Monday Birthday Week 2020 giveaway: Jessica Dupuy’s “The Wines of Southwest USA.”

Win an autographed copy of Jessica Dupuy’s “The Wines of Southwest USA”

And the winner is: Marty, who selected 601; the winning number was 625 (screen shot below).  Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow’s giveaway is a pair of Wine Not women’s slippers. That will be the second of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.


Today, to celebrate the blog’s 13th anniversary, we’re giving away an autographed copy of Jessica Dupuy’s “The Wines of Southwest USA.” This is the first of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the gift card.

The WC video redux: Holiday wine tips

Plus, opening a sparkling wine bottle in just one take

Yes, this post ran about this time last year, but I wanted to put it up again for a couple of reasons. First, it’s timely — and a damn fine job, if I say so myself. Many thanks to host Michael Sansolo; his show is “Shopping with Michael” for the Private Label Manufacturers Association.

The other reason? Because this was the only video we did as part of the PLMA’s private label wine project. Our goal was to convince U.S. supermarkets to do for private label wine what European supermarkets do — high quality and low price.

But the pandemic edged our effort to the sidelines. And, more sadly, long-time PLMA president Brian Sharoff died at the end of the spring, and it was his vision that started the project. Brian gave me a chance to work on it, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity.

So, I’m posting this one more time for Brian. He is much missed, and not just because he always made fun of my hats.

Birthday Week 2020 starts Monday

birthday weekThe blog’s 13th annual Birthday Week starts Monday, with our usual assortment of terrific prizes

Birthday Week 2020, the 13th annual, begins on Monday with five days of prizes for the blog’s readers. The daily giveaways are the Wine Curmudgeon’s annual thank you to everyone who reads the blog and visits the site, since none of this would happen without you. And who wouldn’t enjoy a  prize or two in the middle of a pandemic and recession?

Contest rules are here. Those of you who get the blog via email or RSS will need to go to winecurmudgeon.com and click on that day’s prize post to enter.

Each day next week, a prize post will run in addition to the regular post. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of the prize post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of the post — no email entries or entries on other posts, like this one. Unless the number is in the comments section of the prize post, the entry won’t count.

This year’s prize schedule:

• Monday: An autographed copy of Jessica Dupuy’s “The Wines of Southwwest USA.

• Tuesday: Wine Not women’s slippers, which keeps your feet warm and is funny.

• Wednesday: A $100 gift card from Wine.com. Thanks to Wine.com, a long-time supporter of the blog and what we do here.

• Thursday: Four Schott Zweisel wine glasses, just like the ones the Wine Curmudgeon uses.

• Friday: Three autographed copies of the cheap wine book, just in time for the holidays.

Besides the prize giveaways, I’ll recap the past year on the blog — the top posts and the least liked on Monday, as well as my always insightful analysis about what it all means and the future of the wine business on Thursday. The blog’s Thanksgiving wine suggestions will post on Friday..

Picture courtesy of Comedy Card Company, using a Creative Commons license

Wine tariff update: It looks like things are going to get worse before they get better

tariff warNew 25 percent EU spirits tariff threatens to ratchet trade war up another notch

The good news about repealing the 25 percent Trump European wine tariff? The administration that levied it will be gone in a couple of months. The bad news? A couple of commentators don’t see the Biden Administration as being necessarily more friendly toward trade and the European Union.

Alan Beattie, writing in The Financial Times, says the new administration won’t be as loopy on trade as Trump’s was, but that the days of free-traders Bill Clinton and Barack Obama won’t soon return. A Biden Administration won’t rush into anything, and while saying it believes in free trade, may not do what we want or hope it will do.

The other bad news? This week’s 25 percent European Union duty on U.S. rum, brandy, vodka and vermouth – one more tax as part of the Airbus-Boeing aircraft parts dispute, whose sad, pathetic history has turned into something only Dickens would recognize. This is in addition to a 25 percent tariff on U.S. bourbon and other whiskeys that took effect in June 2018, while Trump retaliated with the wine and Scotch tariff last fall.

In other words, all of us who were cautiously optimistic about being cautiously optimistic were probably too optimistic. Whatever signs there were that the EU was willing to compromise with the Biden Administration disappeared with the most recent tariff. Spirits producers on both sides of the Atlantic were already reeling – one trade group puts the sales losses at more than 30 percent for Scotch labels in the EU and more than 40 percent for U.S. brown goods companies. Hence, it’s difficult to see one more tariff as a sign of good faith.

