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Category Archives: Wine advice

Nine silly wine facts

winefacts

wine factsNine silly wine facts you probably didn’t know — or didn’t know you needed to know:

1. Two tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk has as many calories as one glass of wine, around 125. Knowing this, I expect the federal Centers for Disease Control to propose higher taxes and more regulation for sweetened condensed milk, as well as strategies to wean us off the stuff.

2. The Romans, the world’s second great wine culture, had wine writers (which no doubt hastened the collapse of the empire). Pliny the Elder, one of the most famous, wrote that second-rate wines “cannot properly be termed wines.” It’s a good thing he didn’t know about scores.

3. That no one but the super-rich can afford the best French wine is nothing new. In 1845, Fraser’s Magazine quoted a Bordeaux wine merchant, who complained that the leading French wines were not only too expensive, but that he wasn’t able find any to buy.

4. The French, whose wine industry was almost destroyed by the phylloxera pest at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, probably discovered phylloxera — though they didn’t know it. French colonists in 16th century Florida were never able to grow grapes; the vines always died, and the descriptions of what happened seem to have indicated phylloxera.

5. The U.S. attitude toward regional wine — “I don’t need to drink it to know it isn’t any good” — may have its roots in 19th century English wine. Wrote Punch, a popular humor magazine: English wine needed four people to drink it: One victim, two to hold him down, and one other to pour the wine down his throat.

6. It sounds like an urban myth, but there does seem to be something called oenophobia — a fear of wine. Symptoms include anxiety, nervousness, embarrassment, or slight perspiration. In other words, everyone who drinks wine has probably suffered from it at one time or another.

7. The Code of Hammurabi, generally acknowledged as the first written set of civil law (around 1800 BC), included penalties for shady wine retailers: they were to be drowned. Maybe the three-tier system isn’t so bad after all.

8. The Greek philosopher Plato seems to have had the Wine Curmudgeon in mind: He said wine in moderation was important until 40; after that, you can drink as much as you want to cure the “crabbiness of old age” and “soften the hard cast of mind.”

9. The most important fruit crop in Napa Valley after World War II was prunes, and its cash value was higher than grapes as late as 1960. You may make of that what you will, given Napa’s standing as the epicenter of U.S. wine snobbery.

Do-it-yourself New Year’s wine resolutions for 2015

wine-diet

New Year's wine resolutionsWhat better post for the day after New Year’s than the Wine Curmudgeon’s second annual Do-it-yourself wine resolutions? Just click on the drop-down menus and select your wine resolutions for 2015. Those who get the blog via email or RSS may have to go the website to use the menus. The 2015 $10 Hall of Fame will post on Monday.

In 2015, I’m going to drink:

In 2015, wine scores will:

In 2015, I’m going to buy wine:

In 2015, the most important wine trend will be:

New Year’s resolution image from Mayor Gia, using a Creative Commons license

Ask the WC 6: Box wine, wine closeouts, open wine

wineadvice

wine questionsBecause the customers always have wine questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. Ask me a wine-related question by clicking here.

Wine Curmudgeon:
Are there any box wines that you would find acceptable for someone who can’t afford $15 or $20 for wine every night?  I have been buying several of the Almaden wines and find them quite good. Are they, or is it just my unsophisticated taste buds? Could I be getting a better taste for my buck?
Bottles aren’t necessary

Dear Bottles:
Box wine comes in varying degrees of quality, just like wine in bottles. Many are of higher quality than the Alamaden, though they won’t be as sweet. You can try Bota Box, Black Box, Bandit/Three Thieves, and Big House, for example. But realize you don’t have to spend $15 or $20 for a bottle; check out the $10 Hall of Fame or the $10 wine link at the top of the page.

Curmudgeonly one:
How do wineries get rid of excess inventory, if they make too much and have to sell it off? Can you find good deals on wine this way?
Looking for a bargain

Dear Looking:
It’s difficult to do thanks to our friend, three-tier. Can’t have a warehouse sale, since it’s illegal, and it’s rare to find a wine retailer that specializes in closeouts and discontinued items like Big Lots because the process is so difficult. Some retailers buy excess wine and discount it, but there isn’t much rhyme or reason to how they do it. You need to find a good retailer and ask them to let you know when they have that kind of sale. In fact, most excess wine sits in a distributor warehouse until it is sold, returned, or destroyed (which is what multi-national Treasury did in 2013).

Wine Curmudgeon:
How long will an open bottle of wine stay good? Is there anything I can do to make it last longer?
Can’t drink a bottle in one sitting

Dear Can’t drink:
The answer to this used to be simple — if you didn’t finish an open bottle within 24 hours, it oxidized and tasted like bad brandy. Hence, closures like the VacuVin. But improvements in winemaking have complicated the issue, and I’ve had wine, including cheap wine, that stayed drinkable for a couple of days after it had been opened. My suggestion? Put it in the refrigerator and hope for the best if it’s there longer than 36 hours.

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 4: Green wine, screwcaps, mold
Ask the WC 3: Availability, prices, headaches
Ask the WC 2: Health, food pairings, weddings

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