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$10 Hall of Fame rules and eligibility

The wines have to cost $10 or less (Dallas prices, though I will make an exception if prices seem to be higher here) and be generally available. That means most store brands or private labels — wines like Trader Joe’s Two-buck Chuck, which are only sold at one retailer — aren’t eligible.

The final decisions are my own, and take into account what I think wine should be: varietally correct, balanced, and interesting enough to buy again. I taste most of the wines that make the Hall more than once, and regularly taste the wines with other people to get their opinion.

Finally, I take suggestions and input from blog visitors and wine drinkers, people I know in the wine business, and other wine writers.

The 2013 $10 Hall of Fame

10 wine hall of fameNine years ago, shortly after I started the $10 Hall of Fame for a Dallas magazine, I seriously doubted the future of cheap wine: “The news for those of us who worry about inexpensive wine has not been good. …”

This was at the height of the More Expensive is Always Better wine craze, when wineries were falling over themselves to charge as much as they could, quality or demand be damned. Because, if it was expensive, it had to be good, right? The situation was so bad that someone published a guide that graded wine on a price/score basis, so you could figure out if a $50 90-point wine was a better buy than a $40 89-point wine.

Turns out I worried way too much. The recession put an end to the pricing foolishness, while wine drinkers discovered that wine didn’t have to cost a lot to be well made. No less than a big-time California critic wrote recently: “Maybe I’ve just been bludgeoned for too long into thinking I needed to spend more for decent quality and interest. Spending less on wine makes me happy on its own, but the fact that often times I actually prefer the unadorned, straightforward, and open nature of such wines makes it a win-win.“

This is amply demonstrated in the seventh annual Hall of Fame, which added a dozen wines (and I could have put in twice that many). I have never seen so much quality cheap wine, and there is no reason to think that will change any time soon. Five wines dropped out, but mostly because of availability. Go here to find out which wines are eligibile and how I pick them.

The new members of the Hall:

• The Ludovicus and Zestos Spanish whites, brought into the U.S. by Patrick Mata’s Ole Imports, the best Spanish wine importer in the world (and, if not for Kermit Lynch, perhaps the best wine importer of any kind). If you see Ole on a label, buy the wine.

• Australia’s Yalumba Y Series, and especially the shiraz/viogner, riesling, and rose, which may mark the beginning of a revolution in Aussie wine. “The shiraz is an Australian wine that one can actually drink without taking a nap between glasses.”

• Luc Pirlet Pinot Noir les Barriques Reserve, a pinot noir from southern France that was “much, much better than I expected (being the curmudgeon that I am).”

• Two Gascon wines, Domaine D’Arton Les Hauts and Domaine de Pouy, to join the holdovers in the Hall.

• Mandolin’s syrah, a California wine that was the second-biggest surprise this year – “tastes like wine, and not like it was designed by a focus group.”

• Château Font-Mars Picpoul, a French white that “is everything picpoul is supposed to be.”

• The biggest surprise — the Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red, which is no longer just another $5 wine: “All I can say is that the Wine Curmudgeon is as surprised as you are.”

The wines that dropped out were the Casamatta Toscana sangiovese, no longer $10; Chateau Barat, a French rose;.Chateau Boisson, a white French blend; Château Parenchère Bordeaux Blanc Sec, a white Bordeaux; and Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Rosado, a grocery store Spanish rose, all for limited availability.

Pacific Rim Dry Riesling, a sweetish white wine that has been in and out of the Hall several times over the years, is not in the Hall this year, but not out either. I wasn’t able to find a current vintage to taste.

The holdovers in the Hall of Fame include:

Notorius, a white wine from Sicily. This is one of more than a dozen Sicilian wines that cost $10 or less and offer spectacular value, almost all of which are worthy of inclusion.

• The $10 wines from California’s Bogle Vineyards, and especially the old vine zinfandel.

• The Yellow+Blue box wines, and especially the torrontes and malbec, about $12 for a 1-liter box.

Dry Creek Fume Blanc, a stellar sauvignon blanc from California that restored my faith in inexpensive California wine.

La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a classic Italian red made with the montepulciano grape; “one sip of this and you’ll be thinking of your mom’s spaghetti and meatballs.”

• Two Spanish cavas, or sparkling wines — Segura Viudas brut (dry) and rose (“How can they do this so inexpensively?” a competitor asked me) and the legendary Cristalino brut, extra dry (sweeter than brut) and rose.

• The Gascon Musketeers, white blends from southwestern France, that include Domaine Tariquet, Domaine Artigaux, and Domaine Duffour.

• The Hall’s Asterisk Wing — for the Vitiano red, white and rose made by the great Riccardo Cotarella. These Italian wines are sometimes $10 and sometimes $11, and it’s kind of silly to keep moving them in and out of the Hall because the dollar fluctuates against the euro or because retailers are playing with margin.

Previous $10 Wine Hall of Fames:
The original $10 Hall of Fame

Winebits 255: Birthday week notes

A few thoughts about blog trends over the past year:

Apparently, no one really cares: The Robert Parker-Vintners Hall of Fame posts, which ran earlier this year, generated almost no buzz — Nos. 224 and 225 over the last 12 months. Even a 2 1/2-year-old post about Hello Kitty wines did better (No. 100). What's fascinating about this is that the posts did generate buzz in the wine community (or so I was told), which speaks to Parker's position among the general wine consumer. Which that there isn't, apparently, much of one any more.

Still looking for the big money: The blog earned about
$1,500 over the past 12 months, about the same as last year. Frankly, I'm stumped about how to increase revenue. I'm certainly not going to do it with advertising, recession or no, and I'm not new media savvy enough to figure out what will do it. I have a few thoughts, including a paid service, which would let people subscribe to the Wine Curmudgeon data base. I'll probably detail some of my ideas in a later post.

Full disclosure: The blog has followed that policy for five years, whether it's subscribing to the eGullet
code of ethics for online writers, disclosing my relationship with
anyone or anything I write about, and letting you know whether I paid
for a wine or got it for free. No quid pro quos here, and I have the angry emails and phone calls from publicists to prove it.


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