Having said that, the Financial Times’ coverage of the U.S.-EU tariff war has been universally gloomy, so that’s one thing. More importantly, we’re all adults here, and rational people on both sides must realize that throwing tariffs at each other to settle a dispute that has already been mostly settled (both aircraft companies have renounced the illegal subsidies) seems pointless – as well as economically dangerous. And isn’t the economy in enough trouble as it is?

Wine of the week: Michel Armand Muscadet 2018

Michel Armand MuscadetThe Michel Armand Muscadet is $10 wine that shows you know what makes a quality cheap wine

The Jacques Pepin video that ran on the blog last month talked about finding quality $10 wine, which is more than possible “if you know what to buy.” Which is where the Michel Armand Muscadet fits in.

This French white wine from the Muscadet region in the Loire near the Bay of Biscay is made with a less known grape called melon de burgogne. Not surprisingly, the grape has nothing to do with melons or Burgundy or muscat; in fact, it may be best known for its difficulty in making quality wine. Nevertheless, there’s a long history of quality, affordable Muscadets.

In other words, exactly the kind of wine Pepin is talking about – an everyday wine that tastes as it should and offers much more than $10 worth of value. The Michel Armand Muscadet ($10, purchased, 12%) is crisp, flinty, and almost herbal, with a bit of stone fruit. It’s not fat or sloppy or overdone or any of those things that we’re supposed to want in white wine, but deceptively simple and intriguing.

In this, the Michel Armand reflects a wine tradition that we often forget about. It comes from a coastal region of France, so it’s made to go with the local seafood. I also paired it with a Pepin appetizer, goat cheese toasts, and the wine was gone almost as quickly as the food.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to enter the Hall of Fame in a couple of months – and don’t be surprised to see it on the shortlist for the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Imported by Knows Imports

Winebits 671: Wine descriptors, expensive booze, Gallo deal

wine descriptors

“What do you mean, they’re tired of toasty and oak?”

This week’s wine news: Are consumers tired of wine descriptors? Plus, posh tequila and the Gallo-Constellation cheap wine deal nears completion — sort of

What? Cigar box aromas don’t matter? Wine descriptors, those corny, often pretentious adjectives to describe wine, may be becoming less important. The cause? The pandemic, reports Britain’s Wine Intelligence consultancy. Consumers are buying more wine on-line and in supermarkets, so descriptors matter less. That’s because we have less time — or no time at all — to read the back label, where toasty and oaky make their appearance. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the study applies only to the United Kingdom, but we can have hope, yes?

Bring on the rich guys: Is spending $1,450 for bottle of wine not enough for you? Then How about a $250 tequila? That’s Elon Musk’s new product, called — not surprisingly — Tesla Tequila, after his car company. It’s already sold out, of course, since those are the times we live in. My favorite part of the product? The descriptors, of course: “dry fruit and light vanilla nose with a balanced cinnamon pepper finish.” And the bottle is shaped like a lightning bolt, which could present problems if you drink too much at one time.

Gallo-Constellation deal: The end is in sight for the $1.1 billion deal, in which Constellation Brands is selling most of its cheap wine labels to E&J Gallo. Originally, Constellation wanted $3 billion, but that never happened. The two-year sale has had a troubled history, which includes federal government  anti-trust concerns. Constellation expects it to finally end sometime next year. That will allow the company to spend more time on its ber and legal weed businesses.

Winecast 54: Melanie Ofenloch and wine’s #MeToo moment

Melanie Ofenloch

Melanie Ofenloch: Yes, wine has a good old boys network.

“It’s something that is so pervasive and such a part of the fabric of how men feel they can take things. It’s just not right.”

Melanie’s post about the podcast and the sommelier sex scandal

Melanie Ofenloch writes the Dallas Wine Chick blog, and is well regarded for her work. But that’s not her day job — she is a long-time top-level marketer, and she has traveled the world for a variety of multi-national companies. As such, she lends a unique perspective to wine’s #MeToo moment.

And, not surprisingly, says Melanie, the Court of Master Sommelier sex scandal is no different than anything she has seen in the business world. The surprise is that so many people accepted it as part of the culture. But the stories that have come out, she says, don’t even scratch the surface.

So why were people in wine so complacent? Why did it take so long for this to come out? Why did it happen in wine, which prides itself on being different? And what can be done to fix it?

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 13 minutes long and takes up almost 9 megabytes. Quality is mostly excellent.