Tag Archives: wine geeks

Holiday wine gift guide 2016

Holiday wine gift guideThe best holiday wine gift advice: Buy what they want, not what you think they should want

Just in time for the blog’s holiday wine gift guide 2016– an article on rightpricewine.com citing the Wine Curmudgeon’s always sensible gift giving advice: “Buy wine that the person would like, not what you think they should like.”

That’s the thought behind this year’s gift suggestions, culled from interviews with retailers and consumers as well as the countless news releases I get during the holiday season. The trend this year? More wine and less accessories, with consumers deciding that gadgets aren’t as enjoyable in 2016 as a quality bottle of wine.

This year’s gift ideas:

• Chablis for the California chardonnay drinker who wants something different. Chablis, chardonnay from Burgundy in France, doesn’t have any oak. That means a more austere and more minerally wine, in contrast to the richer and more buttery California chardonnays. One possibility: Jean-Pierre Grossot Chablis, about as much of a steal as a $20 wine can be.

• Trade up a cabernet sauvignon drinker who wants something more complex. The Faust, from Napa Valley, is the sort of $50 wine I wish I got to taste more often. It’s firmly rooted in Napa, made in a decidedly New World style, but it also shows that quality wine is about more than just flashy fruit.

• Something different for the wine geek. Look for top-notch wine made with odd grapes – an Italian refosco, for instance, a Spanish malvar, or a Hungarian Tokaj. Each can cost as little as $10.

Koval rye whiskey, because the WC does not live by wine alone. I’ve been a rye drinker since the bad old days, when all you could find was what we fondly called Old Overcoat. The craft spirits boom has changed that, and the Koval ($50) is rye that is more than a bourbon knockoff, something spicy and intriguing.

More holiday wine gift guides
Holiday wine gift guide 2015
Holiday wine gift guide 2014
Holiday wine gift guide 2013
Expensive wine 89: Bonny Doon Old Telegram 2014
Expensive wine 82: Anne Amie Winemaker’s Select Pinot Noir 2012

Wine as a collectible, and not something we drink

collecting wineHave we reached the point when collecting wine is like collecting stamps – it’s not for drinking, but to look at?

Consider this: People don’t buy wine to drink, but to collect, like postage stamps. Two new studies suggest that’s the case.

A paper in the Journal of Wine Economics and an analysis by Liv-Ex, a stock exchange for rare and expensive wine, have found that prices for high-end wine are mimicking other collectibles, be they stamps or antique dolls. This should not happen for wine, which should become worthless if it spoils. And every wine, no matter how well made, will spoil if you don’t drink it before it goes off.

But wine collectors apparently don’t care. It may be enough, says wine economist Mike Veseth, for these collectors to physically possess the wine, and that the wine’s value comes from having it in the cellar, as if it was a Jenny stamp or a Brasher doubloon. In this, he says, “they’ve changed the point of reference for wine, so that it’s irrelevant whether they ever drink it.”

If you own a rare stamp or coin, says Veseth, you’ll invite people over to see it. Today, wine geeks who have a 1945 Cheval Blanc or a 1961 Bordeaux apparently would rather show the wines to friends instead of pouring everyone a glass. In other words, it’s too valuable to drink.

This is a revolutionary development for wine, which has always been about drinking. But Veseth says several changes in the wine business, including the now astronomical cost of the most expensive wines and the bifurcation of the wine market, have brought us to this point.

The best wines were always expensive, he says, but were affordable. Now, since they are so expensive – a bottle of 1945 Cheval may be worth more than many rare coins – only the wealthiest are able to buy them. His comparison: Wine as opera, in which opera was once mass entertainment (“Amadeus,” for example), but is now for a very wealthy elite and doesn’t matter to the rest of us.

Is this a good thing for wine? Probably not, if Veseth’s opera analogy is accurate. But there is little we can do about it unless we can convince those collectors to drink their wine.

A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to Neil Pithadia, a student in one of my El Centro classes who brought this contradiction to my attention. We couldn’t figure out what was going on; hopefully, this will help.

Why the world hates wine, wine experts, and wine snobs

Self-denial is an important part of wine; how else are we going to accept so much of the overpriced, underwhelming stuff we buy with such grace? It’s also why we don’t understand why so many others think wine is silly, snotty, and elitist.

Fortunately, the Wine Curmudgeon is always ready to help burst wine’s bubble, because how else will we teach others to appreciate it as much as we do unless we get rid of the pretension? To that end, consider this clip from a show on TruTV called “Adam Ruins Everything,” where host Adam Conover says that wine is “just totally subjective, like all foods. We don’t need sandwich experts because we know what we like.”

