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First Wine Curmudgeon wine prices survey

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wine pricesThe biggest impression from the first Wine Curmudgeon wine prices survey? That several of my assumptions about wine prices may not be true, including that prices are not  a function of where in the country the store is located. Second, that wine is increasingly treated like other consumer packaged goods, where pricing is not about cost but about bringing customers into the store and serving as a loss leader.

The caveats first: I only got prices for 50 wines or so from the blog’s readers, so there is nothing scientific about this. I know better than to make that claim. But, as we repeat the exercise every year, we should be able to work our way to more prices and better results. And my thanks to everyone who participated.

So what generalizations can we safely get from this?

• Costco, if it doesn’t have the best wine prices in the country, is the standard by which other retailers price their products. It’s not news that many retailers in markets that compete with Costco match the warehouse chain’s prices, but it surprised me just how low other retailers will go. How about $7 for Smoking Loon, Ravenswood, and Mark West at a Denver-area retailer? That’s more or less the wholesale price.

• Independents don’t necessarily mean higher prices, especially in very competitive markets like New York City. One reader paid 20 percent less for the Los Dos garnacha blend in Manhattan than I did in Dallas.

• Grocery stores remain the great unknown. Raley’s, a chain in northern California, beat Total Wine and BevMo, two of the biggest chains in the country, on Michael David’s Earthquake zinfandel. Haggen’s, which aspires to be a big-time West Coast grocer, charged almost three times as much as Costco for Toasted Head chardonnay.

• Expect to pay more if the wine isn’t well-known or a Big Wine brand, or doesn’t have a powerful distributor behind it, regardless of who sells it. Bonny Doon’s Vin de Cigare rose was the same price, $15, in Dallas and the East Coast.

• Imports, and especially from France, may be a couple of bucks more than comparable domestic wines, even if they don’t offer a couple of bucks more of value. This is another example of how the French still see the U.S. as a captive market, and don’t understand that it isn’t 1976 anymore.

 

The Wine Curmudgeon as hipster: Dude, he likes rose

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rose

I totally get the resemblance… hat and beard and even glasses.

The news is official, from not just Deadspin and Details, which are about as hipster as post-modern media get, but from Manhattan sommeliers — and even their more hip Brooklyn brethren: “Dude, we’re drinking rose.” “Bro, you are so right.”

This is so exciting that the Wine Curmudgeon, given his long love and advocacy of rose, is going to grow one of those hipster beards and wear one of those hipster hats. Because, dude, rose is freakin’ awesome. Fist bump here.

On the one hand, I should be thrilled that the hipsters have embraced rose, because anyone embracing rose is a good thing in the fight for quality cheap wine, given that it’s almost impossible to find a $10 pink wine that isn’t worth drinking. Plus, that people who may not know wine, who usually drink craft beer or artisan cocktails made with pickle brine, are now drinking rose is something to be much appreciated.

On the other hand, why is this trend — any wine trend, really — only official if a Manhattan sommelier approves of it? Why can’t it be a trend if a cranky, middle-aged ex-sportswriter who lives in the middle of the country approves of it? And, regardless of the personal insult to me, why isn’t it a trend because rose sales have been spiking upward for a couple of years — without any help from people who work at what the Details article called a Brooklyn “fauxhemian” hangout?

Just chill, dude.

Maybe so. The Wine Curmudgeon has been known to visit Manhattan (Brooklyn, even). So, in the spirit of rose-mance, I will bring rose with me the next time I go, and not the usual Provencal pink the hipsters know. How about South African rose? Or Spanish rose? Or even Texas rose? Because, bro, I want to, like, be totally cool with that.

 

Wine of the week: Kon Tiki Merlot 2014

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kon tiki merlotMichael Franz, who judged the flight of $15 and under merlots at the Critics Challenge with me last month, was even less optimistic abut finding quality wine among the nine entries than I was. And regular visitors here know how the Wine Curmudgeon feels about $10 grocery store merlot.

So if Michael was happy, then you know the wine was worth drinking. We gave six medals, including a platinum to the Chilean Kon Toki merlot ($12, sample, 13.2%) — easily one of the best grocery store merlots I’ve had in years. It tasted like merlot and not a chocolate cherry cocktail, with almost unheard of depth and subtlety. Look for a black currant aroma followed by black fruit and very correct tannins that weren’t harsh or off, but complemented the fruit.

This is the kind of wine to buy by the case and keep around the house when you want a glass of red wine that does what red wine is supposed to do, and that doesn’t offend you with too much fruit, bitterness, or oak. Drink it on its own, or with any weeknight red wine dinner, from meat loaf to takeout pizza. Dad probably wouldn’t mind a bottle, either, if he needs something for Father’s Day.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the $10 Wine Hall of Fame if I can find it for that price. The only catch? The importer lists distributors in 33 states and the District of Columbia, but many of them are small and may not have enough clout to get the wine on store shelves.

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