Tag Archives: prosecco

A tale of two Italian wines: Boffa Carlo Arneis and Mionetto Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze 

Italian wineThe former is a lovely $15 wine, while the latter is a $40 Prosecco. How can Italy be going in two completely different directions?

Premiumization has done horrible things to the wine business, so horrible that they go beyond cutting sales and alienating younger consumers. Thanks to premiumization, wine is becoming something not to drink and enjoy, but for collecting and for showing off. Case in point: these two Italian wines.

The Boffa Carlo Arneis 2017 ($15, purchased, 13.5%) is a beautiful, almost elegant white wine, with subtle lemon and stone fruit, nuanced minerality, and a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a tremendous value for arneis, a lesser-known grape where prices can top out at $30.

The Mionetto is a $40 Prosecco (sample, 11%). It’s a well-made and enjoyable sparkling wine, but in the end, it’s a $40 Prosecco, not all that different or better than the legions of $12 Proseccos cluttering supermarket aisles.

So how did Italy, a country with thousands of years of winemaking chops, go from the more or less traditional approach that gave us the arneis to one based on premiumization and a $40 Prosecco? Because decisions are increasingly made based on marketing and category management, and not on wine.

My guess? Someone, somewhere decided Mionetto needed a product to compete with Champagne and high-end California sparkling wine. So we got a $40 Prosecco – not because the world was demanding a $40 Prosecco or because the grapes were of such high quality that they would produce a wine worth $40. We got it so an Italian wine would be able to sit on a store shelf next to Champagne and grab some of that market share. Because if a wine costs $40, it must be worth it, right?

The same thing has happened with rose, where the marketplace has been flooded with $25 pink wine that is almost no different from $10 and $12 rose in anything other than retail price. The reason? Because people who buy $25 red and white wines have been taught that cheap wine is crap, so why not sell them $10 rose that costs $25? A rose producer I know can launch into a rant on that subject even more quickly than I can, which should tell you how widespread the practice is.

Finally, remember that this post is not about price, but about value, and that expensive wines can offer, value, too. That’s the Wine Curmudgeon’s mantra. The wine business will have you believe that value is no different from price, because that’s how it makes its money. Because, $40 Prosecco. But we know better, don’t we?

Photo: “Hanging Bottles” by garryknight is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Wine of the week: Val D’Oca Prosecco Extra Dry NV

Val D'Oca ProseccoThe Val D’Oca Prosecco offers surprising quality and value for a New Year’s sparkling wine

Most Prosecco that costs less than $15 tastes mostly the same – a little sweet, not very sparkling, and kind of blah. There’s nothing really wrong with these version of the Italian sparkling wine, but it’s not something that you look forward to drinking. Enter the Val D’Oca Prosecco.

The Val D’Oca Prosecco ($12, purchased, 11%) has most of the things that the others don’t. Yes, it’s a little sweet, but the sweetness is balanced by a touch of citrus (lime?). Meanwhile, the bubbles are surprisingly tight and bubbly for a Prosecco, and the finish is actually clean and almost crisp. Again, that’s not common for a Proseocco at this price.

Finally, it’s also quite food friendly, whether to pair with something like grilled shrimp with with fried appetizers like frito misto. In this, it’s too well made to use for mimosas.

Rather, it’s exactly the kind of wine to toast the New Year with when you don’t want to spend $40. Highly recommended, and this comes from someone who doesn’t usually say that about Prosecco.

Imported by Prestige Wine Imports

Winebits 663: Cooper’s Hawk, Australian Prosecco, robot bartenders

cooper's hawk

Drinky has a colleague — the robotic bartender at a Prague night club.

This week’s wine news: The Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants chain has a new investor. Plus, the Italians tell the Aussies to stop using the name Prosecco, and robot bartenders debut

July 23 update: Ares management is making an investment in Cooper’s Hawk, reports Nation’s Restaurant News, but not necessarily buying it. The best part of the update: The Ares statement, which includes the phrase “disruptive restaurant concept and lifestyle brand.” How 21st century-speak can you get?

