• The Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir 2018 ($29) is the current vintage of one of the best wines I have tasted in almost three decades of doing this. It’s a California wine made with the gamay grape in a region far, far off the tourist track. There usually isn’t much of it, so when I saw it on wine.com, it moved to the top of the holiday wish list. Highly recommended, and marvel at how this wine reflects the berry fruit of the gamay, as well as its terroir.
• Italy’s white wines are too often overlooked, and especially those made with the arneis grape. The Vetti Roero Arneis 2018 ($22) is one such example — almost nutty, with wonderful floral aromas and the soft, citrusy flavors. Drink it on its own, or with holiday seafood or poultry. Highly recommended.
• The Repour Wine Saver ($9 for a 4-pack) is a single-use stopper that preserves leftover wine one bottle at a time. In this, I was surprised at how well it works, and it’s not as expensive as more complicated systems like the VacuVin.
• Wine-Opoly ($21), because why shouldn’t we try to take over the wine world just like Big Wine? No dog or iron playing pieces in this wine-centric version of Monopolyl rather, they are wine bottles.
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!”
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
This week’s wine news: Fredericksburg’s Cabernet Grill honored for its commitment to Texas wine, plus trouble in legal weed land and do we really need more wine gadgets?
• True to its roots: Fredericksburg’s Cabernet Grill has been named one of “America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants” by Wine Enthusiast magazine for the second year in a row. It’s an honor much deserved – chef-owner Ross Burtwell has had an all Texas wine list for years, and long before drink local was hip and trendy. The list has 145 wines from 45 wineries, demonstrating that local wine pairs with local food. That’s something I’ve been able to enjoy during several visits to the Hill Country.
• Trouble in legal weed land: Constellation Brands, which sold off its cheap wine brands to pursue a future selling legal weed, lost more than $800 million on its investment in the first quarter of this year. The story in the link, from Shanken News Daily, tries to put the high in that low, as trade news reporting often does, but one question remains: Does Constellation understand what it got itself into? The bizspeak in the article doesn’t help with that much, and it wouldn’t reassure me if I was a Constellation shareholder.
• No more gadgets: David Cobbold, writing on Les 5 du Vin, repeats a warning the Wine Curmudgeon has uttered many times: Buying wine instead of gadgets is the best investment almost every time. Cobbold reviews a wine aerator, and his conclusion: Buy good wine, and don’t “worry about useless and expensive gadgets like this!” It’s a sentiment marketers ignore at their own risk; the number of gadget emails I get has seemingly proliferated as wine sales flatten.
But don’t forget the combination, or you’re in trouble when you need a drink
The Wine Curmudgeon, in almost four decades of drinking wine, has never had anyone steal his wine. But what do I know?
That’s because the wine gadget marketplace is flooded with wine bottle locks, since so many of us have “have a roommate who helps herself to your wine.” Or we need to “protect our cellar from thirsty thieves.”
The video, courtesy of Munawwar Rabbani via YouTube, shows how the silly things work. The good news is that most of them are inexpensive, about the cost of a cheap bottle of wine. The bad news? When I wrote this, Amazon was almost sold out the wine bottle lock in the link. What does it say about our culture that people are spending money for a wine bottle lock instead of wine?
This week’s wine news: Another winemaker says corks are outdated, plus more silly wine trends and wine gadgets
• One more for our side: Cork is “a completely outdated“ technology, says a top Australian winemaker. Thedrinksbusiness website reports that Kym Milne, chief winemaker at Bird in Hand in the Adelaide Hills, told the London Wine Fair that “As wines age cork gives enormous variability – try 12 bottles from the same case and you’ll have 12 different wines. There’s too much variation from putting a piece of wood in the end of a bottle.” Needless to say, all of the wines at Bird in Hand – including the US$70 Nest Egg shiraz – use screwcaps.
