Sometimes, wine doesn't taste the way we want it to taste. When the Wine Curmudgeon first tried the Ipsum, a Spanish white blend, two years ago, it was a revelation — fruit forward in a New World style, but crisp and with lots of minerality. It was a sure thing Hall of Fame selection.
The 2010 vintage, sadly, is not up to that standard. The Ipsum ($10, purchased) is still a more than adequate wine, and there is still lots of tropical fruit. You could do a whole lot worse, and the Wine Curmudgeon has. But the extra something that pushed previous vintages over the top is gone. The minerality isn't there, and this year's wine doesn't have the freshness and clarity that the others did.
How does this happen? Who knows? The winemaker had an off day, the weather didn't cooperate, the grapes weren't up to snuff. So drink this, well chilled, with seafood or grilled chicken, and hope that the 2011 Ipsum returns to its previous standard.
What do you call Cristalino, the Spanish sparkling wine, after a federal court judge says that you can’t call it Cristalino?
What happens if you run a picture of the old Cristalino bottle, like the one on the left, after a federal court judge says you shouldn’t?
Who would have thought that the Wine Curmudgeon needed an attorney to write about $10 wine? But that appears to be the case these days.
Regular visitors will remember that, last August, the company that owns Cristal (and which will never be mentioned on the blog) won a judgment in U.S. federal court in Minneapolis. Cristal’s owner said there was evidence that consumers could be confused between the two brands, even though Cristal sells for hundreds of dollars and Cristalino doesn’t, and they are rarely on sale in the same location. A federal court judge agreed, and ordered Cristalino to redesign and re-label its bottle, with a disclaimer that says Cristalino isn’t affiliated with Cristal or The Company That Will Not be Named.
Fast forward to last week, when I got a letter from Cristalino. It outlined the results of the lawsuit, and asked anyone writing about their wine to:
• Change all old references on their blogs and sites from Cristalino to the new name.
• Destroy any old bottle shots or labels that we might have.
• Replace any old bottle shots or labels with new bottle shots or labels.
You will have noticed that I did not list the new name. A friend of mine suggested that I start using the phrase, “Cristalino, a great little sparkling cava from Spain, not to be confused with Cristal, a vastly overpriced French Champagne.” Which has some merit.
I do know I’m not going to change any references or pictures on the blog. It irritates me no end that I’m being asked to waste my time so a company that sells over-priced wine can get richer. And I do have certain Constitutional rights when it comes to fair comment about news, based on several Supreme Court decisions, including New York Times v. Sullivan. But since it has been a few years since my media law class, I consulted an attorney.
It was actually two attorneys, who own perhaps my favorite wine shop in Dallas (though they asked not to be named, since this isn’t their area of practice — and they emphasized that they were not giving me legal advice). Their thoughts: That I was probably safe from retribution from either Cristalino or The Company That Will Not be Named. “However,” said one, “if you continue to just say ‘Cristalino’ and they decide to sue you for an injunction, you may well end up wishing you had complied with the attached letter. The odds of that happening? Pretty slim.”
In which case, I’ll have another blog post, no doubt asking for money for my legal defense fund.
This is the second of two parts about cava, the Spanish sparkling wine — reviews of many of the cavas I tasted. The first part, an overview of cava, posted Feb. 3.
Mini-reviews of some of the cavas that I tasted during my Spanish adventure. Full disclaimer: The trip was paid for by cava producer Segura Viudas, which is part of one of the largest cava companies in the world. But no quid pro quo was part of the trip, and I have not agreed to write anything in exchange for being invited. The reviews, after the jump:
This is the first of two parts about cava, the Spanish sparkling wine. The second part, short reviews of several cavas, posted Feb. 4.
Two things confuse wine drinkers about cava, the Spanish sparkling wine. First, they assume that because it has bubbles that it’s like French champagne or California bubbly. Which it’s not. Second, because it’s so cheap — almost all of the world’s cava costs less than $15 — they figure that it’s one of those cheap wines that they shouldn’t be seen drinking in public.
Neither could be further from the truth. The Wine Curmudgeon is a long-time cava supporter; after all, it’s cheap and offers value, and that’s my reason for being. Yet even I discovered there is more to cava than meets the price tag during my trip to Spain last week. It is, as the inestimable Janet Kafka noted, “a wine that needs someone behind the label to explain it.”
Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, is a conundrum. It's significantly less expensive than champagne, the French sparkling wine, which immediately makes it suspect among the Winestream Media. Their thinking, of course, is that something that isn't pricey can't be any good. Yet there is a not a thing wrong with cava, most of which deliver quality and value for around $10.
So, as a public service, the Wine Curmudgeon offers the Aria (sample, $13), since it is actually a little more than $10. (There are cavas that cost $20 and more, though they are rarely available in the U.S. I'll review several for those who are curious when I wrap up my Spain trip, paid for by Segura Viudas, later this week.)
The Aria is a little richer and more full bodied than basic cavas like Cristalino and Freixenet, and is probably a little closer in style to champagne. But it's still cava, with the typical fresh, clean lingering finish, a minimum of fruit, and a notable absence of yeast and oak. In all, a lot of wine for not a lot of money.
Serve this chilled on its own, or with most white wine dishes. It would also work with cold plates — Iberian ham, corned beef on rye, and the like.
I'll post a couple of items later in the week about the cava trip to Spain, but I wanted to hit some of the highlights today:
? The Wine Curmudgeon appreciates any country where people drink wine at lunch, and those three-hour lunches aren't bad, either. Though I will never, ever get used to dinner at 9 p.m.
? Spain, like much of the rest of the European Union, has enacted tough, American-style no-smoking laws. Which means Spaniards are standing outside buildings smoking — a sight I never, ever thought I would see.
Call it Cuvee Cranky — my entry in the informal competition between the writers on the cava trip to blend the best sparkling wine. We did the blending on Tuesday, and, believe it or not, Seguras Viudas winemaker Gabriel Suberviola picked mine as the best blend. Yes, the wine world did turn upside down.
I'll write more next week when I get back, but it's enough to know that we have some top wine types on this trip to Spain. So I didn't beat just any group of schlubs. And, given that wine making is not what I do, I was quite surprised. Suberviola said my blend was "balanced and harmonic." Who knew?