What wine magazines — still — don’t understand about wine

Food & Wine magazine is a well-done and professional book that has hundreds of thousands of readers. The Wine Curmudgeon likes Food & Wine. For one thing, it  occasionally acknowledges regional wine, and its wine stuff is mostly written in English. Compared to the rest of the Wine Magazine universe, that ?s top of the class.

But what Food & Wine doesn ?t understand is the same thing that all of the rest of them don ?t understand. Cheap wine does not cost $20. Cheap wine costs $10 or $8 or  even $5. The average price of a bottle of wine in the U.S. (all together now, regular readers) is $6.

But Food & Wine, apparently, has the same blind spot that the rest of the wine world has. The winner of the ?value ? pinot noir (Manhattan magazines hate to use the word cheap) in its American Wine Awards, which will be announced in the October magazine, cost $20. Yes, $20 ? or three times the average price of a bottle of wine.

Or, to quote the magazine: ?This entry-level bottling.

Entry-level bottling? For Donald Trump, maybe. Why this matters, and that it ?s not just another excuse for a Wine Curmudgeon rant — after the jump:

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How the wine business works

A fellow called MrWineGuy101 has posted a video at YouTube, featuring two animated characters discussing wine they need to sell to their restaurant and retail clients. It ?s so accurate that it ?s spooky. I have actually heard these conversations among wine distributors. Yes, part of it is exaggerated, but that ?s only because the rest of it isn ?t. And some of the language is a bit rough.

Wine of the week: Harlow Ridge Pinot Noir 2008

imageThe Bronco Wine Co. is most famous for its Two Buck Chuck, the $1.99 wine that is sold only at Trader Joe ?s (and that costs as much $3.49 in states other than California). The Wine Curmudgeon has never been much impressed by Two Buck Chuck, and has always thought that Bronco ?s best wines were the ones that cost around $10.

One of those is Forest Glen, which I tasted earlier this year while judging a wine competition in New York state. It was solid, quality $10 red wine, made mostly, I think, for restaurant sales. Another is the Harlow Ridge pinot noir, which was sitting in the back of the wine closet and I found by accident. In fact, I ?m not quite sure how it got there.

But it was worth finding, a surprisingly drinkable $10 pinot. The wine tasted more like pinot than it should — especially since it ?s from Lodi, which is usually too warm for quality pinot grapes to thrive. Plus, it ?s very low in alcohol at 12.5 percent, has more fruit (strawberry?) than some $30 pinots I ?ve tasted lately, and was not unpleasant in any way. Which is an important consideration with pinot at this price. A contender for the $10 Hall of Fame.

Serve this on its own before dinner or with burgers, pizza or any weeknight red wine dinner.

Winebits 94: Wine glut, wine contests, new mountain name

? More grapes means cheap wine is coming: The great Dan Berger explains how the grape glut benefits consumers, and says bargain are on the way: ?There is so much wine in the U.S. pipeline today that all prices are depressed, from $6 wines in 5-liter boxes to $100 Napa cabernets. ? He writes that wine is just sitting around, waiting for buyers. Case in point: 2006 Geyser Peak sauvignon blanc, which should have been sold out two years ago, on sale at a deeply discounted price. And, he says, ?The 2007 should have been sold out more than a year ago, and the 2008 should be nearly gone. ? So if the 2006 is still around, there is way more wine available than there should be.

? Wine judges don ?t know much: Or says a study in the Journal of Wine Economics, where retired Cal State Humboldt professor Robert Hodgson said he looked at the results for more than 4,000 wines entered in 13 U.S. competitions in 2003 and found little consistency in what wines won gold medals. The study said that of almost 2,500 wines that were entered in more than three competitions, 47 percent won a gold medal in at least one contest. But 98 percent of those gold medal winners were regarded as just above average or below in at least one of the other competitions.

? Renaming Black Mountain: And the man who wants to do it is Jess Jackson, through his company Jackson Family Enterprises (which we know as the company that includes Kendall Jackson). The company has petitioned to change the name of 3,128-foot Black Mountain to Alexander Mountain, a move that would bolster the vintner's attempt to create a special grape-growing designation of the same name on his property. He lives near the mountain on a reported 5,400 acres.

Charles Smith: Making wine the honest way

Yes, Charles Smith is seen in the wine business of something of a rock star.Charles Smith does two things with his wines, made in Washington state. They have clever, intelligent labels and names in the style of Randall Grahm like Kung Fu Girl Riesling and Eve (as in the Garden of Eden) Chardonnay. And they ?re well-made, honest wines that reflect where the grapes are from and not what the Wine Magazines say they should taste like.

?You have to be responsible to all of the people who drink wine who don ?t speak wine, ? says Smith. who was in Dallas last month to make the rounds of retailers and writers. ?And the No. 1 responsibility, whether it ?s a $10 wine or a $100 wine, is to make the best wine possible. ?

Which makes Smith the Wine Curmudgeon ?s kind of guy. More, after the jump:

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Labor Day wine 2009

It ?s Labor Day, so that means barbecues and picnics. So what do most people think of? Hearty red wines ? cabernet sauvignon, merlot and the like.

So what does the Wine Curmudgeon recommend for your Labor Day barbecue or picnic? Certainly not cabernet and merlot. What do you think this is, a Wine Magazine? Haven ?t you been paying attention?

My three suggestions, after the jump:

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