Category:A Featured Post

Top U.S. wine executive: Let’s make wine so expensive no one will be able to afford it

tax wine

“Buy California wine — or else!”

No, that’s not a Wine Curmudgeon joke – it’s a proposal by the man whose company makes Kendall Jackson chardonnay

No, this isn’t a Wine Curmudgeon April Fool’s post. It’s as true as it is unbelievable: A top U.S. wine executive wants to tax wine so that most of us can’t afford to buy it.

Rick Tigner, the CEO of Jackson Family Wines (home to  the legendary Kendall Jackson chardonnay), told a wine industry meeting last week that California can no longer afford to produce cheap wine. Hence, the federal government should tax wine imports because “we need a better, higher pricing structure.” In other words, $10 European, Australian, New Zealand, and South American wine should cost as much as California wine — because, of course, California wine.

Yes, that was my reaction, too. Wine consumption is flat and young people don’t seem particularly interested in it. So the man who runs one of the most important wine companies in the country wants to make wine even more expensive? That makes tremendous economic sense, doesn’t it? Let’s price wine out of the reach of most consumers, and our business will be even more successful.

The story was so incredulous that I almost called the reporter who wrote it to ask him if something had happened during Tigner’s speech. Was Tigner struck by a bolt of lighting? Was there an invasion of body snatchers? Does he have one of those evil soap opera twins?

I wasn’t the only one who was dumbfounded. A European wine analyst told me she was surprised a leading wine company official would say something like that. A Napa wine marketer said it was just one more example of California arrogance — because, of course, California.

Tigner overlooked two things (besides the most basic laws of supply and demand):

First, 95 percent of U.S. consumers won’t pay more than $20 for a bottle of wine – perhaps my favorite wine statistic, courtesy of the Wine Market Council. So who is going to buy all the expensive wine that tariffs will give us?

Second, Tigner can complain that other countries tax California wine unfairly as much as he wants, but that’s irrelevant. U.S. wine exports measured by cases (mostly from California) are insignificant – barely more than 10 percent of what we produce each year. That’s because we drink almost all the wine made here, so there isn’t much left to sell to the French (assuming they would want it). In fact, U.S. wine exports are so trivial that two of our biggest markets are Nigeria and the Dominican Republic, countries not usually associated with wine culture.

So, no, taxing my $10 Gascon white blends, Spanish cava, and Italian red blends won’t save the California wine industry from itself. The only ones who can do that are part of the California wine industry, which tells us everything we need to know about how that will turn out.

The fifth do-it-yourself wine review

do it yourself

Drinky gets it now: How could he have missed the red wine’s playful mushu pork elements?

Once more, we take aim at winespeak and pomposity — the blog’s fifth do-it-yourself wine review.

The annual do-it-yourself wine review remains one of the most popular posts on the blog. And why not? You too can sound just as foolish as those of us who get paid to do it. Because doesn’t everyone want to write something as memorable as “My, I find this wine to be complex yet simple in its approach to life. It lifts my spirits and appeals to my inner child while satisfying my need to be an adult.”

So write your own wine review, using the drop-down menus in this post. Just click the menu and choose your favorite line. Those of you who get the blog via email may have to go to the website — click here to do so.

As always, thanks to Al Yellon, since I stole the idea from him, plus Luke Rissacher’s wine review generator and Lawrence Sinclair at Quora, from whom I also stole some great stuff.

In the glass, this red wine:

I smelled the wine, and:

I tasted the wine, and:

All in all, I’d say the wine:

More do-it-yourself wine reviews:
The second do-it-yourself wine review
The third do-it-yourself wine review
The fourth do-it-yourself wine review

Dear Onion: Local wine is not shitty

local wine

No, Onion, your post was not worthy of Jonathan Swift.

Your post making fun of local wine is lame — and using “shitty” because you can’t think of anything funny to say is even lamer

Dear Onion:

The Wine Curmudgeon has long respected satire (Jonathan Swift! And Mark Twain! And Mel Brooks!) and has even written some. So it is with much regret that I write you regarding this week’s post about local wine, which was not funny, not satire, and not true.

In fact, your post was so lame that I am using the word “shitty” in my post, something I have not done in almost 15 years of writing the blog. When you are a good writer, you don’t need to use “shitty” in an attempt to make something funny. It’s funny because you are a good writer.

And whoever wrote “Shitty Region Of Country Figures It Might As Well Give Producing Wine A Shot” is not a good writer. Or even a decent one. It was bad writing at its worst, making fun of something without being clever, witty, or entertaining. (For the proper use of “shitty,” see the 1971 version of “Shaft.”)

Consider this line from your post. It’s as old and tired as any wine humor, the equivalent of the worst “Take my wife, please… joke: “We have all this space that’s just sitting here. How hard could winemaking possibly be? And it’s not like most people can tell the difference between good and bad stuff.”

As I once wrote on the blog discussing this very topic, most people who make fun of wine think it’s stupid to begin with, so there is no need to be funny. Your post is an excellent example of this. Someone there, no doubt needing to make a deadline, said, “Let’s make fun of wine in the middle of the country!” Someone else, no doubt knowing the need to make a deadline, said, “Cool!”

Perhaps most depressing is that wine needs satire. As regular readers here know, I am always ready to make fun of the wine business. But this didn’t do that. There is excellent wine, as good as in France or Spain or Italy or California, in several of the states you mention. I know this because I am the co-founder and past president of a group called Drink Local Wine; in other words, I have actually tasted the stuff you brush off because wine is stupid to begin with, so wine in Texas or Michigan must be even more stupid.

Hence, I will make you the same offer I have made the mainstream media – when you venture into areas you know nothing about, check with me first. I am passionate about good writing, and always happy to help.