Lots and lots of money: Tim McEnery’s more than unique idea has apparently paid off. His Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants chain has reportedly been sold, says Nations Restaurant News. The price is $700 million for the 35-location company, paid for by the Ares Management private equity firm. At a time when the restaurant and wine businesses are flat, Cooper’s Hawk recorded an almost 17 percent growth in sales between 2017 and 2018, and its annual per store sales have increased each of the past three years. Those are amazing numbers for a company that is part wine bar, part restaurant, and part wine club, a concept that almost no one but McEnery thought would work.

A bubbly battle: Australian producers have been making a Prosecco-style sparkling wine for years, and they have called it Prosecco for as long as they have made it. This has infuriated the Italians and the European Union, which have signed trade deals with much of the rest of the world to stop that sort of thing from happening. That’s why we can’t call California sparkling wine Prosecco or Champagne, and why the Europeans can’t call a smoked pork product Virginia ham. In the most recent tussle, the EU wants the Aussies to stop using the word Prosecco as part of a $100 billion trade agreement currently being negotiated. The EU says “prosecco” is a geographical indication for a type of wine produced in northern Italy, rather than a grape variety; the Aussies are having none of it.

It will never get bored: Prague’s Karlovy Lazne Music Club has installed a robotic bartender to mix cocktails. Customers use touchscreen terminals to order from among 16 mixed drinks. The bartender — two robotic pincher arms, modeled after those used in car factories — stands on a small stage in a corner of the room, below a mass of liquor bottles, and can make 80 drinks an hour. The Reuters report doesn’t mention if the pincher arms can sympathize as customers complain about their spouses, job, or kids.

Christmas wine 2018

christmas wine 2018Four recommendations for Christmas wine 2018

Suggestions for Christmas wine 2018, whether for a last minute gift or for a holiday dinner. As always, keep our wine gift giving tips in mind — don’t overlook the blog’s 2018 holiday gift guide.

These will get you started:

Sacha Lichine Single Blend Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, %): Quality $10 pink from the Languedoc, so it’s not quite as subtle as something from Provence. But the wine uses first-class grenache, so it’s not too jellyish. Hence a crisp, fresh, and enjoyable wine. Look for strawberry fruit and a stony kind of finish. Imported by Shaw-Ross International

Château La Gravière Blanc 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This white French Bordeaux is almost certainly the best cheap wine I tasted in 2018. It did everything cheap wine should do — offer value, be varietally correct, and taste delicious. Some lemon fruit with an almost grassiness, and old-fashioned white Bordeaux minerality. The difference may be more semillion in the blend than sauvignon blanc, so the wine isn’t a New Zealand knockoff. Highly recommended. Imported by Luneau USA

Rotari Trento Brut 2013 ($18, sample, 12.5%): Impeccably made Prosecco. the Italian sparkling wine. Look for berry fruit, plus more body and depth than in cheaper Proseccos, as well as deliciously tight bubbles. If there’s a catch, it’s the price. Imported by Prestige Wine Imports

Librandi Rosso Classico 2015 ($11, purchased, 13.5%): This Italian red is made with the almost unknown gaglioppo grape, which may or may not be related to sangiovese. That means quite Italian in style (earthiness and grip), but more ripe red fruit than a Chianti. Interesting and very well done. Imported by Winebow

More about Christmas wine:
Christmas wine 2017
Christmas wine 2016
Christmas wine 2015
Wine of the week: CVNE Rioja Cune Crianza 2014
Expensive wine 114: Alberto Nanclares Dandelion Albarino 2016

 

Winebits 572: Texas ABC, restaurant wine, fake Prosecco

Texas ABCThis week’s wine news: Texas liquor retailer sues the Texas ABC, plus a restaurant tries to solve the industry’s wine problem and Italian authorities seize fake Prosecco

Texas ABC lawsuit: The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which has been plagued by scandal, mismanagement, and more scandal over the past several years, is in even bigger trouble. Spec’s, the largest independent retailer in the state, has sued the agency for malicious enforcement. The federal lawsuit is the result of the TABC’s attempt to fine Spec’s $700 million after a lenghty investigation a couple of years ago.. The catch? Two judges dismissed the agency’s suit against Spec’s, saying the charges were completely unsubstantiated. Why does this matter to wine drinkers in the rest of the country? Because it might mean the end of the TABC when the state legislature meets early next year. It almost dissolved the agency two years ago, and pressure is mounting to kill it in the upcoming session. If that happens, it will send a message to liquor cops across the country about how they enforce three-tier.

