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Winebits 378: Box wine, South African wine, nutrition labels

winenews

box wineBring on the cartons: Box wine, since it’s too awkward for most store shelves and because consumers are confused about its quality, has been little more than a niche product in the U.S. But all that may be about to change with the news that E&J Gallo will sell a $20, 3-liter box called Vin Vault, which works out to $5 a bottle for something that will be the quality equivalent of $10 grocery store merlot. If Gallo — perhaps the best judge of consumer sentiment among Big Wine producers — figures the time is right for box wine, it probably is (witness the success of Barefoot and Apothic). Look for big-time promotions and price cutting for Vin Vault when it debuts next month, which should also spur price-cutting for Black Box and Bota Box, the brands that dominate the better-quality box wine market.

Whatever happened to Sebeka? The $10 brand all but disappeared in the U.S. after Gallo gave up on it a couple of years ago, realizing how difficult it was to sell South African wine in the U.S. The wine itself was OK, but as the Wine Curmudgeon has noted many times, South African wines have many problems in this country that don’t include quality. But Sebeka’s new owner figures the time is right to try again, though I have my doubts given this assessment from a Sebeka official: “We don’t know what will be the next big thing but hopefully it’s chenin blanc or pinotage. It just needs that one breakthrough that everyone writes about.” I don’t know what the next thing will be either, though I do know it won’t be pinotage or that anyone in the Winestream Media will figure it out. They’re still unsure about sweet red wine.

Ingredient labels: The recent arsenic scare is about more than contaminated wine; my take is that it’s just one part of the long battle over ingredient labels for wine. So the news last week — and before we found out we’d all been poisoned by cheap wine — that Big Wine producer Diageo would add calorie and nutritional information to its wine is worth mentioning. The company, whose brands include Chalone, Rosenblum, and Sterling, said it wants consumers to know what they’re drinking. In this, reports the Harpers trade magazine, Diageo is the first drinks company to offer the labels. Would that more producers, large and small, had that attitude.

Will cheap wine kill you?

winerant

cheap wine arsenicYes, “Will cheap wine kill you?” is a great search engine headline. And no, it’s not a plot by the the Winestream Media to return us to the good old days before the recession, when they thought cheap wine was so bad that anyone who drank it deserved what they got.

Rather, it was the big wine news last week, based on testing by a Denver lab and carried on the CBS News website: Cheap California wine has lots and lots of arsenic, more than we should ingest. And it might kill you.

A few thoughts about the story after the jump, and why it reflects so badly — again — on the Fourth Estate:

Expensive wine 72: Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz 2010

winereview

Two Hands Gnarly Dudes ShirazThe latest Australian wine news is more doom and gloom: 2015, with some grape prices once again less than the cost of production, will see more more growers fail. So let’s remind the world what’s right about Australian wine, the Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz ($40, sample, 14.8%).

This red wine from the well-regarded Barossa does so much that other, more expensive, higher scoring wines don’t do. For one, it ages gracefully, becoming more interesting over the past three years without losing any of its varietal or Aussie character. For another, it does the clever name bit without being silly. Finally, the alcohol, though high, doesn’t get in the way and make you groggy after a couple of sips.

Look for deep, rich black fruit (black cherries? plums?), tannins that demonstrate how tannins should be done, and a jammy, almost refreshing, intensity that ties everything together. This is red meat wine, but wine that will complement beef, not relegate it to the back of the plate.

Highly recommended, and it’s worth noting that its original $40 price has been cut by one-third by a producer who understands the marketplace and wants to sell wine. Would that more producers felt that way.

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