Category:Wine news

Holiday wine books

image This season ?s wine book offerings seem slimmer than past years, and especially for pretty, coffee table books. This is not necessarily a problem, since pretty, coffee table books can cost as much as a case of well-made cheap wine.

But there are a variety of worthwhile books for sale this year. Among the most interesting:

? A wine bucket ?s worth of wine guides. This category, interestingly, has picked up over the last couple of years. My favorites are Tom Stevenson ?s Wine Report 2009 ($15) and Kevin Zraly ?s American Wine Guide 2009 ($13). Stevenson includes U.S. wine regions, which is one reason why it ?s so valuable. (Full disclosure: Several people who contributed to our project contributed to each book.)

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Tuesday tidbits 55: Prohibition, high-end wine demand, Vintners hall of fame

? The anniversary of repeal: Prohibition ended 75 years ago this week, a failed social experiment whose legacy is still with us. In Texas, for instance, I can ?t buy beer in the grocery store before noon on Sunday. This wire service story is a good overview of what happened and why. What is often overlooked is that Prohibition started with the best of intentions, a way to improve the life of the poor and working classes. It was not necessarily a ban imposed for moral or religious reasons, though that was part of it. And, ironically, much research seems to indicate that alcoholism actually increased between 1920 and 1933. Since alcohol was harder to find, people tended to drink more when they found it.

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Tuesday tidbits 54: Wine and health, boxed wine, Jackson Browne

? Wine and health: Three items to consider ? that a red wine pill may help cut obesity, that a glass of wine may contain dangerous levels of heavy metals, and that wine drinking may prevent dementia. The Wine Curmudgeon notes these not because he believes any of them, but because it ?s interesting that researchers are hopping on the wine bandwagon. I wonder: Is it easier to get grant money for a wine project than for something else?

? Down Under ?s wine in the box: Australia, which popularized the wine box, seems to be losing interest in the product. Its share of the Aussie wine market fell from 60 per cent to 40 per cent in the past decade, thanks to screw cap bottles, cheaper bottled wines, poor margins and heavier taxes. If boxed wine can ?t make in Australia, where it has been immensely popular for almost 40 years, how is it going to make it in the U.S.?

? Jackson Browne wine: The singer-songwriter, apparently, will not be running on empty. (We will now pause while the Wine Curmudgeon apologizes for that last sentence. Sorry.) Browne may turn his California ranch into a winery. The singer says he has the perfect soil and weather conditions to grow grapes.

Tuesday tidbits 53: Aussie wine cuts, wine writing, Cellar Tracker

? 20 percent overproduction: Australia ?s wineries must cut production by 20 percent or face serious consequences, say some of the country ?s top producers. The president of Constellation Wines Australia says one out of five vines needs to be pulled out of the ground. A recent study found that 90 per cent of Australian producers were losing money.

? Wine writing and wine flavors: Blogger J. Tobias Beard says most of us are completely over the top, what with terms like scorched earth, new saddle leather, and white pepper. As Beard notes: ?. ?white pepper? Isn ?t that an album by Ween The Wine Curmudgeon, of course, is in complete agreement: Write in English, please.

? CellarTracker hits 10 million bottles: CellarTracker, which the Wine Curmudgeon uses to keep tabs on his wine closet, catalogued its 10 millionth bottle of wine last month. The site is free, and allows me to make tasting notes, track purchases and consumption, and see what others say about wines I have tried. Developer Eric LeVine says it's the largest wine data base in the world.

Tuesday tidbits 52: Wine scores, Beaujolais nouveau, red wine popularity

? Wine score uproar:  Steve Heimoff, a major U.S. wine writer, has lashed out at those of us who don ?t like scores. ?Just once, I ?d like to meet someone who bashes wine magazines and doesn ?t seem to have an ulterior motive ? making money. Hasn ?t happened yet. ? Mr. Heimoff, give me a call. I ?ll be happy to introduce myself and explain why scores are the wrong way to review wine. And no, I don ?t make any money by saying that. In fact, it probably costs me money. But no one ever accused the Wine Curmudgeon of being a good businessman.

? Beaujolais nouveau: The 2008 edition will be released on Nov. 20 (that ?s a week from tomorrow), and I ?ll have a review here on Nov. 21 (no scores, of course). I don ?t have high hopes for this vintage, mostly because the past several have been quite ordinary. But, as I always tell my wine students, drink the wine before you criticize it. It generally works better that way.

? More red wine? We likely drank more red wine than white in 2008, the first time that has happened in 32 years, according to a study from Impact Databank, which tracks wine sales. Among the projected big sellers? Pinot noir, expected to advance 12 percent; chardonnay, which should remain the most popular white wine; pinot grigio, which should increase 7 percent; and sauvignon blanc and riesling, where imports will rise at double-digit rates. The study attributes this change to two things ? the decline in sweet pink wine sales and red wine ?s supposed health benefits.

Election 2008: The wine report

Yes, there is wine news related to Tuesday ?s election and Barack Obama. The biggest is that the new first family apparently drinks wine. A People magazine article disclosed that the Obamas had some Kendall-Jackson chardonnay in the house. No snide comments, please, given that the White House inhabitants over the past eight years didn ?t drink wine at all.

Among the other wine-related news worth noting (none of which has anything to do with the corny, wine-inspired PR that crossed my desk during the campaign):

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Tuesday tidbits 51: John Mariani, wine prices, drinking laws

? 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.