Winebits 581: Wine humor, Cooper’s Hawk, wine palates

wine humorThis week’s wine news: Even The Onion can’t make wine humor funny, plus Cooper’s Hawk may be for sale and women may not have better palates than men

Still not funny: The Onion, which can make almost anything funny, can’t do it with wine. A recent effort mostly recycled the cliches that have bored millions for decades, including this: “MYTH: Red wine lowers blood pressure. FACT: It’s probably not great that you’re so eager to justify drinking poison.” The blog has long considered why so much wine humor isn’t funny, but to no avail. One would think that wine offers so many targets that it would make us laugh without any effort. But apparently not. One scholarly paper, without naming wine, does offer an explanation about how humor works, and wine doesn’t really fit into any of them. Could it be that wine is so boring and cliched that wine humor is an oxymoron?

On the market? Cooper’s Hawk, the Illinois-based winery and restaurant with 25 units in nine states, may be the next target for restaurant conglomerate Darden, which owns Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse. Ron Ruggles of Nation’s Restaurant News reports that the chain fits “quite well with what Darden would ideally seek.” And the 325,000-member wine club and 30 percent annual sales growth probably don’t hurt, either. The Wine Curmudgeon once judged with Cooper’s Hawk founder Tim McEnery at the Indy International, and famously told him the concept didn’t sound like it would be too successful.

Wine palates: Do women have better palates than man? That has been accepted for as long as I’ve been writing about wine, but one study says it may not be true. Research using wine competition scores says men and women taste wine with equal precision, something that bothered me when I read it. That’s because wine judging isn’t exactly tasting. As one expert says in the story, judging “is not very good sensory [evaluation] …. The sheer number of wines they go through in that time frame is hugely fatiguing. There has been some interesting work that shows that wine judging is very inconsistent.” So more work needs to be done.

Ask the WC 18: Sweet red wine, varietal character, wine fraud

sweet red wineThis edition of Ask the WC: Why are so many dry red wines sweet, plus understanding varietal character and counterfeiting cheap 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 bought a Spanish red wine from Campo Viejo the other day, and it was really sweet. I thought it was supposed to be dry. What’s going on?
Sick of sugar

Dear Sugar:
Welcome to the scourge that is sweet wine labeled as dry — mostly with reds, but also with some whites. I wrote about it here, and the situation keeps getting worse. A leading Dallas retailer told me a couple of weeks ago that it’s part of the plan to get Millennials to drink wine, and he agreed with me: it’s a stupid idea. I also talked about this with a younger man who works for one of the biggest distributors in the country, and he thought the whole thing was pretty funny. If I’m already drinking cocktails or craft beer, why am I going to switch to wine because it’s sweet?

Greetings WC:
I consider myself a fairly typical wine drinker. I buy a wine a second time based on how much I liked it and how much it costs. I have no idea if something is “varietally correct” and to be honest I have no idea what a chardonnay is “supposed” to taste like. I just like what I like.
A typical wine drinker

Dear Typical:
That’s a fine approach as far as it goes. But if you want to take the next step and get even more value for your money, then you should learn about things like varietal correctness and what a chardonnay is supposed to taste like. Otherwise, all wine tastes the same, and what’s the point of that? One of the things I love about wine is the differences, and how grapes can taste so many different ways.

Hey WC:
I saw something on the Internet the other day that wine fraud is a super serious problem affecting wine at all prices. Do I need to start worrying about it for the wine you write about?
Concerned about counterfeits

Dear Concerned:
No need to worry. This is another of those Winestream Media stories made to sound like it matters, but really doesn’t. Most counterfeiting is for expensive or rare wines that most of us will never see in a store, let alone buy. There’s no money in counterfeiting cheap wine because so much of it is made. It’s the same reason no one counterfeits dollar bills, but does $20s and $100s instead. If it costs $5 to make a phony bottle of wine, what pays more? Counterfeiting a $10 bottle or a $500 bottle?

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 17: Restaurant-only wines, local wine, rose prices
Ask the WC 16: Grocery store wine, Millennials, canned wine
Ask the WC 15: Wine consumption, wine refrigerators, wine tastings

“Who’s the cat that won’t cop out when there’s overpriced wine all about?”

We’re talkin’ ’bout Curmudgeon. … Then we can dig it!

One of the highlights of my writing career was interviewing the legendary Gordon Parks, who — among many other things — directed “Shaft.” My apologies for this effort to the late Mr. Parks, as well as to Richard Roundtree, who played Shaft, and Issac Hayes, who wrote the theme.

But I just couldn’t help myself. Those wah-wah guitars always make me crazy. And, given all the foolishness in the wine world these days, don’t we need a giggle? Or even a groan? I can certainly dig that.

Parks told me the opening scene, part of which is pictured in the video, was shot live. When Roundtree bumps into the car, he really bumps into the car. The idea, Parks said, was to make New York look as real as possible, and to give the movie its gritty, urban look. Which it does.

A tip o’ the WC’s fedora 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. The original video is courtesy of Margo Shares via YouTube.

Some not so happy Valentine’s Day wine reviews

valentine's day wine reviewsWhy do Valentine’s Day wine reviews offer so much overwritten prose and overpriced plonk?

