Tag Archives: Italian Wine Guy

Aldi wine road trip: The Italian Wine Guy and the Wine Curmudgeon go in search of value and quality

aldi wine

Damn it, I forgot to bring my hat.

Our Dallas Aldi wine road trip finds some cheap wine gems among the rows and rows of Winking Owl

The good news: Our Aldi wine road trip was not the disaster that I feared. Alfonso Cevola, the Italian Wine Guy, had scouted four other Aldi locations in our part of Dallas, and assured me we could find things worth drinking. And he was right.

We found four during our five-store visit. That was impressive, given that Aldi here has consistently fallen short of its effort in Europe and the United Kingdom. There, its private label wines (labels sold only at Aldi) are cheap and critically praised.

The wines worth buying again:

• Dellara Cava Brut NV ($7, purchased, 11.5%): The first bottle was flat, a worrisome trend I’ve experienced lately with sparkling wine costing as much as $20. But the second had the requisite character for a Spanish bubbly – tart lemon and green apple fruit and some minerality. A step up from other $7 cavas, especially since they’ve been dumbed down to taste like watery Prosecco.

• La Cornada Crianza 2015 ($5, purchased, 13%): This Spanish red made with tempranillo was this close to being a Hall of Fame wine. It has way too much oak for what it is; leave out the oak, and and the acidity isn’t pushed to the back and the wine is in balance. Very nice cherry fruit and even a little Spanish orange peel aroma.

• La Rue Cotes de Provence Rose 2017 ($7.50, purchased, 12%): This looks like legitimate Provencal rose (a watery pink), and it smells like one, too (tart berries). The catch is that it finishes a little sweet, and legitimate Provencal rose doesn’t do that. But that might have been me looking for a flaw. Otherwise, it’s mostly what it should be a fair price.

• Bergeron Estates Reserve Icewine 2016 ($12/375 ml, purchased, 10.5%): Quality Canadian icewine should cost three or four times this, and no one will confuse the Bergeron with Inniskillin. But it does taste like icewine – a luxurious honeyed sweetness – and it does taste like the vidal grape it is made with. It needs more acidity to balance the sweetness, but well worth buying again for those who like dessert wine.

I didn’t buy two wines that Alfonso thought would be OK, a German pinot gris and reisling labeled Landshut, which may have been made by Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler, a top German producer. So I’ll try those next next – each was about $7. In addition, a Spanish garnacha, Vina de la Nieve from Catalonia ($6) looked worth tasting but wasn’t available for sale. It was on the shelf, but not in the system.

Having said that, there was still too much Aldi wine in the stores whose reason for being was that it cost $3. And too many of the $10 wines were advertised with 88-point shelf talkers, which is about as helpful as writing a blog post longhand and using magic to put it on the Internet. And there was an amazing lack of continuity between stores, where one store would have one wine, another wouldn’t, and third would have something else.

Still, as Alfonso kept reminding me, “Small steps, Jeff, small steps. Aldi is heading in the right direction.” Which I fervently hope.

Photo by Alfonso Cevola

More about Aldi wine:
Can grocery store private label wine save cheap wine from itself?
The Aldi wine experience
Aldi wine: This isn’t the way to wine friends and influence sales

Winebits 560: Wine trends, Wine Spectator lawsuit, Coke and weed

wine trendsThis week’s wine news: The Italian Wine Guy notes several disturbing wine trends, plus the Wine Spectator sues another magazine, and Coke wants in the weed business

Making money: Apparently, I’m not the only one worried about the future of the wine business. The Italian Wine Guy, who spent the last three months visiting retailers and restaurants around the country, writes that price “seems to be one of the biggest factors. It’s the economy, stupid. The wine trade has often been a race to the bottom, and these days, there is a significant concern for revenue and profit.” Consumers, he was told, are showing “high anxiety over a buying decision.” In other words, not everything is peachy-keen in the era of premiumization. And his take on the three-tier system? Intriguing and insightful for someone who used to work for the biggest distributor in the world.

It’s time for the lawyers: The Wine Spectator is suing a new marijuana magazine called the Weed Spectator for infringing its trademarks and copying its familiar 100-point rating scale for wine to rate cannabis. Reuters reports that the filing says Wine Spectator owner M. Shanken has no interest in associating Wine Spectator and the Wine Spectator marks with cannabis, a largely illegal drug. Any association of this type is likely to tarnish the reputation and goodwill that has been built up in the Wine Spectator marks and business for decades, resulting in dilution of the brand.” I’m most fascinated by the charge the weed magazine is copying the 100-point scoring system. I’d love to watch that unfold in court, given how many people use it and that the Wine Spectator didn’t invent it.

One more time: Those of us with long memories still laugh about Coca-Cola’s failure in the wine business in the late 1970s. So its foray into marijuana beverages elicits a similar chuckle. Nevertheless, reports the BBC, “the drinks giant is in talks with [Canadian] producer Aurora Cannabis about developing marijuana-infused beverages. These would not aim to intoxicate consumers but to relieve pain.” Apparently, it would be a “recovery drink,” aimed at the same market as Gatorade and Powerade. I’ll leave that straight line alone – it’s almost too easy.