Sound familiar?

For more about wine snobs:
? Is wine the last bastion of the snob?
? Winebits 391: Wine snobs edition
? Five things not to say about wine this holiday season

A toast to Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs

joe maddonDear Joe:

OK, so I was wrong. The Cubs — my beloved, wretched, soul-crushing Cubs, who make existential angst seem like a pleasant spring day — made it to the National League playoffs this year. It doesn’t even matter that they clinched a wild card spot when they lost. Or that it will probably be the second wild card spot. Who am I, after more than a century of futility, to be picky?

So, as promised, I owe you a bottle of nice wine. I realize, in our first communication, that I wasn’t clear about the process, and that it seemed I would only pay up if the Cubs won the World Series. That’s mostly because I didn’t expect the Cubs to make the playoffs this year, not with this lineup — a bullpen about an arm and a half short, bald spots in the lineup in centerfield and at shortstop, and too many young, inexperienced players who should have frazzled as the season progressed.

But you did it. Somehow, you managed this team — where one of the shortstops could neither catch nor hit, and more than once reminded me of Roy Smalley Sr. — to the playoffs. I am speechless at that feat, and anyone who knows me will tell you that that happens about as often as the Cubs make the playoffs. Apparently, you are as gifted a manager as the sportswriters say you are, and that your work this season in juggling lineups, caressing egos, offering encouragement, and providing the occasional firm hand was what the Cubs needed. Even more impressive is that you knew they needed it, something only the best managers know. And who usually work for the hated St. Louis Cardinals.

So, which wine? I’d like to hold off on the white Burgundy and the Corton I mentioned before unless the Cubs win the World Series. Otherwise, you tell me. I tasted some terrific Texas wine over the weekend when I was in Lubbock for a story, and there are some interesting California wines you might not know that would work. And we couldn’t go wrong with an Oregon pinot noir, either. But no Champagne, in case you’re wondering.

So, if you get a minute between preparing for the playoffs, let me know. Otherwise, I can wait until the season ends. Which, hopefully, won’t be for another six weeks or so, and I will need to buy the Corton..

Yours in 107 years of Cubs futility (but maybe not much longer),
The Wine Curmudgeon

Joe Maddon, expensive wine, and the Chicago Cubs

joe maddon wineDear Joe:

You and I have much in common — you’re the new manager of the Chicago Cubs, and I am a long-suffering Cubs fan who once waited more than an hour to get Kenny Holtzman’s autograph. In the finest Cubs tradition, Holtzman never showed up.

Apparently, we also share wine in common, though what you drink is about as far removed from what I drink as the Cubs are from a successful baseball team. You are, by all accounts, a wine geek of the first order, whose taste runs to Opus One, Insignia, and hot, heavy, oaky California pinot noirs. (Unfortunately, my request to ask you about wine apparently disappeared into the cyber-ether; I never heard back from the Cubs.)

Frankly, your preference for these kinds of wines worries me. This is the Cubs you’re managing, a team that has not won the World Series since 1908, and not the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs have had more players like Larry Biittner and Glen Hobbie than Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax, and Opus One is a lot more like Ruth than it is Biittner.

Besides, we’re more comfortable with players like Biittner, who was a mainstay on the woebegone Cubs teams of the late 1970s when I was in college and would sit in the right field bleachers and offer the players various words of encouragement. Who can forget the 1977 game when Biittner, an outfielder, pitched 1 1/3 innings and the Cubs lost 19-3 — and, in the finest Cubs tradition, was fined for throwing at a batter.

In this, the Cubs are more Bogle than Insignia, more cava than Champagne. And that’s a more practical approach anyway. What are you going to do after a tough late-night loss to the hated Brewers in Milwaukee when you want a glass of wine and you won’t be able to find a bottle of $50 Napa meritage? On the other hand, almost any Roundy’s supermarket that’s still open will have more than one wine from this year’s $10 Hall of Fame.

Which is not to say I wouldn’t mind sharing a bottle of white Burgundy with you, particularly if you do the impossible and help the Cubs win something after more than a century of losing. I’d even pay for it — a 2010 Corton from Sylvain Loichet, perhaps? That I’m willing to pay for it should tell you how long suffering a Cubs fan I am.

Until then, try the Little James Basket Press wines. I’m sure Binny’s has them, and will get them for you if they don’t.

Yours in 107 years of Cubs futility,
The Wine Curmudgeon