Tag Archives: prosecco

Winebits 441: Neo-Prohibitionists, Prosecco, wine openers

Neo-ProhibitionistsFox in the hen house? Controversial British liquor guidelines, which say no amount of drinking is safe and any booze increases your chance of dying, may have been unduly influenced by Neo-Prohibitionists and anti-drinking lobbyists. A British trade magazine for liquor stores reports that the “panel that devised the guidelines included four members of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, a lobby group bankrolled by the temperance movement.” In addition, the Royal Statistical Society has questioned the math used to come up with the guidelines, but the British health department has refused to change them.

Enough already? How about Prosecco-flavored soft drinks? That’s grinding Houston wine writer Jeremy Parzen, who says “this colonization rape of Italian viticulture egregiously harms our community by propagating mis- and disinformation.” Which is even more curmudgeonly than the WC, though his point is well taken. The Texas retailer that sells this stuff has also been known to sell quality Italian pinot grigio with signs saying to use it as a mixer for sangria or other wine-based cocktails.

Shoot that cork: The Wine Curmudgeon’s antipathy towards corks is well known, so I’m not sure why I’m running this item (I’d rather have a sonic screwdriver). But the 12-year-old in me can’t help it; as the headline on this post says, “There is absolutely no reason for a wine gun to exist, but you’ll want one anyway.” It’s a rechargeable gizmo – put the barrel on the cork, pull the trigger, and the cork comes out. The post says it works well, though I can’t imagine it works better than a screwcap.

new year's sparklng wine 2018

New Year’s sparkling wine 2015

New Year's sparkling wine 2015The Wine Curmudgeon will soon start the second year of his Champagne boycott, and I can’t say I’ve missed spending lots of money for wine that — as terrific as it can be — is almost never a value. With that in mind, here are my annual New Year’s sparkling wine suggestions, focusing on affordable bubbly that also offers value.

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

  • Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee ($10, sample, 11.5%): Every time I taste this California sparkler, and I taste it a couple of times a year, I’m always stunned at how well made it is. Even though it’s charmat, a less sophisticated production method than methode champenoise, the bubbles are still tight and the wine isn’t flabby or too sweet. Look for crisp apple fruit and a little creaminess, and serve well chilled.

Fantinel Prosecco Extra Dry NV ($15, sample, 11.5%): The Champagne boycott has forced me to spend more time with Prosecco, and I’m glad I did, discovering wines that were neither too soft or too simple and demonstrating again one should taste the wine before judging it. The Fantinel, though it’s labeled extra dry, is not appreciably sweeter than many bruts, and it features a flowery aroma and well done tropical fruit.

Mistinguett Cava Brut NV ($12, sample, 12%): Yet another Spanish bubbly that is simple but well-made and well worth the price. It’s got some sort of lemon-lime thing going on, but not too sweet and with a refreshing pop to it. Probably a little more Prosecco like than most cavas, but not unpleasant in the least.

Pierre Boniface Les Rocailles Brut de Savoie NV ($15, purchased, 12%): This cremant from the Savoie region (cremant is French sparkling wine not from Champagne) is made with jacqure, altesse, and chardonnay, so regular visitors know I would like it just for the two odd grapes. But it shows a touch of sweetness, some fresh white fruit, and a very intriguing minerality. It probably needs food, which you can’t say about most bubbly.

More about New Year’s sparkling wine:
New Year ?s sparkling wine 2014
New Year ?s sparkling wine 2013
New Year ?s sparkling wine 2012
Wine of the week: Astoria Prosecco NV
Wine of the week: Casteller Cava NV

Celebrating without Champagne

champagneEven before the Champagne business adopted Stormtrooper 101 as its business model, its product was too expensive for almost all of us who buy wine. A decent bottle costs at least $30, and it’s probably closer to $40 by the time you find something interesting. So what’s a wine drinker to do who wants to celebrate with sparkling wine, but doesn’t want to buy Champagne?

Consider these alternatives (and if you’re confused, check out the blog’s sparkling wine FAQ):

Look elsewhere in France: Champagne isn’t the only part of the country that produces sparkling wine, and the values elsewhere can sometimes be astounding. These wines, called cremant, include Louis Bouillot Brut Rose ($18, purchased, 12%). The Bouillot is from Burgundy, where there is no question of quality, and it’s made with the same kinds of grapes as Champagne. Look for tight bubbles, a little caramel, and muted strawberry fruit. Highly recommended.

