Category:Wine trends

Another foray against wine scores

image Regular visitors to this space know that the  Wine Curmudgeon feels that wine scores are as much a danger to the Republic as the designated hitter. Each is flashy and showy, and in the end does nothing to make wine or baseball any better.

So when the always knowledgeable W.R. Tish can add his perspective and enthusiasm to the project, I’m happy to share his views. Plus, he is a pretty funny guy, one of the few standup comics/wine writers in the business.

“Ah, where would we be without wine ratings?,” Tish writes. “Probably sitting around a table on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean with a carafe of ros and the catch of the day ?and not a care in the world as to the wine ?s rating.”

Tish’s effort is here. In this case, the higher the score, the worse the offender. Enjoy, and keep in mind that the only score that matters is whether you like the wine or not.

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Tuesday tidbits 17

? Wine shoppers overwhelmed: This is not really news to anyone who has actually gone wine shopping (as opposed to buying by scores and snobbery), given the 400 or so brands introduced each year. But it is interesting that one of the largest wine companies in the world has noticed. Constellation Wines, the U.S. arm of massive Constellation Brands, says almost one-quarter of wine shoppers are overwhelmed by sheer volume of choices on store shelves and like to drink wine, but don’t know what kind to buy and may select by label. Which explains why so many of those brands have cute animal labels.

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My dinner with Randall, part II

This is the second of a three-part series detailing my recent conversation with Bonny Doon winemaker Randall Grahm. The final part will run next Monday. To see the first part, go here.

When Randall Graham sold his Big House and Cardinal Zin brands in 2006, I did two things. I sent an email to various friends and acquaintances who like wine, wailing and moaning that Big House, my favorite $10 wine, would never be the same. I also called around to find out how much he he was paid by a company called The Wine Group.

When I brought this up, Grahm cut me off: “Don’t believe everything you read — or that you wrote — about how much money I got.” The figure reported then was $50 million, so we’ll take his word that it was less than that.

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Wine and memory

image No, this is not going to be a Joycean literary exposition. Rather, it’s the answer to a question that I get a lot — how do you know so much about what wine tastes like?

The Wine Curmudgeon would like to say it is because I am special, a genius, or even an idiot savant. In fact, it is because I taste a lot of wine — maybe more than 1,000 bottles a year (though not necessarily the entire bottle every time).

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Tuesday tidbits 16

? Wine as an investment: What’s the point of drinking wine when you can invest in it? None, actually, but that hasn’t stopped people with entirely too much money from treating wine as if it was real estate. In 2007, reports Reuters, the main British stock index rose by less than four percent. The main index on Liv-ex, where fine wine is traded, ended the year up 40 percent. At the risk of sounding much too curmudgeonly, let me say two two things: First, wine is not an asset like a house or shopping center, but an intangible with no intrinsic value. It is made to be drunk, not traded like soybeans. Second, those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it — see the 17th century Dutch tulip bubble.

? More wine company buyouts: The Wine Group, which already owns Big House, Glen Ellen, and Mogen David (among many others), has bought the Almaden and Inglenook brands from Constellation Brands. The transaction makes the Wine Group California’s second- and the world’s third-largest wine producer by volume. Almaden and Inglenook, though not much more than jug wine brands now, were once some of the most prestigious labels in the country. Their purchase solidifies the Wine Group’s hold on its share of the largest portion of the U.S. market — wines that cost from $3 to $9 a bottle.

? More from Champagne? The French are expanding the area in the Champagne wine region, so that more sparkling wine can be labeled champagne. The government will redraw the 1927 boundaries for the region (what the French call an AOC or appellation d’origine contr l e) to include up to 40 villages. The motive? Increased international demand for bubbly, which can only be called champagne if it’s from the champagne region of France. Quality shouldn’t suffer, though, since many of the villages that will be added didn’t want to be included when the boundaries were drawn 80 years ago.

My dinner with Randall, part I

My dinner with Randall, part I This is the first of a three-part series detailing my conversation with Bonny Doon winemaker Randall Grahm. To see part II, go here. To see part III, go here.

Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm is one of the legends of the California wine business, a winemaker who was among the pioneers in putting screw tops on quality wine, giving wine clever names, and inventing the modern, no-holds-barred wine label.

But Grahm also makes damn fine wine, whether it costs $10 or five times that . And yes, even the man who gave the world the legendary $10 Big House makes pricey wines. He does it with a style and flair that endears him to those of us who think wine is about more than how expensive it is. This is a man, after all, who once gave a speech called “The Phenomenology of Terroir” for a philosophy symposium at the University of California at Berkeley.

Grahm’s windmills, for there is a bit of Don Quixote in him, are the people who pay too much attention to scores, who worry if what they’re drinking is hip enough for them to drink, and who insist that all wine be over-oaked, over-tannic and over-alcoholic because they read somewhere that it’s supposed to be.

Which makes Grahm the Wine Curmudgeon’s kind of guy — especially after one of the first questions he asked me was whether I realized that wine writers were to blame for much of the woe in the wine world.

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Tasting five really expensive wines

image And each was impressive — not just to me, but to the other 56 people in the room. But impressive is only part of the story.

The tasting was a promotion for Terlato Family Vineyards, which produces a red Napa blend called Angel’s Peak. We tasted the 2004 vintages of Angel’s Peak and five of Napa’s biggest names: Silver Oak, Insignia, Opus One, Episode (another Terlato product), and Dominus. The idea? Taste each wine blind, so we weren’t swayed by price or reputation — and then see which wine that a knowledgeable group of drinkers enjoyed the most.

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