Blog housekeeping: Ads and comments

I wanted to keep everyone posted on the two major recent developments, the appearance of advertising and a new comment format.

So far, the ads seem to be what they should be. I ?ve had to block a couple, but even they weren ?t tremendously inappropriate. A friend of mine gets sex ads on the site he runs for his college journalism classes, and he spends as much time blocking ads as he does writing, I think.

My blog is part of an ad network put together by Six Apart, the company that owns TypePad, the blog platform I use. I ?ve been quite impressed, though the money I get won ?t do much to feather the Wine Curmudgeon ?s retirement. A good day brings in about a quarter, though I set a record yesterday with 37 cents. And don ?t worry ? I ?m not going to write something here about how you need to click on the links to save me from penury (or drinking poorly made cheap wine). The ads are more about seeing how the system works than making any money. For instance, I don't get paid until I accrue $200 in earnings — which should take about six years.

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Dessert wines: An overview, part I

Port is aged in wood barrels, but its production is much more complicated than table wine. This is the first of two parts discussing dessert wines ? ports, sherries, sauternes, ice wine and the rest. Part II, which will offer dessert wine suggestions, is here.

The Wine Curmudgeon has a deep, dark guilty secret (and, no, it ?s not Yellow Tail). It ?s dessert wine ? sweet, rich, luscious, and often pricey dessert wine.

In those respects, it is frequently everything that drives me crazy about the wine business. But dessert wine almost always gets the benefit of my doubt, because it is that much fun to drink. Pour a glass after a dinner, sniff it, swirl it around in the glass, and sip it. More often than not, it caps off the evening without recourse to over-chocolated desserts, the current chef-fusion-fruit concoction or whatever form of cheesecake is making the rounds.

It ?s not necessarily a holiday wine, but it does pair well with this time of year.

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Holiday shopping recap

Just in case you missed these the first time around:

? Champagne and sparkling wine for the holidays. My pal Dave McIntyre has a fine piece about finding bargains among the most expensive bubbly, as well as something about less expensive wines.

? Where to go and what to do if you need a bottle of wine for a holiday gathering, and you don ?t have a lot of time to shop.

? Holiday gift ideas: wine and wine-related presents, and wine books.

Wine of the week: Clean Slate riesling 2007

image Riesling is a funny thing. Some people won ?t drink it because it ?s sweet, and other people only drink it because it is sweet. So how about drinking the Clean Slate because it ?s enjoyable?

Sweet wine is neither good nor bad because it ?s sweet, just like dry wine is neither good nor bad because it ?s dry. How often does someone refuse to drink cabernet sauvignon because it ?s too dry? Sweet wine is worth drinking based on whether the winemaker pays attention, and the sweetness should be balanced by the fruit and the acid in the wine.

That ?s mostly the case with the Clean Slate (about $10), a German wine from the Mosel. It ?s a simple wine, but it has enough lemon-lime acidity to balance the sweetness. The Germans have six levels of sweetness, and this is about the second most dry. Drink the Clean Slate at any holiday event, and it will also pair with roast ham and spicy food.

Champagne and sparkling wine basics

Keep four things in mind when you shop for sparkling wine.

? Please, please try something other than the same old French labels like Veuve Clicquot and Nicolas Feuillatte. Quality bubbly is made in most of the world’s great wine regions. Yes, it doesn’t taste like Champagne, but it’s not supposed to.

? Only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can be called champagne, thanks to a 2005 trade agreement (though some California brands like Korbel are grandfathered in). But if the label says methode champenoise or m thode traditionelle, it was made in the Champagne style. The other production technique, called charmat, generally produces less bubbly, sweeter wines. Most Italian sparkling wine is made in the charmat style

? Vintage isn’t especially important. NV on the label stands for non-vintage ?- that is, the grapes used to make the wine come from different harvests instead of just one. It ?s a common practice, even for the most expensive brands, to ensure quality.

? Most bubbly sold in the U.S. says either brut or extra-dry. Brut means the wine is dry, while extra-dry means it ?s sweeter than brut. Rarer are wines labeled sec, which is more sweet than extra-dry, and doux, which is dessert-style champagne.

Tuesday tidbits 56: Restaurant wine lists, Aussie wine prices, the British and rose

? Finding values on restaurant lists: Anyone who doubts that the New York Times ? Eric Asimov is one of the great wine writers of his generation should read this piece on restaurant wine lists, which discusses how to find value among the over-priced and bloated lists that too many restaurants use. Writes Asimov: ?At the very least a good list needs to give bottom dwellers something to grab hold of and enjoy, that will make them feel welcomed, not just tolerated. ? That ?s a better, truer sentence than 99 percent of the wine writers of the world ? including all the famous ones — will ever write.

? Australian wine prices: How does a 30 percent drop sound? That ?s the estimate from Fosters Growers Liaison Group chairman Dennis Mills. He added that non-contracted chardonnay grapes ? that is, fruit that growers don ?t have a customer for before they harvest it — will be impossible to sell. I ?ve been following this closely, and I ?m going to make some phone calls myself. If prices collapse for Aussie wine, it will put downward pressure on wine prices in the rest of the world ? starting with cheap wine, but not limited to it.

? British women love U.S. rose: Sales of rose from California have risen 17 percent in Great Britain this year, and women have been the big audience, according to a Nielsen survey. The surge in rose sales helped the U.S. overtake France as the second-biggest wine region in the British market (behind Australia). The story doesn ?t discuss why the British have taken to rose, and doesn ?t say if rose includes white zinfandel. If it does include the latter, the numbers are even more interesting.

Holiday champagne and sparkling wine

Champagne prices are putting a chill on bubbly sales. Know who won ?t have much to celebrate this holiday season? The companies that produce champagne and sparkling wine. The last two months of the year account for about one-quarter of all bubbly sales, and this year was already looking flat (sorry ? the Wine Curmudgeon couldn ?t help himself) before the fall ?s stock market meltdown. Champagne sales had dropped 17 percent in the first six months of this year, mostly because the weak dollar drove up prices.

I saw this first hand. My favorite champagne, Ruinart, has gone up 20 percent this year, and I won ?t be buying any. At $70, it ?s a luxury. At $84, it ?s an extravagance.

But that doesn ?t mean we need to do without bubbly over the next couple of weeks. There is plenty of quality wine available, and at more than reasonable prices. And you don ?t even have to buy Spanish to save money, which seems to indicate that retailers and producers that aren ?t French are trying to step into the market void.

After the jump, some bubbly basics as well as some sparklers to try this season:

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