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Category Archives: Wine Curmudgeon

Wine Curmudgeon will return to El Centro, and not just for wine

winenews

el centro wineMissed the Wine Curmudgeon’s El Centro wine class this semester? Never fear — you can take it in the fall, as well as a beer and spirits class next spring. Call me the adjunct instructor for the beverage program in the college’s well-respected Food & Hospitality Institute.

Not bad for someone who got a C in advanced reporting in college (a grade I’m still eager to dispute 30 years later, because I damned well did B work).

I wasn’t sure I’d be back after finishing this semester, given how strange the ways of academia are to someone who has worked for himself almost continually since 1991. For instance, I’m still not sure what went on at one faculty meeting, other than everyone kept using the word rubric. But Steve DeShazo, the institute’s director, and Swee-Hua Goh, my faculty team leader, apparently figured I did something right. Plus, most culinary schools these days are moving to a full beverage program, and they saw their school needed to as well.

For which I am grateful. Teaching the class was huge fun, and my students were a treat. I say this not just because they gave me the benefit of the doubt when I went off on one of my rants about wine scores or terroir, but because they wanted to learn about wine. Two students, who came into the class not having tasted much wine and not liking what they had tasted, figured out enough to know why they didn’t like it, and even found some they did. What more can a teacher ask for?

I’ll post more about registering for the 2015-16 fall and spring semesters this summer; the wine class is RSTO 1319. Until then, know that you can take both classes as continuing education students — $177 for 15 or 16 weekly classes, which includes tastings most weeks. As someone who has always preached value, that’s about as good as value gets.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s Lunch for Literary

literacy

literacy educationIn which I’m offering my services to raise money to benefit literacy education — because, if Robert Parker can do it, why can’t I?

Parker, the man who popularized the 100-point scoring system and was the most powerful person in wine for decades, is donating his knowledge, his time, and exclusive wines from his cellar to raise money for heart disease research. All it takes is $25,000 — which is well and good, but more than almost everyone in the world can afford.

Which is where I come in. I’ll donate my knowledge, my time, and $10 wines from my cellar.

All I need is a literacy group to take me up on this offer, and I’m willing to work with one in any part of the country. Literacy has long been one of my causes, not only because I write for a living, but because we can’t have a functioning democracy unless we can read and write. So pass this post along to a literacy group near you, and we will make this work.

We can do it the same way Parker is doing his, but charge less money to make it more accessible to the vast majority of wine drinkers. The idea would be to raise awareness as much as money, and what better way to do that than to teach people about the joy of cheap wine at a wine lunch (especially given my fondness for wine lunches)?

Frankly, raising money for literacy by introducing wine drinkers to Gascon whites, Sicilian reds, chenin blanc, cava, and all the other wines they’re not supposed to drink would be more fun than any curmudgeon is supposed to have.

Ask the WC 7: Winespeak, availability, Bordeaux

wineadvice

winespeakBecause 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:
You use the term structure for wine, which sounds like a lot of jargon to me. What does structure mean?
Confused by language

Dear Confused:
Think of a wine’s structure like the structure of a house. A house has to have a foundation, a floor, and a roof. Leave one of those things out, and you don’t have much of a house. A wine, regardless of price, needs structure, too, and that includes tannins, fruit, and acidity in the proper proportions. Leave one of those out, and it’s like a house without a crappy roof — livable, but why would you want to?

Hey Curmudge:
Where do you buy your wine? I know you try to find wines that are available, but how do you do it?
Curious consumer

Dear Curious:
I’m one of the few wine writers in the country who buys wine to review, and it’s probably more than half the wines I do. The rest come from samples that producers send, and that number has fallen significantly since the recession. I shop for wine at least once a week in two or three places. I go to grocery stores like Kroger and Albertson’s, independent wine shops (Jimmy’s and Pogo’s are two of the best), chain wine shops (we have Spec’s and Total Wine in Dallas), and specialty stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and World Market. That way, I can compare prices, see who has what, and talk to retailers and customers. I enjoy this, not only because it’s part of a job that I like, but because I come from a long line of retailers, and learned to appreciate this stuff when I was a kid.

Jeff:
I have tried a few red Bordeauxs, and most are not very good in the $10-$20 range. I like many California cabernet sauvignons and red blends, and am not put off by the “earthiness” of French wines. But most of the Bordeauxs I’ve tried are just harsh and bitter. Any suggestions for reasonably priced Bordeaux would be appreciated.
Searching for French value

Dear Searching:
You aren’t alone — Bordeaux has priced most wine drinkers out of its market, whether from greed, infatuation with China, or French stubbornness. It’s almost impossible to find quality red Bordeaux for less than $20 a bottle, as you note (Chateau Bonnet and one or two others being the exception). Instead, we get poorly made wine, whether with unripe grapes or raw tannins — just like the bad old days. Ironically, we talked about this in my El Centro class last week, that the wines that most Americans used to drink to learn about wine are now too expensive for most Americans to drink.

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 6: Box wine, wine closeouts, open wine
Ask the WC 5: Getting drunk, restaurant wine, wine reviews
Ask the WC 4: Green wine, screwcaps, mold

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