Valentine’s Day brings out the worst in the wine business – overwritten prose and overpriced plonk. Is it any wonder the Wine Curmudgeon refers to it as The Holiday That Must Not Be Named?

Hence the following, which – sadly – demonstrates the point after the most basic of Google searches:

• From something called The Spruce Eats: “… Cupid claims some serious turf when it comes to wine for your Valentine.” If so, Cupid should know better than to recommend a 7-year-old rose, which would likely taste like pink paint varnish.

• Did you know that “It seems most women enjoy sweeter, sparkling, and rose wines. … Most men like red wine. …”? That’s the wisdom from Wine Club Reviews. Does that mean the Big Guy and I, with our love of white Burgundy, don’t count as men?

• Most of the wines recommended in this Town & Country post are more than adequate, if a bit pricey. But doesn’t someone at a big-time magazine like Town & Country care about writing? Am I the only one who thinks a line saying that one wine is “just like the slightly sweet kiss from your special someone” should be edited with extreme prejudice?

• And, to show that even Google and Amazon aren’t perfect, this: “Shop Valentine Wine – Amazon – Free 2-day Shipping w/ Prime‎.” Which, of course, is illegal in the U.S. and explains why the link goes to listings for wine glasses and wine t-shirts.

Wine of the week: Vibracions Rose NV

Vibracions roseThe Vibracions rose is $10 cava that will please even the most demanding significant other for the Holiday That Must Be Named

The Holiday That Must Not Be Named requires offerings as if it was a Greek god who must be appeased, else thunderbolts slam down from the heavens. Which is where the Vibracions rose comes in.

The Vibracions rose ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is cava, or Spanish sparkling wine, that offers amazing value, modern winemaking, and traditional cava style. In other words, a cheap wine to please even the most demanding Greek god – or even a significant other.

The key is a Spanish red grape called trepat, which was once common but now is too often passed over in favor of pinot noir. Trepat gives cava a berry-like brightness that pinot doesn’t always offer (particularly if the pinot is from Spain). That quality is on display in the Vibracions, which offers an almost dark, spicy aroma; bright, fresh strawberry fruit, though not too tart and with a hint of something darker; and the kind of tight, cascading bubbles that always denote top-notch sparkling wine.

Highly recommended – a Hall of Fame quality wine. Chill and drink it on its own, or pair with with almost any Holiday That Must Not Be Named dinner. It’s also the sort of thing for brunch, served with creamy, almost custard-like scrambled eggs topped with chives.

Winebits 580: The “Is legal weed taking over the world?” edition

legal weedThis week’s wine news: The many sides of legal weed and its effects – real, imagined, and anticipated – on the wine business

Not really: Tim Hearden, writing in Western Farm Press, callas legal weed “a shiny new object” – but doesn’t see it hurting the wine business much. “But they’d have a long way to go to make a serious dent in California’s $1.53 billion wine industry, and I’m not yet convinced they’ll get there, at least in the near future.” His point is common among those I’ve interviewed over the past couple of months: “The nascent cannabis industry is sure to grow. Cannabis-infused beverage consumption rose by 61 percent last year in states where it’s legal. But I see it filling its own niche, not toppling – or threatening — California’s world famous wine empire.”

Really? Legal cannabis use in Canada didn’t grow as quickly as anticipated after legalization, reports the Canadian government. In fact, the number of users barely changed since last October, when weed became legal. About 4.6 million, or 15 percent of Canadians aged 15 and older, reported using cannabis in the last three months, reported Statistics Canada. That’s the same number as reported in the third quarter and throughout 2018. The story doesn’t delve into reasons, but whatever the cause, few of the experts expected so little growth.

Yes, really: Analysts expect a $600 million market for cannabis-infused beverages in the next several years – if someone can find a cost-effective infusion process. Bloomberg News reports that the the catch is a major one, since alcohol is water-soluble and cannabis is not. That means alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream quickly, but cannabis takes far longer. So the trick with cannabis-infused drinks is to find a way for them to mimic alcohol’s affect on the drinker. And so far, no one has quite figured that out.

Expensive wine 117: Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve NV

Jean Vesselle Brut ReserveForget scores: The Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve is amazingly wonderful Champagne

The Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve, as delicious and as well made a Champagne as I’ve had in years, shows once again why scores are useless. Its average on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory software) is 88 points, or about what a quality bottle of $10 wine would get.

Because if the Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve ($44, purchased, 12%) is an 88-point wine, I’m Robert Parker.

This is an exquisite bottle of Champagne, sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. It has layers and layers of flavor, including some of the yeasty creaminess that most high-end bubbly drinkers require of Champagne. But it’s so much more than than: A completely unexpected burst of crisp, wonderfully ripe red apple fruit followed by an almost spicy finish and tiny, tight bubbles popping to the top of the glass. In this, it’s bone dry and certainly not your grandfather’s Champagne, and I’m almost certain that accounts for the crummy scores.

Highly recommended, and as enjoyable with food (eggs at brunch, certainly, but also roast chicken) as it is for celebrations. Which is how I drank it – honoring my long-time pal and colleague James MacFayden, who is returning to his native Britain after more than two decades in the U..S. James will be much missed – not only for his fine palate, but for his bounty of Monty Python references.

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