Tag Archives: wine advice

wine closures

Who needs a corkscrew? Pump that wine cork out!

Wouldn’t a screwcap be easier to use than paying for a gizmo to pump the wine cork out of the bottle?

Regular visitors know the Wine Curmudgeon’s long-running and Quixotic quest to convince the wine business that screwcaps can help save wine from itself. If we eliminate the wine cork, we make it easier to open the bottle. So won’t more people drink wine?

Which, of course, is advice that has been consistently ignored. And, as I always note, advice that aggravates blog visitors to such an extent that several always cancel their email when I write about this.

Nevertheless, I keep going. The wine cork is problem enough, but what may be worse is the other foolishness it has engendered. See the video for something called the Airly, which pumps the cork out of the bottle: “Gone are the days of broken corks, broken cork screws, floating cork bits in your wine, and for a lot of us…the pain of opening a bottle of wine!”

Pain, indeed.

To me, the pain comes when someone invents yet another gadget of limited value when the solution to the cork problem is simple: screwcaps. Twist and open. Twist and open. Twist and open. And no tools or expense required – just like craft beer and spirits.

The Airly, not surprisingly, apparently didn’t last much past the year-old video. I couldn’t find it for sale. But – and also not surprisingly – Amazon sells at least four similar products. Two of them have one-star ratings of about 20 percent; given’s Amazon’s reputation for inflated scoring, that should speak to how well the things work.

So cancel if you feel you must, but know that as long as wine corks and gizmos like the Airly exist, I’ll keep tilting at the windmill. Would you expect any less?

Video courtesy of GearDate via YouTube using a Creative Commons license

More about wine corks and screwcaps:
Corks: The most dangerous wine closure in the world
It’s not the quality of the wine – it’s the sound of the cork popping
Chehalem, pinot noir, and screwcaps

Ask the WC 20: White Bordeaux, crossing state lines, lower alcohol

white bordeauxThis edition of Ask the WC: Where to find affordable white Bordeaux, plus crossing state lines with illegal wine, and the lower alcohol trend

Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question .

Hi, Wine Curmudgeon:
Can you help me find an affordable white Bordeaux? Recently had a $36 bottle of the white blend that was heavenly but out of my daily price range.
Looking for value

Dear Value:
Premiumization strikes again. Fortunately, there is still plenty of quality, cheap white Bordeaux — the white wine, often a blend of sauvingon blanc and semillion, from the Bordeaux region of France. Chateau Bonnet, which is one of the great cheap wines of all time, is mostly available nationally and should be less than $15. Whole Foods’ Château La Gravière Blanc was the 2019 cheap wine of the year. And you can always use the search box on the upper right hand side of the blog — type in white Bordeaux.

Dear Wine Curmudgeon:
I’ve heard that it’s illegal to buy wine in one state and then bring it back into your state. Is that true, or just another urban myth?
Bootlegging wine

Dear Bootlegging:
Yes, it may be illegal, depending on the state where you buy the wine and the state that is its final destination. Because, of course, three-tier. It would require an attorney and a couple of thousands dollars worth of consultation to be more specific about the various states and their penalties. But know that if you’re driving with wine purchased in another state, and you’re stopped for speeding in your state, there’s a chance that your wine can be confiscated and you can be fined.

Hello WC:
I heard a story on NPR that young people aren’t drinking as much as we used to drink. That can’t be true, can it? Young people always drink, don’t they? Isn’t that part of being young?
Aging Baby Boomer

Dear Aging:
Here’s how much of a trend people in the booze business think this is: I wrote two stories this summer, for different trade magazines, about young people drinking less alcohol. So, yes, there seems to be something to the idea that the youngest Gen Xers, the Millennials, and the oldest Gen Zs aren’t as enamored of getting drunk as the Baby Boomers were at that age. The experts I talked to cited any number of reasons, but one struck me. When I was 19, it was a rite of passage to drive drunk. Today, we have designated drivers. Hence, a significant culture change.

Photo: “Day 55 Hatch wine in Parksville” by terri_bateman is licensed under CC CC0 1.0 

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 19: Supermarket wine, plastic wine bottls, corked wine
Ask the WC 18: Sweet red wine, varietal character, wine fraud
Ask the WC 17: Restaurant-only wines, local wine, rose prices

Ask the WC 19: Supermarket wine, plastic wine bottles, corked wine

supermarket wineThis edition of Ask the WC: Understanding supermarket wine, plus plastic wine bottles and returning corked wine to the store

Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question .

Guru of cheap wine:
Your review the other day about the Evanta malbec from Aldi said it was a supermarket wine. I don’t understand. What is that?
Likes cheap wine

Dear Likes:
There are two kinds of supermarket wine — more generally, mass market wine of varying quality made by the biggest producers and sold mostly in supermarkets. More specifically, and what I was talking about with the Evanda, is wine made exclusively for supermarkets, the private label wine made famous in Europe for quality and value and that we don’t see much of in the states. These private label are only sold in  one retailer, like Two-buck Chuck in Trader Joe’s.

Hi, Wine Curmudgeon:
What are your thoughts about plastic wine bottles?
Alternate wine

Dear Alternate:
Plastic wine bottles are another of my quixotic quests (like the Linux desktop). They are a terrific, non-traditional way to bottle wine that the wine business has shown almost no interest in. Plastic bottles — which are the same size as glass — were supposed to be the next big thing in the 1990s and again last decade, but nothing ever happened. Their advantages are obvious: Much lighter than glass, so cheaper transportation costs, more durable, and easier to recycle. But they never became popular. But then again, we’re still using corks, so why should I be surprised?

