Category:Wine Curmudgeon

30 days in: Your favorite WC posts during the duration

favorite

“Where’s that toilet paper thing that cranky guy wrote?

You’re looking for wine advice, Mafia news, and Barefoot wine (of course)

Blog traffic has rebounded since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., for which I am grateful. Maybe it means we’re trying to keep our lives on a more even keel, with more emphasis on beating this thing and less emphasis on hording toilet paper.

Regardless, the blog is here for the duration. As my pal Bart Hubbuch, who lives in New York City, told me: “This thing is as real as a heart attack, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” So let’s stay home, wash our hands, and keep out of sneezing range when we go to the supermarket. Because driving around out of boredom doesn’t do anyone any good. The last thing we need is more people on ventilators when there aren’t enough to go around.

Your favorite posts during the duration:

Ask the WC 1: This seven-year-old post is the first in the Ask the WC series, and it never attracted much interest. About 10 days ago, though, people started reading it. It looks like it may be being passed around on Facebook, but I still can’t tell what makes it so unique all of a sudden.

• Barefoot wine, twice: Because Google, and discussing it further will just irritate me.

The Mafia winery story: This post has been up for four days, and has rocketed to the top. Hopefully, I can update it.

Residual sugar in wine: Always a visitor favorite.

Boone’s Farm TV ad: Again, this post didn’t do all that well when it first appeared about a year ago, but you love it now. And why not? It’s funny, and don’t we need funny now?

Do wine critics matter? Another surprise. Maybe there are a lot bored wine critics trolling the Internet.

Wine blogging in the time of coronavirus: If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.

• The toilet paper post. Thank you.

What’s missing? 10 things to do during the pandemic. Bake some bread, dammit.

Hoarding toilet paper and what it says about us in the time of the coronavirus

toilet paper

This is where the toilet paper wasn’t on my trip to a Dallas Kroger on Thursday morning.

Is hoarding toilet paper really the best way to fight the disease?

How screwed up is this country at this place and time, even though the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is barely here? So screwed up that the best advice I’ve heard came from a couple of sports radio hosts, who are hardly the source one would expect. They told their Dallas audience on Thursday morning to ignore everything they hear and read about the illness unless it comes from an expert – and no, Twitter trolls do not count as experts.

Yes, this has nothing to do with wine. But I just got back from my local Kroger, and the picture with this post is where the toilet paper should be. How did we get to the point where our reaction to a global crisis is to horde toilet paper? When that happens, someone needs to say something, and I’ve never shirked that responsibility.

This is the United States, and we’re supposed to be the best and the brightest and to set an example for the rest of the world. That was the point of our experiment in self-government 244 years ago; as Benjamin Franklin put it: “Our cause is the cause of all mankind….

Instead, we’re hording toilet paper.

We should be leading the fight against the Coronavirus (COVID-19), not banning travel from Europe. Talk about locking the barn door. The virus is here – banning travel isn’t going to make it go away or slow its spread. That’s what makes a pandemic a pandemic. Instead, we should be spending the time and energy and money we’re wasting on the travel ban for testing kits and medical supplies, and for research to understand what this thing is, and how it spreads, and how to contain it.

But we’re hording toilet paper.

Says one leading scientist: It’s “clear from genomic evidence that community spread is occurring in Washington state and beyond. That kind of distortion and denial is dangerous and almost certainly contributed to the federal government’s sluggish response. … Transmission rates and death rates are not measurements that can be changed with will and an extroverted presentation.”

Hopefully, we figure this thing out sooner rather than later. Until then, people will die. But not to worry, right? We’ll have enough toilet paper.

Six days without wine

winespeakHow does a wine writer get by if he goes six days without wine?

How is this for irony? A day or so after last week’s wine blogging and coronavirus post, I got sick, and that meant no wine for six days.

The illness was nothing serious, just a variation on a theme that I’ve been enduring since grade school. It’s not really strep throat and it’s not exactly the flu; more of a cold and sore throat that last a week to 10 days and where the only thing one can do is wait it out.

