Tag Archives: wine advice

porch1

Porch wine for the long, hot summer

porch wineHas the hot weather made you as cranky as the WC tasting 15 percent chardonnay? Then take a long, cool sip of the porch wine post.

We haven’t hit 100 in Dallas yet, but 99 for the last week or so is close enough. And, from what I hear from my pals in the rest of the country, it’s too damn hot where they are. Which means it’s time for a porch wine post – focusing on lighter wines, red and white, that are lower in alcohol and that offer relief from the heat. The idea with a porch wine is to drink something that won’t make the sweat bead on your forehead.

These four wines are excellent examples of the type, and should give you an idea about what to look for:

Nik. Weis Urban Riesling 2015 ($15, sample, 9%): Well-made German riesling is difficult to find in Dallas, which makes no sense given how warm-weather friendly the wine is. The Weis is made in a more modern style, with fresher apricot fruit instead of dried and brighter acidity, but it’s also layered with the traditional honey notes. Nicely done, and will even age a little.

El Coto Rosado 2015 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): The El Coto is is one of my favorite Spanish roses, and if it’s not quite as well done as the Muga, it’s still delicious and a tremendous value. Look for strawberry fruit, plus a little earthiness and even orange peel from the tempranillo that’s in the blend.

Torresella Prosecco Extra Dry NV ($15, sample, 11.5%): This Italian sparkler reminded me why I love wine. I much prefer cava to Prosecco, so it’s always a pleasure to find a Prosecco worth writing about – not too sweet, firm bubbles, surprisingly balanced, and more apple and pear fruit than most others. Highly recommended.

Drouhin Domaine des Hospices de Belleville Fleurie 2014 ($25, sample, 13%): Top-notch red from the French region of Beaujolais that has nothing in common with most of the plonk made there these days. Firm but not overbearing, with red fruit and soft tannins, and something you can drink on its own or with food. The only drawback is the cost, but given how expensive this quality of French wine has become, it’s not overpriced.

More about porch wine:
Wine terms: Porch wine
Wine when the air conditioning is broken
Wine of the week: Angels & Cowboys rose 2015
Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Blanc 2014

winetrends

TV wine ads: Almost 40 years of awful

One of the great mysteries about wine: Why did Americans ever take to it, given how difficult it is to understand and how badly wine has traditionally been marketed?

Case in point is this Bolla commercial from 1978, which more or less coincides with the first increase in wine’s popularity in the U.S. Why would anyone want to drink wine based on the commercial, which doesn’t make much sense? How can a wine be both soft and full-bodied? And even then, marketers focused on what we think of today as “smooth,” making sure to call a red wine soft.

And, because sex sells, we learn that if we drink Bolla, we can get a hot chick. This is the one constant over the past 40 years of silly TV wine ads, and like most of the claims in these ads, there is little truth to it. I was there, and we didn’t. We didn’t even drink wine; we drank beer. Lowenbrau, in fact, to impress a girl. (Video courtesy of Vintage Wine Commercials at YouTube.)

More about TV wine ads:
Riunite on ice — so nice
When Blue Nun ruled the world
TV wine commercials and their legacy
How wine commercials on TV have changed — or not

wine advice

Ask the WC 9: Premiumization, wine bottles, Chicago Cubs

Ask the Wine Curmudgeon

“Damn, that’s a heavy bottle for a cheap wine.”

Because the customers always have wine questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular wine advice feature. Ask the Wine Curmudgeon wine-related question .

Dear WC:
I’m confused about all this talk about premiumization. I’m not buying more expensive wine, and none of my friends are. We’re buying the same price wine we’ve always bought. So where do they get the numbers that say we’re buying more expensive wine?
Cheap and confused

Dear Confused:
There is data that shows that the dollar value of U.S. wine sales is increasing and that Americans are buying less wine that costs $7 a bottle or less. Hence, premiumization. What is less clear is why this this is happening. Are we consciously buying more expensive wine? What’s the role of price increases? And what does it mean that the demographic that bought all that $7 wine is getting older and drinking less? No one has really answered those questions. To my mind, it’s not so much that the average price of a bottle of wine is increasing; it’s that the same numbers show wine sales are flat. So, in the end, it’s a tradeoff, and one that’s not good for wine.