Hello WC:
Can you return a bottle of wine to the store if it’s corked or off in some way?
Loyal reader

Dear Loyal:
Of course. Just make sure you have the receipt and return it in a timely manner. Having said that, some stores have goofy return policies where they’ll charge you a restocking fee or only issue store credit. And some stores, even though they say they’ll accept returns, get cranky about it. Then you know not to shop there again. As noted many times here before, the best independent retailers want your business over the long haul, so will be happy to take a flawed bottle back.

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 18: Sweet red wine, varietal character, wine fraud
Ask the WC 17: Restaurant-only wines, local wine, rose prices
Ask the WC 16: Grocery store wine, Millennials, canned wine

Wine for people who don’t drink much wine

people who don't drink much wineThree wines that offer quality and value when you’re serving wine to people who don’t drink much wine

The Wine Curmudgeon has entertained twice in the last month where the guests weren’t professional wine drinkers. That is, they were people who fit the profile of the typical U.S. wine drinker – someone who drinks a bottle of month and isn’t interested in the stuff that keeps wine geeks up at night.

The challenge then: How you buy wine to serve with dinner for people who don’t drink much wine? The goal is to pour something interesting that isn’t stupid or insipid, but won’t intimidate your guests. The key: Keep in mind that you want to serve wine other people will like, and not what you think they should like.

A few suggestions and guidelines:

• Try to stay away from tannins and their bitterness, which may be the most off-putting part of wine for those who don’t drink much of it. But what if you want to serve red wine? Then look for something made with sangiovese, gamay, or tempranillo, like the Capezzana Monna Nera 2016 ($10, purchased, 13.5%). This Italian blend is mostly sangiovese – fresh and well-made with soft cherry fruit. Imported by MW Imports.

• Chardonnay, and especially cheap ones with too much fake oak, can make typical wine drinkers grimace. So can overly tart sauvignon blanc. Hence, chenin blanc like the Ken Forester petit 2017 ($11, purchased, 13.5%). This South African white is a long-time favorite, offering crisp white fruit and a refreshing finish. Imported by USA Wine Imports

• One of the best things about the rose boom? It’s ideal for situations like this. The Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12%) is a French pink, almost tart and strawberry, and a tad better made than most at this price. Imported by Pioneer Wine Co.

Wine advice for 53 women, as only the WC can offer it

wine advice

“So you need to find out where to go to read about quality cheap wine?”

Quality wine advice isn’t about toasty and oaky; it’s about helping you find wine you enjoy

The audience – 53 women in a fashionable historic home in Dallas – wasn’t the Wine Curmudgeon’s usual crowd. But their enthusiasm for wine, as well as their questions and comments, made me feel right at home.

I spoke to a group called Mes Amies; my charge was to share with them a view of the wine world that wasn’t about toasty and oaky. In this, I was reminded that the wine business can confuse and annoy even its best customers – and that they aren’t necessarily happy about it.

Among their questions and concerns:

• What if I like a wine and my friend doesn’t? The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t matter. One of wine’s great joys is the almost infinite number of styles, and you don’t have to enjoy every one. You just need to keep trying as many as you can to find those you do enjoy.

• Are screwcap wines of decent quality? Yes. Next question. That I still get asked this question 20 years after screwcaps hit the mainstream speaks to how screwed up (bad pun fully intended) the wine business is about closures.

• The European wine conundrum, or why can I drink so much wine made in Europe and not feel it the way I do with California wine? This is usually part of the sulfites old wive’s tale, in which California producers load their wines up to make us all sick. The answer has nothing do with sulfites; it’s about lower alcohol levels in European wine and drinking them during a 3-hour lunch, compared to a 20-minute dinner in the states, crammed down with three glasses of 14 ½ percent red wine. Which one do you think will make you feel worse?

• How can we learn about quality cheap wine? I’m always flattered when I’m asked this, since I get a chance to plug the blog. But what does it say about the wine business that theses women, most of whom are regular wine drinkers, have to ask me and can’t find out elsewhere?

podcast

Winecast 36: Rose winemaker Charles Bieler

Charles Bieler

Charles Bieler, right, and his father Philippe. They’re a long way from the pink Cadillac.

Charles Bieler is one of the best rose maker in the world; more importantly, he is one of the reasons the rose boom exists. For which we are all most grateful.

Charles Bieler was between jobs in the late 1990s when his father suggested Charles help sell the family rose in the U.S. Charles took up the challenge, painted a Cadillac pink, and traveled the country to convince retailers and restaurants to sell dry pink wine. As Charles says, that was at a time when everyone thought rose was sweet, and he truly wondered if dry rose had a future in the U.S.

Which, of course, it did. We talk about the rose boom, the pink Cadillac trip, and the challenges facing rose today — with advice on how to find the best cheap pink.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 22 minutes long and takes up 8.4 megabytes. This is longer than usual, but Charles is passionate about the subject. The sound quality is very good; Skype’s new recording feature still has some bugs, since it is a Microsoft product.

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podcast

Winecast 35: Dave Falchek, American Wine Society

dave falchekDave Falchek, the executive director of the American Wine Society, is more optimistic about wine’s future, and especially with younger consumers

Dave Falchek, the executive director of the American Wine Society, gets a different perspective on the future of the wine business, what with being around wine drinkers more often than most. As such, he is more optimistic about wine’s future, and especially with younger consumers.

Dave’s point: There are millions of Americans turning 21, the legal drinking age, and there is no reason to assume they won’t be interested in wine just because the rest of us are so cranky about the subject. Younger consumers are more open to new ideas, so why not wine, he asks? Just don’t assume it’s going to be the same thing their parents and grandparents drink.

In this, Dave knows of what he speaks: The AWS is the largest and oldest organization of wine drinkers in the United States.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 11 1/2 minutes long and takes up 4.2 megabytes. The sound quality is very good; Skype’s new recording feature is still a Microsoft project with all that means.

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