Tag Archives: wine books

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2015 holiday wine gift guide

2015 holiday wine gift guide

Yes the Wine Sack is chic, but also ridiculously expensive.

This year’s holiday wine gift guide, despite my best efforts to find something incredibly silly, mostly sticks to the basics. And, as always, keep in mind that you ?re buying someone a gift they will like, and not something you think they should like because you know more about wine than they do. The 2015 holiday wine gift guide:

? Wine openers: Still don’t feel comfortable with a waiter’s corkscrew? The Vinomaster ($40) is a sturdier version of an old reliable, Metrokane’s Rabbit, and at more less the same price. I was impressed with how well put together it was, though it’s not quite as intuitive as the Rabbit. The Barvivo corkscrew ($15) is a nifty turn on the traditional waiter’s corkscrew, with a more flexible double hinge.

? Wine books: I would be remiss without mentioning Jon Thorsen’s “Reverse Wine Snob: How to buy and drink great wine” ($18), which follows up on the work he does on his Reverse Wine Snob website, regularly ranked among the top five most influential wine websites on the Internet. Also intriguing: “American Wine: A Coming-of-Age Story” ($30), by Tom Acitelli, which tries to tell the story of the U.S. wine business from the 1960s to today in English and not winespeak. It mostly succeeds, and has generated some criticism for its explanation of the growth — and popularity — of high alcohol wines.

? Wine: This is the year for something different, a wine made with grapes or from a region that you might not buy often (or at all). How about the Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling from Australia ($15, sample, 12.5%), a dry wine full of petrol and lemon? Or the Domaine Serol Les Originelles ($15, sample, 13.5%), a gamay from the Loire in France that is as fresh and intriguing as it is unusual?

? As silly as we’re getting: The ridiculously expensive Wine Sack ($70), which gives you a way to carry your box wine with you in a fashionable black carryall. The bladder inside the box that holds the wine slips inside the Wine Sack, and the bladder spout fits in an opening on the Wine Sack. Why ridiculously expensive? Because the point of box wine is how cheap it is, and do we really need an accessory for it that costs as much as 3 1/2 boxes? But it does look chic.

More about holiday wine gifts:
? Holiday wine gift guide 2014
? Holiday wine gift guide 2013
? Holiday wine gift guide 2012
? Expensive wine 79: North Star Merlot 2010

wine news

Winebits 371: Winston Churchill, cheap wine, Kevin Zraly

winston churchill wine ? A Churchillian anniversary: This is the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death, which the Wine Curmudgeon notes for several reasons. First, so I can run a picture of Churchill on the blog; second, because he was a fine writer and historian, which he somehow found time to do in addition to saving the world from Adolph Hitler; and third, because he appreciated wine. How many of us get a Champagne named after us? Churchill also drank wine with dinner, a practice that I like to think helped him in his battle against the Nazis — mostly red Bordeaux, which the English call claret.

? Pull out those vines: Grape growers in California’s Central Valley are ripping out vines and replacing them with more profitable crops such as almonds, thanks to slowing sales of cheap wine and a glut of cheap wine from overseas. The Sacramento Bee, covering one of the biggest wine trade shows of the year, reports that some 22,000 acres of vineyards have been removed since the 2014 harvest ended. Before we panic, know that these sorts of things are cyclical, and as soon as demand picks up, the grape vines will return. It’s also worth mentioning that these vines are used in wines cost $7 or less, and often used to make the huge boxes like Franzia.

? Happy No. 30: This year marks the 30th anniversary of perhaps the best wine book ever written, Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Wine Course. How good is it? I use it in my El Centro class. Mike Veseth at the the Wine Economist offers a few thoughts about the anniversary, noting that “Where many wine guides jump into geography, geology, variety and so forth in encyclopedic detail, Zraly more or less begins with the question, ‘A bottle of white? A bottle of red?’ as you would in a restaurant.” Best yet, it’s written in English, mostly avoids winespeak, and covers the basics without bogging down into wine geekdom.

book signing

Tuesday Birthday Week giveaway: Wine books

wine books111814And the winner is: Pat Valast, who selected 649; the winning number was 651 (screenshot to the right). Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow’s prize is a $50 gift card from Wine.com, and thank you very much to the world’s largest Internet wine retailer for their continuing contribution to the cause.


Today, to celebrate the blog’s seventh anniversary, we’re giving away a wine book gift pack, including “Buy the Right Wine Every Time,” “Provence Food and Wine,” and Lisa Mattson’s “The Exes in my iPod.” This is the second of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the gift pack.

book signing

Book review: Buy the Right Wine Every Time

Book review: Buy the Right Wine Every TimeTom Stevenson is a British wine writer and critic best known for his work with pricey and high-end wines, and especially Champagne. So what’s he doing writing a book that rates hundreds of wines with an emphasis on value, and where cheap wines are allowed to shine?

