Happy birthday, Wine Curmudgeon

We celebrate our first birthday here on the blog on Nov. 16. Since that ?s a Sunday, when I don ?t post, I thought I ?d commence the activities today. Of course, the gang will be at Wine Curmudgeon world headquarters this weekend for the big blowout, where we'll be popping Cristalino, sharing bottles of Bogle and Solaz, and passing around all the Gascogne wine we can drink.

Thank you for participating. This has been tremendous fun for me, much more than I thought it would be. I started the blog a year ago for several reasons, none of which involved having a good time. (That I was wrong isn ?t a big surprise, is it?)

The blog has allowed me to write about a topic I like, learn even more about wine, and meet people I would not have met otherwise. Plus, I get to fight the good fight ? for regional wine, against scores, and for a sensible, level-headed approach to wine.

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Wine clubs: Are they worth the effort?

Wine clubs are they worth the effortAt any given moment, the Wine Curmudgeon has a half a dozen pamphlets, mailings, and circulars sitting on his desk, all promising to send wines of great quality and fine value directly to my door every month. And practically for free! In addition, I get similar offers that arrive all the time via email from web retailers, wineries, and on-line shippers.

Is there anything to all hoopla? Perhaps — as long as you know what you ?re getting into.

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Wine of the week: Garnacha de Fuego 2007

The Wine Curmudgeon has never been a huge fan of this wine, mostly because it cost as little as $6 and $7 in other parts of the country, but as much as $12 and even $15 in Dallas. Lately, though, the price in this area seems to have settled closer to $10. That makes this Spanish red a fine bargain.

Garnacha is a grape that produces very fruity wines with little in the way of tannins. This one has a lot of red fruit, but it's not especially heavy, which is a testament to Spanish wine making skills. The wine magazines adore this wine, and I've never quite been able to figure out why. One reason, probably, is that it's imported by Jorge Ordonez, who is one of the best at bringing Spanish wine into the U.S.

Drink this on its own, because it's light enough, or with pizza or similar casual food. It will also be more than adequate with Thanksgiving dinner (and don ? tell anyone, but the non-wine drinkers might even enjoy it chilled).

Tuesday tidbits 52: Wine scores, Beaujolais nouveau, red wine popularity

? Wine score uproar:  Steve Heimoff, a major U.S. wine writer, has lashed out at those of us who don ?t like scores. ?Just once, I ?d like to meet someone who bashes wine magazines and doesn ?t seem to have an ulterior motive ? making money. Hasn ?t happened yet. ? Mr. Heimoff, give me a call. I ?ll be happy to introduce myself and explain why scores are the wrong way to review wine. And no, I don ?t make any money by saying that. In fact, it probably costs me money. But no one ever accused the Wine Curmudgeon of being a good businessman.

? Beaujolais nouveau: The 2008 edition will be released on Nov. 20 (that ?s a week from tomorrow), and I ?ll have a review here on Nov. 21 (no scores, of course). I don ?t have high hopes for this vintage, mostly because the past several have been quite ordinary. But, as I always tell my wine students, drink the wine before you criticize it. It generally works better that way.

? More red wine? We likely drank more red wine than white in 2008, the first time that has happened in 32 years, according to a study from Impact Databank, which tracks wine sales. Among the projected big sellers? Pinot noir, expected to advance 12 percent; chardonnay, which should remain the most popular white wine; pinot grigio, which should increase 7 percent; and sauvignon blanc and riesling, where imports will rise at double-digit rates. The study attributes this change to two things ? the decline in sweet pink wine sales and red wine ?s supposed health benefits.

Wine terms: Corked

Wine terms: Corked

“Ewww… a wet puppy.”

It can happen to any wine with a cork closure, regardless of price. It doesn ?t make any difference what kind of wine it is, where it ?s from, or who makes it. Cork taint, or corked wine, will spoil any wine at any time.

Know two things about corked wine. First, it ?s caused by the presence of a chemical compound called TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole for any chemists in the audience), which occurs in the cork and works its way into the wine. TCA can also be present in the winery, a chemical reaction waiting to happen. Research has shown that using chlorine cleaning products increases the chances of TCA presence, and most wineries don ?t use them any more.

Second, TCA changes the flavor and aroma of the wine. Sometime it ?s subtle, and sometime it ?s as obvious as a wet puppy — literally. That ?s one of the descriptions of the way corked wines smell and taste. Among the others: Moldy, musty, wet newspaper and dank basement.

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Election 2008: The wine report

Yes, there is wine news related to Tuesday ?s election and Barack Obama. The biggest is that the new first family apparently drinks wine. A People magazine article disclosed that the Obamas had some Kendall-Jackson chardonnay in the house. No snide comments, please, given that the White House inhabitants over the past eight years didn ?t drink wine at all.

Among the other wine-related news worth noting (none of which has anything to do with the corny, wine-inspired PR that crossed my desk during the campaign):

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Wine review: Sebeka Chenin Blanc 2008

The Wine Curmudgeon thinks chenin blanc is one of the world’s great unappreciated grapes. When it is made well, it ?s a fine alternative to chardonnay ?- dry and fruity in the New World style or dry and steely in the French style.

The catch, of course, is the phrase ?if it ?s made well. ? Too much chenin blanc is tasting room sweet or sour and green. Fortunately, there is the Sebeka (about $10), a South African wine from the Gallo empire. It ?s a solid Tuesday night with Chinese takeout wine ? a bit sweet, but not unpleasantly so, with lots of tropical fruit. I wish it had had more of an acid backbone, but that doesn ?t detract from its value.