This is not really surprising news, but the extent of how much they like it is.
That’s one of the results of a 2007 study of wine drinkers who are representative of consumers who buy expensive wine. The survey, conducted by California’s WineOpinions, found that almost one-half of respondents are “very likely” to buy a $30-plus Napa cab, but only one-quarter are very likely to buy similarly-priced Bordeaux red wine.
Meanwhile, more than a third are “not very likely” to buy a Washington state cabernet or a Spanish red from Rioja, even though the quality is comparable and the price is often one-third less (or more).
Had crab cakes — special crab cakes, made with fresh blue crab from the Gulf of Mexico from an old friend of the family — on Saturday night, so I opened a bottle of Shannon Ridge sauvignon blanc ($16). Drank one glass, and opened something else.
This is not my annual plea for winemakers to cut back on alcohol content (I’ll save that for the spring). Rather, it’s an example of why I need to make that plea. This wine is 14.1 percent alcohol — 1.1 points higher than Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc, 1.3 points higher than Bogle sauvignon blanc, and 2.1 points higher than Chateau Bonnet blanc. And that’s almost three times the alcohol content in a similar serving of beer.
The Shannon was not fresh or vibrant or lively, all trademarks of sauvignon blanc. It was not food friendly, and if we had sipped it with the crab cakes, we never would have tasted the crab.
It did not taste like sauvignon blanc. There was almost no fruit and very little acidity — just an overwhelming heaviness that made me think the wine was spoiled or that it had been aged in oak for 24 months. But it was not spoiled and it was aged six months in stainless steel. The only explanation was the high alcohol, which robbed the wine of of its character.
Why make sauvignon blanc that doesn’t taste like sauvignon blanc?
One of the biggest problems I had when I started drinking wine professionally was organizing it. How do you keep track of a couple of hundred bottles of wine, where the number changes almost daily? And how do you do that when your Excel skills are practically non-existent?
That’s when I discovered Cellar Tracker. It’s free, web-based software that lets you track what you own, what you drink, what you like, and what you want to buy. And it’s equally handy for someone who wants to track just a couple of dozen bottles of wine.
We don ?t get much Greek wine this far in the middle of the country, which is a shame. Most Greek wine that that the Wine Curmudgeon has sampled is well-made, inexpensive and very food friendly.
This Boutari is no exception. It ?s a light, low alcohol wine that is more fruity (think melons) than sweet. The grape variety, by the way, is moschofilero ? important in Greece and almost nowhere else in the world. Serve it chilled for sipping at holiday gatherings, with salads, or to accompany a Mediterranean spread with dishes like hummus, tabouleh, pita bread, olives, yogurt cheese, and tzatziki.
Yes, it ?s confusing. And yes, one ?s first inclination is to make a joke ? or several (and there is a wine called K Syrah).
But given the increasing popularity of syrah and shiraz, it ?s probably a good idea to remain straight-faced ? at least long enough to explain the difference between the two, as well as to figure out where their much less known cousin, petite sirah,, fits in.
First, syrah and shiraz are the same grape. Wines from the Rhone region of France, California, and the Pacific Northwest are called syrah, while those from Australia are called shiraz. Petite sirah, on the other hand, is not the same grape. It ?s genetically similar to syrah, and almost certainly evolved from it, but it ?s not as intense or as bright (though still a fine wine grape in its own right).
The real difference is in style. Generally, shiraz is much less subtle than syrah, and syrah is not a subtle wine to begin with. The reason is mostly climate. Australia has a longer growing season than the Rhone, California and the Pacific Northwest, so the grapes get riper, which means more intense flavor and more sugar. And more sugar means more alcohol during fermentation, often as much as 1 to 2 percentage points more.
These two wines show the contrast between the two styles. It doesn ?t get much more Aussie than Nine Stones Shiraz McLaren Vale ($15). It’s a chewy, almost ashy wine with an inky color, made in the style that the Wine Magazines drool over.
The wine was everything I had hoped it would be — classic chianti with dark fruit, the tell-tale Italian tannins and earthiness, and low alcohol. We finished the bottle, barely noticing that it was gone. Which led me to wonder: Why are Americans so adamant that wine has to be the star of the meal? We’re forced to drink high-alcohol, tannin-driven cabernets — and made fun of if we don’t enjoy them — when these wines will overpower all but the beefiest meals.
The Volpaia was terrific, and mostly because it didn’t overpower the food. It did what it was made to do — complement the food. The acid in the red sauce and the fruitiness in the wine played off each other in a way that too many New World wines don’t. I can’t tell you specifically what made the wine so good. But I can tell you how good it was with dinner, and that’s the most important thing.
Talk to enough wine people, and the subject of pinot noir and salmon eventually comes up. For one thing, it ?s still considered trendy (even though though Josh Wesson and David Rosengarten wrote a book called Red Wine with Fish almost 20 years ago). For another, it has to do with pinot noir, and that is still considered tres chic in many wine circles.
Which led to a Wine Curmudgeon moment: What about this pinot noir and salmon? Does it really work? Or is it just more winespeak to wade through?
So I paired three pinots, costing $10, $22, and $40, with steamed salmon served with rice noodles and vegetable and saffron broth, to test the theory. And, to make sure the salmon was up to the task, I used wild Copper River salmon instead of a milder, grocery store product. My thinking: The more flavorful the salmon, the more challenge it would pose to the wine, especially for the $10 bottle.
Boys, we need to tell everyone who is tired of buying crummy, overpriced wine about the Wine Curmudgeon. Tell them to click here, fill out the form, and get the Wine Curmudgeon in their mailbox -- for free.