Category:Wine advice

Premiumization be damned: $139.36 for 14 ½ bottles of cheap wine

cheap wine

Look at all those bargains at Jimmy’s just waiting for us to buy.

It’s still possible to buy quality cheap wine for $10 a bottle

So what if the cheap wine news these days is about failure? The Wine Curmudgeon, undaunted by the obstacles of premiumization, perseveres. The result? 14 ½ bottles of quality cheap wine for less than $10 a bottle.

How is this possible? I followed the blog’s cheap wine checklist. It’s even more valuable today, when $15 plonk is passed off as inexpensive. So look for wine from less pricey parts of the world, wine made with less common grapes, and shop at an independent retailer who cares about long term success and not short term markups.

The retailer was Jimmy’s, Dallas’ top-notch Italian grocer – so the wines are all Italian. Here are the highlights of what I bought for less than $140, which includes a case discount but doesn’t include sales tax.

• A couple of bottles of the Falesco Est Est Est, $10 each. This white blend used to be $7 or $8, but it’s still a value at $10.

• A 350 ml can of the Tiamo rose for $5 – hence, the half bottle in the headline. There wouldn’t be an onus about canned wine if all canned wine was this well done, . Highly recommended.

• Banfi’s Centine red Tuscan blend, $10. The Centines (there is also a white and rose) are some of the best values in the world. This vintage, the 2017, was a little softer than I like, but still well worth $10.

Principi di Butera’s Sicilian nero d’avola, $10. This was the 2016, but it was still dark and plummy and earthy, the way Sicilian nero should be. Highly recommended.

• A couple of roses – a corvina blend from Recchia, $8, and the Bertani Bertarose, a $15 wine marked down to $8. Because who is going to buy a $15 Italian rose made with molinara and merlot? They were in similar in style – fresh and clean, with varying degrees of cherry fruit.

More about buying cheap wine:
Cheap wine checklist: $82.67 for a case of wine
Once more: A case of quality wine for less than $10 a bottle
Nine bottles of wine for $96.91

Ask the WC 21: Mulderbosch rose, older vintages, Big Wine

This edition of Ask the WC: What happened to the Mulderbosch rose? Plus, why are there so many older vintages on store shelves and what’s going on with Big Wine?

Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question .

Hey Wine Curmudgeon:
Did you know the Mulderbosch rose, one of your well-reviewed $10 roses, went away a year or so ago? It doesn’t seem to be coming back anytime soon. Do you have any information? I’m sure many of your followers would like to know also. Thanks.
Where’s the Mulderbosch?

Dear Mulderbosch:
The past couple of years have not been kind to Mulderbosch — the South African winery was sold and it lost its U.S. importer. Plus, says Bob Guinn, the vice president of sales for the winery’s new owner, “the brand had been ‘footballed around’ for the past few years so we have spent the majority of this year cleaning up older inventory and pricing.” But there is good news: There is a new importer, and there are still distributors in 47 states. So we should be seeing the wine return to store shelves sooner rather than later.

Dear Wine Curmudgeon:
I’m seeing a lot of old vintages for wine that costs $10 and $15 on store shelves, some as old as 10 years. They can’t be any good, can they?
Older vintages

Dear Older:
Oddly, I’m seeing more of that, too, even in supermarkets where they tend to pay more attention to inventory rotation. The standard rule is two years for white wine and three years for reds. That means nothing much older than the 2015 or 2016 vintages for white wine and nothing much older than 2014 or 2015 for reds. The exception, of course, is for wine made to age, but most wines aren’t. In addition, we may be seeing more older wines as wine sales remain flat and more older wine remain unsold and stays on shelves.

Dear WC:
Why is Big Wine dumping all its cheap wine brands? I even heard a rumor Yellow Tail was for sale.
Call me curious

Dear Curious:
Yellow Tail may well be for sale, as Big Wine seems to be trying to be less about wine and more about legal weed, craft beer, and spirits. A couple of weeks ago, a second-tier whisky brand sold for $266 million. That makes it more valuable than most of the cheap wine brands Constellation sold to E&J Gallo in its fire sale this spring. Says Rob McMillan of Silicon Valley Bank, one of the smartest people in the wine business: “The overall growth rate in spirits is better than wine today, so even a second-tier whisky brand is more valuable. We are losing the young customer because of a bogus negative cumulative health messaging, like the ‘One bottle of wine is the same as smoking 10 cigarettes’ and because young consumers are more frugal.”

Photo: “Rose” by aliciagriffin is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 20: White Bordeaux, crossing state lines, lower alcohol
Ask the WC 19: Supermarket wine, plastic wine bottles, corked wine
Ask the WC 18: Sweet red wine, varietal character, wine fraud

Wine and food pairings 6: Louisiana-style shrimp boil

shrimp boilThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with a traditional Louisiana-style shrimp boil.

