Wine of the week: Gordo 2014

gordoGordo, a Spanish red blend, is complicated, sophisticated, and more than enjoyable

I reviewed the 2012 version of Gordo, a Spanish red, 18 months ago, and marveled at how well made it was. The 2014 version of the Gordo may be more enjoyable.

The Gordo ($13, sample, 14%) doesn’t seem to be the kind of wine I’d be this enthusiastic about. It’s made with about one-third cabernet sauvignon, and regular visitors here know how I feel about Spanish cabernet. But this vintage, like the last, uses the grape to its best advantage, blending it with the native Spanish monastrell (mourvedre in France) to produce a wine where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Look for an earthy yet fresh wine, with almost herbal aromas and dark berry fruit that isn’t all that fruity. And, even though there’s so much cabernet in the wine, the acidity and tannins are muted, providing structure but not really being noticeable. In all, this is a difficult wine to describe because so many contradictory things seem to be going on – which, I suppose, is one reason why it’s so enjoyable.

Highly recommended, though pricing may be an issue – this wine is as little as $12 in some parts of the country and as much as $16 in others. This is a food wine, and about as versatile as red wine gets. Pair it with almost anything you can imagine, save fish or chicken in cream sauce. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it shine with turkey pot pie.

Imported by Ole Imports

 

Winebits 554: Three-tier, Aldi wine, corks

three-tierThis week’s wine news: North Carolina state liquor agency has been wasting taxpayer money for years, plus Aldi says it will upgrade its wine aisle and corks are now perfect

Are we surprised? North Carolina’s state-run liquor stores have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars through more than a decade of mismanagement, reports the News & Observer newspaper in Charlotte. The state auditor told the newspaper that $11.3 million vanished from Alcoholic Beverage Commission coffers in 13 years. “There was just no overview, no oversight,” she said. “There was no monitoring of that contract. You just had a contractor come up and say ‘I want more money,’ … and whatever the contractor asked for, it was what they got.” The irony here? State-owned liquor stores exist as part of the three-tier system in some 17 places, to prevent organized crime from corrupting the process. But who needs organized crime when you can get away with this? “Every year since 2004, the audit found, the [agency] authorized more state spending than it was allowed to. … The [agency] has four in-house lawyers, as well as a 12-person internal auditing team and multiple levels of management.”

I’ll believe it when I see it: The Wine Curmudgeon long ago stopped trusting discount grocery Aldi when it came to wine; I’ve spent too much time shopping there to swallow the chain’s wine hooey when the big seller is Winking Owl. But Aldi is at it again, “touting its award-winning wines” as part of a four-year, $5.3 billion remodeling and expansion effort in an interview with Forbes. I’ll repeat the interview I had with my store manager when the remodel and expansion was announced: “Wine? We have lots of wine. Why do we need more?” It would be one thing if Aldi added the cheap, high-quality wines it sells in Europe, but it appears to have taken the path used by most U.S. supermarkets – cheap, poorly made wine, sold because it’s cheap.

Corks are now perfect: Or so say the cork people, in announcing its latest tech upgrade in cork production. “This will change the wine world,” says the headline, but it doesn’t include the caveat for the worse. It’s good to know that we will still need a special, difficult to use tool to open a wine bottle when more and more people are not drinking wine. That’s sure to do convince them to move over to wine. By the way, those of you will are going to cancel your email or RSS subscription to the blog (because several of you always do when I write about corks): Use the safely unsubscribe button at the bottom of the email.

More evidence that Drink Local is here to stay

drink localThe Winestream Media continues to say nice things about regional wine and Drink Local

The irony is not lost on those of us who endured the slings and arrows of the Winestream Media a decade ago when we said Drink Local and the idea of regional wine mattered. Today, mainstream wine publications, on- and off-line, are racing to see who can hype local the most.

So allow me a smile. And I promise not to say I told you so too loudly, or to say it too often. Right, Dave?

