Cheap wine does not cost $20

Note to Meredith Erickson at the New York Times: $20 wine is not cheap. It is past mid-priced and on its way to expensive.

I mention this because Erickson has put together a case of what she calls cheap wine, courtesy of the great Kermit Lynch. This is no criticism of Lynch, who is one of the world ?s great importers of French wine and could probably find value in $100 wine.

But Erickson does not say value. She says cheap, as in ?the only quantifier being cheap, but not cheap tasting. ? So why is only one of the wines in this case is less than $15? In fact, one of them is $20, one is $19, and two are $18. For the cost of those four wines, $74, I could have put together an entire case of wine that is actually cheap. Actually, you can do it. Just look at the $10 Hall of Fame.

I ?m getting exceedingly worn out from reading this kind of wine writing. I may have to do something about it. Be sure to read the blog on Friday.

Wine of the week: Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2008

There are two kinds of New Zealand sauvignon blanc. The $10-$12 wines are full of citrus flavors and aroma, usually grapefruit, and not much else. The $15-$18 wines are more sophisticated ? the citrus is still there, but it ?s not as overwhelming, and there is more taste in the middle and a better finish.

Both are fine styles of wine, and the Wine Curmudgeon drinks a lot of each. But I really get excited when I find a New Zealand wine that has the qualities of the second group at more or less the price of the first group. Such is the Matua, which retails for around $13.

It has lots of New Zealand-style citrus up front, as much lime as grapefruit. It ?s not subtle, but it ?s not supposed to be. What ?s best, though, is that the Matua has a wonderful, pineapply-y middle. There still isn ?t much of a finish, but that ?s hardly a problem.

Drink this, chilled, on its own, or with almost any chicken or seafood dish, short of something spicy or with a big cream sauce.

Wine Curmudgeon gets all squirrelly

image As in the American Squirrel Wine Blog Awards.

I got an email this morning from a friend who told me I had been selected, and sure enough, there I am — Best Use of a Hat as a Prop in an About Post. (You have to scroll down toward the end to see it, right after the self-loathing award and just before the lifetime achievement award.) My thanks to whomever nominated me, which is all it took to get in. These are not quite serious, which is much welcome in the all too serious world of wine blogging. Next year, I want to win the award for best punk rock obit. Seriously.

And, as regular visitors here know, my hat is no prop ? I wear ?em all the time. Own almost a dozen ? fedoras, straws, you name it. And I have even written about them on the blog.

Tuesday winebits 70: Napa wine prices, St. Emilion classification, Iowa wine

? Napa wine prices: The world as we know it is ending, reports Paul Franson in Wines & Vines. Some Napa producers are considering cutting prices. Participants at an industry panel earlier this month told wineries that people are trading down ? that those who bought $40 to $45 wines (core Napa territory) are buying wines that cost $20 or even $10, and the industry must adjust. Said one speaker: ?Life won ?t be the same. ?

? Court throws out St. Emilion classification: The 2006 St. Emilion classification, which rates the quality of the region ?s wine, is invalid and will have to be redone, reports Decanter. A French appeals court said there were irregularities during the tasting process and should no longer stand. This is huge news, even if it baffles most Americans. The French government oversees wine ratings in Bordeaux ? on the left bank, which is part of the famous 1855 Classification, and on the right bank in St. Emilion. The latter is reclassified every 10 years, and the 2006 reclassification was appealed by a producer who was downgraded. The court told the government it would have to go back and redo the 2006 ratings. This is, of course, yet another reason why ratings are silly.

? Iowa wine: Because the Wine Curmudgeon can ?t get enough of regional wine. It ?s not the best written piece in the world (a little overdone, frankly), but this effort from Appellation America is a terrific overview of what ?s going on in Iowa. Notes author Clark Smith: The best Iowa wines are are ?clean, varietal and always well balanced, wines that succeed by not trying too hard. ? Which is what all winemakers should shoot for, isn ?t it?

Wine terms: Blind tasting

There is one way to solve all of the problems caused by scores, the Wine Magazines, and snobby wine writers. It's blind tasting.

The Wine Curmudgeon was reminded of this twice last week. The first time came when I was doing a wine tasting as part of the Two Wine Guys. We ran through our paces and took questions at the end, as we always do. And the questions, as they unfortunately too often do, started with "My husband and I only drink cabernet sauvignon. …" and "Can you recommend any $30 wine, because inexpensive wine isn't any good …"

Then, over the weekend, I judged the San Diego International Wine Competition, put together by the inestimable Robert Whitley (which was much fun and where I learned quite a bit, which I'll write about later). When one judges, one tastes blind. That is, you know it's chardonnay, but that's all you know. What don't you know? Where the wine is from and and how much it costs, the two factors that unduly influence too many wine drinkers — even  experienced ones.

After the jump, how blind tasting works and why everyone should try it:

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Wine of the week update

In case you missed one, here ?s a look at the previous seven:

? Vini Merlot 2007: $8 and from Bulgaria ? what more do we need?.

? Gruet Brut NV: Sparkling wine from New Mexico.

? Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc 2007: Tasty, well-made, cheap wine that isn ?t chardonnay.

? Hedges CMS Red 2007: An old favorite that is simple and straightforward.

? Greg Norman California Estates Chardonnay 2007: Solid, well-made California chardonnay.

? Tormaresca Neprica 2007: Your favorite, back and better than ever.

Winecast 4: James Tidwell, master sommelier

image James Tidwell, the sommelier at the Four Seasons in suburban Dallas, has become a master sommelier ? one of just 96 in North America and 167 worldwide. The honor is probably the highest that a wine person can achieve, and is incredibly difficult to do. It took James, who knows way more than I ever will, eight years of on and off work to earn the honor. And he had to start over once.

We talked this week about how difficult it is to become a master sommelier and why James did it, and he added some pointers about finding good value wines (whether in a store or in a restaurant). Click here to download or stream the podcast. It ?s about 12 minutes and 11 megabytes. This is probably the best sound quality I ?ve done yet, with very little hiss.