Category:Spirits

Holiday wine gift guide 2016

Holiday wine gift guideThe best holiday wine gift advice: Buy what they want, not what you think they should want

Just in time for the blog’s holiday wine gift guide 2016– an article on rightpricewine.com citing the Wine Curmudgeon’s always sensible gift giving advice: “Buy wine that the person would like, not what you think they should like.”

That’s the thought behind this year’s gift suggestions, culled from interviews with retailers and consumers as well as the countless news releases I get during the holiday season. The trend this year? More wine and less accessories, with consumers deciding that gadgets aren’t as enjoyable in 2016 as a quality bottle of wine.

This year’s gift ideas:

• Chablis for the California chardonnay drinker who wants something different. Chablis, chardonnay from Burgundy in France, doesn’t have any oak. That means a more austere and more minerally wine, in contrast to the richer and more buttery California chardonnays. One possibility: Jean-Pierre Grossot Chablis, about as much of a steal as a $20 wine can be.

• Trade up a cabernet sauvignon drinker who wants something more complex. The Faust, from Napa Valley, is the sort of $50 wine I wish I got to taste more often. It’s firmly rooted in Napa, made in a decidedly New World style, but it also shows that quality wine is about more than just flashy fruit.

• Something different for the wine geek. Look for top-notch wine made with odd grapes – an Italian refosco, for instance, a Spanish malvar, or a Hungarian Tokaj. Each can cost as little as $10.

Koval rye whiskey, because the WC does not live by wine alone. I’ve been a rye drinker since the bad old days, when all you could find was what we fondly called Old Overcoat. The craft spirits boom has changed that, and the Koval ($50) is rye that is more than a bourbon knockoff, something spicy and intriguing.

More holiday wine gift guides
Holiday wine gift guide 2015
Holiday wine gift guide 2014
Holiday wine gift guide 2013
Expensive wine 89: Bonny Doon Old Telegram 2014
Expensive wine 82: Anne Amie Winemaker’s Select Pinot Noir 2012

Gary Shansby and the dilemma of wine education

Gary Shansby tells the story with an almost wistful air. A good friend of his, who is smart and wealthy, will only drink Grey Goose vodka. Gary, who owns Partida Tequila, offered to buy his friend a Partida. No thanks, says the friend. I only drink Grey Goose. Can I buy you another kind of vodka? asks Gary. No thanks, says the friend. I only drink Grey Goose.

Why do you only drink Grey Goose? asks Gary. Because it's the best, says his friend. How do you know that? asks Gary. Have you tried any other vodka? No, says the friend. Have you tried my tequila? No, says the friend. Then how do you know that you don't want to try anything else? Because I don't, says the friend. I just know.

Shansby finishes the story and I laugh. He has outlined, neatly, the dilemma facing those of us who do wine education. Yes, this story is about tequila and spirits, and I usually don't do much of that here. But Shansby is also a wine drinker who knows how the business works, and Partida makes some damn fine tequila. I was especially impressed with the blanco (about $45, sample), which had almost nothing to do with the cheap, poorly made tequila that one sees around Dallas.

Besides, the principle is the same, whether we're talking about tequila or pinot noir. It's not enough that wine is confusing. We also have to fight the prejudices that consumers pick up, many of which are fostered on consumers by the companies that sell wine.

"There are so many great wines all over the world — from Chile, from parts of the U.S. — that it's just so confusing to the consumer," says Shansby. "But that also means that they are so many great wines to try at so many attractive prices."

In fact, he says, those attractive prices are going to be around for a while. The recession is the main reason (and he expects its effects to be with us for a long while), which is something we've discussed here many times before. Producers are stuck with unsold wine, with more wine in the production pipeline, so they are cutting prices to move it. Shansby says it won't be unusual to see discounts of 20 to 40 percent. So why not take a chance and experiment? Why not try a wine from a different region than your usual? Why not try a different varietal?

Just don't, says Shansby, let your prejudices make your decisions for you. And who can argue with that.

Tuesday tidbits 29

? Texas wine competition:  One of the Wine Curmudgeon's favorite events to judge is the Lone Star International, held each year at about this time. It includes not only Texas wines, but entries from around the world. I can't judge it this year (I'm in Houston on another assignment), but I will check with a couple of pals to find out what tasted good and what won.

? Heavy metal wine: Just in case wine from the Rolling Stones isn't enough, how about this? Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate is going to make a red wine from Washington state, called Insania. Sigh. What's next? Fleetwood Mac white zinfandel?

? In a recession? Those of us wondering if we're officially in a recession need look no further than this news release, for a Brazilian rum called Leblon Cachaca. The release isn't on the web site, so I'll quote: "What's the cocktail of the 2008 recession? Many are pointing to the Caipirinha, the Brazilian national cocktail made with Cachaca, Brazil's national spirit. After all, who knows how to muddle through an economic crisis better than the Brazilians?" Glad we have that settled.

Where does flavored vodka fit into the mix?

The Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t do a lot of spirits writing, and when I do, it’s mostly whisky (or whiskey, depending on your point of view).

Which made this story, which I wrote for the Fort Worth newspaper, so fascinating. Flavored vodkas, which barely existed a decade ago, are huge, hundreds of million dollar labels. Flavored vodkas may have accounted for $1 out of every $6 spent on spirits in the U.S. in 2006.

Why the growth? Spirits companies want a slice of the key 21- to 35-year-old female demographic, and that group loves flavored vodka. After all, you can’t make a Dutch Chocolate martini with bourbon, but you can with chocolate flavored vodka.

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