Winebits 271: Algerian wine, Michigan, Italian wine

? Even bigger than France: Those of us of a certain age will remember Algerian wine as really cheap and not very good ? sort of like Two-buck Chuck without any redeeming features. I once asked a French winemaker, who was working in Wisconsin, what that was like. His answer? Making wine in Algeria prepared him for anything. The point of this is a terrific piece by Beppi Crosariol in Toronto's Globe and Mail talking about the glory days of Algerian wine, when the French colony was the world's leading exporter.

? Another liquor law battle: This time in Michigan, which has one of the most restrictive three-tier systems in the country and was the defendant in the Supreme Court case that liberalized direct shipping. A bill has been introduced in the state ?s legislature, by a pro-business Republican, to allow increased retail sales and to lighten regulatory burdens on the state ?s winemakers. Needless to say, a spokesman for the state ?s distributors didn ?t miss a beat: ?There are proposals which threaten the licensed three-tier system which exists today as it relates to separation of manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Those provisions are what help bring about an orderly marketplace. Who knew Michigan ?s small wineries were so powerful?

? Cheap Italian wine: Another winner from the Italian Wine Guy, discussing how many wonderfully pleasant and inexpensive Chiantis are available: ?Anyone who has waited at a bar for a table in any number of Italian-American places knows there is a lot of crappy overpriced Chianti being poured. Probably one of the reasons why folks think the wine has seen better days. But this tasting, done blind, was different. The wines seemed to have a sense of place. Yeah, they were humble and every-day friendly. But they weren ?t pretending to be something they weren ?t. ? What more can we ask of cheap wine?