Category Archives: A Featured Post

Wine of the week: Straccali Chianti 2014


Straccali ChiantiThe retail market, despite years of producers wishing otherwise, is still awash in cheap Chianti, the Italian red wine made with sangiovese from the Chianti region of Tuscany. Most of it, save for a couple of brands like Melini, tastes like you’d expect: harsh and bitter, with little reason to drink even though it costs less than $10. 

Add the Straccali Chianti ($8, purchased, 12%) to the first group. It’s not just a better value than the Melini, which I love, but a well-made wine that embarrasses all those $15 grocery store red Italians with their cute names and shiny labels. One of the great questions in Italian wine: Why, if the country’s winemakers can do something like the Straccali Chianti, do they do so many dull, overpriced, Paso Robles-style wines on the theory Americans prefer them? Trust me — we want quality, not marketing.

Look for more depth than the Melini, so that you have to swallow twice to get a hint of everything that’s going on. It’s also less rustic, with black pepper, red cherry, a little more grip, and the acidity that Chianti is famous for. One key to this wine: a touch of merlot is blended with the traditional sangiovese and canaiolo grapes, which rounds out the flavors and mouth feel. Plus, no oak, which lends more freshness than you expect.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to be added to the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this as the weather cools on its own if you want a glass of red, or with pork or beef that will complement the crisp red fruit, as well as red sauce.


Winebits 405: Legal affairs edition


legal affairsBecause what fun would writing about wine be if we couldn’t write about lawsuits and other various legal affairs?

Aldi brings in the lawyers: It’s difficult for those of us in the U.S. to understand how touchy the British are about price comparison advertising and marketing for booze; hopefully, this bit about Aldi suing a retailer over price comparison will help explain. The discount retailer wants competitor Bargain Booze to stop the ads, which compare its products to Aldi’s with the tagline that they you can buy a brand name for the same price as Aldi’s private label. Plus, Aldi wants damages. I’d love to watch a bunch of barristers in wigs argue about this, but as much fun as it would be, the suit would have little chance of success in the U.S. That’s ironic, too, given that our booze laws, thanks to three-tier, are so much stricter than those in Britain.

Messing with Putin: Who knew that a geopolitical event like the Russian annexation of the Crimea would turn into a wine legal tussle? But it has, with Ukrainian prosecutors charging that the director of a winery in Russian-occupied Crimea opened a 240-year-old bottle for Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi. The Associated Press says that the two men illegally drank rare vintages from the Massandra winery, some worth tens of thousands of dollars, and that the winery director committed a crime by serving them the wine. Obviously, since the Russians control Crimea, nothing much will happen, but it’s another example of the power wine has over people. I wonder: did Putin and Berlusconi give the wines 95 points?

Only in Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania’s state store system has come in for its fair share of criticism, here and elsewhere, but this one is the best yet. A state resident illegally brought wine into the state, which means he likely bought it in New Jersey and drove it over the William Penn bridge, committing a crime in the process. As part of his settlement with the state, he had to forfeit about half of the 2,447 illegal bottles. Silly enough? It gets worse. As Bloomberg News Service’s Noah Feldman writes, the state will destroy the wine because a judge has ruled that it can’t be given to a hospital for fund-raising, since hospitals don’t use wine for medicinal purposes. Don’t worry if you’re confused here, since the entire episode — in keeping with Pennsylvania’s warped state store system — makes no sense. Just read the link and wonder at how this happens in the 21st century.

A toast to Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs


joe maddonDear Joe:

OK, so I was wrong. The Cubs — my beloved, wretched, soul-crushing Cubs, who make existential angst seem like a pleasant spring day — made it to the National League playoffs this year. It doesn’t even matter that they clinched a wild card spot when they lost. Or that it will probably be the second wild card spot. Who am I, after more than a century of futility, to be picky?

So, as promised, I owe you a bottle of nice wine. I realize, in our first communication, that I wasn’t clear about the process, and that it seemed I would only pay up if the Cubs won the World Series. That’s mostly because I didn’t expect the Cubs to make the playoffs this year, not with this lineup — a bullpen about an arm and a half short, bald spots in the lineup in centerfield and at shortstop, and too many young, inexperienced players who should have frazzled as the season progressed.

But you did it. Somehow, you managed this team — where one of the shortstops could neither catch nor hit, and more than once reminded me of Roy Smalley Sr. — to the playoffs. I am speechless at that feat, and anyone who knows me will tell you that that happens about as often as the Cubs make the playoffs. Apparently, you are as gifted a manager as the sportswriters say you are, and that your work this season in juggling lineups, caressing egos, offering encouragement, and providing the occasional firm hand was what the Cubs needed. Even more impressive is that you knew they needed it, something only the best managers know. And who usually work for the hated St. Louis Cardinals.

So, which wine? I’d like to hold off on the white Burgundy and the Corton I mentioned before unless the Cubs win the World Series. Otherwise, you tell me. I tasted some terrific Texas wine over the weekend when I was in Lubbock for a story, and there are some interesting California wines you might not know that would work. And we couldn’t go wrong with an Oregon pinot noir, either. But no Champagne, in case you’re wondering.

So, if you get a minute between preparing for the playoffs, let me know. Otherwise, I can wait until the season ends. Which, hopefully, won’t be for another six weeks or so, and I will need to buy the Corton..

Yours in 107 years of Cubs futility (but maybe not much longer),
The Wine Curmudgeon

Powered by WordPress | Designed by: suv | Thanks to toyota suv, infiniti suv and lexus suv