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Wine of the week: Domaine des Cassagnoles Côtes de Gascogne 2013

This white blend from southern France gives the Wine Curmudgeon a chance to do two of his favorite things: Praise the genius of the winemakers in Gascony, who do what so few Read More »

Wine writing, and what's wrong with it

Wine Spectator: If you can’t buy it, we won’t review it

The Wine Spectator, in a stunning reversal of policy, announced today that it will only review wines that people can buy, ending a decades-long practice where it preferred to critique wine made Read More »

winenews

Winebits 379: Big Wine, diet soda, regional wine

• Big and getting bigger: Wine sales in the U.S. were mostly flat last year, which makes the growth in E&J Gallo’s various brands. including Barefoot, all that much more impressive, reports Read More »

winerant

Arsenic and cheap wine

David K. TeStelle may be a terrific trial attorney, a tremendous human being, and a snappy dresser. But he apparently knows little about logic and even less about wine. “The lower the Read More »

winereview

Mini-reviews 70: Ponzi, white Rhone, lemberger, pinot blanc

Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. • Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Read More »

Wine of the week: Domaine des Cassagnoles Côtes de Gascogne 2013

wineofweek

cassagnolesThis white blend from southern France gives the Wine Curmudgeon a chance to do two of his favorite things: Praise the genius of the winemakers in Gascony, who do what so few others in the world seem capable of – make great cheap wine without any embarrassment; and criticize wine scores. Is it any wonder Gascon wine makes me so happy?

This vintage of the Cassagnoles ($10, purchased, 11.5%) has less citrus and more white grapiness than previous years, which is my preferred style. That gives the wine more balance, and it tastes less like sauvignon blanc and more like the intriguing cheap wine that it is. Ah, the wonders of the colombard, ugni blanc, and gros manseng grapes.

Best yet, this style makes the Cassagnoles even more refreshing and fruity, truly a bottle that is empty before you realize you have drunk the whole thing. Highly recommended, and it will return to the $10 Hall of Fame next year. My only regret? That we can’t buy it in the U.S. in the 10-liter box (the equivalent of 13 1/3 bottles) that it is sold in in France.

Yet someone, somehow, managed to give the wine 82 points on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory app), claiming that it was like pinot grigio and didn’t have any taste. If this wine is only worth 82 points, I’ll drink a bottle of overoaked, too alcoholic California chardonnay, which is probably what that person thinks is tasty.

Wine Spectator: If you can’t buy it, we won’t review it

Wine writing, and what's wrong with it

wine spectatorThe Wine Spectator, in a stunning reversal of policy, announced today that it will only review wines that people can buy, ending a decades-long practice where it preferred to critique wine made in such small quantities that there were never any for sale.

“Frankly, when we started to think about it, it seemed kind of silly to review wines that weren’t in stores,” said a magazine spokeswoman. “Yes, there was a certain cachet to do wines in the Spectator where the producer only made three cases, because it showed how much better we were than everyone else. Because we are much better than everyone else. But, in the end, we are a wine review magazine, and if our readers can’t buy the wines we review, there isn’t much reason for us to exist, is there?”

The new availability policy, said the spokeswoman, was based on the one used by legendary Internet blogger Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon. Siegel, who declined to be interviewed for this story, uses what he calls general availability: He only reviews wines that consumers can find in a quality wine shop in a medium-sized city. Said the spokeswoman: “Considering how much fun he makes of us, and that he is has no credibility because he is an Internet blogger, Siegel’s policy seems quite practical. Just don’t tell him we stole it.”

Reaction from the wine world was immediate:

• A host of cult wines in the Napa Valley, whose production rarely exceeds 100 cases each, announced plans to increase the amount of wine they make so they can be reviewed. “If we’re not in the Spectator, what’s the point of making wine?” asked one winery owner, a Silicon Valley zillionaire. “It’s not like I care about the wine. I just want my friends to be jealous when they see my wine, which they can’t buy, got a 99.”

• Several other wine magazines said they would follow suit, although the Wine Advocate said it would use availability in China as its threshold. “Listen, when you pay as much money for the Advocate as we did,” said a co-owner, “you really don’t care if anyone can buy the wine in Omaha.”

• The country’s largest retailers, including Costco and Walmart, made plans for special Wine Spectator sections in their wine departments, now that the Spectator would review most of the wine that they carry. “They’re already selling some wine for us with their scores and shelf talkers,” said one retailer. “So why not just get rid of the pretense and let them do all the work?”

More April 1 wine news:
Supreme Court: Regulate wine writing through three-tier system
Gov. Perry to California: Bring your wineries to Texas
California secedes from U.S. — becomes its own wine country

 

Winebits 379: Big Wine, diet soda, regional wine

winenews

big wineBig and getting bigger: Wine sales in the U.S. were mostly flat last year, which makes the growth in E&J Gallo’s various brands. including Barefoot, all that much more impressive, reports Shanken News Daily. Total U.S. wine sales were 321.8 million cases in 2014, and 17 million of those were Barefoot — more than five percent of the total. Given the thousands of wine brands in the world, that one brand, and especially one that isn’t sold in many wine shops, accounts for that much wine is difficult to imagine. It speaks to Big Wine’s ability to put product on store shelves and to market it onces its there. It also illustrates the divide in the wine business between what we’re told we’re supposed to drink and what most of us do drink.

Is diet soda dead? Which matters to wine drinkers because the sales of diet Coke, Pepsi, and so forth appear to have started an irreversible slide, down 20 percent from their all-time high in 2009. The reasons are many, reports the Washington Post, but center on health, including the artificial nature of diet soda. So where will diet soda drinkers go next? It’s not soft drinks, which are also declining in sales, again for health reasons. The Wine Curmudgeon could offer wine as an alternative, pointing to the growth of Barefoot and what are considered wine’s heart health benefits. But that would mean the wine business is interested in attracting non-wine drinkers through education and outreach, something that we know isn’t true. Ah, missed opportunities.

The next Napa Valley: During my many years working with regional wine, the one thing that has always made me crazy is hearing someone from a U.S. region talk about how they wanted Texas or Colorado or Virginia (or wherever) to become the next Napa Valley. To which I always asked: Why do you need to do that? Why can’t you be the best Texas or Colorado or Virginia (or wherever)? Turns out I’m not the only who feels that way. Rob McMillan at Silicon Valley Bank writes that he sees the same thing all the time, and with California wine regions. “Do you really want to be like Napa?” he asks. The post is a little technical for consumers, but the point is well made. If you can’t make world-class cabernet sauvignon, why would you even think of being like Napa, let alone build a region behind that goal?

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