My adventures in south Louisiana as a young newspaperman taught me more about the world than I will ever be able to explain. Like a shrimp boil.

I’m 23 years old and the only thing I know about shrimp is that they’re served only on special occasions, maybe once a year. And that they’re boiled in salted water, and if they taste rubbery and bland, that’s OK, because they’re served only on special occasions. And then another reporter took me to Gino’s in Houma, La.

It was a revelation. This was food, and not Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. This was not something for a special occasion, but something people ate regularly. It opened my mind to the idea of food that wasn’t what I grew up with, and that opened my mind to the idea of other cultures, and that made it possible to open my mind to wine. And I’m not the only one who experienced this kind of revelation: The same thing happened to Julia Child when she went to a boil at Emeril Lagasse’s house.

There are really only two rules for a shrimp boil. Everything else is a suggestion, and any recipe is just a guideline. First, use shrimp from the Gulf of  Mexico and avoid imported shrimp at all costs. The latter have as much flavor as Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. Second, use the boxed pouch seasoning called crab boil from Zatarain’s or Louisiana Fish Fry. And make sure the boxes are nowhere near their expiration date; otherwise, all their flavor is gone. Both companies make other styles of seasoning, but this is the easiest to use. And the less said about Old Bay (which is mostly celery salt), the better.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. No red wine with a shrimp boil — there’s no way to get the flavors right:

St. Hilaire Crémant de Limoux Brut NV ($13, purchased, 12%): This French sparkling wine from the Languedoc, mostly chardonnay but also chenin blanc and mauzac, is crisp and bubbly, with pear and apple fruit. Exactly what the shrimp needs. Highly recommended. Imported by Esprit du Vin

Celler de Capçanes Mas Donís Rosato 2018 ($11, purchased, 13%): This Spanish pink is a little soften than I expected, but that’s because it’s made with garnacha. But it’s still well worth drinking — fresh, ripe red fruit (cherry?), and an almost stony finish. Imported by European Cellars

Hay Maker Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($10, sample, 12.5%): The marketing on this Big Wine brand from New Zealand is more than a little goofy –“hand crafted goodness,” whatever that means. But the wine itself is spot on — New Zealand citrus, but not overdone; a little something else in the middle to soften the citrus; and a clean and refreshing finish. Imported by Accolade Wines North America

More about wine and food pairings:
• Wine and food pairings 5: America’s Test Kitchen pizza
• Wine and food pairings 4: Oven-friend chicken and gravy
• Wine and food pairings 3: Bratwurst and sauerkraut

Ask the WC 20: White Bordeaux, crossing state lines, lower alcohol

white bordeauxThis edition of Ask the WC: Where to find affordable white Bordeaux, plus crossing state lines with illegal wine, and the lower alcohol trend

Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question .

Hi, Wine Curmudgeon:
Can you help me find an affordable white Bordeaux? Recently had a $36 bottle of the white blend that was heavenly but out of my daily price range.
Looking for value

Dear Value:
Premiumization strikes again. Fortunately, there is still plenty of quality, cheap white Bordeaux — the white wine, often a blend of sauvingon blanc and semillion, from the Bordeaux region of France. Chateau Bonnet, which is one of the great cheap wines of all time, is mostly available nationally and should be less than $15. Whole Foods’ Château La Gravière Blanc was the 2019 cheap wine of the year. And you can always use the search box on the upper right hand side of the blog — type in white Bordeaux.

Dear Wine Curmudgeon:
I’ve heard that it’s illegal to buy wine in one state and then bring it back into your state. Is that true, or just another urban myth?
Bootlegging wine

Dear Bootlegging:
Yes, it may be illegal, depending on the state where you buy the wine and the state that is its final destination. Because, of course, three-tier. It would require an attorney and a couple of thousands dollars worth of consultation to be more specific about the various states and their penalties. But know that if you’re driving with wine purchased in another state, and you’re stopped for speeding in your state, there’s a chance that your wine can be confiscated and you can be fined.

Hello WC:
I heard a story on NPR that young people aren’t drinking as much as we used to drink. That can’t be true, can it? Young people always drink, don’t they? Isn’t that part of being young?
Aging Baby Boomer

Dear Aging:
Here’s how much of a trend people in the booze business think this is: I wrote two stories this summer, for different trade magazines, about young people drinking less alcohol. So, yes, there seems to be something to the idea that the youngest Gen Xers, the Millennials, and the oldest Gen Zs aren’t as enamored of getting drunk as the Baby Boomers were at that age. The experts I talked to cited any number of reasons, but one struck me. When I was 19, it was a rite of passage to drive drunk. Today, we have designated drivers. Hence, a significant culture change.

