Labor Day wines

This may be the most difficult holiday to pair with wine — not so much because of the food, but because of the weather. It can be cool. It can be hot. Those conditions can dictate the wine, since you really don’t want to drink a 16.5 percent zinfandel if it’s 100 degrees out, or a light white if you had to move the picnic indoors because it’s chilly and raining.

The solution? Light red wines.

Keep these in mind. (And, if you don’t mind a shameless plug, the Wine Curmudgeon will be on a panel this weekend at the Kerrville Wine & Music Festival discussing this very subject). This style of wine is versatile enough to go with most outdoor food, from barbecue to chicken and maybe even grilled shrimp, and they ?re fruity and low enough in alcohol so that you won ?t start sweating after one sip.

Becker Vineyard Prairie Roti 2007 ($17) This Rhone blend (mourvedre, grenache, syrah, and carignan) is an excellent example of what Texas winemakers can do with grapes that aren’t cabernet sauvignon and merlot. One caveat: The roti has limited availability outside of Texas.

Beauzeaux Red 2005 ($10). I’ve never been able to figure out why this isn’t huge. It’s fruity, it’s food friendly, and it’s cheap. Plus, it has a cute label. But it has never taken off, despite glowing reviews.

Layer Cake Cotes du Rhone 2007 ($16). A red blend from France made by an American. It has more fruit than a French-made Cotes du Rhone, which makes it ideal for this purpose.

Wine of the week: Koster-Wolf Riesling Trocken 2006

image Dallas in August. Hot weather. Glaring sun. So why do so many people insist on drinking heavy red wines?

The Wine Curmudgeon does not know. Instead, I drink wine like the Koster-Wolf (about $10 for a 1-liter bottle) ? light, low in alcohol, lemony, and cheap. Plus, it ?s both food friendly and well-made enough to drink on its own. Think chilled, sitting on a shaded back porch in the evening just before the sun goes down. Or serve it with grilled or boiled seafood.

Trocken is the German  designation for a dry wine, but don ?t be confused. It ?s not nearly as dry as Americans are used to. But this doesn ?t mean that it ?s unduly sweet. Rather, it ?s balanced by the acidity in the wine ? as this one is, with the lemony flavor.

And did I mention that it ?s cheap?

Tuesday tidbits 41

? Mansion sommelier wins: Scott Barber of Dallas ? Mansion on Turtle Creek has been named Texas ? Best Sommelier for 2008 in the fourth annual competition. He received a $2,500 scholarship from the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation. Laura Atkinson of Horizon Wines in San Antonio was second, with a $1,500 scholarship, while Dallas residents Kim Wood of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse and D ?Lynn Proctor of Wine ?tastic tied for third, each receiving $1,000 scholarships.

? Sinkoff gets new job: Martin Sinkoff, a legend in the wine business, has been named director of marketing for the fine wine division of internationally known importer Frederick Wildman and Sons. I don ?t have enough space to detail how much Sinkoff has done to make it easier and cheaper for Americans to drink quality European wine, so let me add a personal note. He helped a very young and very inexperienced Wine Curmudgeon take his first steps as a professional wine drinker. His best piece of advice? If you think you know enough about wine, you ?re wrong. You never know enough.

? Big losses down under: The slowing economy, the weak dollar, and increased global competition added up to the first loss in 16 years for Foster's Group, Australia's biggest beer and winemaker. The company, whose brands include Beringer, Chateau St. Jean, Rosemount and Little Penguin, lost A$602.9 million (US$517 million). How bad were those results? Fosters says it may well its wine brands.

Wine review: Chateaux La Croix Chantecaille 2005

image Some of the most overpriced wine in the world comes from Bordeaux, thanks to the weak dollar, wine snobs, and speculators. (Yes, people speculate in wine, just like they do real estate and pork bellies). So when the Wine Curmudgeon finds a red Bordeaux that ?s more or less a value, it ?s something to write about.

I found Chateaux La Croix Chantecaille (about $29)when I was putting together a Two Wine Guys event (shameless plug alert) as a birthday present for someone who wanted to do Bordeaux. We did three wines, all terrific, but this was the only one that was worth the money.

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Green wine, part I: What is it?

This is the first of two parts looking at green wine and environmentally friendly ways to produce and package wine. Part II, which looks at how green wine tastes, is here.

Each week, I get a handful of news releases detailing the wonders of some producer ?s latest foray into environmentally friendly wine. Almost always, the releases focus on the packaging and almost never on the wine itself. Their point, it seems, is that we should focus on the product ?s carbon footprint (a way to measure how much in the way of greenhouse gases ordinary things produce), instead of the product.

This is not a good idea. People drink wine because they like the way it tastes, not because it comes in a box that meets European Union specifications. In addition, the entire concept of what ?s green and what isn ?t is so unclear that some green products could be worse for the environment than some non-green products.

Green wine has a role to play, but only if it tastes good. If it doesn ?t, then consumers will ignore it — regardless of how many trees the packaging saves.

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Wine of the week: Bogle Petite Sirah 2006

image The Wine Curmudgeon will not forget the first time he drank this, years ago, when he was just a little cranky and starting out as a professional wine drinker. I bought it by mistake, not realizing there was a difference between petite sirah and syrah. And who says mistakes don ?t pay off?

Very little has changed with this wine over the years. It ?s still cheap, about $10, and still good ? peppery, dark and fruity, but not as showy as shiraz.  It ?s like the person who shows up at work every day and does a fine job, but never gets ahead because they don ?t run around high five-ing everyone during meetings.

Drink this with end of summer barbecue, sloppy, tomatoe-y Italian food, and even something as simple as meat loaf.

Wine scores: The Wine Trials author strikes again

Thursday update: The cyber-ether is atwitter with reaction, much of it supporting The Wine Magazine. The magazine has slammed Goldstein, calling him a publicity seeker and worse. One of the best discussions is at Dr. Vino.

The Wine Curmudgeon is in awe. I knew Robin Goldstein, whose Wine Trials has been chronicled here several times (and is one of the most popular posts), was a clever man. But this clever?

He pulled one over on The Wine Magazine, getting it to give a fictitious restaurant one of the magazine's awards for the quality of its wine list. It's one thing that a restaurant that doesn't exist won an award. But the best part? The fake restaurant's "reserve wine list" was mostly some of the magazine's lowest-scoring Italian wine from the past 20 years.

Scores don't matter. Right, Robin?