The new U.S. Pizza Museum is missing just one thing – wine

u.s pizza museum

My Old Style days are a thing of the past — today, it’s wine and pizza.

Four wine-related exhibits for the U.S. Pizza Museum

The new U.S. pizza museum – in Chicago, of course – is a wonderful idea. The only thing that seems to be missing is wine.

Which we can’t have if the museum is to be taken seriously (despite the usual pizza whining from Manhattan). The Wine Curmudgeon knows this because, before I wrote about wine, I wrote about pizza. Those were the halcyon days of Pizza Today magazine, working for the great Bruce Allar and knowing the joy that was the annual Pizza Expo trade show. Where else could anyone get so excited about flour and yeast but at Pizza Expo in the Las Vegas convention center?

I also lived pizza, growing up in Chicago and understanding the symbiosis between cheese, a proper thick crust, the correct tomato sauce, and Italian sausage. Those were the days of Dave’s Italian Kitchen, the pre-chain Giordano’s, the Silo in Lake Bluff, and cold, leftover Rosati’s pizza for breakfast. And yes, I used to drink Old Style with pizza, but I write about wine now, don’t I?

So if the museum doesn’t have a wine and pizza exhibit, then the Wine Curmudgeon will do something about it. Consider these possibilities:

• Always pink: rose with pizza. A French chef, long before the rose boom, told me the only proper wine for pizza was pink. So why not Cuvée des 3 Messes Basses Rose ($10, purchased, 13.5%), a solid, well made southern French rose with tart berry fruit, some minerality, and the necessary freshness and crispness. Imported by Kindred Vines

• Chianti, tomato sauce, and pizza. Any of our cheap Chiantis would work, as would any sangiovese-based wine from Tuscany in Italy. The Monte Antico Toscana, a sangiovese blend, offers fresh cherry fruit and the Italian earthiness I so enjoy.

• Regional pizza and regional wine. One of the things that surprises me about pizza is someone somewhere always seems to be doing something new with it (though you can probably guess how I feel about pineapple as a topping). Given the success of Drink Local, a top-quality Missouri norton like the St. James Estate Norton ($15, purchased, 13.5%), full of spice and dark black fruit, would complement even the unique St. Louis style of pizza.

• Why not seafood? I first saw shrimp on pizza at Gino’s in Houma, La.; despite my Chicago roots, it took me just 12 seconds to accept it as legitimate. In fact, seafood is a common topping in much of the U.S., like the clam pizza popular on the east coast. Seafood-friendly white wine, like the Fantini Farnese Trebbiano d’Abruzzo ($8, purchased, 12%). It’s less tart and crisp, but more spicy and chalky than ugni blanc (the French version of the trebbiano grape) as well a little citrus fruit. Imported by Empson USA.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Pizza Museum, using a Creative Commons license

Wine of the week: Garofoli Superiore Macrina 2017

arofoli Superiore MacrinaThe Garofoli Superiore Macrina is an Italian white wine that offers surprising quality and value

Of all the things the Wine Curmudgeon loves about wine – and I love almost everything about it – my favorite might be finding an inexpensive wine of tremendous quality that I knew nothing about. In other words, a wine like the Garofoli Superiore Macrina.

The Garofoli Superiore Macrina ($13, purchased, 12%) is an Italian white wine made with the verdicchio grape from the Marche region. Don’t worry if you don’t know either; they’re not especially important in the Winestream Media scheme of things. The only reason I bought the bottle is that the Italian Wine guy recommended it, and few know more about Italian wine value than he does.

The wine was everything it should have been – somehow, both fresh and rich, with an almost creamy approach that tasted of almonds and citrus. But it wasn’t heavy, which is what that description makes it sound like. The finish, in fact, was clean and crisp, with lots of minerality. Is it any wonder I enjoyed it so much?

Drink this chilled on its own or with almost any kind of grilled or boiled seafood (the Marche is on the Adriatic coast). A note about the price – they’re all over the board, from as little as $11 to $16.

Imported by Garofoli USA

Winebits 562: Smoke taint, wine advice, non-alcoholic booze

smoke taint

I’m just not going to worry about smoke taint, no matter how much I read about it.

