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Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Rouge 2010

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Chateau Bonnet rougeChateau Bonnet Rouge ($10, purchased, 14%) is the quintessential cheap red wine:

• It tastes of where it’s from, in this case the Bordeaux region of France. That means enough fruit to be recognizable (mostly red); some earthiness so that it doesn’t taste like it came from Argentina or Australia (almost mushroomy for this vintage); and tannins that make the wine taste better.

• Varietally correct, so that the merlot and cabernet sauvignon taste like merlot and cabernet sauvignon, and not some gerrymandered red wine where the residual sugar level was fixed before the wine was made.

• It doesn’t have any flaws or defects, and is consistent from vintage to vintage.

In this, it shows that simple wines can be enjoyable and that simple does not mean stupid or insulting. What more do wine drinkers need?

And if the Bonnet needs any more to recommend it, this was a four-year-old $10 wine. Too many four-year-old $10 wines don’t make it past 18 months before they oxidize or turn to vinegar.

Highly recommended (as are the Bonnet blanc and rose). The only catch is pricing. Some retailers, even for older, previous vintages like this, figure they can get $15 for it because it has a French label that says Bordeaux. It’s still a fine value for $15, but I hate to give those kinds of retailers my business.

Winebits 351: Wine glasses, wine laws, and economic growth

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wine news wine glassesDo wine glasses matter? The answer is no, says the Vinepair website in a post that includes the sentence, “Any industry that marries the existence of experts, the spending of cash, and the words ‘acquired taste’ as exquisitely as the wine industry does is bound to intimidate the uninitiated.” Which was a guarantee the Wine Curmudgeon would write about it. The post dismisses the idea that different shapes matter — a Bordeaux glass, a Burgundy glass, and so forth — and cites several studies and zings Riedel, the big glass company, repeatedly. Most of which makes sense, since I’ve never been convinced spending $100 for a glass is going to make all that much difference. The difference comes, I think, in whether you use well-made glasses instead of poorly-made ones. I buy the Forte from Schott Zwiesel, about $10 a glass, and am content. That’s about the twice the price of Libbey glasses, but the expense seems worth it.

Hell no, we ain’t reformin’: Pennsylvania’s state-controlled liquor store system has been the subject of much controversy as well as repeated demands for privatization. Reform seems as far away as ever, despite all the effort, and I’ve discovered the reason: Money. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which runs the stores, is a $2.24 billion business. Which is damned big — almost twice the annual sales of Crate & Barrel and only one-sixth the total of Whole Foods, even though the upscale grocer is a national company with more than 360 stores. How many state legislators, regardless of political persuasion, are going to throw away that much money? I’m not even sure I would.

Not just rich people drink wine: There’s a long and surprisingly boring post on Forbes discussing whether wine sales can predict economic growth. If someone can figure out what it actually says, let me know. As near as I can tell, it says that high-end wine sales are a predictor of U.S. economic health, which is not true and seems a silly thing for someone at Forbes to say. Because only five percent of the U.S. population buys wine that costs $20 or more, and the average price of a bottle of wine is about $10. So what the price of vineyard land in Napa Valley has to do with economic growth is beyond me. Which is probably why I do this and don’t write for Forbes.

Cupcake wine review 2014

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Cupcake wine review 2014Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($9, purchased, 13.5%)

Cupcake Pinot Grigio 2013 ($9, purchased, 12.5%)

Whenever the Wine Curmudgeon reviews Cupcake wines, I always end up writing as much about the brand and the company that owns Cupcake as I do about the wines. That’s because Cupcake may be the most fascinating wine brand in the world today, where what’s in the bottle doesn’t matter nearly as much as how the wine is marketed. It’s genius, actually, all those red velvet cake descriptors propelling the brand to national awareness without any help from the Winestream Media or scores.

Who else would have the nerve to market a wine called Chloe, with a suggested price of $17, targeting “weddings, birthdays and other celebratory gatherings” without any hint of what it tastes like? Or that calling it Chloe has more than a little to do with the name’s popularity for baby girls over the past decade?

Which doesn’t mean Cupcake wines are bad. They inhabit the region between the boring grocery store stuff and the best cheap wine. In this, think of the chain restaurant business, where Cupcake is an upscale steakhouse like Capital Grille or Fleming’s, and the rest of it is Red Lobster and Texas Roadhouse. The food is better at the former, but in the end it’s still chain food, and these wines, no matter how much Cupcake dresses them up, are still chain wines.

The cabernet, from California, is full, fruity, and almost balanced, with soft tannins, cherry fruit, and an odd sort of chocolate flavor. It’s not quite sweet, though the residual sugar is higher than in most red wines. It’s much better than I expected it to be, and certainly drinkable. If you’re going to make a focus group wine, this is the way to do it.

The Italian-made pinot grigio, on the other hand, is surprisingly disappointing, given how easy it is to make cheap, palatable pinot grigio. It’s oddly disjointed, with a dollop of sweet white fruit in the middle, a quality that doesn’t go with its traditional, Italian-style quinine approach that makes up the rest of the wine and is so popular among women of a certain age. My guess is that the dollop is there to sweeten the wine in line with Cupcake’s flavor profile, a winemaking trick that is cheaper or easier or more legal than adding sugar.

So one yes and one no. Assuming, of course, you can’t find a better $10 wine, which isn’t all that difficult. The labels just aren’t as much fun to read.

For more on Cupcake wine:
Cupcake wine review 2013
Cupcake wine review 2012

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