So, of course, that meant no wine for the worst six days, which is hardly ideal for someone who makes their living drinking wine. Still, given how crappy I felt, I didn’t notice the absence. That’s more or less what happens every time I get this. In fact, one of the ways I know I feel better is that I want a glass of wine instead of the salt water I have been gargling every two hours.

My illness-induced abstinence made me ponder (though, to be honest, I didn’t do much pondering at the time given how crappy I felt):

• I didn’t want wine because I was sick. So how does that work during Dry January? I understand the motivation for people who are alcoholics, but if you’re not an addict, where does the impetus come from? The link above describes it as “reassessing your relationship with alcohol.” That phrase raises a variety of psychological and metaphysical questions that rarely come up when Dry January is discussed, as well as the U.S.’ seemingly ever-lasting temperance legacy.

• The only good thing about being too sick to drink wine is that one doesn’t have to worry about which wine to drink with dinner. When your meals are turkey vegetable soup for four days in a row, pairing doesn’t matter much.

• Second irony? The last glass of wine I had before I got sick was an oxidized, not-very-Beaujolais-like Beaujolais at one of Dallas’ more trendy French-style bistros. Talk about leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

Finally, I felt too crappy to care enough to to look at the blog numbers. Which is just as well, since they no longer resemble one of the best read wine blogs in the cyber-ether, but sit about where they were a decade ago. The drop in visitors I noted in the coronavirus post has accelerated, and if I was the kind of person who worried about metrics, I would be worrying.

Follow-up: The fifth $3 wine challenge

$3 wine

Consumers have gone through a lot — and I mean a lot — of empty $3 wine bottles since Two-buck Chuck debuted 18 years ago.

Does the continuing popularity of $3 wine, which isn’t all that tasty, tell us more about the wine business than the wine business wants to know?

Five times I’ve tasted $3 wine to see if wine drinkers can survive on ultra-cheap wine. Five times, the answer has been no – and the wines have tasted worse each time I have done it. So why do these wines still exist?

Welcome to the deep, dark dirty secret of the wine business — and which is rearing its ugly head this year: We buy wine on price, and if the price is low enough, nothing else much matters. Despite all of the hoopla about premiumization and trading up, $3 wine exists because people buy it. And we buy lots and lots of it.

Trader Joe’s has sold more than 83 million cases of Two-buck Chuck since the wine debuted in 2002, about 4.6 million cases a year. That would make the Charles Shaw brand the 10th biggest winery in the country by volume in 2020 if it actually existed. And, surprisingly, that total is closer to No. 9 Jackson Family and its ubiquitous Kendall Jackson chardonnay, than almost anyone could imagine.

It’s also worth noting the success of E&J Gallo’s $7 Barefoot, which is estimated to sell $1 billion worth of wine this year, about 18 million cases, That would make it the fifth biggest brand in the country if Gallo didn’t own it. And, when we parse the data, isn’t the popularity of White Claw and the rest of the hard seltzers about price? Why would someone buy flavored spritzy water with a bit of booze if it wasn’t cheap? Like Two-buck Chuck, they’re certainly not buying it for the sensual experience.

The other thing that fascinates me about $3 wine? That its adherents take it as a personal affront when I criticize it. How can you be such a snob? they ask (and not always that politely). We’ll ignore for a moment that I may be the least snobbish person in the wine business. What matters is that they need affirmation that buying on price is OK, because that’s the exact opposite of the way the wine business works.

And in this, they miss the point of my criticism. The first rule – and really the only rule – for wine is to drink what you want, but be willing to try different things. They can drink as much crappy, thin, and watery wine as they want. What does it matter what I think, as long as they enjoy it? So should the question they ask not be what I think, but if they really enjoy it?

The fifth, almost annual, $3 wine challenge

$3 wine challenge

Who knows? Maybe one of these $3 wines will be a best buy.

The almost annual $3 wine challenge: The Wine Curmudgeon will drink $3 chardonnay with dinner every night this week, because that’s what Google says the Internet wants

The Wine Curmudgeon hates writing this post, but not because the wine is usually so terrible. It’s because, no matter how terrible the wine is, people still buy it and “enjoy” it because it costs $3. How many times do I have to write that cheap wine isn’t good just because it’s cheap?

