Category:Wine advice

Memorial Day and rose, 2011

Memorial Day weekend means it’s time for the annual rose post — where you won’t have to spend much more than $10 to have a good time.

Surprisingly, despite the weak dollar and the passage of all that time, that price point hasn ?t changed since the Wine Curmudgeon started writing an annual rose piece almost 10 years ago. There are still dozens of terrific roses that cost $10 or so from all over the world. The one thing that has changed? The quality of rose keeps getting better, and it ?s unusual to find a poorly made rose (something that wasn ?t necessarily true 10 years ago).

What you need to know about rose — after the jump:

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$200 worth of wine

$200 worth of wineDon’t fear, regular visitors. That’s not one bottle of wine, but the result of a recent Wine Curmudgeon shopping expedition — 13 bottles, only two of which cost more than $16. And there wasn’t a stinker in the bunch.

The occasion for this spree? A chance to shop at Spec’s, probably the best liquor retailer in Texas. Spec’s doesn’t have any stores in Dallas, but I was in Austin for a wedding and Spec’s has several stores there. So that gave me a chance to check out Spec’s vast inventory (at 80,000 square feet, it’s bigger than most grocery stores) and its very competitive pricing. I was not disappointed.

More, after the jump:

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Wine and Tax Day

image from t1.gstatic.com Monday is April 18, the deadline this year for Americans to pay their state and federal income taxes. Which we are famous for whining about (pun fully intended). So, as a public service, here are a few thoughts about wine and how it can improve tax day.

? Drink a bottle of regional wine. Most U.S. states are suffering horrendous budget crises — New York had to close a $10 billion gap. Illinois' was $4.9 billion. Texas' is $27 billion. So if you buy a bottle of local wine, you're supporting local jobs. Each of us can help reduce those deficits, one bottle at time, and it's a lot more pleasant than listening to the complaining and bellyaching that goes on this time of year.

? Visit Michael Franz's annual Tax Day wine column at Wine Reports Online, which he has done for almost 20 years. As someone who specializes in cheap wine, the Wine Curmudgeon applauds Franz's perseverance. Plus, he and colleague Paul Lukacs wade through more than 1,000 wines to make their recommendations.

? Try a cheap wine you've never tried before. Don't worry about reviews or scores or what other people will think. Go to the store, buy it, and taste it. If you like it, you've found a new wine. If you don't, throw it out. I promise not to tell anyone.

? My wine recommendation? Anything from the $10 Hall of Fame would do nicely, but I'd also suggest Cuvee Cep d'Or 2010 ($10, purchased), a rose from Provence. Availability may be limited, but it's a beautiful wine that is well worth looking for. There is just a touch of fruit (watermelon?), and it's bone dry with a long mineral finish. This is everything a Provencal rose should be, and is one of the best-made $10 wines I've had in a long while.

Wine of the week: Cave de Lugny Macon-Villages 2009

Wine of the week: Cave de Lugny Macon-Villages 2009The French may have many faults as a wine-producing nation, be it genuflecting in Robert Parker’s direction or refusing to acknowledge the 21st century. But they still make the world’s best chardonnay — even grocery store chardonnay.

The Cave de Lugny ($11, purchased) is just such a wine. It’s almost unoaked, with some green apple and citrus at the front. If the mineral finish is a bit thin, it’s not unpleasant like so many California grocery store chardonnays, which reek of fake oak and other winemaker manipulation. I stumbled across this while looking for something to have on hand in case Icepocalypse: The Sequel kept me from wine shopping, and snapped it up. Cave de Lugny has a fine reputation as a grocery-store Burgundy producer (I especially like the Les Charmes, though it’s not $11 any more), and one could do a lot worse than this wine. Which, sadly, I have.

Drink this chilled on its own, with leftovers if you’re cleaning out the refrigerator after the power goes out, or for Chinese takeout. Assuming you can get to the restaurant for takeout in between the winter storms.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s cava adventure, part I

The Wine Curmudgeon's cava adventure, part IThis is the first of two parts about cava, the Spanish sparkling wine. The second part, short reviews of several cavas, posted Feb. 4.

Two things confuse wine drinkers about cava, the Spanish sparkling wine. First, they assume that because it has bubbles that it’s like French champagne or California bubbly. Which it’s not. Second, because it’s so cheap — almost all of the world’s cava costs less than $15 — they figure that it’s one of those cheap wines that they shouldn’t be seen drinking in public.

Neither could be further from the truth. The Wine Curmudgeon is a long-time cava supporter; after all, it’s cheap and offers value, and that’s my reason for being. Yet even I discovered there is more to cava than meets the price tag during my trip to Spain last week. It is, as the inestimable Janet Kafka noted, “a wine that needs someone behind the label to explain it.”

What those things are, after the jump:

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Wine terms: Food friendly

The words "food friendly" crop up on the blog all the time (as well as in many other examples of wine writing. What's most interesting about the term is that it's not really official winespeak — doesn't show up on a lot of wine tasting terminology lists, for example. But it's still an important way to describe wine.

That's because it's not a winespeak term. You won't see it, for example, on many reviews that include scores, which prefer to stick to their tried and true adjectives like cigar box and leathery. For them, food friendly isn't an accurate description of what the wine tastes like. It's an assessment of the quality of the wine, and they have scores for that.

Which is just fine with me. Food friendly wines complement what you're eating, and that is an important assessment to make. If the wine is going to overpower the food — think of an inky, 16 1/2 percent alcohol shiraz — you need to know it before you serve it with a piece of beef that cost an entire week's salary. In this, a food friendly wine is not the star of the meal, but the part that helps to bring out the flavor of the food.

Know, too, that a food friendly wine is versatile, and will pair with a variety of dishes. Think of pinot noir, which goes with salmon, lamb and chicken. The same holds true for red wines from France's Cote du Rhone, which is almost as versatile as pinot noir, or many sauvignon blancs.

So, yes, food friendly wines tend to have softer tannins and more fruit — but that doesn't mean that food friendly wines are always lighter. It's more about balance. Cabernet sauvignon, which is usually tannic and acidic, can be food friendly if those characteristics are in balance with the fruit. Chardonnay can be incredibly food friendly, but not if it's over-oaked or too high in alcohol. High alcohol, in fact, makes a wine food unfriendly, because a high alcohol wine needs food to soften its characteristics.

WC video 3: How to drink a glass of wine

What, you say, you already know how to do that? Don’t be so sure. And, for good measure, the Wine Curmudgeon throws in advice on holding the glass, smelling the wine, and even spitting it — just like the pros do. And check out those rockin’ hand gestures (plus, of course, my hat).