? Mariani sounds off: No, this was not written by the Wine Curmudgeon, but by John Mariani, one of the most sensible and well-respected wine critics in the world. ?This is a wine designed to win awards, the kind of cabernet that California cult wine faddists say will ?blow your doors off.' It tastes more of the lab than of the individual vineyard. ? I left half the bottle undrunk while having a simple dinner of grilled pork chops and white beans. ? The review takes an Argentine wine, Andeluna Grand Reserve Pasionado, to task for being everything that ?s wrong with modern wine: ?It is too big, too rich and too alcoholic. ? There is a lot wrong with a world of wine where attempts are made to have every varietal taste more or less the same and where hugeness and over-ripeness are seen as a virtue as much as they are a marketing strategy. ? Well spoken, Mr. Mariani.
? Whither wine prices? I was lucky enough to taste a 1997 Ch teau Cos d'Estournel the other night, and it was an impressive wine: Dark, interesting, even still a bit rough. It ?s also about $100; the current vintage will run about twice that. That ?s a lot of money for a second growth, by the way. Will those prices hold up over the next 18 months, as the economy does what it looks like it ?s going to do? I ?m going to write more about this later this month, but some people aren ?t convinced we ?ll see a slump. This includes a fellow who has started a fund that will invest in wine. HIs theory: A ?wine-price-ratio, ? which suggests that certain fine wines increase in value over a four-year to eight-year period.
? French drinking laws: The French government, in an effort to crack down on teen-aged drinking, has proposed raising the legal age for buying alcohol to 18 from 16. It also wants to ban sales of alcohol at highway filling stations and to ban all-you-can-drink "open bar" evenings at French high schools. Needless to say, this has caused an outcry among the French: ?We are going to keep on explaining that our aim is not to sell wine to people in order for them to get drunk as fast as possible," said one wine industry official.