The sixth do-it-yourself wine review

do-it-yourself wine review

I’m really going to have to practice if I ever hope to write as well as this.

The blog’s sixth annual do-it-yourself wine review — what better way to enjoy the duration than to poke fun at wine?

Technology keeps threatening to make wine reviews obsolete, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still revel in the snobbish gibberish that has made them infamous. Hence, the blog’s sixth annual do-it-yourself wine review.

So write your own wine review, using the drop-down menus in this post. Just click the menu and choose your favorite line. Those of you who get the blog via email may have to go to the website — click here to do so.

As always, thanks to Al Yellon, since I stole the idea from him. This year, the format is a little different — reviews of four wines. A special tip of the WC’s fedora to those who contributed classic lines.

This French red blend:

This California cabernet sauvignon:

This Italian Prosecco:

This $50 rose:

More do-it-yourself wine reviews:
The fifth do-it-yourself wine review
The fourth do-it-yourself wine review
The third do-it-yourself wine review

Radio wine ad: Stiller & Meara for Blue Nun

Stiller & Meara’s radio wine ad helped sell millions of cases of Blue Nun

In one respect, this 1970s Stiller & Meara radio wine ad for Blue Nun is nothing more than Ed Sullivan show-style stand-up comic corniness, complete with bad puns and worse one-liners. “How did I know you’re a stranger?” asks Anne Meara. Answers Jerry Stiller, not missing a beat despite the fact that the joke is probably as old as jokes get: “That’s right, Elliot Stranger.”

So why does the ad work?

Because it doesn’t make wine something that it’s not, like almost every wine ad we’ve looked at on the blog. It’s not snotty and it’s not about beautiful people being beautiful, the two most common faults of wine advertising. Rather, it focuses on two seemingly ordinary people, one of whom wants to buy wine for a dinner party. So why not buy Blue Nun, “the delicious white wine that’s correct with any dish”?

In the end, isn’t that what we’re all looking for, whether wine-guzzling Baby Boomer or hard seltzer drinking Millennial? Doesn’t everyone want something enjoyable to drink with dinner without any fuss and bother? Instead, we get snobby art openings and double entendre kangaroos.

The ads were a smash hit, costing just $70,000 (not even a lot of money in those long ago days), and helped Blue Nun sell 2 million cases a year in the U.S. by the mid-1980s. They also gave Stiller, who died this week at 92, something to do between the end of the duo’s performing days and his cranky TV supporting parts on “Seinfeld” and “King of Queens.” Meara, his wife of 61 years, died in 2015 at the age of 85.

Ironically, despite the success of the radio ads, much of the rest of Blue Nun’s advertising is just as ordinary as the rest of wine’s efforts. Which isn’t all that surprising, is it?

Ad courtesy of musicalcliff via YouTube, using a Creative Commons license

Wine of the week: Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin 2018

villa maria pinot noirThe Villa Maria pinot noir is simple but structured — a fine value for pinot noir

There’s no reason why the Villa Maria pinot noir should be such a value and taste so much like pinot noir. It’s almost a Big Wine product, for one thing, and it’s almost impossible to find quality pinot noir at this price.

Nevertheless, that’s the case – a welcome relief in these days of sweet, focus grouped pinot. In fact, you can’t ask more from the Villa Maria ($14, purchased, 13%) at this price. It isn’t complex, but it is structured, with an almost Burgundian forest floor aroma, some herbs and tannins, and lots of bright berry fruit in the New Zealand pinot style. It’s especially impressive for an entry level product.

So how does this happen? For one thing, Villa Maria is still owned by the Fistonich family; its Big Wine deal is an import agreement with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and the latter is lot more hands off when it comes to telling its “partners” what to do. Second, I was lucky enough to meet Villa Maria founder Sir George Fistonich early in the blog’s history. He impressed me as someone who cared about the wine his company made in a way that too many others don’t.

Serve the Villa Maria pinot noir with the usual suspects, like lamb and salmon, but don’t be afraid to experiment with it. It would make terrific coq a vin, both as the wine for the chicken and to drink with the dinner. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Winebits 645: California grape glut, grape DNA, Pennsylvania liquor board

grape glutThis week’s wine news: The California grape glut, especially for high end cabernet sauvignon, continues worse. Plus, the Aussies misidentify a grape, and more fun from the Pennsylvania liquor control board

California grape glut: How much excess is there in the California grape supply chain? There “is still more bulk wine available than there are buyers for it, and that makes bottle price increases difficult to foresee, even as wine consumption has risen sharply. It also means you might get better wine for the same money,” reports after a wine business symposium last week. In addition, there is apparently more bulk cabernet for sale today than at any time in the state’s history. The kicker? Much of the excess is in high-end caberent sauvignon, so we’re “going to see some grapes meant for the higher-end market coming into the middle range,” says Mark Couchman, managing partner of Vintage Supply Partners – and that’s good news for wine drinkers.

Whoops: Identifying grape varieties without benefit of DNA testing is difficult; for decades, Chilean producers thought the carmenere grape was merlot. A mixup has happened again, this time in Australia, where wines labeled with the petit manseng grape were actually made with the gros manseng grape. The mix-up has been going on for almost 40 years, when the misidentified grapes were purchased from France. The seller, too, didn’t know what variety the grapes actually were.

Only in Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, much beloved by the blog’s readers, has decided that closing all of the state’s liquor stores in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic may not have been such a good idea after all. It has reopened about 15 percent of the some 600 stores in the state-run system. But those lucky enough to have a newly re-opened store near them will have to drink what they buy. No returns are allowed.

