Tag Archives: wine books

Winebits 618: Two wine best of lists and a 100-point wine

100-point wineThis week’s wine news: A hotel chain proclaims the U.S. the best wine region in the world and the best wine book in the world is ranked ninth. Plus, if you have $100, you can buy a glass of 100-point wine.

Best regions: One reason why the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t care much for top 10 lists is that you don’t know who is behind them. As in: Why is the Accor hotel chain proclaiming the U.S. the best wine region in the world? What does that have to with inn keeping? But there it is – the U.S., followed by France, Italy, and New Zealand. The methodology is spotty (scores from a crowd site), which devalues the results — as if there could be legitimate results for something like this. And it still doesn’t answer why Accor felt the need to do this.

Best books: The two best wine books, in terms of understanding wine and figuring out who wine works, are porbably Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World and Wine for Dummies, by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing Milligan. So how do they fare in a ranking by something called BookAuthority? Ninth and 27th. And how authoritative is BookAuthority? ” BookAuthority identifies and rates the best books in the world, based on public mentions, recommendations, ratings and sentiment.” Taking quality into account would have have been nice, but one can’t expect much these days.

Bring out the c-notes: If you have $100, then a Dallas restaurant will sell you a glass of a Robert Parker 100-point wine, the 2012 Verite La Joie Bordeaux Blend. Veritie is a Sonoma producer; the current version of the La Joie costs $400 a bottle. Still, I’ll pass, even though the restaurant is throwing in a couple of Riedel glasses. For those of you who are intrigued, the 2012 “is an incredible glass of wine featuring exuberant notes of red currant, black plum and cherry framed by subtle French oak nuances like powdered cocoa and cedar with a balanced finish.”

writing about wine

$10 Hall of Fame book giveaway: “Wine for Dummies”

wine for dummiesWin a copy of the seventh edition of the classic, “Wine for Dummies”


The winner is Marty, who picked 469. The winning number was 410 (screen shot to the left).


Today, to mark the 12th annual $10 Wine Hall of Fame, we’re giving away a copy of the new and updated “Wine for Dummies,” written by Mary Ewing Mulligan and Ed McCarthy.  This has been one of the best wine books since its first publication in 2009. I’m happy to say I know the authors, both top quality wine people.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the book.

writing about wine

Almost middle of October book giveaway

book giveaway

Win an audio copy of “Corkscrew” in our book giveaway

And the winners are: Bobeica Ghenadie (15) and Irene Sterling (71). The winning number was 110 (box on right). 


Today, for no particular reason except that the Wine Curmudgeon likes to give things away, we’re giving away two audio copies of  – “Corkscrew,” Peter Stafford-Bow’s memoir as a professional wine buyer. Or, as one review put it: “A wholly inappropriate gift for any wine lover.”

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the two books.

book giveaway

$10 Wine Hall of Fame book giveaway

Hall of Fame book giveawayAnd the winner is: HASNYC, who selected 725 and got it exactly; screen shot to the right. Thanks to everyone who participated.


Today, to celebrate the 10th annual $10 Wine Hall of Fame, we’re giving away two books – “Corkscrew,” Peter Stafford-Bow’s memoir as a professional wine buyer, and an autographed copy of the cheap wine book.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the two books.

Book review: Jerry Lockspeiser’s “Your wine questions answered”

jerry lockspeiser“We would probably buy more, with greater enjoyment of doing so, if the people who sell wine made it easier to understand.”

Jerry Lockspeiser loves wine. More importantly, he wants to help other people love wine, too, and he knows that means helping them deconstruct the foolishness that is the wine business. Hence, his new book, “Your wine questions answered: The 25 things wine drinkers most want to know.”

Lockspeiser knows what of he writes. He has been a producer, negociant, consultant, and salesman, and has worked with retailers and distributors during his decades-long United Kingdom wine career. His writing, he told me, is a way to use that knowledge to help what he calls the normal wine drinker – those of us who want to buy a bottle for dinner without worrying if we’ve committed a mortal sin.

“Many people find buying wine difficult,” Lockspeiser writes. “This is not because they are stupid. The meaning of the words is not clear, the language is complex, and the flavour is a mystery. It is hardly surprising that confusion and anxiety are common. We would probably buy more, with greater enjoyment of doing so, if the people who sell wine made it easier to understand.”

Which is why he is the Wine Curmudgeon’s kind of guy.

