Category:$10 wine

A day in the life of a wine writer: One lunch, three tastings, and six hours

A day in the life of a wine writer: One lunch, three tastings, and six hours No one ever believes the Wine Curmudgeon when he tells them that wine writing is a lot more than sipping $100 bottles in five-star restaurants in the company of mini-skirted and leather-booted PR women.

It’s work — not mining coal or repairing roofs work, but work nonetheless. Last Thursday, I attended a wine lunch at 12:30 p.m., went to two walk-around tastings, and then did a home wine tasting as one of Two Wine Guys — all in the space of six hours. And I skipped two other events. (One sales rep said skipping them proved I wasn’t manly enough. I think he was joking.) This wasn’t a typical day, but something like it happens a couple of times a year.

Why did I do it? To taste wine that I wouldn’t normally taste, and especially expensive wine. To schmooze with other wine writers, wine executives and wine makers, which is an integral part of doing this job well. And because the point of writing about wine is to drink as much of it as possible.

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Wine of the week: Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon Rose 2007

image I’ll do my annual rose preview and review at the end of May, but no time is a bad time to write about rose. It’s cheap, it’s food friendly, and it’s versatile. Plus, the weekend forecast for Dallas says gorgeous spring weather, so the Wine Curmudgeon will be able to break out a bottle and sip it on the back porch.

The Santa Digna (about $10) has a little more body than many roses, thanks to the cabernet. But this Chilean wine from one of the country’s best known producers is still light and refreshing, and still pairs with everything from grilled chicken to hamburgers to pizza.

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? Rose sales increase:  Which is good news for those of us who enjoy pink wine. Sales increased about 50 percent in 2007, according to a Nielsen study. Why did this happen? A couple of reasons, I think. Consumers are beginning to understand that rose is not the same as white zinfandel, and offers value for money — especially in the $10 range. Also, producers are making better wine, particularly in California.

? Wine sales in a recession? Tom Wark at the Fermentation wine blog may have found a relationship between wine sales and economic downturns. This is something wine people talk about a lot: How much of a luxury product is wine, and will consumers give it up when times get tough? Wark tracked wine club sales, and there seem to be a cancellations that are following the on-coming recession. “I have no doubt that were it being done for the past 15 years we’d see that at this moment that Index will be in a severe downward trend,” he says.

? Blog awards: And while you’re at Fermentation, take a moment to vote for Alfonso Cevola, whose On the Wine Trail in Italy has been nominated for two American Wine Blog awards. Alfonso not only knows more about Italian wine that almost anyone I know, but he is always incredibly kind and generous with his time. Especially when he is dealing with the Wine Curmudgeon, and we know how difficult that can be.

Wine of the week: Tormaresca Neprica 2006

image One of the rules of this business is that one should only write about wines that are locally available. After all, what’s the point in waxing poetic about a wine that no one can buy?

Which brings us to the Neprica, a sample of which arrived this week and which I tasted immediately. That’s because it’s a $10 Italian red blend from Tormaresca, a very reliable producer that understands how to combine quality and value.

In fact, this wine is so good that I’m going to break the availability rule. Since I just got the sample, the wine probably isn’t in most stores yet. Never mind. Go to your local retailer and tell them to order some.

The Neprica is made with a local grape called negroamaro, plus primitivo and cabernet sauvignon. It’s darker in flavor than chianti, but it’s still low in alcohol and it’s not aged in oak. The latter gives it a fresher favor. I drank this with spaghetti and tomato sauce with mushrooms, and my only regret was that I didn’t have another bottle.

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? Wine as an investment: What’s the point of drinking wine when you can invest in it? None, actually, but that hasn’t stopped people with entirely too much money from treating wine as if it was real estate. In 2007, reports Reuters, the main British stock index rose by less than four percent. The main index on Liv-ex, where fine wine is traded, ended the year up 40 percent. At the risk of sounding much too curmudgeonly, let me say two two things: First, wine is not an asset like a house or shopping center, but an intangible with no intrinsic value. It is made to be drunk, not traded like soybeans. Second, those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it — see the 17th century Dutch tulip bubble.

? More wine company buyouts: The Wine Group, which already owns Big House, Glen Ellen, and Mogen David (among many others), has bought the Almaden and Inglenook brands from Constellation Brands. The transaction makes the Wine Group California’s second- and the world’s third-largest wine producer by volume. Almaden and Inglenook, though not much more than jug wine brands now, were once some of the most prestigious labels in the country. Their purchase solidifies the Wine Group’s hold on its share of the largest portion of the U.S. market — wines that cost from $3 to $9 a bottle.

? More from Champagne? The French are expanding the area in the Champagne wine region, so that more sparkling wine can be labeled champagne. The government will redraw the 1927 boundaries for the region (what the French call an AOC or appellation d’origine contr l e) to include up to 40 villages. The motive? Increased international demand for bubbly, which can only be called champagne if it’s from the champagne region of France. Quality shouldn’t suffer, though, since many of the villages that will be added didn’t want to be included when the boundaries were drawn 80 years ago.