Winecast 45: DCanter’s Michael Warner and wine retail trends during the duration

Michael Warner

Michael Warner of DCanter

Our wine purchases during the duration? Cheap and cheerful, says this Washington, D.C. retailer

Michael Warner, the co-founder of DCanter, a neighborhood wine shop in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, has seen all the reports about wine buying during the duration: More expensive wine to treat ourselves, lots of this and some of that, and even boxed wine. But he thinks he has seen something significant at this shop, which has more affluent demographics than most.

“Cheap and cheerful,” says Warner, whose store is seven years old. “People are buying less expensive wine. They’re not entertaining, which is when they would buy more expensive wine.”

In this, he says, his customers are buying more vinho verde, the cheap Portuguese fizzy wine, as well as half bottles. That’s because those who live alone want wine for dinner, but don’t want to waste it, and that’s what half bottles are for.

We also talked about:

• That wine delivery and Internet sales have become as important as the studies suggest. Dcanter sold more wine on-line in the first two days of D.C.’s stay at home order than it did in the previous three years.

• The need to update delivery and on-line ordering regulations to reflect the 21st century. DCanter’s customers who live in Maryland,  just a couple of miles away, can’t get delivery. But those in Virginia, also a couple of miles away, can. How much sense does that make?

• The obstructions in the wine supply chain thanks to the pandemic, and that it is becoming more difficult to find imported wine.

• Wine retail websites, and how too many of them look and work like they were put up during GeoCities’ heyday.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 11 minutes long and takes up 4 1/2 megabytes and was recorded on Skype, the blog’s unofficial podcast software.

60 days in: Your favorite WC posts during the duration


No doubt more of us would wear masks if we all looked this stylish.

You’re looking for wine advice, crappy wine TV ads, and Barefoot wine (still)

Blog traffic has evened out since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., and we’re back to more or less normal daily numbers. The intriguing thing? Traffic was approaching holiday season levels for the first couple of weeks of April. I’m guessing people wanted to find quality cheap wine to stock up on, and what better place to find those wines than here?

Cue GIF of WC patting himself on the back.

The good news is that the pandemic outlook seems to be better. But that doesn’t mean we should be any less careful.  So stay home unless you need to go out (and no, the mall food court isn’t a necessity), wash your hands, and keep out of sneezing range when you go to the supermarket.

Your favorite posts during past 60 days:

Ask the WC 1: I figured out why this seven-year-old post has been so popular — cava recommendations. You wanted to stock up on good, cheap bubbly, and why not?

• The Kim Crawford TV ad: I’m not the only who dislikes it, and that dislike has been shared by increasing numbers of visitors.

Residual sugar in wine: Note to wine business: Wine drinkers want to know how sweet you’re making their wine. So why not be honest with us?

Changes in the three-tier system after the pandemic: How do I know this post has made an impact? Because I lost a dozen or so email subscriptions in the couple of days after it ran, always a sure sign I annoyed someone.

• Barefoot wine, three times: Because Google. In those deep, dark nights when I grow despondent about the future of wine, I think about the time and effort I put into the blog, and that it doesn’t matter because Google sends people to these three posts. And then I get even more despondent.

The wine bottle workout: Because Google, again. This was a bit of humor that no one paid much attention to when it ran almost three years ago. But if you’re stuck at home and start searching for “workout,” I guess it shows up.

The Grocery Outlet cheap wine story: Note to wine business: We want to find retailers who sell quality cheap wine. So make some for them to sell.

The Mafia winery story: Just wish there was a way to update this, short of repeating denials from the winery’s corporate headquarters.

What’s missing? The do-it-yourself “Wine during the duration” post. It’s pretty damn funny.

Photo (and mask): Lynne Kleinpeter, using a Creative Commons license

Mother’s Day wine 2020

mother's day wine 2020Four suggestions — rose, white, red, and sparkling — for Mother’s Day wine 2020

Mother’s Day wine 2020: This year.s version, the 14th annual, finds us in a different place than ever before. But the premise hasn’t  changed — We’re looking for value and quality, and we want to buy Mom something she will enjoy and not something we think she should drink.

These Mother’s Day wine 2020 suggestions should get you started:

La Playa Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($9, purchased, 13%): Supermarket Chilean white  sauvignon blanc at a fair price (lots of citrus and not much else); given how inconsistent these wines have become it offers value. Imported by Cabernet Corporation

CVNE Via Real Rosado 2019 ($12, sample, 12.5%): The white viura grape, part of the blend for this Spanish pink from a top producer,  adds a little lemon something or other to the tempranillo’s cherry fruit. It’s both welcome and interesting and a well-made wine. Highly recommended. Imported by Arano LLC

F. B. Schönleber Riesling Extra Brut 2013 ($22, sample, 13%): German sparkling isn’t common in the U.S., and this bubbly makes me wish that wasn’t the case. It’s a delicious, dry and minerally sparkling that exceeded all expectations. Highly recommended. Imported by Angels’ Share Wine Imports

Masseria Li Veli Primonero 2017 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): This Italian red, made with the negroamaro grape, has earth, dark black fruit and very Italian in structure and acidity. Fire up the social distancing barbecue. Imported by Li Veli USA

Photo:“Contest18A Mother” by FolsomNatural is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

More about Mother’s Day wine:
Mother’s Day wine 2019
Mother’s Day wine 2018
Mother’s Day wine 2017
Wine of the week: MAN Chenin Blanc 2018