Go domestic: Big Wine comes through here, with Domaine Ste. Michelle from Washington state (the same company that does table wine as Chateau Ste. Michelle). These sparklers are made in the Champagne style, so that the second fermentation is in the bottle, cost about $12, and are available in what seems like every grocery store in the country. If they aren’t complex wines, they usually deliver more than $12 worth of value.

Spend a couple of dollars more for a better quality Prosecco: The surge in Prosecco’s popularity means a lot of ordinary wine is selling for $15, which can make it difficult to find value. Still, it’s out there, like the Valdo Prosecco Brut ($11, sample, 11%). It was much better than I expected, with more depth and character, a touch of yeast, and some sweet lemon fruit.

Cava is your friend: Regular visitors know how the Wine Curmudgeon feels about cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, but it’s worth repeating — it may be the best wine value in the world. The Casa Pedro Domecq Cava Gran Campo Viejo Brut Reserva ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is a serious cava, with lots of apple fruit and lots of bubbles, and it will be gone before you know it.

Winebits 395: Prosecco shortage, sweet wine, label fraud

Prosecco shortage ? Plenty of bubbly: The Wine Curmudgeon has not mentioned the news reports over the past several months heralding a Prosecco shortage, mostly because the “shortage” made my reporter’s stomach hurt. It’s the just the kind of “news” that offers an excuse for price increases — coincidentally, as the euro drops — and it turns out my hunch wasn’t far from the truth. The head of the Prosecco consortium, which oversees production of the Italian sparker, told Wine Business Monthly that supply increased almost 18 percent in 2014, and that there is no shortage. “We call on those who write, market and educate people about wine to do their part to inform the public about what Prosecco represents as a specific wine of place year,” he said.

? Deciding what is sweet: Sweet wine is making an impression in Canada as well as the U.S., as Bill Zacharkiw writes in the Montreal Gazette: “There still seems to be some confusion about the role of sugar in wine, as many of these emails ask what the relationship is between residual sugar and quality. But there are other interesting questions as well.” Which he answers quite intelligently, noting the same thing that I have found. It’s not sweetness itself that is the problem with sweet wine, but how badly made too many sweet wines are. Says Zacharkiw: “I cast no judgment here. In the end, you choose what you want to drink. I simply want people to know the facts, and believe you should have access to all the information in order to make an informed choice.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

? Fix the label: Remember how those “artisan” spirits were going to fight to the bitter end the lawsuits accusing them of not being especially artisan? Templeton, the Iowa producer using whiskey from Indiana, has settled, and I would expect more settlements to follow now that a precedent has been set. The Templeton co-founder said his whiskey’s marketing ?should have provided more clarity,” in one of those wonderful understatements that I so enjoy. Hopefully, the wine industry, with its artisan and hand-crafted claims for brands that make hundreds of thousands of cases, is paying attention.

Winebits 389: Three-tier, lower alcohol, Prosecco

Three-tier ? Nevermore! What happens when the state booze cops arrest alcohol vendors at a food and wine event? The event gets canceled, and no one is quite sure what happened. That was the case at one of Sacramento’s most popular festivals, when the 2015 event was canceled after the 2014 arrests. Organizers said wine and beer vendors didn’t want to participate this year, given the threat of arrest. Why were the vendors arrested in 2014? Something to do with what are called tied-house laws, which regulate the relationship between alcohol producers and alcohol retailers and are integral to three-tier. The story is fuzzy about exactly what happened, but tied house enforcement can be capricious and over stupid things — even something as simple as a retailer using a producer logo that he or she got from the producer, and not through the distributor.

? Not just for wine writers: The knock against the push for lower alcohol wines is that it is being powered by elitist wine critics (overlooking the fact that the most elitist of us started the high alcohol thing). The latter insist that consumers either don’t care or like high alcohol wines. Hence the welcome that Australian researchers, working with Treasury Wine Estates and a leading British retailer, are trying to develop lower alcohol wines that consumers will like. Said one researcher: “We would love to produce a wine with zero percent alcohol that tastes like 15 percent, but even if we get a quarter of the way, that would be good. Ten percent or 5 percent is also desirable.”

? Alternative Prosecco: Apparently, there is a Prosecco shortage, though the Wine Curmudgeon has a difficult time believing this when he sees row after row of Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine, on grocery store shelves. In which case, several leading Prosecco producers will make Prosecco-style wines from other countries, showing just how un-wine the wine business has become in its quest to confuse us to make money. One of the brands, called Provetto, is from Spain, and sounds about as tasty as its name implies. It will also sell for about the same as a quality bottle of cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, which raises all sorts of questions that would make me too cranky if I answered them.

