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Wine of the week: Bogle Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Bogle Sauvignon BlancThe Wine Curmudgeon has finally found something wrong with the Bogle sauvignon blanc ($10, purchased, 13.5%). It doesn’t have a screwcap, and it comes in an old-fashioned, heavy bottle. Otherwise, it’s pretty much what a great $10 wine should be:

? More quality than its $10 price. Classic California sauvignon blanc — grassiness, crisp, and with an almost tropical finish.

? Widely available. My biggest frustration, when I find great cheap wine, is that it’s not for sale in enough places so I can write about it. That’s rarely the case with Bogle, which makes more than 1 million cases annually. It’s in grocery stores (I bought this at Whole Foods, believe it or not), independents, and chain retailers.

? It doesn’t try to be something that it isn’t. This is a problem with wine regardless of price, in which consumers think they’re buying one thing and often get something else, fooled by back label nonsense or a too-cute front label. It’s telling that the three comments I found on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory web app) for this vintage all said the same thing, even though each comment had a different score with it. Which, again, tells us what we need to know about scores.

Serve this chilled, with or without food, and know that wherever you are in the U.S., you’ll be able to buy a bottle of wine that won’t make you wish you had bought something else.

Winebits 336: Wine competitions, restaurant wine, and lawsuits

wine news restaurants competitons lawsuits ? Do wine competitions work? Tim Atkin, a British expert, says they do, and paraphrases Winston Churchill: ?Competitions are the worst way to evaluate wine, except for all of the others. ? Which is something I wish I had thought of, given I have a poster of Churchill hanging in the office. Atkin ?s take on competitions is thoughtful and makes several good points, including whether price should matter, quality of the judges, and that sometimes, wines do get lucky. His comments are most welcome given the current controversy over competitions, and that I ?ll be judging two of them in the next couple of weeks.

? Restaurants dropping wine from lists: Remember all those giddy articles about the progress wine was making with mid-priced chain restaurants, and how it meant they were finally going to take wine seriously? We might have spoken too soon. A new study has found that eight of the 10 biggest casual chains cut their wine selections by 17 percent in the eight months ending in March. The chains, including Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, and Ruby Tuesday, may have decided that wine isn ?t worth the trouble, but that craft beer and spirits are, says the study, calling the shift unprecedented. My guess? That, since the recession especially pummeled these kinds of restaurants, they did what they always do ? relegate wine to what they consider its rightful place, out of sight and out of mind. Because wine is just too much trouble.

? Bring out the lawyers: The Wine Curmudgeon loves a good wine lawsuit, and this one looks to be a doozy. A Napa Valley producer is suing wine consultant for $1.6 million, claiming the latter didn ?t do a good enough job making a $200 wine. The article, in the Napa Valley Register, is so full of giggles that I can ?t do it justice here. My favorite? That the consultant went on vacation during a crucial part of the winemaking process.

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?