Category:A Featured Post

Great quotes in wine history: Mr. Spock

Mr. Spock’s reaction when told that wine drinkers should drink what they want, that the best wine is wine that they like, and that most of the rest of what passes for wine advice is foolishness:

A tip o’ the Wine Curmudgeon’s fedora to the Dedoimedo computer blog; this post is based on his “My reaction to — ” series. The video is courtesy of youkiandbeyond via YouTube.

“Our panel of experts:” Irony and non-winery wine clubs

wine club expertsThird-party wine clubs — those that aren’t part of wineries — have always made the Wine Curmudgeon smile. How about the website that rates wine clubs, and that also rates the wine clubs that the site operates? Or the wine club that offers “first-class” cabernet sauvignon from Spain, a concept that makes as much sense as coming here to find cult wine recommendations from Napa Valley.

Typically, most third-party wine clubs don’t tell you the wines you’re going to get or how they pick the wines you’re going to get. They trade on the group’s name, but are otherwise separate; hence a newspaper wine club is a marketing tool that has nothing to do with the newspaper’s wine reporting. Mostly, there’s flowery language — “small-batch wines of real flair and value,” which means absolutely nothing when you try to parse it — and lots of promises about how good the wines are. Plus tasting notes, because all wine needs tasting notes, doesn’t it?

Which makes me wonder: Most of us wouldn’t buy shoes this way, sight unseen and trusting to someone else’s judgement. So why would we buy wine this way?

My newest smile is Global Wine Company, which runs the New York Times and Washington Post wine clubs plus those for retailer Williams-Sonoma, More and Food & Wine magazines, and celebrity chef Michael Mina. Check out the people who run the company — accountants and bankers, and a woman who helped make the PowerBar famous. There is no mention of the “panel of experts” who pick the wines, and about the only wine-related information I could find was this: “GWC handles all global wine sourcing, state compliance, and customer fulfillment, which enable partners to expand their brands into wine and drive recurring revenue.”

Mmmm, drive recurring revenue. How yummy does that sound?

Wine of the week: Errazuriz Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserva 2010

Wine of the week: Errazuriz Cabernet SauvignonThere is almost no way that this red wine, from a well-known Chilean producer, should have impressed me. It’s too old for a cheap wine and too many cheap Chilean wines these days are dumbed down for the so-called American palate.

But the Errazuriz ($11, purchased, 13.5%) was neither of those. It was great Chilean cheap wine from the old days, a decade or so ago when you could go to any supermarket and pay $10 for a red like this or a sauvignon blanc like Veramonte and get more than your money’s worth. Chilean wines were always candidates for the $10 Hall of Fame in those days.

But not as much anymore. For one thing, the quality of the grapes used to make the wines declined as Chilean wine became more popular and more grapes were needed. For another, the marketing wise guys got their hands on the wines, and focus grouped them to death, so that they started to taste the same.

The Errazuiz didn’t have as much black fruit as I expected, but it was still more new world in style than old — save for the fact that it is heavy enough that it needs food. Plus, it was mostly balanced, with tannins and acid in the right places, another pleasant surprise. This is a nice value, and especially for an older $10 wine. Shows what Chile can still do when its winemakers aren’t busy chasing trends.

 

Winebits 335: Cheap wine, wine terms, and lots of wineries

Winebits 335: Cheap wine, wine terms, and lots of wineries ? Head to Target: The Wine Curmudgeon is always encouraged when the non-wine media does a cheap wine story, since that’s another step in the right direction — helping Americans figure out wine. If the Los Angeles Times’ recent story recommending wine to buy at Target included too much boring Big Wine (Clos du Bois chardonnay, really?), the story’s heart was in the right place. How can I be unhappy with anything that recommends Beaujolais? Though, and I mention this as a cranky ex-newspaperman who wants to help someone who apparently doesn’t do a lot of wine writing, mentioning Robert Parker in the blurb for Sterling cabernet sauvignon was counterproductive. Anyone who cares about Parker scores probably isn’t going to buy $10 cabernet at Target.

