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Winebits 618: Two wine best of lists and a 100-point wine

100-point wineThis week’s wine news: A hotel chain proclaims the U.S. the best wine region in the world and the best wine book in the world is ranked ninth. Plus, if you have $100, you can buy a glass of 100-point wine.

Best regions: One reason why the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t care much for top 10 lists is that you don’t know who is behind them. As in: Why is the Accor hotel chain proclaiming the U.S. the best wine region in the world? What does that have to with inn keeping? But there it is – the U.S., followed by France, Italy, and New Zealand. The methodology is spotty (scores from a crowd site), which devalues the results — as if there could be legitimate results for something like this. And it still doesn’t answer why Accor felt the need to do this.

Best books: The two best wine books, in terms of understanding wine and figuring out who wine works, are porbably Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World and Wine for Dummies, by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing Milligan. So how do they fare in a ranking by something called BookAuthority? Ninth and 27th. And how authoritative is BookAuthority? ” BookAuthority identifies and rates the best books in the world, based on public mentions, recommendations, ratings and sentiment.” Taking quality into account would have have been nice, but one can’t expect much these days.

Bring out the c-notes: If you have $100, then a Dallas restaurant will sell you a glass of a Robert Parker 100-point wine, the 2012 Verite La Joie Bordeaux Blend. Veritie is a Sonoma producer; the current version of the La Joie costs $400 a bottle. Still, I’ll pass, even though the restaurant is throwing in a couple of Riedel glasses. For those of you who are intrigued, the 2012 “is an incredible glass of wine featuring exuberant notes of red currant, black plum and cherry framed by subtle French oak nuances like powdered cocoa and cedar with a balanced finish.”

Wine and food pairings 7: Classic roast chicken

roast chickenThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with perhaps the most classic of all dishes, roast chicken.

When I taught wine to culinary students, they always asked what my favorite dinner was — no doubt expecting some over-complicated, over-sauced French haute cuisine adventure to pair with $300 wine. My answer always surprised them: Roast chicken served with a simple pan sauce, green noodles, a green salad with a mustardy vinaigrette, and crusty French bread.

Because when it’s a top quality chicken and the skin is brown and crisp, what else do you need but terrific cheap wine?

The catch, of course, is finding an affordable quality chicken. Most supermarket chickens don’t have any flavor to begin with, and they’ve often been frozen and defrosted and frozen again as they go through the supply chain. Hence, the meat gets almost crumbly after it’s cooked. Find a chicken that has avoided that, usually at a specialty grocer, and you’ll be stunned at the difference.

The other key: Finding the best roasting method. I’ve tried almost all of them, including smothering the skin with gobs of butter, roasting in a rack, and stuffing the cavity with lemons and herbs. But nothing seems to work as well as Jacques Pepin’s Chicken Roti. It’s simple and direct and delicious. You brown the chicken on each side in a hot oven, and then finish the bird on its back, basting with the pan juices occasionally. Yes, it can cause an undue amount of smoke in the kitchen, and flipping the chicken during roasting takes some getting used to. But it’s well worth the effort

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. These three wines will do justice to the chicken — and not a chardonnay in sight:

Zestos Old Vine Rosado 2018 ($10, purchased, 12%): This Spanish pink is one of the world’s great cheap roses — bright and fresh and almost minerally, but with more fruit than a Provencal rose (strawberry?). Highly recommended. Imported by Ole & Obrigado

Terre del Fohn Muller-Thurgau 2017 ($14, purchased, 12.5%): A beautiful white Italian wine that is made from muller-thurgau, an uncommon grape. It’s almost spicy, a little oily, and offers some light lime fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Tricana.

La Cornada Crianza 2015 ($5, purchased, 13%): I bought this Spanish temprnaillo at Aldi in February, and it was enjoyable. I’ve since bought a half-dozen more, and it keeps improving with age — more Spanish in style, less oaky, and cherry fruit that stays in the background. There’s even a little earth.

More about wine and food pairings:
Wine and food pairings 6: Louisiana-style shrimp boil
• Wine and food pairings 5: America’s Test Kitchen pizza
• Wine and food pairings 4: Oven-friend chicken and gravy

Four 2020 wine trends that you don’t need to worry about

Pass the piquette, please.

These four 2020 wine trends are more click bait than anything else

The Wine Curmudgeon is constantly on the alert for wine foolishness and silliness, since those things usually mean someone is after your money. So when several experts posted their 2020 wine trends, my hooey meter went into overdrive.

Hence, four 2020 wine trends you don’t have to worry about:

Cannabis-infused wine. Yes, legal weed is still it its infancy and it may yet prove to be the next big thing. But so far, it has been a disaster. How big a disaster? Just ask Constellation Brands, which dumped more than two dozen wine brands this spring to focus on cannabis. Along the way, the company has invested at least US$4 billion in Canadian weed producer Canopy, and Canopy has yet to turn a profit.

Pop-up wine bars. Apparently, the experts didn’t consider liquor laws or the three-tier system, which would make this almost impossible in most of the U.S.