Nevertheless, since this remains one of the most popular features on the blog and I regularly get emails asking me to do it again, here we go for the fifth time: Can a wine drinker live on really cheap wine? Or are the ultra-cheap wines just cheap, without any other reason for being? The details about the first four $3 challenges are here, here, here, and here.

This year, I will taste five chardonnays (all purchased in Dallas). In addition, the results will run in the weekly Dallas Observer; food editor Taylor Adams asked me to write a fun and creative wine story. I’ll post the link to that story here on March 6,  and include the highlights from the tastings. So, once more unto the breach, dear friends:

Two-buck Chuck chardonnay ($2.99, 12.5%). The Trader Joe’s private label was the first — and remains — the most famous of the very cheap wines. It’s a California appellation from the 2019 vintage, and made for Trader Joe’s by Bronco Wine.

Three Wishes chardonnay ($2.99, 12.5%), the Whole Foods private label. It carries an American appellation, which means it’s non-vintage and at least three-quarters of the grapes used to make it were grown anywhere in the U.S. (though most probably came from the Central Valley in California). It’s made by multi-national The Wine Group, which is best known for Cupcake and the big Franzia boxes.

Winking Owl chardonnay ($2.95, 12%) from Aldi (but may be available elsewhere). It’s a California appellation but non-vintage, so 75 percent of the grapes came from California but from different harvests. It’s made by E&J Gallo, the largest wine producer in the world. The price is price is seven more than the last time I did this.

Oak Leaf chardonnay ($2.50, 12.5%), the Walmart private label. Also made by The Wine Group, American, and non-vintage. The price almost 50 cents less than the last time I did this.

Bay Bridge chardonnay ($2.99, 12.5%), the Kroger private label; sold at Kroger, Fred Meyer, and Kroger-owned banners. It’s American and non-vintage, and the third of these wines made by The Wine Group.

Photo: “$2.99” by *lapin is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 

A blog holiday update, plus the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame schedule

The Christmas and New Year’s wine of the weeks will post on the Monday before the holiday

• The Christmas and New Year’s wines of the week will post on the Monday before each holiday, since the blog will be off on both Wednesdays. Plus, our New Year’s wine suggestions will appear on Dec. 26.

• The always popular Do it Yourself wine resolutions is set for Jan. 2.

• The 2020 $10 Hall of Fame will make its 13th appearance on Jan. 10, with the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year on Jan. 9. You can check out eligibility rules here; remember, no private label wine or wine only available at one retailer. As always, you can email me with suggestions.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite posts of 2019

favorite posts of 2019

Don’t work so hard. No one is reading these posts, anyway.

These six posts weren’t necessarily the best read, but they were among my favorite posts of 2019

Welcome to the Wine Curmudgeon’s fifth annual year-end top 10 list — not the most-read posts on the blog, which anyone can do. These are among the best posts I wrote in 2019 and that didn’t get enough attention the first time around.

Again, these aren’t the best-read posts; Google takes care of that. Barefoot wine, anyone? These are the posts that I enjoyed writing, thought were important to write, or both.

Here, in no particular order, are my favorite posts of 2018:

• I wrote two wine video parodies this year, and neither did as well as they should have. I know why: Wine is not supposed to be funny; it’s supposed to be $40 worth of serious. Besides, how is Google going to send someone to a post about Bogey, Casablanca, and saving cheap wine? But how can anyone pass up the “Shaft” parody?

• The WC gets all hip and with it, writing a distracted boyfriend meme post. Who else can combine Gen X and Millennial humor with a wine rant?

Premiumization, overpriced wine, and consolidation are nothing new for wine. In 1947, one wine critic lamented the lack of quality cheap wine; another wrote in the early 1970s that California was focused too much on expensive wine and not enough on wine people could afford to drink.

Sweet Chianti, anyone? Because smooth. Because soft. And because women don’t want to drink dry red wine. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

• A study revealed that most wine producers may care more about status and image than quality. Maybe this news was so obvious in the second decade of the 21st century that no one needed to read about that kind of study.

More on the WC’s favorite posts:
Favorite posts of 2018
Favorite posts of 2017
Favorite posts of 2016