? No, it’s not the sulfites: Finally, an answer to one of the most dread questions in the wine business: “I get these headaches from red wine, and I’m told they’re from sulfites. Is that true?” No, of course, has always been the answer, and now scientists have a better explanation why (assuming the headache isn’t hangover induced). It’s a substance called glycoproteins, and it looks to be the culprit behind wine headaches, according to a report in the monthly Journal of Proteome Research.
? Wine writers are cranky: No, not shocking news, but it’s part of the third Wine Writers Survey (link opens a PDF), conducted by wine publicist Tom Wark, who runs the top-rated Fermentation blog. The findings are a mixed bag, and I’m not sure the methodology is as rigorous as it could have been, but it’s interesting to read nonetheless. Wark focuses on the blogger vs. traditional media angle, which I’ve never thought was the real point. Rather, the focus should be on professionals — those of us who do it for a living, whether in print or in the cyber-ether — as opposed to those who do it as sidelight. To me, that’s the most interesting comparison, because that’s been the biggest change over the past decade or so. It’s not that technology has changed, but that changing technology has allowed people to write about wine who would not have been able to write about wine before. And, frankly, all those so-called amateurs are what drives so many in the wine business crazy. (And a tip ‘o the Curmudgeon’s fedora to Tom Johnson at Louisville Juice for sending this my way.)
? Sweet wine, better palate? Or so suggests a study conducted in conjunction with the Consumer Wine Awards in Lodi this year. It found that physiology plays a major role in determining wine preferences, and that sweet wine drinkers are often the most sensitive tasters, “shattering” the myth that sweet wine consumers don ?t taste as well as those who love “better” wines. A nicely written piece by my old pal Paul Franson.
? Wine blogs and Thanksgiving: There's a spirited discussion at Louisville Juice questioning whether wine blogs should offer Thanksgiving wine advice, and the consensus seems to be that it's kind of silly for us to do so. Or, as the blogger Thomas Pellechia wrote in a comment, "Bloggers are just like print writers – ? every holiday, every year, comes with a discussion of which wine to go with which food or a list of the best. All this proves to me is that print isn ?t dead ? writing is." Which seems an odd thing to say. People have questions about Thanksgiving wine, and it doesn't seem untoward that I — or any other wine writer — should try to answer them. Unless, of course, we're not writing for people who have questions about wine, which is another question entirely.
? Wine Spectator's top wines: A tip o' the Curmudgeon's fedora to my brother, Jim Siegel, for passing this along: The Spectator is releasing its top 10 wines of the year in a cyber-fest of video and on-line updates. It's subscription only, but you can see wines 8, 9, and 10 with a free link through Nov. 28. Two of those wines are $100 each, and the Spectator notes that the average price per bottle for the top 10 is $48. You may draw your own conclusions from the pricing.
? The end for Virginia's Kluge Estate: The winery, one of the best in the state, has been forced into bankruptcy, and an auction will be held on Dec. 8 to cover its $35 million in debts. Kluge will be missed. You can argue that its owners, Patricia Kluge and William Moses, made myriad bad business decisions, but they also made good wine. And it's always a shame when a winery that makes good wine goes out of business — and especially a winery that did so much for regional wine.
? Champagne sales slump: I suppose this isn't news to any of us who have been paying attention, but someone did feel the need to write a report. Champagne sales — that is, sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France — fared worse during the recession than the rest of the sparkling wine business. Champagne sales fell by 3.6 percent in 2009, which is an amazing figure, and more than twice as much as non-Champagne sales fell. Until, of course, one realizes that it's almost impossible to buy a bottle of Champagne for less than $20, while there are dozens of quality options that aren't Champagne, such as Spanish cava, Italian bubblies, and U.S. brands like Domaine Ste. Michelle for much less than $20.
? The quality of restaurant wine: Tom Johnson at Louisville Juice picked up this nugget (and how does he always find these things?). A CNN blogger who doesn't drink wine decided to sample a pinot grigio from the wine list at a national Italian chain. The result was predictable. "It tasted like rubbing alcohol turned bad." Which, as regular visitors here know, is one of the Wine Curmudgeon's common complaints about poorly made Italian pinot grigio. Reporting this item gives me the chance to do three of my favorite things — rail against the quality of restaurant wine lists; lament that too many people are introduced to wine through poor quality restaurant wine lists; and note something that puts a TV journalist in a less than complimentary light (once a newspaperman, always a newspaperman).
? Gallo pinot fraud: Gina Gallo, the heir to the empire, says the 2009 Pinotgate scandal, in which E&J Gallo's Red Bicyclette label sold some 1.5 million cases of fake pinot noir from the Languedoc in southern France, was a disaster. "As a company we want to be squeaky clean, and we are scrupulous in declaring alcohol levels and other matters, so of course it was an embarrassment to us," she told Decanter magazine. This is, as far as I can tell, the first time an important Gallo official has commented on the scandal, which included criminal prosecutions and convictions in France.