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10 things a wine writer doesn’t do when he can’t write about wine

Perspective is all. Wine writing doesn’t seem as important when there is an ice storm and the wine writer is without electricity for four days. So what doesn’t he do?

1. Doesn’t worry about what wine to drink with dinner, since it’s so cold everything tastes the same anyway.

2. Doesn’t take into account wine and food pairings, since he can’t see what he’s eating anyway. And it comes out of a can. And is cold.

3. Doesn’t think about chilling wine, since it’s already chilled. From being in the house. And leaving a bottle outside to chill it more quickly results in chunky, almost frozen wine.

4. Doesn’t panic when wine refrigerator shuts off, since the expensive wine in the refrigerator is actually colder than it is when the refrigerator is on.

5. Doesn’t check Amazon to see where cheap wine book ranks among category best sellers, since he can’t get an Internet connection. And if he could, he would be checking power company site to see if there is an update on when electricity will be restored.

6. Doesn’t have any idea what the latest controversy is in the wine world (which, actually, is perhaps the only good thing about all of this).

7. Doesn’t panic, after a day or so, about red wine in red glasses and white wine in white glasses. Because it’s too dark to see anyway, and he can’t clean the glasses after using them, since there isn’t any hot water.

8. Doesn’t get worked up about scores, though he is obsessed with power company website and number of homes in his ZIP code still without electricity, and why that number is higher than almost anywhere else in the city.

9. Doesn’t get scared that website traffic will collapse if he doesn’t post on social media, and finally admits to himself that he doesn’t understand the purpose of Google+ at all.

10. Doesn’t care if pizza delivery guy (who is surprised to hear power is off) sees him wearing two pairs of sweatpants, two pairs of socks, three shirts and a sweater, a scarf, and knit watch cap. Let Robert Parker worry about fashion.

Cartoon courtesy of Benson Marketing Group

Wine of the week: Saint-Cosme Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2012

rhone_sud_saint_cosme_cotes_du_rhone_rouge_2012The Wine Curmudgeon has long been a fan of Saint-Cosme’s cheapest wines, the wonderfully-named Little James Basket Press red and white (and I can’t believe I haven’t done the white as a wine of the week yet). So I had high expectations when I stepped up a notch to the winery’s basic Cotes du Rhone red ($13, purchased, 14.5%).

These hopes were not disappointed. The rouge, made of syrah, was full of dark fruit (currants?), some earthiness and even a touch of licorice, which seemed like a lot to get from something at this price. Best yet, the high alcohol — about a point more than I expected — doesn’t get in the way of the wine. The higher alcohol seems natural, and not forced on it to get more fruit flavor and higher scores, as often happens in California. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the tasting notes are almost apologetic about alcohol level.

Highly recommended, and another example of what a French wine can be that hasn’t sold its birthright to the International Style of Winemaking. This is a winter wine for stews and soups and strong cheeses after tramping snow and ice off at the front door.

 

Winebits 311: Direct shipping, wine snobs, wine trends

? Wine by mail: The U.S. Postal Service, which sees wine shipments as a key to its survival, is one step closer to putting wine in your mailbox. Influential U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) endorsed the idea recently, saying the proposal would allow the postal service to better compete against UPS and FedEx and add $225 million to its annual revenue. The Wine Curmudgeon has his doubts about whether the postal service can deliver wine effectively, given his past experiences with the agency and its failure to deliver his mail. Hence Schumer’s enthusiasm doesn’t do much for me. Plus, his estimate of $225 million in revenue is almost five times the original postal service estimate. But it looks like the agency will get the authority to deliver wine sometime next year.

? More than expensive wine: Charles Antin, a wine expert who has tasted most of the world’s great wines, has a confession: Expensive wine ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. “But just as I think that if you ?re not drinking aged wine, you ?re missing out, I think that if you ?re only drinking collectible wine, you ?re also missing out.” Or, as Antin notes elsewhere in the article, he was so busy chasing thousand dollar bottles of wine that he didn’t drink rose. And he was the worse for it. The piece, if a little jargony, is well worth reading, for it points out that wine is about more than what the wine snobs say it is. It’s also about sharing the joy of wine, and that it doesn’t matter how much the wine costs then.

? Slower economic growth? The wine industry is recovering from the recession, but not the way it wants to. That’s the consensus from a recent wine business seminar, as reported in the Press Democrat newspaper. Baby Boomers, who drove the explosive growth of the U.S. wine industry in the 1990s, are retiring and will be progressively less able to afford expensive wines, analysts said. Younger generations have other interests, including spirits, and the Millennials are often more burdened with debt than older demographic groups. The article, mostly an overview of what we’ve been writing about on the blog for the past several years, is notable because it quotes leading industry experts offering their wisdom. Which means there’s a chance the wine business might start paying attention.

