Ask the WC 10: Spanish wine, wine prices, oak

Spanish wineBecause the customers always have wine questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular wine advice feature. Ask the Wine Curmudgeon wine-related question by clicking here.

Dear Wine Curmudgeon:
You’re always writing about Spanish wine and how cheap it is. Well, why is it so cheap?
Suspicious wine drinker

Dear Suspicious:
The Spanish wine industry is always among the two or three biggest in the world, and often ranks first in exports. So there’s a lot of wine in Spain, and not very many people to drink it. The country’s population is 46 million; by comparison, California has 38 million. In other words, it’s the law of supply and demand, where too much wine and too few wine drinkers drives down the price. Also, costs in Spain are usually lower than elsewhere, especially for land, so the wine costs less to make than California or France. Finally, don’t forget that cheap wine does not mean bad wine.

Cheers WC:
The grocery store chain where I live in East Texas marks otherwise cheap wine way up. What’s $8 elsewhere can be anywhere from $12-$15 in their stores. How can they get away with that?
Your fan in East Texas

Dear Fan:
Thank you for the compliment. Your prices are the way they are because much of East Texas remains dry, and the supermarket doesn’t have any competition. You either buy from them, or you don’t buy at all. And that doesn’t even take into account the silliness that is grocery store wine pricing.

Greetings Wine Curmudgeon:
You’re always writing about how a wine has too much oak and making baseball bat jokes when it does. What’s wrong with too much oak? How can you tell?

Dear Confused:
It’s not that I think too much oak is wrong. It’s that I don’t like that style of wine, because the oak is usually too dominating. Too much oak can give the wine a variety of flavors depending on what the winemaker does – vanilla, caramel, toast, and even spice and butterscotch. I want to taste the fruit, and prefer oak to be one more part, and not the only part, of the wine. It’s one reason why I love white Burgundy, the chardonnay made in the Burgundy region of France. The oak is used to make everything else, like the fruit, taste better. And, of course, if you like wine with lots of oak, drink it. Just understand the difference.

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