This week’s wine news: The cyber-ether is awash in smoke taint controversy, while we get more not very good wine advice from the Mainstream Media and non-alcoholic booze gets more popular

Fire damage? Wildfires in California and the Pacific Northwest the past two summers may have damaged grapes with something called smoke taint — or they may not have. And, even if the fires caused smoke taint, it may not affect most of the wine sold in the U.S. Ain’t writing about the wine industry grand? Smoke taint, say researchers, is caused by smoke from fires, leaving the wine with unpleasant “ashtray” smells and flavors. But no one is quite sure how to detect it or even if it can be detected before the grapes are crushed. Confused? Growers, especially after last summer’s fires, swore smoke taint wouldn’t be a problem. But some producers insist they’re wrong. More perplexing? The fantastic amount of coverage in print and the Internet, given that the grapes under scrutiny are used to make wine costing at least $20, which most of us don’t drink. But that’s how the Winestream Media rolls.

Stop me before I advise again: The Wine Curmudgeon keeps a weather eye out for wine advice in the mainstream media, where good intentions too often lead to bad advice. Witness this post from Lifehacker, which makes no sense at all and seems mostly to be a plug for the retailer doing the recommending. Please, editors: Make sure your reporters know the basics of wine before you let them write about it. You wouldn’t let them write that way about brain surgery, would you?

No more buzz: Will the non-alcoholic wine and beer market be worth will $25 billion by 2024? That’s the estimate from the Global Markets Insight consultancy. It cites several reasons: Improved brewing and fermenting techniques, which give the products the same taste and feel as those with alcohol, as well as increasing health concerns about booze from younger consumers. By comparison, wine sales in the U.S. total about $36 billion a year.

Wine value 2018: Where we’re at today and what could happen next year

wine value 2018Six things to know about wine value 2018

Wine value 2018 has become perilously close to an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms with little real meaning. Even the Australians, who are famous in most of the world for their cheap exports, are lamenting premiumization and the disappearance of value.

Why this is happening has been well documented, here and elsewhere. Whether it will continue is a point of much contention. The wine business is betting its future that premiumization is here to stay, and that consumers will happily pay $20 for wine that used to cost $10. Others, meanwhile, who are looking at data instead of wishfully thinking, see a wine world with an unsustainable pricing model.

Know the following six things about wine value 2018, where value is defined as wine that is well-made and fairly priced and usually costing less than $15:

• Yes, value still exists – in Spain, parts of Italy, and some of southern France. Many of these wines are still made to reflect terroir and treat their grapes accordingly. Use the category menu to the lower right to search for wines from these countries.

• It’s almost impossible to find value in U.S. wine for $15 or less, save for a brave few brands that are almost single-handedly holding out (and even they have occasionally wavered).

• Producer consolidation, which I once thought would keep prices in line, hasn’t. We’re this much closer to an oligopoly pricing model, where a handful of large companies decide what to charge and everyone else is happy to follow along. Remember, three out of five bottles on the grocery store Great Wall of Wine likely come from just three mega-wineries.

• Pricing is starting to devolve into three tiers. First, cheap and poorly made wine, costing $12 or less, marked by cute labels and gushy winespeak. Second, gimmick wine, often red blends with manly names that are sweet but are passed off as dry, costing from $12 to $18. Third, “collector wine” at $20 and more, labeled as better than anything else and priced that way – even if neither is true.

• Most of the Winestream Media don’t care about any of this, and so don’t write about it. Instead, we get point scores – all remarkably in the high 80s or low 90s – for what seems to be every wine, regardless of quality or price.

• Producers will intensify their focus on premiumization next year, which means two things: First, new, higher-priced brands, and two, price increases for established brands. There has been much more of the former than the latter since the end of the recession, and it could mark as sea change in the wine business if producers can make price increases stick.

More about wine prices and wine value:
Has all the value gone out of California wine
Restaurant wine prices 2018
What is value in wine?

Ask the WC 17: Restaurant-only wines, local wine, rose prices

restaurant-only winesThis edition of Ask the WC: Are there wines sold only in restaurants, plus local wine’s success and the cost of rose

Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question .

Hey Wine Curmudgeon:
What can you tell me about wines sold only in restaurants? I’ve seen restaurant-only wines that I don’t see in any retailers. Why is that?
Dining out

Dear Dining out:
Yes, there are wines sold only in restaurants. No, there isn’t a simple explanation about how this is possible, given the requirements of the three-tier system. There are two kinds of restaurant-only wines — those made exclusively for specific chains (our old pal private label), and those the producer decides to sell just to restaurants. The latter are often more expensive and are usually sold by the glass. The theory is that there will be more demand in restaurants for those kinds of wines than there would be in stores. None of this, of course, explains why restaurant wine prices and markups remain ridiculously high.