Piquette. Lots and lots of websites and experts ask sommeliers about the hippest trends, since they figure sommeliers are hipper than the rest of us. Thus, piquette. This isn’t exactly wine, but is fizzy and has low alcohol, which do seem to be legitimate trends. The catch? Piquette is made by just a handful of small producers on the East Coast, which means that no one will be able to buy it unless they visit a bar or restaurant which has a very hip sommelier.

Organic wine. This was going to be huge when I started writing about wine 20-some years ago, and it still shows up regularly on trends lists. But organic wine has never caught on in the U.S, and shows no signs of catching on now. Organic wine, organically-made wine, and biodynamic wine have a tiny part of the U.S. wine market, probably in the single digits.

The blog’s year end, holiday, and 2020 $10 Hall of Fame schedule

Get ready: The next 10 weeks include the blog’s 12th annual Birthday Week and giveaways, lots of holiday wine and gift suggestions, and the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame and Cheap Wine of the Year

• Birthday Week, celebrating 12 years of cheap wine enthusiasm, begins Nov. 18. Included among the giveaways is a $100 gift card from Wine.com, and wine glasses.

• Our Thanksgiving wine suggestions will appear Nov. 22, with Christmas and New Year’s wine ideas on Dec. 20 and Dec. 26.

• The always popular Do it Yourself wine resolutions is set for Jan. 2.

• The 2020 $10 Hall of Fame will make its 13th appearance on Jan. 10, with the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year on Jan. 9. As always, you can email me with suggestions for either. Given the 25 percent wine tariff and the continuing effects of premiumization, any help is much appreciated. You can check out eligibility rules here.

Halloween wine tales 2019

Halloween wine

If we can dress like this for Halloween, then the Wine Curmudgeon should be allowed to write Halloween wine parodies.

A blog tradition — the five Halloween wine tales from the middle of the decade.

These posts didn’t always get the traffic they deserved, but what does Google know about good writing, terrific parody, and making fun of the Winestream Media?

Besides, who else would be brave (or silly) enough to combine these characters with cheap wine and Halloween?

A Halloween wine tale 2017: Dr. Who
A Halloween wine tale 2016: Kolchak: The Wine Stalker
A Halloween wine tale 2015: I am Legend
A Halloween wine tale 2014: Frankenstein
A Halloween wine tale 2013: Dracula

Photo courtesy of Alisa Hemmesch, using a Creative Commons license

Wine of the week: Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!! 2017

Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!!The Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!! remains a classic Italian cheap white wine

The Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!! is one of the Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite cheap wines. So why have I reviewed it just three times in 12 years?

Availability, of course. What other reason could there be?

The Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!! ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is the kind of cheap wine that Europeans understand implicitly – you buy it, you drink it with dinner, and you enjoy it. No posturing about scores and no fretting about pairings.

So why isn’t it regularly available? Your guess is as good as mine, and probably has something to do with changes in its importer and distributor over the past decade.

But when the Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!! is available, it’s always a treat (even at $10, as opposed to $8 the last vintage). It’s a white blend made with trebbiano and malvasia, plus an even more rare grape called roscetto. The result is a tart, lemony wine, and some years it can be really tart. The 2017 is comparatively subtle – less tart, more balanced, and even a bit of minerality.

I don’t know that I enjoyed this vintage quite as much, but that’s a personal preference and not about the quality of the wine. It remains as it has always been – enjoyable and well worth buying and drinking.

Imported by Winebow

Winebits 617: Blind tasting, campaign cash, grape glut

This week’s wine news: The perils of blind tasting – even for experts. Plus cash and the three-tier system and too many grapes to harvest

Whoops! What happens when a high-end sommelier does a blind tasting for an audience? Check it out in the video at the top of this post, part of an advertising campaign on the 750 Daily website. Let’s just say it was not pretty – identifying a 2018 Italian pinot grigio as a high end white Rhone blend. The Wine Curmudgeon, who is one of the worst blind tasters he knows, has much sympathy for the sommelier.

Follow the money: What happened after the Pennsylvania legislature voted to allow limited supermarket wine sales in 2016? Several legislators who played a key role in the bill’s passage went to Europe, courtesy of “campaign donations.” The story, reported by three Pennsylvania newspapers as part of a year-long investigation, shows just how prevalent cash is in oiling the three-tier system and why reforming it is so difficult. The donations paid for “overseas and cross-country travel, sports tickets, limos, dinners, cuff links and country club memberships. Among the hidden spending, however, the European trip stood out.” Best yet, the trips and money may not have been illegal.

Too many grapes: What should do California grape growers do when they can’t get a fair price for their grapes? Leave them on the vine to rot. That’s the advice from two University of California viticulture experts. In other words, the predicted California grape glut seems to be underway. Western Farm Press reports that the extension agents say “in this market, the prices offered are likely to be less than the cost of production. Allowing unsold fruit to remain on the vines may seem unthinkable, yet with no income from those blocks, it makes sense. This means not dropping clusters by hand and not running a harvester in the vineyard to get the berries off.”