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Mini-reviews 63: Da Vinci, Fetzer, Villa Maria, Santa Cristina

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Mini-reviews 63: Da Vinci, Fetzer, Villa Maria, Santa CristinaReviews 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.

Da Vinci Chianti 2011 ($12. sample, 13.5%): Much, much better than the past couple of vintages of this Italian red, with an effort made to make it taste more like Chianti and less like merlot from California. This means less soft fruitiness and more earthiness, plus sangiovese’s tell-tale sour cherry.

Fetzer Gewurztraminer Shaly Loam 2012 ($8, purchased, 12%): This white wine won a platinum at the 2014 Critic’s Challenge, and  if that seems to be a bit of a stretch, it’s still an excellent example of an off-dry gewurtzraminer (though it could be a little more crisp), and especially for the price. Look for apricot fruit and white pepper spice.

Villa Maria Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 ($14, sample, 13%): Surprisingly dull white wine from an otherwise fine New Zealand producer, lacking fruit, crispness, and with a very bitter finish. If it didn’t have a screwcap, I’d think it was corked.

Santa Cristina Cipresseto Rosato ($12, sample, 11%): OK Italian rose made mostly with sangiovese, but nothing special, and especially for $12. Could use a little more interest, be it fruit or elegance or even a little acidity. More thin than anything else.

Are you a wine snob?

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wine snobThe cyber-ether has been abuzz with accusations of wine snobbery, and even Blake Gray — who recently shared a bottle of $10 South African chenin blanc with me — has been accused of snobbery. Trust me: People who drink cheap wine with the Wine Curmudgeon aren’t wine snobs. 

All of this back and forth means it’s time to set the record straight. Note that wine snobbery doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with winespeak, scores or high alcohol. It’s much more nefarious than that. Hence, the Wine Curmudgeon’s eight questions to tell whether you’re a wine snob. 

• Do you tell other people what to drink?

• Do you criticize other people when they drink wine that you’ve told them not to drink?

• Do you think wine quality is a function of price, and that all expensive wine is inherently better than cheap wine?

• Do you only drink certain varietals, like cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay, because other varietals aren’t good enough for you?

• Do you only drink wine from certain regions of the world, because other regions aren’t good enough for you?

• Do you know everything there is to know about wine, and aren’t shy about telling others how smart you are?

• Do you gladly share wine knowledge with others, or are you glad you know more than they do?

• Do you remember the last time you tried a wine you didn’t think you would like?

Answer yes to more than one of the first six questions, or a yes plus a no to the seventh or eighth, and there’s no doubt: You’re a wine snob.

Winebits 343: Dave McIntyre, wine scores, and wine in the movies

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Dave McIntyre

That’s Dave in the middle, and he should be smiling.

More than well deserved: Who knew the Wine Curmudgeon would know someone who had won the same award as a Mondavi? Or the legendary Konstantin Frank, without whom U.S. regional wine would not have been possible? But that’s my pal Dave McIntyre, who was given the Monteith Trophy over the weekend for his work as a wine writer. Dave has done much for the cause of wine, including co-founding Drink Local Wine with me when people thought we were crazy. So it’s more than time that the wine world recognized the effort Dave has made, not only for regional wine, but for wine drinkers everywhere. Dave will be in Dallas in a couple of weeks, and I have laid in some Texas wine that we will celebrate with. Congratulations, my friend. But couldn’t you have worn a tie for a big deal like this?

End the tyranny: Or so says Michael Woodsmall at the Grape Collective, calling for an end to the 100-point scoring system. “It should be duly noted that these scales don’t take actual wine’s nuanced characteristics into account; they merely assigned values to general traits. … Also, it is no longer the seventies and eighties.”  This sentiment is something the Wine Curmudgeon has long advocated, and Woodsmall makes an intelligent argument for the end of scores, even throwing in a little political theory to explain why the debate generates such controversy. This is a revolution, and the scoreists will defend the ancien regime until the bitter end.

Hollywood and wine: The Wine Curmudgeon, in discussing U.S. wine culture in the cheap wine book, talked about Hollywood’s complete indifference to wine for most of the 20th century, and how this indifference reflected American views of wine. So I was more than pleased to see an academic study of the subject, supporting my views. Raphael Schirmer of the University of Bordeaux, writing for the American Association of Wine Economists, has found that as wine has become more popular in the U.S., so has wine become more popular in film. This is not just about Francis Ford Coppola owning a major wine company or movies like “Sideways;” rather, it’s the idea that we drink wine as part of our everyday lives, and the movies that are made reflect this.

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