The final “nutrition and ingredient labels for wine are a good thing” post

ingredient labelsOne more study shows consumers use ingredient labels and that it influences what we buy

The Wine Curmudgeon has long advocated nutrition and ingredient labels for wine, but the response has been silence punctuated by more than a few cat calls. So, rather than continue to elicit abuse, consider this the final post on the subject. I can’t make the point any more forcefully other than to report this story:

An analysis of studies that looked at how labeling on food packaging, point-of-sale materials and restaurant menus prompted consumers to eat fewer calories and fat; reduce their choice of other unhealthy food option; and eat more vegetables.

What more do we need to know about the efficacy of labels? How much better off would wine be if each bottle listed calories, fat, and the like? Wouldn’t consumers benefit to know that there are about half the calories in a glass of wine than in a jelly doughnut? Wouldn’t they feel better knowing their wine was mostly fermented grape juice instead of something like Dr Pepper – with its 250 calories, high fructose corn syrup, and four percent of the daily value of sodium?

The wine business disagrees, and just not because it doesn’t want consumers to know wine sometimes has a lot more in it than fermented grape juice. Instead, I will get emails and comments citing another part of the study: Consumers “also selected 13 percent fewer other unhealthy food options such as sugar-sweetened beverages, alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic caloric beverages, french fries, potatoes, white bread, and foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars or sodium.”

My answer: Doesn’t wine need to do something drastic when it’s compared to french fries, white bread, and sugar-sweetened beverages? When consumers think your product is as nasty as french fries, you’ve got nothing else to lose.

So read this, and know the way the world is going. And know that the wine business is headed in a completely different direction.

More about nutrition and ingredient labels:

Wine and GMO labeling
Update: Nutrition labels and what the wine business doesn’t understand
Nutrition labels for booze

Wine of the week: Little James Basket Press White 2017

Little James basket press whiteThe Little James Basket Press White is consistent, quality $10 wine in a world where that’s not easy to find

The Wine Curmudgeon is very confused: Why is the Little James Basket Press White still a Hall of Fame quality wine, while the red version tastes soft and flabby? One would think that the same producer – and a top-notch producer at that – wouldn’t do something that silly.

But that’s the case. The Little James Basket Press White ($10, purchased, 13%) is everything the red isn’t: A fresh and lively blend (sauvingon blanc and viognier), with green apple and lime fruit tempered by the viognier’s apricot. There’s even a little spice, though I’m not sure where it comes from. In all, exactly the kind of $10 wine that used to be easy to find and isn’t anymore.

When I bought the Little James Basket Press White at one of Dallas’ biggest independent retailers, I asked the long-time sales guy the same question: Why is this made like wine while the red is made to appeal to people who don’t like wine? He shook his head, muttered something about the wine business and Millennials, and told me not to buy the red because I was exactly right.

Highly recommended, as always, and sure to return to the Hall of Fame next year. Drink this slightly chilled on its own, or with any weeknight white wine dinner, be it takeout Chinese or grilled chicken breasts.

Imported by Winebow

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.