Photo: “Day 55 Hatch wine in Parksville” by terri_bateman is licensed under CC CC0 1.0 

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 19: Supermarket wine, plastic wine bottls, corked wine
Ask the WC 18: Sweet red wine, varietal character, wine fraud
Ask the WC 17: Restaurant-only wines, local wine, rose prices

Winecast 37: Steve McIntosh, Winethropology

Steve McIntosh

Steve McIntosh

Steve McIntosh of Winethropology offers rare perspective on three of the of the most controversial developments in wine today.

Steve McIntosh’s view of the wine world comes from the middle of the country, which offers rare perspective. How many wine writers make do in a state when wine is not allowed to go on sale? His decade-old Winethropology blog offers solid reviews and incisive commentary about what’s going on these days.

We talked about three of the most controversial developments of the current wine business: the Tennessee Supreme Court case, and whether it will really upend the the three-tier system; premiumization and the role Big Wine and consolidation have played in foisting it on us; and whether the rose boom will turn into a permanent part of wine. Steve is a lot more cynical about rose’s future than I am.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 11 minutes long and takes up 4.3 megabytes. The sound quality is almost excellent; I’ve finally figured out most of the quirks in Skype’s new recording feature.

Ask the WC 19: Supermarket wine, plastic wine bottles, corked wine

supermarket wineThis edition of Ask the WC: Understanding supermarket wine, plus plastic wine bottles and returning corked wine to the store

Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question .

Guru of cheap wine:
Your review the other day about the Evanta malbec from Aldi said it was a supermarket wine. I don’t understand. What is that?
Likes cheap wine

Dear Likes:
There are two kinds of supermarket wine — more generally, mass market wine of varying quality made by the biggest producers and sold mostly in supermarkets. More specifically, and what I was talking about with the Evanda, is wine made exclusively for supermarkets, the private label wine made famous in Europe for quality and value and that we don’t see much of in the states. These private label are only sold in  one retailer, like Two-buck Chuck in Trader Joe’s.

Hi, Wine Curmudgeon:
What are your thoughts about plastic wine bottles?
Alternate wine

Dear Alternate:
Plastic wine bottles are another of my quixotic quests (like the Linux desktop). They are a terrific, non-traditional way to bottle wine that the wine business has shown almost no interest in. Plastic bottles — which are the same size as glass — were supposed to be the next big thing in the 1990s and again last decade, but nothing ever happened. Their advantages are obvious: Much lighter than glass, so cheaper transportation costs, more durable, and easier to recycle. But they never became popular. But then again, we’re still using corks, so why should I be surprised?

Hello WC:
Can you return a bottle of wine to the store if it’s corked or off in some way?
Loyal reader

Dear Loyal:
Of course. Just make sure you have the receipt and return it in a timely manner. Having said that, some stores have goofy return policies where they’ll charge you a restocking fee or only issue store credit. And some stores, even though they say they’ll accept returns, get cranky about it. Then you know not to shop there again. As noted many times here before, the best independent retailers want your business over the long haul, so will be happy to take a flawed bottle back.

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 18: Sweet red wine, varietal character, wine fraud
Ask the WC 17: Restaurant-only wines, local wine, rose prices
Ask the WC 16: Grocery store wine, Millennials, canned wine

Wine for people who don’t drink much wine

people who don't drink much wineThree wines that offer quality and value when you’re serving wine to people who don’t drink much wine

The Wine Curmudgeon has entertained twice in the last month where the guests weren’t professional wine drinkers. That is, they were people who fit the profile of the typical U.S. wine drinker – someone who drinks a bottle of month and isn’t interested in the stuff that keeps wine geeks up at night.

The challenge then: How you buy wine to serve with dinner for people who don’t drink much wine? The goal is to pour something interesting that isn’t stupid or insipid, but won’t intimidate your guests. The key: Keep in mind that you want to serve wine other people will like, and not what you think they should like.

A few suggestions and guidelines:

• Try to stay away from tannins and their bitterness, which may be the most off-putting part of wine for those who don’t drink much of it. But what if you want to serve red wine? Then look for something made with sangiovese, gamay, or tempranillo, like the Capezzana Monna Nera 2016 ($10, purchased, 13.5%). This Italian blend is mostly sangiovese – fresh and well-made with soft cherry fruit. Imported by MW Imports.

• Chardonnay, and especially cheap ones with too much fake oak, can make typical wine drinkers grimace. So can overly tart sauvignon blanc. Hence, chenin blanc like the Ken Forester petit 2017 ($11, purchased, 13.5%). This South African white is a long-time favorite, offering crisp white fruit and a refreshing finish. Imported by USA Wine Imports

• One of the best things about the rose boom? It’s ideal for situations like this. The Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12%) is a French pink, almost tart and strawberry, and a tad better made than most at this price. Imported by Pioneer Wine Co.