• Who knew? Who says sommeliers can be stuffy and are out of touch with ordinary wine drinkers? That certainly isn’t the case for the trio of wine professionals who appeared in this Food & Wine article about wine trends, which included the dreaded blue wine. They didn’t exactly hate blue wine, which surprised me, but I was impressed with this: “The trend of making wine for people who hate wine confounds me.” Welcome to the wine business, pal, where that seems to be the goal entirely too often.
• Who is kidding who? How do you not get drunk? Don’t drink too much wine. Unless, of course, you’re an entrepreneur in Dallas who says you should put his magic wand in your booze. Read the story at the link at your peril; I don’t have the energy to comment on it. What I do know is that I have many better things to do with $25 – or even $70 – that the gizmo costs. Many, many, many better things.
Watch the Kuvee wine gadget video, and decide for yourself
So what’s worse? The Kuvee wine gadget, which costs at least $150 and makes wine more expensive and more difficult to drink? Or a video review of the gadget that plays into every stupid wine stereotype?
The video is probably the lesser of two evils, since it calls the gadget “one of the most ridiculous Internet of Things products yet.” But it’s still painful to watch – a grown man drinking wine through a straw? Check it out below (via The Verge on You Tube, using a Creative Commons license) .
The Kuvee is a sleeve that fits over a proprietary metal wine bottle, which you have to buy separately from Kuvee and which is supposed to keep the wine fresher longer. The Kuvee sleeve is Wi-Fi connected, so that when you slip it over the metal bottle, it tells you what the wine is, offers tasting notes, and gives you a chance to order more wine. In other words, almost everything the back label does without spending $150 and being forced to buy wine from Kuvee.
Regular visitors here know how much I love technology, and that I appreciate how it makes our lives easier. What I do with the blog is more or less the equivalent of publishing a magazine every day, and technology has made that possible.
But the Kuvee isn’t about making anyone’s life easier. It’s about selling someone something they don’t need to enjoy wine, using technology as the come on. Is it any wonder I am so cynical about the wine business?
Cheap wine news from around the Internet in honor of the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame:
? Cheaper than water: Think wine is cheap in the U.S. or Britain? How about the price in Australia, where some wine costs less than a bottle of water? The BBC reports that a 12-ounce bottle of water costs A$2.50 (US$2.83), while a bottle of red, twice as big, costs as little as A$1 (US$.81). Some of this is the high price of bottled water Down Under; a 16.9-ounce bottle costs less than $2 in the U.S. But, as the story notes, the price has more to do with what the country’s experts are calling the “dire” state of the Aussie wine business: an expensive Australian dollar, steadily falling international demand, and a glut of wine in the domestic market. In other words, everything that can go wrong has gone wrong — for producers, anyway. For consumers, depressed prices in Australian help keep prices down elsewhere.
? Miracle machine? Some people still don’t believe that cheap wine is suitable for drinking, and that it tastes like it did 20 years ago — harsh, bitter, and acidic. This is apparently why the Sonic Decanter raised $139,000 on Kickstarter, $50,000 more than its goal. The gadget is supposed age cheap wine to “bring out aromas not normally present in young, unaged wines,” soften tannins, and enhance flavors. The catch is that almost all cheap wine isn’t made to be aged, doesn’t have any extra aromas to bring out, and already has soft tannins and enhanced fruit flavors. That formula is the reason for being for most grocery store merlot. And this doesn’t take into account the $249 cost, which not only translates into two cases of $10 wine, but into four bottles of very nice white Burgundy, which I’ll take over a gadget any time.
? Aldi wine: The Aldi supermarket chain’s plans for U.S. expansion — 50 percent more stores by 2018 — is welcome news for anyone who drinks cheap wine, given the company’s skill at selling quality labels for very little money. I’ve written about it on the blog quite a bit, and I’m not the only who is impressed. Max Allen, writing in The Australian, discusses the chain’s success in his country, noting that the wines it sells more than hold their own against other Australian wines, and do so for significantly less money. In fact, he uses the words “crazy cheap.”