Wine Curmudgeon:
Why is so much inexpensive wine still sold in heavy, expensive bottles? You’d think that would add to the cost of the wine, and I don’t want to pay for it. I want to pay for the wine.
The glass is not half full

Dear Glass:
Because wine has to come in a heavy glass bottle with a punt and a cork, or consumers will think it’s crappy wine. Still. The good news is that, as glass and shipping prices have increased, more and more producers are switching to lighter bottles to keep their profit margins. So we’re seeing some change, albeit slowly.

Hey Curmudgeonly One:
Now that your Chicago Cubs are in first place by a lot, are you still going to buy that $300 bottle of wine if they win the World Series? Won’t that destroy your reputation as a cheapo?
Not a Cubs fan

Dear Not:
Do I detect a little St. Louis Cardinals jealousy here? It’s a long baseball season, and the Cubs aren’t playing well after that incredible start. I’d love the opportunity to buy an expensive bottle to celebrate, but I’ve been a Cubs fan for too long to count on anything. Remember 1969?

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 8: Restaurant wine, storing wine, sparkling wine
Ask the WC 7: Winespeak, availability, Bordeaux
Ask the WC 6: Box wine, wine closeouts, open wine

winerant

Drop dead, restaurant wine prices

restaurant wine prices
Restaurant wine prices are too high, which prevents restaurants from selling more wine and restaurant customers from drinking more wine. Everyone understands this but restaurants (see the cheap wine book and various academic studies); nevertheless, the people who run them seem content to charge higher prices, sell less wine, and make even less money.

The Wine Curmudgeon was reminded of this again on Saturday night during dinner at Urbano’s, probably Dallas’ best-known BYOB restaurant and where the food is more or less moderately priced. During the 2 ½ hours we were there, everyone was drinking wine, most of the tables had more than one bottle (including sparkling and rose, not a common sight), and hardly any of the wine I saw was grocery store plonk. The table next to us, in fact, came prepared with a very expensive wine carryall that contained several pricey bottles.

What was the reason for all that wine? Urbano’s charges $5 per bottle for corkage, so no one had to pay $50 for a bottle from a mediocre wine list. Instead, a table of of four will spend $10 at Urbano’s for two bottles of wine, cutting the bill by at least one-third.

The caveats? Urbano is small, with fewer than a couple of dozen tables, and its reputation as BYOB means it attracts wine drinkers. But given the traditional Dallas antipathy to wine – the bottle at my table when I go out usually gets more than a few stares from the sweet tea drinkers – every table at Urbano’s that had wine speaks volumes about the difference price makes. Because, as our waitress told me, 80 percent of their customers bring their own wine.

So, once again, a plea for fair restaurant wine pricing. I don’t expect wine so cheap that it competes with retail pricing. But would it be so awful if restaurants only doubled the price of the bottle that cost them $10 instead of tripling it?

wine advice

Beware wine vintage skulduggery!

wine vintageThe Wine Curmudgeon, ever vigilant in the cause of price, value, and quality, must sound a skulduggery alert about wine vintages. How serious is this? The headline to this post has an exclamation point, which I use only on the rarest occasions.

But this wine vintages alert deserves an exclamation point. Too many retailers, and especially grocery stores, have shelves stocked with cleverly named and cutely labeled wine, costing as much as $20, that are four, five, and even six years old. These wines were not made to age; even if they were, they haven’t been stored in ideal cellar conditions, but in warehouses and back rooms with minimal, if any air conditioning. And they’ve been driven around on trucks between these warehouses and back rooms, passed from distributor to retailer to distributor to retailer, in less than ideal cellar conditions, too.

