Category:Wine advice

Are you a wine snob?

wine snobThe cyber-ether has been abuzz with accusations of wine snobbery, and even Blake Gray — who recently shared a bottle of $10 South African chenin blanc with me — has been accused of snobbery. Trust me: People who drink cheap wine with the Wine Curmudgeon aren’t wine snobs.

All of this back and forth means it’s time to set the record straight. Note that wine snobbery doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with winespeak, scores or high alcohol. It’s much more nefarious than that. Hence, the Wine Curmudgeon’s eight questions to tell whether you’re a wine snob.

? Do you tell other people what to drink?

? Do you criticize other people when they drink wine that you’ve told them not to drink?

? Do you think wine quality is a function of price, and that all expensive wine is inherently better than cheap wine?

? Do you only drink certain varietals, like cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay, because other varietals aren’t good enough for you?

? Do you only drink wine from certain regions of the world, because other regions aren’t good enough for you?

? Do you know everything there is to know about wine, and aren’t shy about telling others how smart you are?

? Do you gladly share wine knowledge with others, or are you glad you know more than they do?

? Do you remember the last time you tried a wine you didn’t think you would like?

Answer yes to more than one of the first six questions, or a yes plus a no to the seventh or eighth, and there’s no doubt: You’re a wine snob.

James Garner on wine writing

james garnerJames Garner, who died over the weekend, was perhaps the best TV actor of his generation. He brought intelligence, charm, and wit to a medium that makes those qualities difficult to convey. In the 1950s, “Maverick” did for the western what Monty Python did for humor, redefining how to look at the genre. In the 1970s, “The Rockford Files” took the private detective, a tired and worn out format, and gave it new life.

So what does that have to do with wine and writing? Consider this, from Garner’s autobiography:

“I ?m a Methodist but not as an actor. I ?m from the Spencer Tracy school: be on time, know your words, hit your marks, and tell the truth. I don ?t have any theories abut acting, and I don ?t think about how to do it, except that an actor shouldn ?t take himself too seriously, and shouldn ?t try to make acting something that it isn ?t. Acting is just common sense. It isn ?t hard if you put yourself aside and just do what the writer wrote. ?

Substitute wine writing for acting, and the point is clear: We’re not better or more talented than other wine drinkers. We’re just more professional about it. And the minute we take ourselves too seriously, we lose sight of what we’re supposed to be doing. And wine writing is not supposed to be difficult, though so many of us try so hard to make it difficult.

A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to my pal John Bratcher, a reformed actor, for pointing out the relationship between Garner’s words and wine writing.

Update: Wine for your wedding

wedding wineThe wedding planning cycle begins anew this month, and the Wine Curmudgeon is here to help. Check out the blog’s wine for your wedding post, featuring the legendary Mr. Sommelier. And remember, it’s your wedding — pick the wine you want and can afford, and don’t worry about what people think. Anyone who goes to a wedding and complains about the wine probably shouldn’t have been invited.

Mother’s Day wine 2014

Mother's Day wine 2014Keep two things in mind when buying Mother ?s Day wine 2014. First, wine as a gift requirea a different apprioach than wine to drink with brunch. A heavy red wine with scrambled eggs, no matter how much Mom likes heavy red wine, may not be the best idea. Second, don’t forget our wine gift-giving guidelines ? ?Don ?t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.

Hence these suggestions:

? Lamberti Vino Spumante NV ($14, sample, 11.5%): Surprisingly pleasant Italian sparkler at a not bad price with sweetish strawberry fruit, decent enough bubbles for spumante, and light body. The quintessential brunch wine.

? Feudo Arancio Nero d’Avola Stemmari 2012 ($8, purchased, 13.5%): Solid red made with nero d’avola grape that speaks to how far Sicily has come. Five years ago, I would have raved about its sour cherry fruit and hints of dark herbs. Today, it seems simple, though it’s still a fine value and quite enjoyable.

? Jules Taylor Pinot Gris 2012 ($19, purchased, 13.5%): Another quality effort from one of my favorite New Zealand producers. Light and delicate white fruit, far removed from the fruit-forward style of the Pacific Northwest but just as interesting.

? Fowles Wine Stone Dwellers Riesling 2011 ($20, sample, $12.9%): Modern style of Australian riesling, with lots of candied lemon balanced by an almost bubbly acidity to make a medium dry wine. Very nicely done, if you don’t mind spending $20 on riesling. And you probably don’t for Mom.

More about Mother ?s Day wine:
? Mother ?s Day wine 2013
? Mother ?s Day wine 2012
? Expensive wine 62: Chamisal Chalifa Chardonnay 2011
? Wine of the week: Zenato San Benedetto 2012

Image courtesy of Cheeky Chicago, using a Creative Commons license

How the cool kids find wine they like

How the cool kids find wine they likeThis is an incredibly clever graphical quiz from BuzzFeed that guides wine drinkers through the process of finding wine they will enjoy. What’s not to like about a system that asks your favorite emoticon, drunk text, and record album to help pick the right wine? Beats most of the advice from wine writers.

Having said that, some of us who didn’t grow up with 21st-century culture and smart phones, which emphasize pictures without text, might have trouble completing it. But a teenager should be able to help with the emoticons, and if you haven’t heard of “The Perks of Being a Wildflower” or “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter,” there is Hemingway. The section on pick a drinking buddy confused me: I don’t watch much TV, so I didn’t recognize several of the choices (though I did identify Beyonce). And what Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who gives new meaning to the term Great White North, was doing in the drinking buddy section was a puzzler.

How well it works is another story; the reader who tipped me to it said it sent her to malbec, which she tried and loved. The first time, it picked sweet riesling for me, which I enjoy, but not what I would have chosen. The second time it picked malbec, which I don’t much like, and insulted me in the process: “Your tastes are diverse but simple.” Maybe I need to bone up on emoticons. Or the quiz needs to refine its algorithm to include cava or rose.

Finally, how do I know that this process is hip and with it (besides that it’s on BuzzFeed)? The author, Justin Carissimo, blew off a couple of requests for an interview. It would have been nice to ask him how the quiz came about, and whether there is actually some science involved. No doubt he would have responded if I had been from Deadspin.

How to find dependable cheap wine

dependable cheap wineHow do you find dependable cheap wine? That’s the question the Wine Curmudgeon recently discussed with Laurie Daniel, who writes for the San Jose Mercury News and is a top-flight wine judge. The result was her piece in the newspaper, which is a fine read. But it focused on California and wines that cost $20 or less, so I thought it was worth going into more detail. That comes after the jump:

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Happy New Year 2014

The blog is off today for New Year’s, but will return tomorrow with our usual features in the run-up to the 2014 $10 Hall of Fame, which debuts on Monday.

Until then, enjoy this primer on wine tasting (courtesy of Holyexpletive on YouTube), which puts everything we’ve talked about on the blog in wonderful perspective. Only wine snobs would think that being a snob would help them get chicks. Or, as the waiter says, “Excellent palate you have, sir.”

Happy New Year from the Wine Curmudgeon.