This summer, it seemed like everyone from the Guild of Sommeliers to a trade magazine run by the people who do the Wine Spectator have waxed poetic about local wine. Plus, I’ve been told that a major wine website, run by a big-name critic, is doing a huge blowout about regional wine this fall. Plus, these:

Vinepair’s screaming headline especially pleased my inner cranky newspaperman: “Your Guide to the Finger Lakes, the Most Exciting Wine Region on the East Coast of America.”

• SevenFiftyDaily, an on-line trade magazine, has discovered Texas wine: “Why Cotton Farms in West Texas are becoming vineyards.”

• The Guild of Sommeliers has run one piece and is doing another, both written by the very knowledgeable Jessica Dupuy (full disclosure: she interviewed me for the second story). They look at “emerging American wine regions.”

• The Los Angeles Times found out that Colorado had wine, which surprised the writer given the state’s reputation for craft beer.

Finally, my favorite regional wine story was in Market Watch, a trade magazine owned by the same company as the Spectator and notorious for its parochial, New York-centered view of the world (which I know because I used to write for it). The story looked at Texas wine; that it did speaks volumes about how far we’ve come in convincing people that Drink Local is a legitimate part of the wine business.

Ask the WC 16: Grocery store wine, Millennials, canned wine

grocery store wineThis edition of Ask the WC: Dependable grocery store wines, plus, Millennials and wine and canned wine

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

Dear Wine Curmudgeon:
I buy most of my wine at the grocery store, and you don’t review a lot of grocery store wine. Are there a couple you can recommend?
Supermarket shopper

Dear Supermarket:
Of course – Bogle is always worthwhile, and Line 39 and Hess from California usually are, too. The Villa Maria (closer to $15) and Matua sauvignon blancs from New Zealand are typically well made. Many of the roses offer value, like the Charles & Charles and the Bieler Sabine. There is a catch, though, even with these wines — grocery store pricing. One day the wine will be $10, and the next day it will be $18, and there is no rhyme or reason why.

Hey Jeff:
Aren’t you wrong about the lack of interest in wine among younger generations? I thought I saw a study a couple of years ago that said Millennials were the biggest consumers of wine in the U.S.?
Curious

Dear Curious:
I think you’re referring to the infamous Wine Market Council study, which was shunted to one side and never spoken of again. I’ve been told there were problems with the methodology. Most studies since then, including this one, aren’t optimistic about Millennials taking up wine the way the Baby Boomers did.

Hi, WC:
What do you think about canned wine? Isn’t it kind of cool?
Tired of bottles

Dear Tired:
Canned wine is like the rest of wine. Some of it is terrific, some of it isn’t, and much of the excitement is marketing driven. The smart people I’ve talked to say canned wine has a future as an alternative like boxed wine, filling a niche in the market. My other problem, besides the middling quality/price ratio for too many of them, is that I don’t like to drink out of a can. I don’t drink beer that way, either.

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 15: Wine consumption, wine refrigerators, wine tastings
Ask the WC 14: The wine availability edition
Ask the WC 13: California chardonnay, grip, affordable wine

More about wine prices 2018

wine prices 2018

In what reality is $30 wine affordable?

Wine prices 2018: Are too high prices unsustainable? Is a bubble forming?

Twice in the last week, completely unbidden, a retailer and an importer complained to me about too high wine prices. No one was more surprised than I was.

After all, the Wine Curmudgeon is supposed to care about this, not people who make their living selling wine at what I consider too high prices. But the wine world is so upside down in the second decade of the 21st century that even this is possible.

So yes, a small sample size. But I’ve been doing this a long time, and those things just don’t happen. It’s a man biting a dog story – it happens so infrequently that it’s news when it does, even with a small sample size.

Specifically, the two men were complaining about too high red Bordeaux prices, the wine from France, and how they have screwed up the marketplace. Their point: When the most prestigious are priced too high – $800 for a bottle of Cheval Blanc, anyone? – that raises the price for every other red Bordeaux, regardless of quality (the economic theory of substitutes). Plus, it also props up the prices of prestigious red wines elsewhere in the world, as well as less prestigious wines.

