Wine of the week: Segura Viudas Brut Rose NV

imageHow much did the Wine Curmudgeon like this Segura Viudas? I went back to the store and bought a second bottle the next day.

This is classic cheap wine, as well as pretty good bubbly in its own right. It ?s $10 and well made, balanced, bone dry and fruity, with an almost pinot noir berry-like flavor. Which is a neat trick, since it doesn ?t have any pinot in it.

Segura Viudas is best known for its more expensive sparkler, the bottle with the pewter fittings (which is even more dry than this). It ?s part of the Freixenet cava empire (cava being the term for Spanish sparkling wine), and I don ?t know that I ?ve had a Freixenet bubbly that didn ?t have something to recommend it. Serve this on its own for holiday toasts or with seafood (lobster rolls would be terrific) or roast chicken.

Tuesday tidbits 49: Wine fraud, Aussie wine woes, wine scam?

? Wine fraud: Four British wine dealers who scammed Americans by selling them wines for ?investment purposes ? that turned out to be quite ordinary have been sentenced to as much as four years in jail. One of the investors spent one-half million dollars, reports Decanter. How many times has the Wine Curmudgeon said this? Wine is made to drink, not to buy and sell like real estate.

? Australian wine woes: The continuing shakeout in the Aussie wine business continues, with too many grapes and not enough water. Says one official: The industry ?is in a catastrophic state, partly because of the drought, but the real issue is the oversupply. And that is impacting on everybody in all regions." What does this mean for U.S, consumers? Less cheap Australian wine, as wine producers and grape growers go out of business.

? Another wine scam? An English inventor claims to have devised a machine that can make ordinary wine taste like it ?s a fine French or California vintage. The ?secret, ? besides a cost of more than $600, is ultrasound technology, which supposedly ages the wine in a matter of minutes. Maybe he should call the fellow who paid 500 grand for the cheap wine noted in the first item. What the inventor doesn ?t say is that 90 percent of the wine in the world isn ?t made to age, so making it ?older ? isn ?t going to make it better. What it looks like he ?s doing is aerating the wine; you can accomplish the same thing in a $20 blender.

Wine drinkers like cheap wine

Yes, I know ? one of those dog bites man headlines. But sometimes, in the wine business, not everyone gets the obvious.

Hence the headline, from this story: ?"The consumer has definitely changed buying habits," says a buyer for a major American liquor chain. "They are buying wines, which is good for us, but they are being more careful. People don't need another $50 cabernet. What they need is a really good wine at $10."

Note to major American liquor chain: Look here. Sigh. How long has the Wine Curmudgeon been saying this? When can I get quoted as an expert?

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Wine review: Loredona Viognier 2006

image There is nothing wrong with the Loredona ? it ?s $10, and has pleasant honey and apricot flavors (though not much of a finish). Plus, it isn ?t cloying in the way that some cheap, fruity wines are. It ?s fine for porch sipping, as well as pairing with a fall-inspired jambalaya.

But what really made me notice the Loredona was that it ?s just another in a line of quite well-made, inexpensive viogniers that I ?ve tasted this year. They ranged from technical wines (a French term for grocery store wines ) like Smoking Loon to the various Texas viogniers that I have praised (Brennan, McPherson, Becker). Are winemakers discovering viognier is an interesting alternative to chardonnay, especially on the inexpensive side? I hope so, because these were some of the best cheap wines that I ?ve had this year.

Wine terms: Sweet vs. fruity

sweet vs. fruityThis is one of the most perplexing differences to many wine drinkers, experienced or not. They ?ll confuse wine that is fruity, like sauvignon blanc or vigonier, with wine that is sweet, like riesling. In fact, there is a significant difference.

A dry wine, very simply, is a wine that isn ?t sweet ? nothing more complicated than that. Most of the wine sold in the U.S., save for white zinfandel, is dry, and that holds true whether it ?s red or white.

So why the confusion? Because most people associate dry wine with red wine, and with the tannins in red wine. The tannins are the stuff that causes the astringent, unpleasant flavor that makes your mouth pucker. It ?s one reason why so many people say they don ?t like red wine, though tannins don ?t have to be unpleasant and are actually a key part of well-made wine.

But tannins have very little to do with how dry the wine is. Dryness is the absence of sweetness, not the presence of tannins. A wine can be tannic and sweet, like poorly-made port. And white wines, which usually don ?t have any tannins, can be just as dry as red wines.

The other area of confusion revolves around the fruit flavors in wine. We ?re so accustomed to equating fruitiness with sweetness, like in jams and pies, that when we smell or taste a fruit flavor, we assume that it ?s sweet — even when it isn ?t. Case in point is a typical $10 California merlot, which is just bursting with ripe, mouth-filling blueberry flavor. But it doesn ?t have any measurable level of sugar, and is a bone dry wine.

How to explain the difference? Consider a glass of plain iced tea. That ?s dry, since it isn ?t sweet. Add lemon juice to the tea, and it becomes fruity, but dry. Now add sugar to the iced tea, and it becomes fruity and sweet tea. The principle is the same with wine.

One way to quickly tell whether a wine is sweet is the alcohol content. During the wine making process, the sugar in the grape juice is converted to alcohol. This means that the higher the alcohol, the drier the wine. Low alcohol, usually less than 12 percents, usually produces a sweeter wine.

Wine of the week: Domain du Tariquet Côtes de Gascogne 2007

image The French region of Gascony is famous for two things, foie gras and D’Artagnan, the Fourth Musketeer. The Wine Curmudgeon submits that a third item should be added ?- great, cheap wine.

The Tariquet (about $10) is just another in a long line of terrific $10 wines from Gascony. These wines are made with grapes that are little known, like ugni blanc, or have bad reputations, like French colombard. But in the hands of a variety of Gascon winemakers, they become clean, crisp and refreshing, with a bit more fruit than other French white wines. The Tariquet has a lemony, floral aroma and a touch of lemon flavor (maybe even lemon zest), without any unpleasant minerality. This is cheap wine the way it should be. Serve it chilled on its own, or with seafood or something like chicken Caesar salad.

Tuesday tidbits 48: David Lett, DrinkLocalWine.com, wine speculation

image ? David Lett dies: Lett, the father of the Oregon wine business, died last week at the age of 69. He was always a treat to interview, and the fact that he did for Oregon what Robert Mondavi did for California never seemed to impress him very much. Equally as important, he was always trying to figure out how to make his wine better.

? Regional wine week: We had a great time with DrinkLocalWine.com, and had some terrific visitor numbers. They surprised us, actually. My colleague in regional wine, Dave McIntyre, and I will probably keep the site going, adding several features over the next couple of months. We ?re always welcome to suggestions, as well. You can leave them in the comments here.

? Wine speculators taking hit: The global credit meltdown  may have put a damper on wine speculation. Private collectors, forced to raise cash, are trying to sell $10 million worth of wine to Vinfolio, a San Francisco-based company that buys and sells wine online. Normally the company has about $6 million offered to it. Among the rare vintages for sale are a 2003 Margaux and a 1990 Romanee-Conti.