Category:A Featured Post

Wine of the week: LAN Rioja Crianza 2016

LAN Rioja CrianzaThe Spanish LAN Rioja Crianza is red wine for a Father’s Day cookout

What do you need to know about the LAN Rioja Crianza?

• A terrific price, as little as $10 in some parts of the country.

• More than decent availability (91 results on wine-searcher, as one example).

• A surprisingly decent score on CellarTracker, given how its members look down on wines like this.

In other words, buy a bottle of the LAN Rioja Crianza ($12, purchased, 13.5%) and enjoy it for Father’s Day. It’s a step up from something like Aldi’s La Cornada – better grape quality and even a bit of oak. In this, it’s classic crianza from Spain’s Rioja region, the entry level wine made with tempranillo. Look for cinnamon, maybe something orangeish in the aroma, red cherry and berry fruit, and nary a tannin out of place. And the oak doesn’t get in the way, actually adding to the whole.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to appear in the 2021 Hall of Fame. Pair this with almost anything on the grill, be it sausage, burgers, chicken, or pizza.

Imported by Mid-State Wine & Liquors

Winebits 650: Canned wine, wine advice, half bottles

canned wineThis week’s wine news: Will aluminum shortage slow canned wine’s growth? Plus, sensible advice in a new book and the popularity of half bottles

Canned wine: Two blog readers reported an absence of canned soft drinks during supermarket visits recently, which seemed odd. Who runs out of diet Coke? Turns out the pandemic has screwed up the aluminum supply chain, thanks to increasing demand for canned beer during the duration. Says one supplier for the wine business: “We have to ensure that we don’t get into a toilet paper situation.” In addition, some beer and wine producers have seen price gouging from can suppliers.

Keep it simple: A new wine book has given the WC reason for hope. “‘How to Drink Wine” (Clarkson Potter, $17), by Chris Stang and Grant Reynolds, wants to make wine as accessible as possible. Says Stang: “Wine can be intimidating for some people. Some might think they don’t have the time to ‘be into wine.” You can learn by just drinking wine with friends and talking about it.” Sound familiar? And lots more welcome than most of the “advice”” we get from the wine business?

Bring on the half bottles: The 375 ml bottle, not especially common before the pandemic, is enjoying a resurgence. Reports the Wine Enthusiast: “Easily shippable for virtual tastings and a sensible substitute for by-the-glass service, the small-format bottle is especially suited to pandemic life.” One East Coast retailer increased his half-bottle inventory by 60 percent, and several retailers have told me they can’t keep the smaller size in stock.

Expensive wine 133: Eberle Syrah 2018

eberle syrahThe Eberle syrah speaks to the grape and its terroir — and just in time for Father’s Day

Know all the bellyaching the Wine Curmudgeon does about wine samples? Not in this case – it’s a treat every year when the email arrives from California’s Eberle Winery asking if I want to try their new vintage. The Eberle syrah is just one reason why.

That’s because the Eberle syrah ($32, sample, 14.6%) does what so many other wines don’t – it tastes like syrah, which means it’s varietally correct, and it tastes like it was made with grapes from the state’s Paso Robles appellation, so it speaks to terroir. That means a rich and full wine, but one that doesn’t let the winemaker’s or marketer’s pretensions get in the way. And how many times can we say that?

Yes, the alcohol is high, but it’s in balance and the fruit isn’t overripe. The oak is restrained, and the tannins are those that should be in syrah – the back label says chalky, and that’s as good an adjective as I can think of. This is top-notch New World syrah, with smoky and almost fatty aromas, lots and lots of dark berry and plum fruit, a hint of spice, and a long and interesting finish.

How well made is this wine? The bottle was gone almost before dinner was over, and no one felt the effects of the alcohol. Highly recommended, and just the thing for a Father’s Day gift for those fond of red wine. Pair this with red meat, barbecue, or grilled sausages.

Grant Lyon: What happens during a DWI stop after a wine tasting?

“I don’t smell like wine. I smell like cherry and a hint of oak.”

Comedian Grant Lyon understands something about wine humor that most don’t — how to make wine humor funny.

We’ve discussed many times on the blog why most wine humor is so sad — that it depends on cliches and stereotypes that weren’t funny then and aren’t funny now. Lyons found a way to twist the cliches with this bit, about getting stopped by a cop while coming home from a wine tasting. Plus, he knows not to belabor the point, moving on to something else after getting his laughs. Would that this video and this video could say the same.

Video courtesy of Comedy Time via Youtube

One more reason to be wary of alcohol health studies

alcohol health studiesFinnish researchers find – gasp – that people who abuse alcohol have higher health costs

The Wine Curmudgeon, long suspicious of alcohol health studies, is not surprised by one of the latest, which links alcoholism with higher health costs. What is surprising is the headline on the news release: “Researchers put a price tag on alcohol use” – which, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the study.

First and foremost, let me remind everyone I know first-hand the horrors of alcoholism and abuse. A friend died from them; two more are long-time members of abuse support groups. So I am not making light of alcoholism or saying it isn’t a problem.

Rather, it’s to note, once again, that there is a difference between alcohol abuse and moderate drinking, and which is something that has apparently been shunted aside in the rash of “all drinking is evil” studies we’ve seen over the past couple of years. Drinking is not cigarette smoking, no matter what one study claimed, and drinking wine in moderation is no worse, and may even be more healthy, than regularly eating nitrate-laced supermarket hot dogs. Which, of course, no one has yet done a study about.

This effort, on the other hand, was reaffirming the obvious. Finnish researchers, using what they called a “novel” methodology, say it costs an additional €26,000 (around US$30,000) over five years to treat patients with multiple alcohol abuse factors, such such as homelessness and drug abuse. It also recommends that people with alcohol use disorders should get better treatment for their non-alcohol related conditions.

Which is all well and good, but hardly unusual. So how did the release that ended up in my inbox carry that headline? After reading it, one expects to find the social and health costs of all drinking, moderate and abusive, listed. Which aren’t there and wasn’t the study’s intention.

Maybe the reason is as simple as the headline on the Finnish study being badly translated into English. Maybe it’s nothing more than more bad marketing and public relations work, each of which as gotten progressively worse over the past several years as agencies cut back on employees and training.

And maybe it’s part and parcel of positioning all such studies as being about drinking and doom, and working on the gullibility of newspapers, websites, and the like where the bosses are more concerned with their bonuses than with quality journalism.

I assume it’s one of the first two, and probably the second. I’m terrified it’s the third.

Join the Wine Curmudgeon for a virtual Happy Hour tonight

virtual tasting

“Damn. Who knew a WC virtual tasting would be this popular?”

The WC will taste two great cheap wines, take questions, and maybe even go off on a rant or two

Blog readers spoke, and the Wine Curmudgeon made it work – with lots and lots of help from my friends at the American Wine Society. Hence, a virtual happy Hour at 7 p.m. EDT tonight. Best yet, everyone is welcome, even if you’re not a member of the AWS.

So what will we taste? Cheap wine, of course – one of the blog’s favorite roses, the La Vieille Ferme, as well as one of the best cheap pinot noirs out there, from the always top-notch McManis family.

Don’t have those? Not to worry – drink what’s on hand, and we can visit anyway. I’ll talk about why I do what I do and why cheap wine is important, discuss the two wines, offer a few thoughts about wine during the duration, and perhaps go off on a rant or two. Plus, of course, take questions. Click this link to join the fun; the AWS uses Zoom for their events.

Wine of the week: Lucien Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvee Balthazar 2018

Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvee BalthazarThe Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvee Balthazar, an Alsatian white, offers terroir and varietal character at a more than a fair price

One reason why the Wine Curmudgeon buys so much wine to review is that too many of the samples I get taste like bowdlerized plonk. And yes, if you don’t know bowdlerized, click the link. It’s worth knowing. Those wines are the reason why I bought the Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvee Balthazar.

Best yet, this is an Alsatian wine that’s actually affordable. Producers in this part of France used to export great cheap whites (remember when the Hugel Gentil cost $10 and not $16?), but prices started going up before the recession, when all “high-end” French wine became more expensive.

So don’t miss the chance to buy the Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvee Balthazar ($13, purchased, 13%). Riesling is the most common Alsatian white, but the region makes excellent pinot blanc, too. These wines are drier, but not especially rich or tart. The Albrecht pinot blanc offers pear fruit, a fresh and appealing body, and a long, stony finish. The bottle was gone much too quickly.

Highly recommended. Pair this with any summer salad or grilled seafood or chicken.

Imported by Foley Family Artisan Imports & Spirits