The cyber-ether loves the Wine Curmudgeon blog Sticky

wine curmudgeon blogTwo rankings put the Wine Curmudgeon blog among the top 100 wine sites on the Internet

Good news for those of us who love cheap wine. Two website rankings put the Wine Curmudgeon blog among the top 100 wine sites on the Internet for 2018.

Amsterdam Diary (and no, I don’t know why it ranks wine blogs) says the site is among the top 90 on the Internet, while Feedspot puts the blog among the top 100 sites.

This is a big deal, and not just because I like to boast about the Wine Curmudgeon blog. First, that I made these lists speaks to the need for credible, well-written information about the wine most of us drink. Which, of course, many in the wine business prefers we don’t know, since they want to sell us crummy, overpriced wine.

Second, I made the same lists as sites with more money, employees, and ad revenue, including the Wine Spectator, VinePair and Wine Folly. Here, of course, I do everything myself. That says a lot about how much you appreciate what I do — and is one of the reasons I keep writing the blog.

How to take advantage of phony wine pricing

phony wine pricesThese four suggestions can turn phony wine pricing into real savings

Wine pricing today is a jumble of fake discounts, inflated markups to make the fake discounts look good, and make-believe member and club prices. And let’s not forget all those bogus volume savings, where the multi-bottle price at one store is the one-bottle price at another store.

But there are ways to make phony wine pricing pay off. Yes, it’s a bit of work, and no, wine shopping isn’t supposed to be a bit of work. But the bit of work is the difference between getting the most value for your money, and paying too much for crummy bottles of wine.

Hence, these suggestions:

• Know the real retail price. The free version of wine-searcher.com does just that. If you start there, you’ll be able to tell immediately that the $18 grocery store wine marked down to $15 costs $13 elsewhere. And then you’ll know to buy it elsewhere.

• Plan your buying; don’t buy on a whim. If you need a bottle of wine for dinner, that’s one thing. But if you’re at Target or Walmart, don’t throw bottles into the basket just because. The next thing you know, you’ve paid $75 for five bottles of wine that might have cost $60 at another store.

• Know which stores offer which discounts – and which discounts matter. World Market’s four-bottle, club member discount is often a sham. But one Dallas specialty grocer offers 20 percent off six bottles every week, changing the discount from white to rose to red and so forth. That is almost always real savings. So don’t be afraid to ask how a store’s discount policy works.

• Use those discounts. I stock up at the Dallas specialty retailer depending on what’s on sale. That way, I can buy my $10 wines for $8, as well as splurge on $12 or $13 bottles (even if they cost $10 or $11 elsewhere). This approach will even work with grocery store pricing. In the spring, my Kroger was selling Wine Curmudgeon favorite Spy Valley sauvignon blanc for $16, which is more or less the real price. Thanks to the card discount, I was able to buy the wine for 10 percent off the real price. So I bought two.

Finally, remember that the independent retailer is your best friend. The independent retailer’s pricing is usually the most fair, and most will offer the standard 10 percent case discount. How can you go wrong with that?

More about phony wine pricing
Wine pricing foolishness, and how one group stopped it
Wine pricing skulduggery
Transparency and grocery store wine prices

The growth of ultra-expensive wine

expensive wineDoes the increasing popularity of ultra-expensive wine mean wine has become a collectible and not something to drink?

The Big Guy, who hangs out with a better class of wine drinker than I do, forwarded me the auction company email: “Can you believe the prices of these wines?” he wrote. The list was expensive wine run amok – impressive labels, certainly, but prices that even I had trouble comprehending:

• $8,500 for a bottle of red Burgundy.

• $1,000 for two bottles of an 1872 Madeira.

• $40,000 for a case of 2000 Petrus, perhaps the Holy Grail of wine collecting.

• $4,750 for a magnun of another red Burgundy.

Which raises a host of questions: Who buys these wines? Do they actually drink them? And, of course, the one that has always fascinated me – how does one justify paying thousands of dollars for a bottle of wine?

Because spending that kind of money happens all of the time. It’s just not auctions, but includes trading on Liv-Ex, a stock exchange for wine. In this, the growth of ultra-expensive wine sales and expensive wine becoming more expensive have been hallmarks of the 21st century wine business. Two decades ago, people bought wine to drink it. Today, more and more people buy wine not to drink it.

This matters for two reasons. First, as these ultra-expensive wines grow in popularity, more resources will be devoted to them. If more resources are devoted to these wines, will less be available for the wine that most of us drink? Second, how healthy can the wine business be when its most prized products are kept in locked vaults? How can the evolution of wine — from something to drink with dinner to a version of coin collecting — be a good thing?

Yes, the sale of ultra-expensive wine remains a small part of the wine business. Those 10 million cases of Barefoot that are sold annually dwarf ultra-expensive wine sales. But how much attention does all that Barefoot get? The hype for ultra-expensive wine dwarfs Barefoot, as well as the rest of the wines that most of us drink. That even I’m writing about it says something – and it’s probably not good.