Writes Stevenson:

Inevitably the most widely available wines include many of the cheapest brands, an area of wine habitually avoided by critics. As such wines are almost exclusively purchased by most wine drinkers, those critics (myself included) have effectively disenfranchised most wine consumers. That is something I want to correct. …

Welcome to the fight, Tom.

This makes “Buy the Right Wine Every Time” (Sterling Epicure, $14.95) the ideal complement to the cheap wine book. I didn’t want to list wines, which is what the blog is for. Stevenson does, and includes not only Winestream Media favorites like Cakebread and Dom Perignon, but lots and lots of cheap wine, including $10 Hall of Fame mainstays like Bogle and Seguras Viudas. It even includes — gasp — favorable entries for white zinfandel, which surprised even Stevenson.

The ratings list 382 wines by price and “recommended,” “highly recommended,” and “to die for.” They mostly avoid winespeak (though comparing the Santa Rita sauvignon blanc to nettles probably won’t help most $10 wine drinkers), and include a much welcome link to similar wines, the goal being to help readers try something different. That’s such a good idea that I think I’ll steal it for the blog.

Most importantly, and the true genius of the book, is that the wines, whether cheap or expensive, are “widely available.” This is a refreshing approach given all the upset about wine availability these days. The drawback is that a lot of very ordinary cheap wine is included, and probably too much from Australia, but it points to the difficulties availability presents to those of us who have to buy wine. My only criticism of the book: Not enough rose, and no roses from Spain or the U.S.

That someone like Stevenson has discovered that cheap wine is part of the wine world — and that it is one key to spreading the gospel of wine — is just another indication that the wine world has changed for the better. And who doesn’t want that?

wine news

Winebits 316: Two-buck Chuck, Pennsylvania, Kickstarter

Winebits 316: Two-buck Chuck, Pennsylvania, Kickstarter ? But what about the terroir? Ben Robinson at The Thrillist challenges a sommelier to taste Two-buck Chuck to find out “which bottles are totally palatable and even enjoyable. …” It’s an intriguing exercise, and most of the eight wines do well enough (as regular visitors here know). The annoying bit is the post’s snarkiness, because this is cheap wine and it certainly can’t be approached seriously. The most interesting? That the sommelier could only identify the varietal in four of the eight wines. If someone whose entire wine reason for being is baffled by what’s in the glass, what does that say about how indifferent the winemaker is to varietal character? And, more importalty, given Two-buck Chuck’s popularity, it demonstrates that the producer understands that varietal isn’t as important as price with consumers. Not that I’ve ever argued either of those points.

? Finally, after all this wait? Pennsylvania’s state store system, in which the government owns the liquor stores, may finally come to an end. That’s the optimistic reading of this report from Morning call newspaper website: “A suitable deal has eluded lawmakers for the last three years ? really for decades ? as other Republican-led liquor privatization efforts have fizzled. … Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said he hopes to have a liquor reform bill passed and on [the governor’s] desk before the governor’s Feb. 4 budget address.” If Pennsylvania reforms its state state system, that could be the first domino to fall in reform plans elsewhere, including grocery store wine sales in New York. Which means, as the story also notes, that it probably won’t be as easy to change the Pennsylvania laws as everyone hopes.

? Another wine book: Congratulations to Alder Yarrow, the long-time wine blogger at Vinography, who raised $24,200 on Kickstarter for the publication of his new book , “The Essence of Wine.” That beat his goal by more than $6,000. Welcome to the club, Alder. The more I see this going on, the more convinced I am that self-publishing, using some sort of crowd-sourcing, is the future of the book business for those of us who aren’t Stephen King.

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Holiday wine gift guide 2013

The Wine Curmudgeon didn’t think there was a need for this year’s holiday gift guide. After all, what else could anyone want to give other than the cheap wine book?

But when I asked around, I was stunned to find out that this was not the case. The consensus: “Jeff, there are more things in the wine world than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Or something like that.

So, after the jump, gift suggestions, as well as the all-important gift guidelines: Continue reading

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Tuesday Birthday Week 2013 giveaway: The “American Wine” book

111913And the winner is: Marty, who selected 840; the winning number was 910 (screenshot to the right). Thanks to everyone who participated, especially given how flaky the website was acting. Tomorrow’s prize is a $50 gift card from Wine.com, which offers free shipping with the Steward-Ship program and its free, one-month trial.

Today, to celebrate the blog’s sixth anniversary, we’re giving away the definitive book about American wine, ?American Wine, ? written by my pal Linda Muprhy and Jancis Robinson, courtesy of the University of California Press. It’s the second of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.

Complete contest rules are here. Briefly, pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of the prize post. Only one entry per person, you can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post. Otherwise, your entry doesn’t count. Please be careful here — we got a half-dozen or so incorrect entries yesterday, and I had to throw them out.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you have to come to the website, winecurmudgeon.com and to this post, to enter. I’ve extended the deadline until 9 p.m. central today, because the website’s server has been balky all day, limiting access to the site. I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the book.