The book has 25 short chapters, each answering a wine question. “What is a corked wine? “Should I trust the medals on wine bottles?” “Do more expensive wines always taste better?” And my favorite: “Why do they say some wines have ‘a hint of gooseberries’? ”

The writing is simple and direct, often with an anecdote that points out just how dumb the wine business can be. Corked wines “are infected with trichloroanisole, or TCA for short, a harmless but miserable chemical that passes a mouldy flavor into the wine. … TCA-infected wines should be returned to the shop or restaurant.” Medals are not a guarantee you’ll like a wine – “it’s much better to trust the recommendation of a friend or reviewer whose taste you agree with.” And the gooseberries? “…this kind of description is incomprehensible to 99% of wine drinkers.”

Highly recommended, and one of the best wine books of the year. We’ll give away a couple of copies of the book during the blog’s birthday week in November, in tandem with the cheap wine book. What more does the normal wine drinker need?

2015 holiday wine gift guide

2015 holiday wine gift guide

Yes the Wine Sack is chic, but also ridiculously expensive.

This year’s holiday wine gift guide, despite my best efforts to find something incredibly silly, mostly sticks to the basics. And, as always, keep in mind that you ?re buying someone a gift they will like, and not something you think they should like because you know more about wine than they do. The 2015 holiday wine gift guide:

? Wine openers: Still don’t feel comfortable with a waiter’s corkscrew? The Vinomaster ($40) is a sturdier version of an old reliable, Metrokane’s Rabbit, and at more less the same price. I was impressed with how well put together it was, though it’s not quite as intuitive as the Rabbit. The Barvivo corkscrew ($15) is a nifty turn on the traditional waiter’s corkscrew, with a more flexible double hinge.

? Wine books: I would be remiss without mentioning Jon Thorsen’s “Reverse Wine Snob: How to buy and drink great wine” ($18), which follows up on the work he does on his Reverse Wine Snob website, regularly ranked among the top five most influential wine websites on the Internet. Also intriguing: “American Wine: A Coming-of-Age Story” ($30), by Tom Acitelli, which tries to tell the story of the U.S. wine business from the 1960s to today in English and not winespeak. It mostly succeeds, and has generated some criticism for its explanation of the growth — and popularity — of high alcohol wines.

? Wine: This is the year for something different, a wine made with grapes or from a region that you might not buy often (or at all). How about the Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling from Australia ($15, sample, 12.5%), a dry wine full of petrol and lemon? Or the Domaine Serol Les Originelles ($15, sample, 13.5%), a gamay from the Loire in France that is as fresh and intriguing as it is unusual?

? As silly as we’re getting: The ridiculously expensive Wine Sack ($70), which gives you a way to carry your box wine with you in a fashionable black carryall. The bladder inside the box that holds the wine slips inside the Wine Sack, and the bladder spout fits in an opening on the Wine Sack. Why ridiculously expensive? Because the point of box wine is how cheap it is, and do we really need an accessory for it that costs as much as 3 1/2 boxes? But it does look chic.

More about holiday wine gifts:
? Holiday wine gift guide 2014
? Holiday wine gift guide 2013
? Holiday wine gift guide 2012
? Expensive wine 79: North Star Merlot 2010

Winebits 371: Winston Churchill, cheap wine, Kevin Zraly

winston churchill wine ? A Churchillian anniversary: This is the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death, which the Wine Curmudgeon notes for several reasons. First, so I can run a picture of Churchill on the blog; second, because he was a fine writer and historian, which he somehow found time to do in addition to saving the world from Adolph Hitler; and third, because he appreciated wine. How many of us get a Champagne named after us? Churchill also drank wine with dinner, a practice that I like to think helped him in his battle against the Nazis — mostly red Bordeaux, which the English call claret.

? Pull out those vines: Grape growers in California’s Central Valley are ripping out vines and replacing them with more profitable crops such as almonds, thanks to slowing sales of cheap wine and a glut of cheap wine from overseas. The Sacramento Bee, covering one of the biggest wine trade shows of the year, reports that some 22,000 acres of vineyards have been removed since the 2014 harvest ended. Before we panic, know that these sorts of things are cyclical, and as soon as demand picks up, the grape vines will return. It’s also worth mentioning that these vines are used in wines cost $7 or less, and often used to make the huge boxes like Franzia.

? Happy No. 30: This year marks the 30th anniversary of perhaps the best wine book ever written, Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Wine Course. How good is it? I use it in my El Centro class. Mike Veseth at the the Wine Economist offers a few thoughts about the anniversary, noting that “Where many wine guides jump into geography, geology, variety and so forth in encyclopedic detail, Zraly more or less begins with the question, ‘A bottle of white? A bottle of red?’ as you would in a restaurant.” Best yet, it’s written in English, mostly avoids winespeak, and covers the basics without bogging down into wine geekdom.