Category:Wine Curmudgeon

The cyber-ether loves the Wine Curmudgeon blog

wine curmudgeon blogTwo rankings put the Wine Curmudgeon blog among the top 100 wine sites on the Internet

Good news for those of us who love cheap wine. Two website rankings put the Wine Curmudgeon blog among the top 100 wine sites on the Internet for 2018.

Amsterdam Diary (and no, I don’t know why it ranks wine blogs) says the site is among the top 90 on the Internet, while Feedspot puts the blog among the top 100 sites.

This is a big deal, and not just because I like to boast about the Wine Curmudgeon blog. First, that I made these lists speaks to the need for credible, well-written information about the wine most of us drink. Which, of course, many in the wine business prefers we don’t know, since they want to sell us crummy, overpriced wine.

Second, I made the same lists as sites with more money, employees, and ad revenue, including the Wine Spectator, VinePair and Wine Folly. Here, of course, I do everything myself. That says a lot about how much you appreciate what I do — and is one of the reasons I keep writing the blog.

Labor Day weekend cheap wine book extravaganza: Free shipping

cheap wine bookBuy one cheap wine book or 10 – you’ll get free shipping

Click on the link and buy a cheap wine book between now and midnight, Sept. 3 and get free shipping. What better way to celebrate the holiday than to buy three or four books? Or even more. Dec. 25 will be here before you know it.

Check out normally, and I’ll credit the free shipping when your order is processed. Also note that we’ve streamlined the WC web shop, making it easier to use. And, as always, I sign every book bought from the WC web shop.

It’s red wine, isn’t it? So enough with the sugar already

sweet red wineSweet red wine: It’s time for the wine business to admit it’s sugaring up our red wine and passing it off as dry.

The Wine Curmudgeon has been writing a wine of the week on Wednesday, alternating red and white, for as long as I have been doing the blog. But we almost didn’t have a wine of the week two days ago. Call it my aversion to phony sweet red wine.

I tasted almost a dozen reds from California, Oregon, Washington, Spain, and France to find something to write about. No luck: Most of them weren’t very good and some of them were hideous, a recent trend. What was worse is that more than half of them were sweet. Yes, sweet red wine – as in enough residual sugar so that my mouth had that cotton candy feeling after I finished tasting.

It’s one thing to taste so much bad wine; that’s the burden I accepted when I took on cheap wine. But that the wines are sweet, in addition to poorly made, is a new horror, and one that I refuse to accept.

Red wine, unless it’s labeled as such, is not supposed to be sweet. If it is, it’s Kosher. Or Lambrusco. And that’s fine. I have nothing against sweet red wine, and have enjoyed all sorts over my wine drinking career. But that the wine business – and Big Wine is not the only culprit here – has decided to “smooth” dry red wine by extreme winemaking or sweetening (sugar or white grape juice or whatever, depending on the law in the country where the wine is made) is a travesty. And I refuse to accept it.

Why is this happening? It’s a combination of things, based on the idea that labeling red wine as sweet is death in the marketplace. Didn’t the wine business spend 30 years telling us that the only people who drank sweet wine were crazy old ladies with cats? So we get “red blends” that are hugely sweet but are sold as dry to appeal to the rest of us. And that are flooding store shelves.

Consider:

• The idea that there is an “American palate,” in which we won’t drink something unless it has enough sugar to make us cry rock candy tears. This makes me crazy, since most wine in the U.S. is dry and has been for decades. And everyone made a lot of money over the past 30 years selling dry wine.

• Copy cat marketing. E&J Gallo’s Apothic, the first legitimate sweet red blend, is a huge seller. So everyone else has to have their version of Apothic.

• The cynicism that has become part of doing business in the 21st century. We’re not wine drinkers to them; we’re vast hordes of focus groups to be manipulated in search of profit. This story bears repeating: A former Proctor & Gamble executive once told me he could get a focus group to do anything he wanted – which, he said, was the point of focus groups.

So be warned, wine business. I won’t mention any names now. I’ll give you one more chance. But know that from now on: If the wine is sweet, and you don’t label it sweet, I’m calling you out. I’ll have a permanent post here, listing the wines. And yes, I’m just one cranky wine writer. But we have to start somewhere.

Disconnected from reality: How the wine world thrives on hyperbole, assumption, and exaggeration

Napa Valley wine

If it’s expensive, then it must make me a better person.