 

Winebits 381: Direct shipping, consolidation, Prosecco

direct shipping ? Lots of kinks to work out: Direct shipping, despite its successes over the past decade, is still a tiny part of the wine business, just single percentage points of the $17 billion in sales. One reason for that, of course, is three-tier, which makes it difficult for wineries to ship to consumers in different states. And three-tier has more to it than even those of us who think we know it can imagine; witness the lawyer suing Illinois wineries for not charging sales tax on shipping fees. This is perfectly legal in Illinois, where the law allows private attorneys to recover unpaid taxes on behalf of the state. Much of the coverage has been critical of the attorney, but that misses the point. Illinois law is vague on whether sales tax should be charged on shipping fees, so how how can direct shipping ever become more than a niche business if laws crucial to its success are as vague as the Illinois law? Because, given three-tier, this is certainly not the only vague, poorly written, or unclear law dealing with the subject.

? Retailer buyout: Majestic Wine, one of the biggest retailers in the United Kingdom, has bought another British retailer, Naked Wine. This is bigger news than it seems, since Naked Wine has a trendy U.S. division that sells what can best be described as craft wine on-line at discounted prices to its members. It means that Majestic, facing tremendous competition from grocery stores, is trying to find wine that consumers can’t buy at grocery stores. Given the increasing importance of supermarket wine sales in the U.S., this may be a sign of things to come in this country (within the confines of three-tier) as retailers look for exclusive products to fend off grocery stores. It’s also another indication that retailers want to get bigger to fend of the Costcos, Walmarts, and Aldis of the world.

? Nuts to Champagne: Prosecco has passed Champagne in sales at British grocery stores in news that is so shocking — given the British love affair with Champagne — that it should worry not only the Champagne business, but retailers around the world. If the British are buying Prosecco, the Italian bubbly that is at least half the price of Champagne, what does that means for retailers elsewhere? Has Champagne priced itself out of some markets? Do consumers prefer the softer, sweeter taste of Prosecco? Or are grocery stores playing a role in what’s going on? Even the story, from a British trade magazine, had a panicked tone.

 

New Year’s sparkling wine 2014

New Year's sparkling wine 2014The Wine Curmudgeon won’t be drinking Champagne on Wednesday night or Thursday; the Champagne trade association has taken wine lawsuit foolishness past the point where it’s silly, turning it into a free speech issue. This is the Champagne Jayne case, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago and which has made an Internet splash in the week or so leading up to New Year’s.

The trade group is suing Champagne Jayne, an Australian wine writer named Jayne Powell, because she also writes about other sparkling wine. Her name, says the group, violates the EU’s trade agreement with Australia and if she is going to write about cava or Prosecco, she can’t call herself Champagne Jayne. And the French wonder why they have so many public relations problems.

Fortunately, there’s little need to drink Champagne for New Year’s anymore, given the revolution in sparkling wine. Yes, it may be the best bubbly in the world, but it’s priced out of reach for most of us and the alternatives are better than ever. Hence this year’s recommendations, after the jump, focus on those affordable sparklers that don’t offend the First Amendment.

Lamberti Rose Spumante Extra Dry NV ($12, sample, 11.5%): Fresh and floral, with red fruit and surprisingly bubbly, this pink Italian is not too sweet or too fizzy. It was a revelation, given how crummy so many cheap spumantes can be.

J Brut Rose NV ($38, sample, 12.5%): This is always one of my favorite California sparklers, and this edition is one of the best in years. There are layers of flavor, with yeastiness, strawberry fruit, and minerality. Given how overpriced so many $40 Champagnes are, this is a steal.

Mas Fi Brut Natura Reserva NV ($10, sample, 11.5%): This Spanish wine is more dry and more elegant than many cavas, thanks to a slightly different winemaking process. Look for more white fruits than apple flavors (a welcome change), and a very long finish. Yet another example of how far cava has come.

Trump Winery Sparkling Blanc de Blanc 2009 ($24, sample, 12%): The former Kluge winery in Virginia makes some of the best sparkling wine in the U.S., and it’s even available in states other than Virginia. This is a chardonnay-based wine, with crisp green apple fruit and more richness than I expected.

How serious am I about my Champagne boycott? I have a $150 sample of Champagne in the wine closet that I’m not going to drink.

More about New Year’s sparkling wine:
Wine terms: Champagne and sparkling wine
New Year ?s sparkling wine 2013
New Year ?s sparkling wine 2012
Wine of the week: Castillo Perelada Brut Reserva NV
Wine of the week: Adami Prosecco Brut Garb l NV