Tag Archives: wine questions

Ask the WC 6: Box wine, wine closeouts, open wine

wine questionsBecause the customers always have wine questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. Ask me a wine-related question by clicking here.

Wine Curmudgeon:
Are there any box wines that you would find acceptable for someone who can’t afford $15 or $20 for wine every night ? I have been buying several of the Almaden wines and find them quite good. Are they, or is it just my unsophisticated taste buds? Could I be getting a better taste for my buck?
Bottles aren’t necessary

Dear Bottles:
Box wine comes in varying degrees of quality, just like wine in bottles. Many are of higher quality than the Alamaden, though they won’t be as sweet. You can try Bota Box, Black Box, Bandit/Three Thieves, and Big House, for example. But realize you don’t have to spend $15 or $20 for a bottle; check out the $10 Hall of Fame or the $10 wine link at the top of the page.

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Curmudgeonly one:
How do wineries get rid of excess inventory, if they make too much and have to sell it off? Can you find good deals on wine this way?
Looking for a bargain

Dear Looking:
It’s difficult to do thanks to our friend, three-tier. Can’t have a warehouse sale, since it’s illegal, and it’s rare to find a wine retailer that specializes in closeouts and discontinued items like Big Lots because the process is so difficult. Some retailers buy excess wine and discount it, but there isn’t much rhyme or reason to how they do it. You need to find a good retailer and ask them to let you know when they have that kind of sale. In fact, most excess wine sits in a distributor warehouse until it is sold, returned, or destroyed (which is what multi-national Treasury did in 2013).

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Wine Curmudgeon:
How long will an open bottle of wine stay good? Is there anything I can do to make it last longer?
Can’t drink a bottle in one sitting

Dear Can’t drink:
The answer to this used to be simple — if you didn’t finish an open bottle within 24 hours, it oxidized and tasted like bad brandy. Hence, closures like the VacuVin. But improvements in winemaking have complicated the issue, and I’ve had wine, including cheap wine, that stayed drinkable for a couple of days after it had been opened. My suggestion? Put it in the refrigerator and hope for the best if it’s there longer than 36 hours.

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
? Ask the WC 4: Green wine, screwcaps, mold
? Ask the WC 3: Availability, prices, headaches
? Ask the WC 2: Health, food pairings, weddings

Ask the WC 5: Getting drunk, restaurant wine, wine reviews

wine advice getting drunkBecause the customers always write, and the Wine Curmudgeon always has the answers in this periodic feature. Ask me a wine-related question by clicking here.

Hey Wine Guy:
I would think alcohol is alcohol is alcohol, and a buzz is a buzz is a buzz. However, I seem to experience what I will call a “lighter” buzz from wine, which dissipates more quickly than a buzz from other alcoholic drinks. Do you think that’s possible? Have you heard it before? Have you experienced it?
Sober as much as possible

Dear Sober:
The difference is food. Yes, one drink — whether spirits, beer, or wine — should affect everyone the same way (allowing for size and gender), but we don’t drink spirits, beer, and wine the same way. Cocktails are bar drinks. Beer is a TV drink. Wine, though, is a meal drink, so we drink it more slowly and the food we’re eating helps absorb the alcohol in a way bar nuts and nacho-flavored Doritos don’t. It’s the difference between a bottle of wine over a couple of hours with dinner as opposed to four beers during the first quarter of a football game. That’s something that those of us who judge wine competitions understand. Even with spitting, we can get as light-headed on a morning’s worth of wine as with four or five shots in a bar, because the object is to drink, not to enjoy ourselves.

Dear Curmie:
Why do restaurants, even chain restaurants, go through all the show about opening a bottle of wine, like letting me sniff the cork and presenting the bottle. It’s not like these are any great wines, and it’s not like the waitstaff knows what it’s doing.
Annoyed and confused

Dear Annoyed:
It’s all part of the flim flammery that is too much restaurant wine service, and especially in restaurants that sell wine because they have to and not because they want to. A fine dining restaurant does the presentation because that’s the best way to serve an expensive bottle of wine. They’ll show it, for instance, to make sure that’s what you ordered, because they don’t want to find out they’ve brought the wrong bottle (which happens more often than you’d think). They’ll let you taste the wine first because older wines do go off, no matter how expensive or well made. In other restaurants, though, they do it because they’re trying to give you value for the $8 bottle of wine that they’re charging $25 for, and that’s the only way they know how. Recently, a waiter started to do the presentation for a $10 bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc with a screwcap, and I told him not to bother. He thanked me, because doing it embarrassed him. And this was at a Dallas restaurant that actually cares about wine.

Wine Curmudgeon:
How do you decide to review the wines that you review? Is there a plan? Or do you just wing it? I doubt someone pays you to review their wines, do they?
Curious and curiouser

Dear Curious:
No, no one pays me to review their wines, though it has been suggested by some who want a good review. I alternate red and white wines for the wine of the week, throwing in sparkling or rose when it seems like a good idea. Otherwise, the only rules are that the wine has to fit the concept of the blog — affordable and generally available (where availability is the bane of my existence as a wine writer). The latter means it might be in a grocery store; at the very least, you should be able to find it if you live in a city with quality independent wine shops. Also, save for the monthly mini-reviews, I usually don’t write about bad wine. There’s too much good wine to waste time on that.

New features for the blog?

Ask the WC 4: Green wine, screwcaps, mold

Ask the WC 4: Green wine, screwcaps, moldBecause the customers always write, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers every six or eight weeks or so. Ask me a wine-related question by clicking here.