One Saturday night drinking wine

What happens when you spend a Saturday night with a couple of dozen people who drink wine ? some of whom know a little about wine, some of whom know more than that, and some of whom don’t know much at all? You learn something about consumers and what they think of wine and the wine business, and it’s something that all of us who care about wine should pay attention to.

My Saturday night adventure and those lessons are after the jump: Continue reading

A few words about that ice storm

If the the blog seems to be missing a little something this week, it’s because of the ice storm that hit Dallas last Thursday and has caused widespread power outages. Mine isn’t back on yet, and may not be until tomorrow. I’ve spent the weekend trying to charge my laptop and phone, find a warm place to sleep, and locate an Internet connection so I can post to the web site. I have to admit — even my patience is wearing thin, and I’m generally pretty good about these things. First world problems, and all that.

Also, I haven’t been able to send any of the prizes from birthday week, which were going out end of last week. But they should be dispatched this week after power has returned. That’s also the case for anyone who ordered cheap wine books; they’ll go out as soon as I can get in the office and turn things on.

Holiday wine gift guide 2013

The Wine Curmudgeon didn’t think there was a need for this year’s holiday gift guide. After all, what else could anyone want to give other than the cheap wine book?

But when I asked around, I was stunned to find out that this was not the case. The consensus: “Jeff, there are more things in the wine world than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Or something like that.

So, after the jump, gift suggestions, as well as the all-important gift guidelines: Continue reading

The revolution in sparkling wine

Sparkling isn't just for weddings anymore.

Sparkling wine isn’t just for weddings anymore.

Add another change to the wine business, and one that may be even more surprising than moscato and sweet red wine or cheap pinot noir: The popularity of sparkling wine that isn’t from Champagne.

Because, for most wine drinkers for most of the last 60 years, there were only two kinds of sparkling wine — French Champagne and the very cheap U.S. stuff that tasted like flat 7-Up (and that still dominates U.S. sales). There was bubbly from elsewhere, of course, but quality was poor and there wasn’t much of available, even if someone wanted to try it.

That has changed over the past couple of years, as I wrote in a story in this month’s Beverage Media trade magazine — and just in time for the holiday bubbly season, when we drink as much as half of all the sparkling wine sold during the year. In this, it ?s not so much that Champagne fell out of favor; rather, improvements in quality, increased availablity, and very good prices helped introduce consumers to the Spanish-made Cava, the Italian Prosecco and even fizzy moscato. And, as with sweet red and cheap pinot, consumers discovered they liked the wines.

Or, as one very perceptive retailer told me: “They really don ?t care where it ?s coming from, as long as it ?s different. They aren ?t the same old, same old California sparkling wines or the same Champagne. They ?re not the same wines that have been around now and forever. ?

The story ?s highlights and a few other thoughts:

? Bubbly consumption increased by 14 percent from 2007 to 2012, compared to four or five percent (depending on the report) for all wine. Much of that growth came from non-Champagne categories, and especially from Spain (up almost five percent in 2012) and Italy. The Italian surge has been phenomenal, accounting for two-thirds of the increase in imported sales in 2012.

? It’s almost impossible to underestimate the improvement in quality over the past several years. It started with Cava and moved on to the Italian wines, all of which are cleaner, more consistent, and with fewer off notes. They taste better, as simple as that may sound.

? Bubbly drinkers are more open minded than ever, willing to try something that doesn’t come from Champagne. Much of this can be traced to price, since these wines cost as little as one-tenth of Champagne, but it’s also about more adventurous palates. That a sparkling wine made with xarel-lo or glera could be worth drinking never occurred to previous generations of sparkling wine drinkers, who were quite snobby about their bubbly.

? We’re drinking sparkling with dinner more than ever before, which is a very welcome development (as regular visitors here well know). Again, this rarely happened with Champagne, which was seen — and is still marketed — as something for a special occasion.

? Sweet sells, and especially for the Italian brands. The difference is that some of the wines are not just sweet, but well made, something that isn’t necessarily true for many of the sweet reds.

? The generational divide that we’ve seen elsewhere in the wine business has shown up here, too. Younger wine drinkers are more likely to try non-Champagne wines, not only because they’re less expensive but because they don’t know or care that they’re only supposed to drink Champagne. That’s one reason why cocktails made with sparklers are so popular. Who else but someone who wasn’t a Champagne snob would want to drink something like a Bellini, which is made with peach juice?

Photo courtesy EugeniaJoy of Kiev, Ukraine, via stock.xchng using a Creative Commons license