WC:
You keep writing that local wine has been a huge success. I don’t see it — I know I can’t buy wine from other states besides California in my local store. What am I missing?
Drink Local

Dear Drink Local:
The very fact that you’re asking this question speaks to local wine’s success. How many people would have know quality wine was made in the other 47 states 10 years ago? That you can’t get anything else speaks to the distribution problems plaguing wine more than the popularity of local wine.

Hey WC:
Someone left a comment the other day about the price of rose, that it was more expensive than $10. I’m seeing the same thing. Where are you finding $10 rose?
Drinking pink

Dear Pink:
The majority of $10 roses I buy are from quality specialty stores and independent retailers. I agree — it’s not easy finding $10 rose in grocery stores, given the phony pricing model that supermarkets use. So, if you can buy from other retailers, do so. Otherwise, you’re buying $1) wine marked up to $18 and then put on sale for $12.

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 16: Grocery store wine, Millennials, canned wine
Ask the WC 15: Wine consumption, wine refrigerators, wine tastings
Ask the WC 14: The wine availability edition

American Airlines wine – is it really worth $9 a glass?

Add American Airlines wine to the joys of post-modern airline service

american airlines wine

I don’t much care for the new logo, either.

Dear American Airlines:

Charging $30 to check a bag requires chutzpah. Making your seats smaller to cram in more people so they can pay $30 to check a bag is chutzpah taken to the next level of chutzpah. But you know what may be worse? Paying $9 a glass for American Airlines wine.

It’s one thing to pay $9 for a glass of wine in a restaurant, even if it’s marked up four times and it wasn’t that much of a wine to begin with. At least it’s in a restaurant, where there’s food and a table and someone waiting on you and a glass for the wine and maybe even a comfortable chair. Which, of course, is the exact opposite of post-modern airline service.

Your three $9 wines – a red blend, a rose, and a sauvignon blanc – are apparently private label. I couldn’t find the wines listed for sale anywhere, including Wine-searcher and CellarTracker. Hence, the wine likely costs you about $2 a glass – a markup to delight even the most markup-conscious restaurateur.

And none of this takes into account the quality of American Airlines wine. There were a scattering of reviews on Vivino; the rose write-up (3 stars out of 5, which translates to a 60- to 70-point wine for those who care about that sort of thing) didn’t fill me with confidence: “However, the finish has a lot of steel/metallic elements … quite abrasive.” Yummy, huh?

The other thing that’s annoying? You serve real beer, including Fat Tire and Goose Island. What did the beer drinkers do to deserve that? Do you think they’re better than wine drinkers? Or smarter in some way?

And yes, I understand you can do this. In our “unregulated, nuts to the customer because we’re an oligopoly and there’s nothing you can do about it post-modern airline world,” you can charge as much as you want, be it for baggage, fares, meals, or wine. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it or drink it. Bring me a Fat Tire, please.

So understand my job is to tell my readers about overpriced wine.  I can’t do anything about $30 to check a bag, but I can do something about this.

Yours in the battle against overpriced wine,
The Wine Curmudgeon

Wine of the week: Mont Gravet Carignan 2017

mont gravet carignanThe Mont Gravet carignan is professional and terroir-driven cheap wine

The 2015 Mont Gravet carignan was one of the great cheap wines of all time, on a par with the legendary black Jaja de Jau and the Hogue fume blanc. The 2016 version was quality cheap wine, if not quite the 2015. The 2017, though, is almost as terrific as the 2015 was.

That’s because the current vintage of the French Mont Gravet carignan ($10, sample, 12.5%) is more earthy and interesting than the 2016. In other words, this red from the south of French (made with the carignan grape) displays vintage difference. How often do we see that in $10 wine?

The 2017 has less ripe red fruit, as well as more structure and acidity than the 2016. In addition, look for some spice, the tiniest hint of vanilla (from oak staves in steel tanks – fake oak as it should be done), and a clean and refreshing finish. Would that more cheap wine was this professional and terroir-driven.

Highly recommended, and should return to the Hall of Fame in 2019. This is red wine for grilled vegetables, burgers and sausages on the barbecue, and even something like smoked pork shoulder.

Imported by Winesellers Ltd.