It’s worth repeating – almost all of the wine made in the world today is not made to age, and almost everything we buy will go off in two or three years, whether it has oxidized, turned to vinegar, or has had something else ruin it. This is chemistry, and will happen no matter what the sales person says with his or her reassuring smile. (Not that I’ve ever had that happen to me.)

The rule of thumb: Don’t buy a rose older than a year old, a white older than two, and a red older than three. Check the winery’s website to see what the current vintage is, and if what you see on the shelf isn’t that close to the current vintage, you’re risking buying spoiled wine. Yes, there may be a tremendous discount, but all that means is that you spent less on something that you don’t want to drink.

That these older wines are still being sold speaks to retailer cynicism and to the vague idea consumers have that older wine is always better, and that too many retailers believe that what consumers don’t know won’t hurt them.

Cartoon courtesy of WholeCellar.com, using a Creative Commons license

wine advice

What is value in wine?

value in wineThis question comes up every once in a while in the wine cyber ether, and then there is a flurry of activity as the various angels dance on the heads of their respective pins. But determining value in wine deserves more attention than that.

It is the ultimate question for any consumer good, be it ketchup or automobiles or blue jeans. Did you get more value from the product than you paid for it? Was the wine worth more than it cost? But this is a complicated question to ask, let alone answer, given how different everyone’s palate is. My idea of value is probably different from yours, which is neither good nor bad. It just is, and people who read the blog know what I like and whether it matches what they want. That’s the best we can hope for

Further complicating the issue: Value doesn’t matter to most of the Winestream Media, which treats every wine the same regardless of price. A 92 is a 92 is a 92, and while you sometimes see a producer boasting that its $12 wine got a 91, only the most cynical or most desperate will boast their their $100 wine got a 91.

So where does that leave us with value in wine?

• Value probably doesn’t matter in very cheap wine. No one buys $3 wine for value; they buy it because it’s cheap. That it tastes good is an unexpected bonus.

• Value also doesn’t matter much for expensive wine. Who pays $200 for a bottle hoping they’re getting $300 worth of wine? Besides, who pays $200 for a bottle and then admits it was crappy? Wine has taught us that it’s an excellent wine because it cost so much, and who are we to argue?

• Value is all in wine that costs $8 to $20, despite the wine business’ best efforts to convince us otherwise. I wrote this in the cheap wine book, and I’ll repeat it until I die at the keyboard: The vast majority of wine that that costs between $15 and $20 isn’t worth it, because it sells us what’s outside the bottle – the label, the name, the appeal to the appropriate demographic – instead of what’s inside. I taste these wines all the time (got eight samples last week, in fact), and it’s the same regardless of where they’re from or whose name is on them – the least expensive grapes and the most basic winemaking, but a label that preens about the wine’s quality. Nowhere is there $15 worth of wine in the bottle.

podcast

Winecast 26: Rich Cook, wine competition director

rich cookRich Cook runs three wine competitions and he is an assistant director for four more. And that’s not even his real job; Rich makes his living as a public school music teacher.

In this, Rich brings a fine palate and a sensibility about wine that more people should have. So who better to talk about wine competitions and what wine drinkers can learn from them?

I know Rich from the Critic’s Challenge, where he is the assistant director to Robert Whitley and works with Robert on three other events. Rich also runs the Monterrey and Toast of the Coast competitions, as well as the San Diego County Fair home wine contest (which may be the most difficult kind of event to run).

We discussed how wine competitions work, something that doesn’t get enough attention in the wine world; what medals mean and how they are awarded; and how to tell if a particular competition’s results are relevant to you as a consumer. We also talked about the controversy surrounding competitions – are the results accurate or completely random.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 19 1/2 minutes long and takes up almost 19 megabytes. The sound quality is good, though there are a couple of spots where some outside noise gets in the way.