Most of us will never drink pricey Napa Valley wine, but that doesn’t stop us from assuming that expensive wine is the only kind that matters

Two recent postings in the cyber-ether show how disconnected the wine world is from reality: First, a comment on the blog last week asking how California could have a record grape harvest this year given the Napa Valley wine fires in 2017. Second, an article on Wine-Searcher.com declaring: “The simple truth is that if you don’t have Napa on your label people just aren’t that into you, and winemakers would be forgiven for throwing their hand in and becoming whiskey makers instead.”

The fact everyone is overlooking here? Napa Valley wine accounts for less than five percent of California’s production.

This is not to denigrate Napa’s product, which is some of the best in the world. Rather, it’s to note how hyperbole, assumption, and exaggeration continue to power the U.S. wine business. Most wine drinkers in this country will probably never taste a Napa Valley wine. First, Napa prices are two and three times the national average, so cost eliminates all but the most devoted. Second, the majority of the grocery store Great Wall of Wine, where as much as three-quarters of wine is sold in some states, is not from Napa. So we couldn’t buy it even if we wanted to.

But there are wine drinkers, and then there are wine drinkers.

That’s because, as the two Napa items demonstrate, only expensive wine matters. This has always been a problem, and explains how I got started doing this. But it has become more prevalent given premiumization. I did a tasting several years ago where a 40-something man refused to drink anything that didn’t cost at least $20 because he knew it was awful. And how did he know that? Because the Winestream Media told him anything cheaper than $20 was awful, saving him the trouble of tasting it himself.

Second is the idea that people who drink expensive wine are somehow better than the rest of us. You can see this in the comments on the blog’s Barefoot posts. This attitude baffles me. I vote, I pay my taxes, I’m nice to my dog. Why does my choice of wine speak to my quality as a human being? What difference can it possibly make to someone else that I don’t drink the same wine they drink?

Those are also two reasons why cheap wine quality has fallen so far since the end of the recession. What’s the point of making decent wine for someone who doesn’t deserve it? After all, as the Wine-Searcher article said, none of the wines we drink matter. Hence, the increasing difficulty in finding quality and value for less than $15.

July Fourth blog schedule changes 2018

The blog is off for the July Fourth holiday next Wednesday, and there are couple of other changes in our schedule next week:

• The wine of the week, which usually runs on Wednesday, will run on Monday. That way, you can buy it to enjoy on the Fourth.

• Our regular features return on Thursday, including Friday’s post discussing the continuing divide between what we buy and what the Winestream Media tells us we should drink.

Someone likes one of those Yellow Tail TV ads — really

Is it possible that this Yellow Tail TV ad isn’t awful?

Yellow Tail, the Australian grocery store wine, has come in for a fair share of criticism on the blog for its TV commercials. Which, to put it nicely, are everything that has been wrong with TV wine commercials for 60 years – pretentious and snotty, as well as emphasizing that we need Yellow Tail to hook up with a hot chick.

Because, of course, that’s what we associate with $7 supermarket wine.

The intriguing thing about this Yellow Tail ad from 2012 is not that it is different. It isn’t. It’s more of the same, and told in the same annoying, “I drink Yellow Tail, so I’m cooler than you are” way. What’s intriguing is that someone likes it – several someones, if the comments on the ad’s You Tube page are to be believed.

“Very cool commercial nice use of motion graphics,” says one comment. “Great commercial….I always have to stop what I’m doing to watch……Great music too!” says another.

Far be it from me to suggest that all this praise isn’t legitimate, though it’s worth noting that all 10 comments are uniformly gushing (and that fake praise is currently bedeviling the Internet). Then again, maybe I’m missing something, and the ad is truly genius. If so, does that mean I have to like the infamous Yellow Tail “pet my roo” ad?

“So simple, so cheap:” Home-made apple wine

Home-made apple wine: “A perfectly passable table wine.”

There are any number of reasons to love this video from BrewTube — the narrator’s English accent, the addition of oak chips to the fermenting apple juice, and his conclusion: “A perfectly passable table wine.” The bravest among you might want to try this and let me know about the passable part.

I post this for a couple of reasons. First, my El Centro class ended this week, and one of the highlights this year — as it is every year — is the anecdote about making wine from orange juice. I always start the first lecture with the orange juice story: If you want to make wine, take a bottle of orange juice, put it in the back of the refrigerator, and you’ll get wine in a couple of weeks.

The wine may not be very good, but it is wine since the sugar has been converted to alcohol. More importantly, it demonstrates that winemaking is more than just the technical stuff. Not a lot of terroir in fermented orange juice. There’s also the bit about the student who had been in prison, and had done this in his cell, but that’s a story for another day.

Second, because I once tried making wine at home, using grape juice and the method in this video. The less said, the better, other than to note I had to dump 64 ounces of moldy grape juice down the sink.