You and I see this every day when we buy an ordinary bottle of red French wine. Or, rather, when we don’t buy one because the prices are too high. I paid $18 for a delightful red blend from the Languedoc, Chateau La Roque, which should not have cost $18. It’s from a minor region and made with grenache, not cabernet sauvigon. But the substitute theory prices it at $18 because “better” wines cost $25 and $30. It’s the same reason all those syrupy, over-ripe California reds cost $18. It’s not the land cost or the quality of the grapes, but the substitute theory.

So what does it mean that the importer and the retailer complained to me about this? Is it an indication that a bubble may be forming and this kind of pricing is unsustainable? There seems to be evidence for this. A highly respected economist who studies the wine business has told me twice this summer that U.S. sales are flat and he is not optimistic about the future. And then there is the Wine Curmudgeon sample index – not very scientific but which seems to make more sense every year. This spring, for example, a PR flack pitched me “affordable” $40 wine – a Twilight Zone version of reality that only someone in the wine business could believe.

So we wait and see. And hope for the best.

More about wine prices 2018
July update: Wine prices in 2018
Restaurant wine prices 2018
Expensive wine prices in the real world

Wine of the week: Ryder Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Ryder Estate sauvignon blancThe Ryder Estate sauvignon blanc reminds us that California can still offer delicious cheap wine that offers quality and value

Regular visitors here know how despondent the Wine Curmudgeon has been the past three or four months, what with rising wine prices, decreasing wine quality, and an increasing amount of foolishness from the wine business. And then, from out of nowhere, the Ryder Estate sauvignon blanc arrived.

Ryder Estate is made by one of the oldest producers in Monterey County, but I’d never heard of it until the samples arrived. That was my loss. The wines were mostly enjoyable and fairly priced, and the chardonnay and rose were especially well made. The Ryder Estate sauvignon blanc ($12, sample, 13.5%) was even better, almost certain to make the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame and a candidate for the 2018 Cheap Wine of the Year.

This is California wine at its best, and something we don’t see much these days. It offers quality and value, as well as professional winemaking to make those happen. It’s true California sauvignon blanc, and not tarted up with sweet grape juice, flavored with fake oak, or a New Zealand sauvignon blanc knockoff. It’s varietally correct and delicious – fresh, grassy, stony, a bit of citrus and a hint of tropical fruit, and much more balanced than I expected or that we usually see in sauvignon blanc at this price.

Chill this and drink it on its own on a warm summer evening, or pair with grilled chicken or shrimp marinated in olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice. And then you can worry a little less about the future of the wine business.

Winebits 553: Ancient wine, wine facts, wine’s popularity

ancient wine

This week’s wine news: Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient wine bottling plant, plus wine facts you don’t need to know and wine remains less popular than beer.

Corks or scewcaps? The Reuters news service reports that relics from an 1,800-year-old large-scale wine jug factory have been uncovered in Israel. Pottery shards, presumably from flawed and discarded jugs, were found at the site near Gedara, about 30 minutes south of Tel Aviv. The factory was active for around 600 years, making vessels for storing wine that were popular export items, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in statement. “The ongoing manufacturing may point to this having been a family business, handed down from generation to generation.” No word on whether the wine bottled at the site was reviewed by the Roman Winestream Media. I mention this because the time frame for the remains roughly coincides with the Roman occupation of that part of the world, and so much else about this place sounds similar to the way the wine business works today. So why not 88 points from Pliny?

Forget about it: The Huffington Post, trying to make wine less difficult, offers insight into common wine knowledge that no one really needs to know. The first one? Forget scores. The other four points also make good sense, including the uselessness of vintages for the wine that most of us drink, plus the foolishness of tasting notes “written by a corporation or a publication,” which are “pretty much useless.” It’s good to know I’m not the only one who has figured this out.

It’s still beer: Americans still prefer beer over wine, according to the latest soundings from Gallup. Beer is at 42 percent, wine is at 34 percent, and spirits are at 19 percent. That’s a bit of bump for wine, which was at 26 percent in 2017. Wine passed beer briefly in 2007. but has been in second place since. My other favorite part of the Gallup drinking surveys? One-third of Americans say they don’t imbibe, a number that has remained stunningly consistent for decades.