One last chance: An English restaurant chain, emerging from bankruptcy, says its new plan revolves around selling better quality wine. Says the new wine buyer for the Argentine-themed Guacho: “It’s always the big wineries [who are represented] – those who can afford PR, travel and marketing. But there are so many super-interesting smaller wineries in Argentina. It’s my duty to champion those guys. If no one gives them a chance they’re never gonna get an importer.” It’s a fair plan, the idea of moving away from Big Wine, and stands an even better chance of working if the chain keeps fair pricing in mind.

Lots and lots of fake Prosecco: Italian police have seized more than 80,000 cases of Prosecco from two producers. Police said each added extra sugar to the wine during fermentation to increase the alcohol content and exceeded their production quotas. The authorities became suspicious after finding some two tons of sugar at the wineries. No doubt the wineries should have been more subtle.

new year's sparklng wine 2018

New Year’s sparkling wine 2017

New Year's sparkling wine 2017Four New Year’s sparkling wine 2017 recommendations that combine value and quality

Champagne, the sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, has returned to the blog this year for New Year’s sparkling wine 2017. The good news is that I found some that weren’t the same old stuff and are worth drinking. The bad news is that it’s almost impossible to find quality Champagne for less than $35.

Having said that, there is still lots of value in the blog’s New Year’s sparkling wine 2017 suggestions. This includes California bubbly, usually overpriced but where prices have become almost reasonable. That’s because of grocery store wine sales; the competition they offer has lowered prices.

Also handy: The blog’s annual wine gift guidelines and the sparkling wine primer.

Monistrol Seleccion Especial Brut NV ($9, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish sparkler shows cava’s greatness and ability to deliver value. It’s less than $10, and you’d never know tasting it blind. Look for bright red apple fruit, pleasing acidity, and a softish finish.

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut NV ($16, purchased, 12.5%): This California sparkler is one of the world’s great bubbly values — always fresh, always consistent, always enjoyable. Look for lemon and green apple flavors, some stone fruit aromas, and a creamy finish with very tight bubbles. Highly recommended.

Astoria Prosecco NV ($12, sample, 11%): This is one of the best Italian sparkling wines — more than just sweet and soft. Look for lemon and apple fruit, enough sweetness to make you wonder if it is sweet, soft but long-lasting bubbles, and even a sort of minerally finish, which is completely unexpected.

Champagne Collet Brut NV ($39, sample, 12.5%): This is priced like entry-level Champagne, but the quality is much more than that. It’s classic in style, with the brioche aroma, citrus fruit, and a little caramel in the finish. Very well done for the price.

More on New Year’s sparkling wine
New Year’s sparkling wine 2016
New Year’s sparkling wine 2015
New Year’s sparkling wine 2014
Wineof the week: Francois Montand Brut Rose NV
Wine of the week: Juve y Camps Brut Rose NV

Mini-reviews 102: Saint-Cosme, verdejo, rose, Prosecco

saint-cosmeReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

Saint-Cosme Côtes du Rhône 2016 ($14, purchased, 14%): Second ordinary vintage in a row of one of my favorite French reds. This one, too, doesn’t have enough grip (though there is more than in the 2015). It has quality Rhone cherry fruit and some pepper, but the middle is shallow. Maybe bottle age will help. Imported by Winebow.

Real Compania de Vinos Verdejo 2014 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This Spanish white is tired and worn out, with a little spice but not much else and none of verdejo’s wonderful fresh character. Beware older vintages of wine you’ve never heard of from producers you don’t know. Imported by Quintessential.

Vignerons de Tavel Le Rosé des Acanthes 2016 ($7.50, purchased, 13%): This French pink isn’t especially crisp, the cherry fruit isn’t all there, and it’s a little stemmy. Having said that, it’s perfectly acceptable for the price. More important, this is the sort of ordinary rose we never saw when pink wasn’t popular. Now, these kinds of wines are all over the place. Imported by Fruit of the Vines.

Cecilia Beretta Prosecco Brut Millesimato 2015 ($15, purchased, 11%): This Italian sparkler is bland and inoffensive, but sufficiently bubbly – about what I have come to expect from Trader Joe’s wines. Imported by Latitude Wines.