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Category Archives: Wine Curmudgeon

The Wine Curmudgeon visits The Reverse Wine Snob

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reverse wine snobJon Thorsen is one of the hottest wine writers in the world these days, showing up on all sorts of most influential lists, as a Wine Blog Awards finalist, and with a book deal (out next year).

What makes it even more impressive is that Jon writes about cheap wine as The Reverse Wine Snob.

We don’t approach the subject in the exact same way (his top price is $20), but our points are the same: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to buy a quality bottle of wine. Jon was kind of enough to let me write something for his blog today, and we’re giving away a couple of cheap wine books as part of my guest post:

[W]riters like Jon are pitching in, helping to educate wine drinkers and to disabuse them of the notion that wine is elitist and snooty. Trust me: That was not something a lot people wanted to do in the bad old days, when they would have turned their noses up at anyone who featured wines sold at retailers like Costco and Trader Joe’s. That just wasn’t done.

You’ll have to visit Jon’s website to read the rest. But it’s OK. That’s the point of this exercise.

When I started writing about cheap wine in those long ago days of the 20th century, the Winestream Media was so entrenched that Elin McCoy wrote a book about Robert Parker called “The Emperor of Wine,” and cheap wine got as much respect as a social disease.  How that has changed — so much so that I actually smile when I think about it. Who would have thought that was possible?

Wine competitions and wine scores

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wine scoresThe Wine Curmudgeon’s opinions of wine scores are well known: Get a rope. So what would happen when I had to judge a wine competition that required judges to use scores?

The competition, the Critics Challenge in San Diego, was its usual enjoyable self, featuring wine I usually don’t get to drink as well as some top quality cheap wine. The scores? Meh. More, after the jump (plus some of the best wine I tasted):


Caveats first: The competition pays judges a $500 honorarium and reimburses expenses, and the weather in San Diego is always so much better than it is in Dallas that I’d do it just for the 70-degree temperatures.

But are those good enough reasons to give scores, considering how I feel about them? Probably not. I agreed to judge for two reasons: First, because if you’re going to criticize something, you should do it at least once, and second, because I have tremendous respect for competition impresario Robert Whitley. If Robert wants to do scores, then I’m willing to try it.

Having said that, the scoring process was underwhelming. In years past, we gave wines a silver, gold, or platinum medal; this year, we added scores to those awards. I’m still trying to figure out the difference between a silver medal wine with 87 points and one with 89 points, even though my judging partner, Linda Murphy, did her best to explain it to me. A silver is a silver is a silver, and I don’t understand why two points makes a difference. Or how Linda and I could give the same wine the same medal, but different points. How could one of us like the wine 2.2 percent more than the other (the difference between an 87 silver and an 89 silver)?

Still, there were some terrific wines entered:

• The 2013 Giesen Riesling from New Zealand ($15) was named best in class, an excellent example of the tremendous value available in New Zealand riesling.

• Linda and I agreed that the Yorkville Cellars 2012 Carmenere ($38) was platinum worthy, and it earned best in class honors. Carmenere can be off-putting, unripe and tannic, but this was an intriguing, rich, and earthy effort, with dark fruit and complex finish.

• I’ve been lucky enough to taste sparkling wine from Dr. Konstantin Frank in upstate New York three times since last fall, and each time it has been sensational. The 2007 Chateau Frank Brut ($25) won best of class, and the non-vintage rose ($21) grabbed a silver.

• The 2012 Nottage Hill Chardonnay from Australia’s Hardys ($13) won a platinum, which wasn’t surprising. Aussie chardonnay can often be $10 Hall of Fame quality; the catch, usually, is that the wines vary greatly from vintage to vintage, and what was tasty one year isn’t the next.

• A non-vintage red blend, called Kitchen Sink ($10), won a silver. It’s fruity, but well-made, and I’ve always enjoyed the Kitchen Sink white blend.

Cheap wine matters, says VinePair web power index

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VinePairThe Wine Curmudgeon has made the VinePair wine web power index again, which measures the most influential wine sites on the Internet. This is always good to see, because it means my message is getting across: Wine is fun, it doesn’t have to be complicated, and anyone can enjoy it.

The irony about all this? That Google started taking an intense dislike to the blog about 15 months ago, and it only got worse when I changed platforms last fall. How this happened is a mystery, since I’m doing the same thing I’ve done for the past seven years. But Google, for whatever reason, rates the Wine Curmudgeon as less trustworthy than it did in April 2013 and is less likely to recommend the site when someone searches for cheap wine news, reviews, and the like.

Which means the site has an influence beyond Google, and I have everyone who visits here to thank for that. We’re going to get this cheap wine thing done, regardless of the obstacles in our way, whether the Winestream Media or a $50 billion company that controls two-thirds of the search activity in the U.S.

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