More about ultra-expensive wine:
Wine as a collectible, and not something we drink
Expensive wine prices in the real world
More about wine prices 2018

Wine of the week: Falesco Vitiano Rosso 2015

Falaseco Vitiano RossoThe Falaseco Vitiano Rosso may be the world’s greatest cheap red wine

The Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t get to taste the Falaseco Vitiano Rosso much anymore. That’s one of the drawbacks about what I do; the blog needs to be fed, and that means a constant stream of new and different wines.

So when I do get to taste the Vitiano ($10, purchased, 13.5%), it’s even more of a treat. This Italian red is one of the world’s great cheap wines, and it’s not going too far to call it one of the world’s great wines regardless of price. It has everything a great wine should have: varietal correctness, terroir, and honesty. The Cotarella family, which makes these wines, believes in value for money. They don’t skimp on what’s inside the bottle, regardless of price.

The Falaseco Vitiano Rosso is a blend – one-third sangiovese, one-third merlot, and one-third cabernet sauvigon. The 2015 vintage is a little heavier than previous vintages, which isn’t a bad thing. That makes it more of a food wine, and it needs red sauce, sausages, and the like. In fact, as cool weather returns, drink this with a braised pot roast cooked with garlic, tomatoes, herbs, and red wine.

Since it’s heavier, look for more plum than cherry fruit and a deeper, darker approach to the winemaking. Having said that, the wine isn’t too tannic or too tart, and all is in balance. Which is what I expect from the Cotarella family.

Highly recommended, and it will return to the $10 Hall of Fame next year. It’s also a candidate for the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Winebits 559: Weed and food pairings, wine clubs, wine and health

weed and food pairingsThis week’s wine news: A chef devises weed and food pairings, plus an unhappy wine club member and another sensible insight into the recent wine and health foolishness

Just like wine: Chris Sayegh, also known as the Herbal Chef, offered weed and food pairings at this summer’s American Culinary Federation conference in New Orleans. We didn’t have to wait long for that, did we? Bret Thorne reports in Nation’s Restaurant News that Sayegh doesn’t use street dope, but lab tested extracts “and you have to ease them into their marijuana high.” Thorne also notes that chefs who want to do these pairings should consult an attorney, since marijuana is not yet legal in every state.

We knew this: A Connecticut man says he was ripped off by a wine club, which charged him for wine he didn’t order. The story is the usual sort of thing we’ve written about here, and it’s good to see other news media picking it up. My favorite part? Many of these clubs offer a money-back guarantee, but you have to return the wine. The man learned that it would have cost more than the wine was worth to return it, plus it’s illegal in some states for individuals to ship wine.

One more sensible insight: Sara Chodosh, writing in Popular Science, offers one more intelligent take on the recent wine and health foolishness. “Suddenly moderate drinking is unhealthy. What happened?” There have been two systematic errors, say some researchers, that have been skewing alcohol studies for years, First, giant surveys like Lancet’s have been comparing non-drinkers to drinkers; this may introduce a statistical error called compounding. It’s too difficult to explain compounding here, but know that it can throw a study off. Second, that moderate drinkers may be more healthy for other reasons, and will also skew a study. Says a prominent researcher: “It’s fine to say ‘I enjoy drinking.’ Why do you need to worry about whether it’s good for you or not? Why not just drink every once in a while and enjoy it?”

“Initials? We don’t need no stinkin’ initials”

Bogey finds out what it’s like to deal with sommeliers — and they don’t need no stinkin’ initials

What happens when Bogey meets a group of sommeliers in the Mexican wilderness? It’s not pretty — and especially since they don’t need no stinkin’ initials.

My apologies to John Huston and Humphrey Bogart (as well as to anyone else who loves film) for doing this to “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” A tip o’ the WC’s fedora to Wayne Belding, MS, who gave me the idea, as well as to WineParody, whose Robert Parker epic is the standard by which these efforts are judged.

Make sure you turn captions on when you watch the video; you can make the captions bigger or change their color by clicking on the settings gear on the lower right. Also, MovieClips, which allowed me to use the scene, may insert advertising or other content that I’m not responsible for.

Winecast 33: Andrew Stover, Siema Wines

andrew stoverAndrew Stover has been fighting the good fight for Drink Local from inside the wine business, “importing” regional wine to the Washington, D.C., area

Andrew Stover has been one of the good guys for regional wine for a decade, “importing” local wine to the Washington, D.C., area. This is especially impressive since Andrew is a distributor, a part of the wine business that has not always been kind to drink local. He brings wine in from more than a dozen states and distributes it to some of the most prestigious restaurants and retailers in the D.C. area. Jose Andres, anyone?

I’ve known Andrew since the early days of Drink Local Wine, and he has always been passionate about local wine and supportive of the cause. We talked about how he got started with local wine, why it has suddenly become the darling of the Winestream Media, and what comes next.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 14 1/2 minutes long and takes up 11 megabytes. The sound quality is excellent; we recorded it with the Wine Curmudgeon’s Linux-compatible Fifine K669 microphone.