Yours in wine humor,

The Wine Curmudgeon

Wine of the week: Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin 2017

Villa Maria sauvignon blancThe Villa Maria sauvignon blanc remains classic New Zealand white wine — and a more than fair value

When the blog was new, so was New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and the Villa Maria was among the best – and it cost just $10.

Those days are gone. New Zealand is acknowledged as the leader in sauvignon blanc, and even the French copy the style – lots of citrus, usually grapefruit, and little else for wines costing less than $15. But the Villa Maria remains consistent, quality wine. And if it isn’t $10 any more, it does offer more for your dollar than the shelves and shelves of cheaper monkey-labeled, bay-themed bottles.

The Villa Maria sauvignon blanc ($12, purchased, 12.5%) offers classic Kiwi style, sitting just a notch below the two I think are the best, Jules Taylor and Spy Valley. Yes, there is lots of grapefruit (more white than red), but the wine also has the three flavors all well-made wine should have regardless of price – the grapefruit in the front, some sort of white stone fruit in the middle, and a refreshing, clean stony finish.

Highly recommended, and a bargain for anything less than $13.

Imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Winebits 591: The booze business is trying to wreak havoc with our beloved rose edition

booze businessThis week’s wine news: All the ways the booze business is taking rose and trying to turn it into something else, in its attempt to ruin it for the rest of us

Make everything rose! Rebecca Jennings, writing on Vox, explains why we must suffer through rose vodka, rose mustard and all the rest: “Why would an alcoholic drink want to taste like a wholly different alcoholic drink? … It’s because rosé is no longer a drink but a way of life, so much so that it’s almost a cliché to even point this out.” I don’t know that she has the rose timeline exactly correct (there’s more to the trend than a Whole Foods in southern California), but it’s an otherwise fine analysis about why the booze world is trying to ruin rose.

Expensive rose forever! The Wine Curmudgeon is not trying to be snarky, but I honestly can’t figure out what this story from the Wine Enthusiast is trying to say. Is expensive rose worth the hundreds of dollars it costs? Or not? If anyone can tell, please let me know. Having said that, I thought this bit was a tremendous example of winespeak – almost poetic, and almost devoid of any meaning: “To James, just like well-crafted reds and whites, rosés crafted soulfully from grower-producers justify the price tag.” Crafted soulfully, indeed.

Bring on the NBA! And how about this ultra-hipster trend – pro basketball stars drinking wine with rose? Get ready for some breathless prose: “It’s no secret that the NBA loves wine. With the multi-million dollar contracts and luxury lifestyles, it seems safe to assume the league’s favorite bottles would be well out of reach for the average wine drinker. But it turns out that former Miami Heat superstar Dwayne Wade’s choice of rosé is just $20 a bottle.” Wow! Just $20 a bottle. Who knew rose was so cheap?

Cheap wine fans rejoice: Domaine Tariquet returns to the U.S.

domaine tariquet

Who cares about the missing “du?” We’re just glad the Domaine Tariquet is back.

Top importer Wildman picks up Domaine Tariquet, and it should be available in most of the country

Our too long cheap wine nightmare is over: Domaine Tariquet, one of the best cheap wine producers ever, has a new U.S. importer and its products could be on store shelves by late spring or early summer. Even better, the importer, Frederick Wildman & Sons, is big enough so that it works with the largest distributors in the country. Hence, the wines should be available almost everywhere in the U.S.

Tariquet, located in Gascony in France, disappeared last July, when its then importer dropped the brand. No one was talking about what happened, even off the record, but the result was that we’ve gone without the label’s flagship Tariquet Classic for almost a year – a painful loss at any time, but especially painful in these days of overpriced and underperforming cheap wine.

The Tariquet Classic, a white blend made with ugni blanc and colombard, is everything great cheap wine should be – fresh, fruity, dry, crisp, and low in alcohol. Its success here paved the way for a host of Gascon wines to shine in the U.S. The Classic, plus four other Tariquet wines (including a very nice rose) is in the Wildman warehouse in New York and listed on the Wildman website. Wildman’s John Little said orders are already coming in from across the country.

Even better news: There won’t be a price increase, which had been talked about last summer if and when the wine returned. That means the Classic should still cost $10 to $12.

Finally, the Grassa family, which owns Tariquet, shortened the brand’s name. This version is Domaine Tariquet; it was Domaine du Tariquet under the previous importer.

Mini-reviews 120: Four red wines from around the world

red wineReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This month, four red wines from around the world.

District 7 Pinot Noir 2017 ($20, sample, 13.5%): This is top-notch red wine from the Monterey region of California, where it’s a little cooler and where pinot noir can be more pinot noir-ish because it’s cooler. Look for an earthy beginning, refined tannins, and delicious and correct cherry fruit. The price isn’t great, but that’s what quality introductory pinot noir costs these days.

Domaine de Colette Beaujolais-Villages 2017 ($17, purchased, 12.5%): This is a very nicely done French red wine made with the gamay grape from the region of Beaujolais. It has structure and body, not always easy to do when working with gamay, but also offers gamay character — some soft cherry. Let it sit open for at least 30 minutes. Highly recommended. Imported by Charles Neal Selections

Castello di Magione Umbria 2017 ($15, purchased, 13%): This Italian red wine made with sangiovese is earthy and tart, which is normally what I like. But it tastes like something is missing, and for $15 I don’t want to have to figure out what that is. Imported by Margaux and Associates

Oak Ridge Winery OZV 2017 ($13, sample, 14%): This professionally made red blend from Lodi in California tastes exactly like it came from Lodi: Lots of sweet dark fruit, lots of oak, and not much in the way of tannins. If you appreciate this style of wine, then you’ll enjoy this.