All posts by Wine Curmudgeon

Tuesday tidbits 21

? No champagne for Switzerland: Or, rather, a village in Switzerland can’t call its wine champagne, even though that’s the name of the village — and has been so 885. The prohibition is part of a European Union trade agreement which restricts others from using product names for well-known items like Champagne, Parma ham, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Products can only use those names if they’re made in that region. “In this village we no longer have the right to use our own name,” said a spokesman for the Swiss town.

? Wine sales in the U.S. increase again: They were up 3.9 percent in 2007, according to figures from the Wine Institute trade group. This is consistent with the last three increases. Interestingly, the dollar volume of sales (which includes all wine sold in the sold, including imports) increased 7.9 percent, as consumers traded up to more expensive wine and the weak U.S. dollar raised import prices.

? Robert Parker movie in the works: And Javier Bardem, he of the haircut in No Country for Old Men, is rumored to be interested in playing the most important man in the world of wine. Hey, I don’t make the news up. I just report it. Though this tidbit from Decanter is a bit hard to believe: “Casting is underway with Sideways star Paul Giamatti as Michel Rolland, British star Dame Helen Mirren as Jancis Robinson, and Hugh Grant taking the role of Leoville Barton proprietor Anthony Barton.” That’s an A-list cast for a movie that not a lot of people are going to care a whole lot about.

How much difference does blind tasting make?

Quite a bit, actually, if a book called The Wine Trials is to be believed. Robin Goldstein, a very personable fellow, put together tasting panels last spring in several cities, including Austin. At the various panels, 500 volunteers tasted 540 wines blind, ranging from $1.50 to $150.

Blind means they didn’t know what they were tasting. This, says Goldstein, explains why a $10 Washington state sparkling wine outscored a $150 Dom Perignon.This is what happens when you “get past the jargon and pomposity of wine writing,” says Goldstein. “People shouldn’t have to apologize for serving cheap wine.”

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Texas wines worth trying

This is the third of three parts about the state of the Texas wine business. To see part I, an overview of current trends, go here. Part II, a Texas wine of the week, is here.

Is there still Texas wine that doesn’t taste like it is supposed to? Yes. But, increasingly, wine makers are doing the right things and producing products that are varietally correct. This means cabernet sauvignon tastes like cabernet sauvignon, and not a poor imitation.

I tasted a couple of dozen wines at this week’s event, and these were among the most impressive:

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Wine of the week: Llano Estacado Cabernet Sauvignon Cellar Reserve 2005

imageThis is the second of three parts about the state of the Texas wine business. To see part I, an overview of current trends, go here. Part III on Friday will look at some of the state’s best wine.

Texas, as a general rule, doesn’t do cabernet well. It’s too hot in most of the state to grow quality cabernet grapes, and the wine making has been uneven in West Texas, where the climate is more accommodating.

Which is why this cabernet was such a treat when I tasted it this week, at an event hosted by the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas and the state’s Texas wine program.

I didn’t expect what I got. At $17, it offered value, which is not always the case for Texas cabernets. Plus, it was very Texas in style — not as fruity, alcoholic or tannic as a Napa or Sonoma cabernet, but more fruit forward than a red Bordeaux. Serve this at room temperature with grilled steaks or barbecue.

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An updated look at Texas wine, part I

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This is the first of three parts looking at the state of Texas wine. Today, an overview of current trends. On Thursday, a Texas wine of the week. On Friday, some of the most interesting wines that are currently available.

The good news is that the quality of Texas wine is better than it has ever been. The not so good news?  Some of the same problems that have cropped up over the past decade are still there — price/quality ratios that are out of whack, dirty and unclean wines, and poor fruit quality.

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Tuesday tidbits 20

? Pour another glass of red wine: One of the most common questions that the Wine Curmudgeon gets is about wine and heart disease. Yes, apparently, there is some evidence red wine makes a difference. And now comes news that it also may help fight cancer, according to researchers at the University of Rochester. A natural antioxidant found in grape skins has destroyed some pancreatic cancer cells. The other key to the study? Drink wine in moderation, said the lead researcher.

? Blog winners: Alfonso Cevola didn’t win, unfortunately. The complete list is here.

? Burgundy prices skyrocket: By as much as 20 percent — and it’s not like Burgundy was inexpensive to begin with. The weak dollar, as usual, is to blame (as I wrote here, if I may be allowed to note my prescience). “But we have now arrived at a situation where we cannot take it any longer and from now on we will feel the full brunt of any further dollar weakness,” said the president of the Burgundy wine association.

In search of the mysterious aligote

Burgundy’s most important grapes are chardonnay and pinot noir, which produce the best chardonnay and pinot noir in the world. So why does the Wine Curmudgeon care about aligote?

Because it is so mysterious — Burgundy’s other white grape, sometimes used to blend but often used on its own. Legend has it that Burgundy’s landowners and winemakers grew aligote to make wine for their employees, the field hands who worked the harvest and did the heavy lifting in the wineries. After all, the bosses couldn’t let the employees drink the good stuff, could they?

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