? Stoned wine: Beppi Crosariol at the Toronto Globe & Mail answers a reader question about the wine term stony, complete with bad jokes. It’s actually a decent explanation, and includes a good description of minerality: “Flint, wet stone, chalk, limestone, slate, graphite ? various rocky words get trotted out with increasing frequency today…” and he notes recent scientific findings that the grapes probably didn’t pick up these qualities from the soil.

? How many wineries? The state of Texas, with 266,874 square miles, has about 300 wineries. Napa County, with 748 square miles, recently celebrated its 500th winery. This is a mind-boggling figure — there are more wineries in Napa than in all but two or three states (depending on whose figures you use). Is it any wonder that it’s the center of the U.S. wine universe, even for people who don’t know much about wine? Will we start hearing phrases like “carrying grapes to Napa?”

Memorial Day 2014

The blog is mostly off today for the Memorial Day holiday, but will be back tomorrow with our usual features. Until then, John Fogerty in a 2005 live performance of “Lodi” (courtesy of Mi NaNi at YouTube) — maybe the best song ever written about rock ‘n roll as a job: “If I only had a dollar, for every song I’ve sung/And every time I’ve had to play/While people sat there drunk.” Takes a lot of the shine off the sex and drugs bit, doesn’t it?

And who knew Lodi would one day come to mean wine country?

Memorial Day and rose 2014

Memorial Day and rose

One can never have too many roses.

The annual Memorial Day and rose post is one of the Wine Curmudgeon’s favorites, a post that has appeared every year since I started writing the blog. And why not? Rose is more popular than ever before (for which I will take some small credit), and it’s the quintessential great cheap wine: tasty and food friendly. It’s almost impossible to find a badly made $10 rose.

The blog ?s rose primer discusses styles, why rose is dry, and how it gets its pink color. The blog ?s rose category offers more suggestions, and the following will get you started for this year’s Memorial Day and rose extravaganza:

? Bodegas Palacio Rioja Milflores 2013 ($11, purchased, 13.5%): Quality Spanish rose that overcomes goofy bottle hype — extolling the “fruit and flower-filled fields of Rioja” — to offer excellent value. Crisp and aromatic, with some cranberry fruit and even a little orange on the finish.

? Penya C tes Catalanes Rose 2012 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): One more in a long succession of solid, winning roses from the south of France, this from the Roussillion and made with mostly grenache. Look for some strawberry fruit, but also a stony finish.

? Pedroncelli Dry Ros of Zinfandel 2013 ($12, sample,13.2%): Another quality effort from Pedroncelli, with lots of juicy red fruit. Not as crisp as other roses or as it has been in the past, and made more in the style of the old Toad Hollow. Which is quite a compliment, actually.

? Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Ros 2013 ($10, sample, 12.8%): This South African rose is another example of terrific $10 rose. It seems to have lots more strawberry fruit this year, though it’s still dry. But I’m guessing that much of that fruit will become more integrated in the wine as it ages in the bottle.

More about Memorial Day and rose:
? Memorial Day and rose 2013
? Memorial Day and rose 2012
? Wine of the week: Alliance Loire La Clotiere Rose 2012
? Wine of the week: Chateau de Campuget Rose 2012

Wine of the week: Alliance Loire La Cloti re Rose 2012

La Clotiere roseOne of the Wine Curmudgeon’s best friends in the wine writing business hates rose. This is something I have never understood, because his palate is impeccable in almost every other way. He is even open minded when he tastes Tennessee wine, hardly something that one sees very often.

So, Tom, the La Clotiere rose ($10, purchased, 12%), made with the gamay grape in the Loire region in France, is for you. It’s not a dry white wine that happens to be pink, something you insist is the case with most roses. Rather, since it’s made with the same grape that’s used for Beaujolais, it’s soft like that style of red wine. But because it’s much more than just a red wine that’s pink, there is also an almost tropical fruit flavor along with the cherry, and the softness is balanced by a bright acidity that gives the wine a surprising freshness. And, of course, it’s dry.

The La Clotiere rose is an excellent example of the quality and value that one can find in modern rose, and is exactly the kind of wine to review in anticipation of tomorrow’s annual rose extravaganza. I stumbled on it while looking for something else, and bought it because it’s almost impossible to find a badly made $10 rose anymore. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame.