Category:A Featured Post

2021 Cheap Wine of the Year: MAN Chenin Blanc 2019

man chenin blancSouth Africa’s MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc 2019 is the blog’s fourth annual Cheap Wine of the Year

The MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc, a South African white, appeals to the Wine Curmudgeon on a variety of levels. First, that it’s South African wine, and we know about that, don’t we? Second, that it’s chenin blanc, and we know about that, don’t we?

And, of course, that it’s cheap, delicious, and varietally correct. Because that’s what matters, and not any of the aforementioned criticisms. Hence, the MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc 2019 is the blog’s fourth annual cheap wine of the year.

In this, the MAN chenin blanc ($10, purchased, 12.5%) demonstrates once again that wine preconceptions are one of the problems with wine. Why pass up a wine as wonderful as this because you don’t drink chenin blanc, white wine, or South African wine? Because, of course, too many of you reading this now are thinking just that.

Does this wine taste like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc? Nope, because it’s not supposed to. It tastes like a New World chenin blanc — not as steely or stony as chenin from France’s Loire, but crisp and minerally enough, and with more fruit. It’s bone dry, with stone fruit and maybe some red apple, a richness that most $10 wines don’t have, and a longish finish. It’s surprisingly layered and sophisticated; swish it around in your mouth, and you’ll see what I mean. This is a white wine if you want a glass before dinner, as well something to drink with braised chicken.

The 2019 vintage is still be widely available, as is the 2018. The latter isn’t as impressive as the 2019, but it’s well made and enjoyable. The 2020 has been released, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

More Cheap Wine of the Year:
2020 Cheap Wine of the Year: Le Coeur de la Reine Gamay 2017
2019 Cheap Wine of the Year: Château La Gravière Blanc 2017
2018 Cheap Wine of the Year: Bieler Pere et Fils Rose 2016

Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Rouge 2015

Chateau Bonnet The Chateau Bonnet is one of the world’s greatest cheap wines, even if it isn’t cheap any more

Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way: First, availability for the Chateau Bonnet may be hit and miss. Second, the vintages are all over the place. I’ve seen everything from the 2014 to the 2018. Third, the wine isn’t cheap anymore, costing as much as $20 at some retailers.

So what is the Bonnet doing as the wine of the week on the first week of January, when the blog honors the best cheap wine in the world with the Cheap Wine of the Year and the $10 Hall of Fame? Because nothing has changed about the Bonnet since I started the blog in 2007. It’s the same wine (merlot and cabernet sauvignon), made the same way, providing the same quality, and it doesn’t cost that much more to make. In fact, it’s still less than €8 in France.

But the price has almost doubled in the states for no particular reason other than premiumization. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

I bought the Chateau Bonnet ($15, purchased, 14%) because I missed it. I taste so much junk these days – sweet, flabby, and overpriced – that I was willing to overpay for old time’s sake. And I wasn’t disappointed.

The Bonnet is a French red blend from Bordeaux that tastes like a French red blend from Bordeaux. And how sad is it — and how much does it say about the post-modern wine business – that I have to make that point? Shouldn’t that be the way things are?

Look for a little juicy dark fruit, almost earthy tannins, enough acidity to round it all out, and that certain something that says this is a French wine. Drink this with any red meat, and especially streak frites. If you can find this for less than $15, buy a case. Otherwise, feel free to pay too much knowing it’s probably not worth $20, but that it used to be a hell of a value at $10.

Imported by Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits

Winebits 679: Nutritional guidelines, expensive wine, wine taxes

wine and health
Damn, I’m good — I’m suffering from “quarantine 15” even though Americans are drinking less alcohol.

This week’s wine news: The WC’s beloved New York Times screws up a wine and health story, plus the eminent Jancis Robinson laments overpriced wine and wine tax relief

Even the Times: The Wine Curmudgeon has nothing but respect and admiration for the New York Times, which regularly reminds us what great newspapering can be. But the Times, apparently, has the same weak spot as the rest of the media – wine and health stories. In a story last week about new federal nutrition guidelines, Roni Caryn Rabin writes: “Confined to their homes, even those who have dodged the coronavirus itself are drinking more and gaining weight, a phenomenon often called ‘quarantine 15.’ ” I can’t speak to the weight part, but as we’ve noted on the blog since the pandemic started, Americans are probably drinking less. U.S. alcohol sales, as near as can be told, have declined during the pandemic, which would make it difficult for us to be drinking more. How this unsubstantiated sentence got into the Times – and past its topflight copy desk – is beyond me.

Too expensive: Jancis Robinson, one of the most respected wine critics in the world, agrees with the Wine Curmudgeon that wine costs too much money. She writes: “I’m not thrilled that prices for the established trophy wines of France, Italy and California have skyrocketed in recent years, putting them out of the reach of most wine drinkers, but I understand why. They are in relatively short supply and there are more and more billionaires in the world who need billionaires’ drinks. … But it does stick in my craw to see four- and even five-digit prices being asked for bottles with hardly any reputation at all.” When Jancis Robinson and I agree – and our wine worlds and perspectives have little in common – then wine really is messed up.

Tax relief: The wine business did get some good news in 2020. At the end of the year, Congress passed a law extending excise tax cuts that would have expired otherwise. The bill makes permanent a variety of credits and reductions aimed at helping the small producers who make up some 90 percent of the more than 10,000 wineries in the U.S. These days, these producers can use all the help they can get. I’ll do a podcast later this month with Michael Kaiser of the Wine America trade group, who was instrumental in getting the legislation passed.

Do-it-yourself New Year’s wine resolutions 2021

wine resolutions 2021The Wine Curmudgeon’s eighth annual, Do-it-yourself New Year’s wine resolutions 2021. Because, Dry January — and who knew it would ever be a thing?

Just click on the drop-down menus and select your wine resolutions 2021 for the new year. Those who get the blog via email or RSS may need to click this link to go the blog to use the menus. (As always, thanks to Al Yellon, since I stole the idea from him.)

In 2021, my wine buying will:

In 2021, I’ll try different kinds of wines:

In 2021, I’ll pay more attention to wine and health:

In 2021, I will buy more wine on-line:

In 2021, I think wine will:

More New Year’s wine resolutions:
Do-it-yourself New Year’s wine resolutions 2020
Do-it-yourself New Year’s wine resolutions 2019
Do-it-yourself New Year’s wine resolutions 2018

Photo: “New Years Resolutions (1/52)” by lucidtech is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Happy New Year 2021

The blog is off today for New Year’s, but will return next week with our usual features. We’ll announce the fourth annual Wine Curmudgeon Cheap Wine of the Year on Thursday and the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame will post on Friday. And don’t forget the eighth annual Do-it-yourself New Year’s wine resolutions on Monday.

Let’s welcome 2021 with one of the viral music stars from last year, Tampa’s Colt Clark and the Quarantine Kids. They play damn well, and I’d say that even if the boys didn’t appear to be Cubs’ fans in a couple of other videos. So enjoy “Gimme Some Lovin‘ ” as well as a heartfelt Happy New Year from the Wine Curmudgeon. (Video courtesy of The Clark Family Creative, via YouTube).

“Monetizing” the blog: Is it worth the trouble?

monetizing blog
“Pay up, or never read about cheap wine again!”

How should the WC turn a profit on the money-losing blog?

Jan. 10 update: Thanks to everyone who emailed suggestions, kind words, and encouragement. I was especially surprised that so many of you said I was giving the blog away for free when I should be charging money for it. Wrote one reader: “l subscribe to Netflix, AppleNews+,and various financial newsletters, why not a wine letter?”

Why was I surprised? Because I’m a cranky ex-newspaperman and was taught that circulation is all that matters. Which, as so many of you noted, is a very old-fashioned and irrelevant concept in 2021.

So I’ll look at the best way to do subscriptions  and report back. And not to worry, it will include a discount for everyone from the blog who signs up.
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The end of 2020 marks another milestone for the blog – I’ve lost money on it for 13 consecutive years. Which raises the question: Is there any way to make the blog profitable? Should I even try?

The blog’s primary goal when it started was marketing, to get my name and work out among the wine world. If I made money with it, so much the better. The blog has done the former beyond any expectation. I’m continually talking to people who know the blog and who know what I do even though there doesn’t seem to be any reason they should.

But money? Not so much. Again, in the blog’s early days, that didn’t matter. I had a more or less thriving freelance business, supplemented by teaching and a little consulting. But the pandemic has put a kibosh on the freelance business, which had already been in decline. And the latter were always supplements, and never a way to make a living (and, for what it’s worth, haven’t fared all that well over the past couple of years, either). So yes, now it would be nice if the blog turned a profit.

Many of you, at this point, probably want to ask: “But what about all those ads, Jeff? Don’t they make a difference?” Yes, if you’re the New York Times or ESPN or any site that gets millions and millions of visitors. A half-million isn’t enough: I’ve never earned more than $600 or $700 a year from ads. That doesn’t even cover half of the cost of the site’s hosting service.

So that brings us back to “monetizing” the blog – it it worth the trouble? Because, in the post-modern, 21st century world of blogging, making money on the blog means doing one of a variety of choices that are less than appealing:

Sponsored content: Sponsors pay me money, I run posts they write to plug their products, and you may or may not be the wiser. “Oh, look, the WC found something nice to say about Winking Owl!” The surprise is not that I find sponsored posts morally reprehensible; I am who I am, after all. Rather, that so many wine sites that pride themselves on objectivity take the money and run the posts.

Premium content: Pay a fee to get special, subscriber-only content. The blog’s reason for being is to make wine accessible, so making part of it inaccessible to most visitors doesn’t make much sense.

Begging for money: It’s not called that of course, but that’s the result. Typically, there’s a button on the blog visitors can click to send money. Or there are sites like Patreon, which all the really hip sites use. Neither sounds like me, does it?

A paywall: The Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate have paywalls. Enough said.

Pay to go ad-free: This is the least annoying of the choices, but it raises more questions. How much do I charge? How much will it cost to set up? Will anyone care?

Hence, nothing will likely change, and the blog will continue to limp along financially. Unless, of course, someone else has a better idea? You can leave a comment or send me an email.

Wine of the week: Adami Prosecco Brut Garbel NV

adami proseccoThe Adami Prosecco is Italian bubbly that shows how enjoyable Prosecco can be

Those of us who want more from Prosecco than a sweet, fizzy wine often have difficulty finding something that costs less than $15. Which is where the Adami Prosecco comes in.

The Adami Prosecco Brut Garbel NV ($13, purchased, 11%) combines all that makes this style of Italian sparkling wine popular while not dumbing it down. That means a quality bubbly with a bit of sweetness that is part of what’s going on and not its reason for being. In fact, I have three tasting notes for the Adami over the past decade, and each says mostly the same thing. That’s amazing consistency for a wine at this price.

Look for a fresh and rounded wine, with more apple and less tropical fruit than many similarly-priced Proseccos. It has also more and sturdier bubbles than many others, for a more enjoyable fizziness. Highly recommended, whether for New Years or just because it’s sparkling time.

Imported by Adami USA