American: Those of us who write about wine regularly argue about high alcohol, often to no effect other than name calling and snarkiness. But consider this — a report in a respected journal that’s not about wine headlined “Wine Becomes More Like Whisky as Alcohol Content Gets High” and that includes news of a new yeast that allows winemakers to produce fruity wine without high alcohol. Plus, there’s Latin in it, which always impresses me. More importantly, does an article in something as prestigious as Scientific American help mend the rift between the pro- and anti-high alcohol factions? Almost certainly not, unfortunately. The two sides just don’t like each other, and personality — and not wine — has become all.

winereview

Mini-reviews 56: Uncensored, Martin Codax, Jordan, Fess Parker

Mini-reviews 56: Uncensored, Martin Codax, Jordan, Fess ParkerReviews 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.

? Geyser Peak Uncensored White 2012 ($10, sample, 13%): Disappointing California sweet white blend, featuring some unripe fruit, some ripe fruit, and a mix of banana and lemon pith flavors. Why so many producers insist on selling such poorly made wine is beyond me, other than that they figure anyone who likes sweet wine won’t know the difference.

? Mart n C dax Albari o 2012 ($15, sample, 12.5%): A professionally made, as always, Spanish white with lemon fruit, though softer and without the almost salty sea air tang of other albarinos. Price, as always, is $3 more than it should be.

? Jordan Chardonnay 2011 ($30, sample, 13.5%): The archetype for California Russian River Valley chardonnay, with green apple fruit, oak more or less in balance, and a rich mouth feel. Needs food, and especially classic chardonnay dishes made with cream sauces.

? Fess Parker Riesling 2012 ($15, sample, 12.5%): A very pleasant surprise — California off-dry riesling that was more than just sweet. Look for apricot and melon, and even a little honey. Very well done, and highly recommended.

Image courtesy of Talk-A-Vino, using a Creative Commons license

Winebits 297: Sweet wine, imported wine, regional wine

? The Winestream Media always acts like the Winestream Media: Shanken News Daily, a news service for the wine business, ran an item last week noting that Indiana ?s Oliver Winery was taking advantage of the sweet wine trend to boost sales. What the story missed was that Oliver was selling hundreds of thousands of cases of sweet wine long before it became a national trend, and is actually one of the regional wineries that started the trend (along with Missouri ?s St. James, North Carolina ?s Duplin, and Texas ? Llano Estacado). How did Shanken get this so wrong? Because, as with all members of the Winestream Media, nothing happens unless they say it does, which is why so much wine writing, wine analysis, and wine criticism in this country is so poorly done. I once did a piece for a trade magazine owned by the same company that owns the news service, and had a fight with an editor who insisted that Texas ? liquor laws were so unbelievable that what I wrote couldn ?t be true. She just knew the way the world worked, and wasn ?t going to let the facts disturb her.

? Where ?s all that French wine? W. Blake Gray, who started out to defend the quality of Australian wine, has done yeoman work in analyzing where the imported wine comes from that most of us drink. I think even Blake was surprised to find out how popular Argentine wine, and specifically malbec, was, and how much less popular French wine was. Of course, if you read most mainstream wine criticism, you ?ll get the opposite impression, because who wants to write about $8 malbec when there ?s all that Bordeaux and Burgundy to drool over?

? The problems with regional wine: My pal Kyle Schlachter, long a defender of regional wine, is also smart enough to know that not all regional wine is created equal. This blog post, focusing on how consumers use social media to critique wineries, is pointed, excellently written, and painfully accurate in discussing how too many regional wineries don ?t understand customer service, don ?t care enough about wine quality, and don ?t want to work with anyone else to improve their business. I saw this all the time when I did Drink Local Wine, and it always made me crazy; Kyle has more patience than I do.