Winebits 322: Availability, lawsuits, wine writing

Winebits 322: Availability, lawsuits, wine writing ? Invisible wines: Mike Veseth at the Wine Economist weighs in on availability and the three-tier system, writing off the recent Eric Asimov column. “Asimov uses the article to respond to readers who are frustrated that the fabulous wines he often praises turn out to be nearly impossible for them to actually experience. … Asimov is sympathetic to his readers ? frustration and explains how the almost hopelessly fragmented US wine market (a lasting legacy of Prohibition) makes it nearly impossible to talk about important wines if you limit your list to only those that can be found in all the nation ?s many marketplaces.” In this, he puts Asimov in perspective, noting that there are tens of thousands of wines that are made around the world, most of which we’ll never get a chance to buy. I’m not so sure Veseth is defending the three-tier system as much he is reminding us that there is more to wine than what we find in the grocery store, and that there is a certain joy in that.

? Bring out the attorneys: Because, frankly, the Wine Curmudgeon takes an almost unhealthy glee in reporting that wine companies are suing each other. This time, Veuve Cliquot, the French Champagne giant, is suing Ciro Picariello, a tiny Italian producer that makes spumante. The former says the latter’s label is the same color as Veuve’s, and that’s illegal. That the wines have nothing else in common save bubbles is apparently irrelevant. And, as Diana Goodman notes in the linked article, the colors don’t look that similar, either. Isn’t it reassuring to see Big Wine spending its money to make a better product?

? “Depths that need to be stirred:” The Italian Wine Guy is one of the best writers in wine in the world today, and I almost always want to leave a comment on one of his posts. And I’d say that even if he wasn’t a friend of mine. So, the next time the wine world leaves you frazzled and worn out, and you’re tired of the foolishness that too often passes for wine writing and criticism, read this post. It will make you feel better. It did me.

Winebits 238: Wine scores, grape names, wine blogging

? The best description of wine scores ever: From The Italian Wine Guy, who has written perhaps the most telling indictment of scores: The wine magazines, he writes, "push high scores like meth dealers," so even knowledgeable wine drinkers get bamboozled. Which sends shudders through the Wine Curmudgeon when he thinks what happens to less knowledgeable wine drinkers. The occasion for all this? The Italian Wine Guy recently tasted a 15.1 percent California chardonnay mostly because it got such high scores: "Within minutes I was repulsed by the imbalance of the wine. …[T]he wine tasted like iodine and rubber. I poured it out and moved on." Glad I wasn't there for that one.

? Name that grape: Really. Researchers at Cornell University have developed a couple of new wine grapes, and they need a name for them, says Todd Trzaskos at New York Cork Report. The grapes are now known as NY76.0844.24, a cold hardy white that compares to gew rztraminer and muscat. NY95.0301.01 is a disease-resistant red with "moderate body, good structure, and blueberry on the palate." How about Wine Curmudgeon White and Red, given my fondness for these kinds of grapes? You can send your suggestions to Bruce Reisch at Cornell by July 27.

? Wine blogging dissected: The HoseMaster of Wine, whose acerbic posts make me seem like I ?m high on life, pretty much nails wine blogging: "I wish someone had warned me about this stuff before I started typing. It would have saved me a lot of grief, heartache and hate mail." The secret to wine blogging success? Write about wine blogging, and you ?ll get gazillions of hits. Which strikes me as utterly and completely true (so of course I'm mentioning it here).

Winebits 195: Joe Bastianich, alcohol regulation, wine truth

Some really fine writing in the cyber-ether in the last week or so, and more than worthy of a second look:

? You're in big trouble, Joe Bastianich: The Italian Wine Guy's Mom is mad at you. What were you thinking, calling a rose — our beloved rose — a bisexual on The Today Show? I can't quote verbatim what Elissa Cevola told her son (since this is a family blog), but it's enough to note that one of the mildest words she used was fool. And that Mrs. Cevola thinks Joe is not nice enough to his mom, the chef and restaurant owner Lidia Bastianich.

? It's black and white: Tom Johnson at Louisville Juice wants to know why state regulators are threatening to ban an urban-themed alcoholic beverage, Blast, yet don't seem worried by a similar drink, which has no hip-hop connotations. Writes Tom: "Seventeen states attorneys general have banded together to protest Blast. Interestingly, none have joined to protest the recent release of Bacardi Classic Cocktail Pi a Colada, which, like Snoop Dogg ?s Blast, contains fruit flavors and sugar, but clocks in at a whopping 15 percent alcohol. The Pi a Colada mix is marketed primarily to white suburbanites. It ?s probably just an oversight. I ?m sure the attorneys general are going to line up against Bacardi soon."

? Right on, sister: Please, please, please read this, wine industry. Forget your focus groups and your scores and your shelf talkers. This, from the Hairpin blog, which is apparently aimed at your target audience — middle-class women of a certain age: "For some reason wine has become this thing. This huge inflated pompous thing that people have invented corny language around, jacked up costs for, and made intimidating as all hell. Then you find yourself retreating to your couch with whatever's cheapest and goes well with sweats, or smiling through a glass of something at a dinner party that you can't pronounce and aren't sure if you're supposed to enjoy, instead of actually enjoying the wine." The Wine Curmudgeon wishes he had written this. Boy, do I wish I had written this.