Mudge:
What’s the difference between organic and biodynamic and regular wine? I know about organic tomatoes, but this is just confusing.
Not sure what any of this means

Dear Not Sure:
It is confusing, because organic for wine doesn’t mean the same thing that it means for vegetables or fruits. Organic wine is made without added sulfites, which is different from wine made with organic grapes. And biodynamic, like wines from Bonny Doon, takes organic farming to another level. And, interestingly, green wines are not as popular, relatively speaking, as other green products.

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Dear Wine Curmudgeon:
I was at a dinner party the other night, and someone brought a bottle of wine because they liked the closure, which was some kind of screwcap. Do people really buy wine based on whether it has a screwcap? As opposed to how it tastes, because this wine tasted like gasoline.
You’ve got to be kidding

Dear Kidding:
I don’t know that anyone has done a study, but anecdotal evidence suggests just that. I recently had lunch with a 20-something woman who makes expensive wine in California, and she said that she will buy a screwcap wine, all things being equal, if she is in the store looking for a bottle for dinner. I have heard that many times, and I do it myself, too.

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Dear Jeff:
I recently opened a bottle of wine, and the cork was kind of moldy. My husband said we should throw it out, that we would get some kind of disease. I hated to waste it, since it was an expensive bottle, and I am as cheap as you are. We did drink it, but I have been wondering: Was the wine OK to drink?
Worried about mold

Dear Worried:
You’re safe — mold on a wine cork is a sign the bottle has been stored properly, and is not like mold on bread, which you do want to throw out, regardless of how cheap you are. Typically, moldy corks will only happen to older and more expensive wines that people have been aging, and it’s not a problem with most of the wine we drink.

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
? Ask the WC 3: Availability, prices, headaches
? Ask the WC 2: Health, food pairings, weddings
? Ask the WC 1: Loose corks, cava, unadulterated wine

Ask the WC 2: Health, food pairings, weddings

Because the customers always write, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers every month or so. Ask a wine-related question by clicking here.

Dear Wine Curmudgeon:
Why do doctors say red wine is more heart healthy than white wines? I have acid reflux and whites, roses, and light bodied red wines seem easier on me than heavy red wines. I want to drink heart healthy if possible.
Aging as well as I can in Texas

Dear Aging:
Red wine has more resveratrol, which comes from grape skins, than whites, and roses. Which makes sense, since the skins are used in making red wine more than they are in rose and white. Doctors think resveratrol helps prevent blood vessel damage, cuts bad cholesterol, and can even help with blood clots. Having said that, wine and health remains a controversial subject, and some physicians figure the bad things about wine outweigh the good. I don ?t, and I firmly believe in a heart-healthy lifestyle ? wine in moderation, walking the dogs, and lots of fiber.

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Dear Cranky Wine Guy:
You offer wine and food pairing suggestions with your reviews, but also write that we should drink what we want and not worry about stuff like that. What am I supposed to think?
Confused reader in the Midwest

Dear Confused:
That contradiction has always bothered me; the last thing I want to do is scare people away with food pairing rules. On the other hand, to paraphrase Paula Lambert, one of the world ?s great artisan cheesemakers, there is a relationship between the two. She says to look for wine that makes the food taste better and for food that makes the wine taste better. Most pairing suggestions will get you close, and you ?ll often be surprised by how much better each tastes. Though, if you want big red wine with crab cakes, who am I to stop you?

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Dear Wine Curmudgeon:
My daughter is getting married next year, and we ?ve already had problems finding wine for the reception. It ?s expensive, I don ?t understand the process, and I ?m afraid we ?ll get wine that no one likes. Can you help?
Perplexed future mother-in-law

Dear Perplexed:
The WC gets that question all the time, which is why I wrote a wine for your wedding post covering caterers, hotels, pricing, and suggestions about what to serve. In general, It’s your wedding — pick the wine you want and can afford, and don ?t worry about what people think. Anyone who goes to a wedding and complains about the wine probably shouldn ?t have been invited.

Ask the WC 1: Loose corks, cava, unadulterated wine

loose corksBecause the customers always write — this feature, which will run every now and then. Ask a wine-related question by clicking here.

Greetings WC:
A bottle of white wine I bought got warm in the car last summer and the cork pushed out a small amount. Is that possible? If so, should I expect any negative impact to the wine getting warm?
Car & Driver

Dear Car & Driver:
Heat expands, and that’s what happened here. It’s not unusual, and often happens with wine kept in warehouses without air conditioning. Yes, they still exist. The wine may have spoiled or oxidized; really no way to tell until you taste it.

Dear Mr. Curmudgeon:
I am a faithful reader of your ever informative and always entertaining blog. I want to re-stock my wine rack with cava. Any suggestions?
Bubbly drinker in New York

Dear Bubbly:
So hard to answer while I’m blushing. But you can’t go wrong with the widely available Segura Viudas and Casteller and Naveran from Ole Imports, which may be more difficult to find. Each is around $10. If you want to spend a bit more, try Raventos and Juve y Campos.

Dear WC:
I’m looking for a simple red wine, one that is unfortified, unsweetened, with nothing added — no spices, flavors, etc. What’s available?
Confused by winespeak

Dear Confused:
I’m surprised I don’t get this question more often, given the terms used to describe wine flavors. If a wine writer says a wine has cherry fruit, it’s not untoward to wonder if cherry juice has been added. But most dry red wine is made without adding those things — typically, just grapes, yeast, and sulfites. You can buy a red wine from McManis, for instance, and it should meet your criteria. The fruit flavors come from wine grapes, which have different flavor properties than table grapes.