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Category Archives: Wine news

Winebits 337: Coravin woes and crappy wine

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wine news coravinCoravin says whoops: Far be it for the Wine Curmudgeon to say “I told you so,” but the $300 Coravin wine opener has hit a snag. As in exploding bottles. The system exerts so much pressure that some bottles, likely with minute defects, burst when the Coravin is used. The company has halted sales until it fixes the problem, and has sent those who purchased the opener a patch. Who knew wine openers would be subject to recalls?

No more reviews: Lew Perdue, who runs the Wine Industry Insight news service, used to throw the occasional wine review in the mix. But no more: “…I’ve grown weary of panning bad wine. You probably don’t enjoy reading about it. Worse than that are all of the bad wines I’ve had the misfortune of buying. And tasting.” I’m sorry to see Lew go, but completely understand. Those of us who buy wine to review and take our chances with what we buy have had the same thing happen to us. Over and over. And over. Or, as I like to joke, I taste more bad wine than anyone in the world. Which actually isn’t very funny, is it?

Legitimate wine education: Or so promises a British supermarket chain, which is adding a taste test to its on-line store. Consumers will answer questions about their wine preferences, and the results will guide them to wines labeled sweet, fresh, smooth, or intense (as well as a numbered scale) that match their answers. Says the chain’s wine buyer: “Customers really love wines but they find buying it scary because they are really worried that they are going to buy the wrong products.” Wow. Who knew retailers knew that?

Winebits 336: Wine competitions, restaurant wine, and lawsuits

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wine news restaurants competitons lawsuitsDo wine competitions work? Tim Atkin, a British expert, says they do, and paraphrases Winston Churchill: “Competitions are the worst way to evaluate wine, except for all of the others.” Which is something I wish I had thought of, given I have a poster of Churchill hanging in the office. Atkin’s take on competitions is thoughtful and makes several good points, including whether price should matter, quality of the judges, and that sometimes, wines do get lucky. His comments are most welcome given the current controversy over competitions, and that I’ll be judging two of them in the next couple of weeks.

Restaurants dropping wine from lists: Remember all those giddy articles about the progress wine was making with mid-priced chain restaurants, and how it meant they were finally going to take wine seriously? We might have spoken too soon. A new study has found that eight of the 10 biggest casual chains cut their wine selections by 17 percent in the eight months ending in March. The chains, including Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, and Ruby Tuesday, may have decided that wine isn’t worth the trouble, but that craft beer and spirits are, says the study, calling the shift unprecedented. My guess? That, since the recession especially pummeled these kinds of restaurants, they did what they always do – relegate wine to what they consider its rightful place, out of sight and out of mind. Because wine is just too much trouble.

Bring out the lawyers: The Wine Curmudgeon loves a good wine lawsuit, and this one looks to be a doozy. A Napa Valley producer is suing  wine consultant for $1.6 million, claiming the latter didn’t do a good enough job making a $200 wine. The article, in the Napa Valley Register, is so full of giggles that I can’t do it justice here. My favorite? That the consultant went on vacation during a crucial part of the winemaking process.

Winebits 335: Cheap wine, wine terms, and lots of wineries

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Winebits 335: Cheap wine, wine terms, and lots of wineriesHead to Target: The Wine Curmudgeon is always encouraged when the non-wine media does a cheap wine story, since that’s another step in the right direction — helping Americans figure out wine. If the Los Angeles Times’ recent story recommending wine to buy at Target included too much boring Big Wine (Clos du Bois chardonnay, really?), the story’s heart was in the right place. How can I be unhappy with anything that recommends Beaujolais? Though, and I mention this as a cranky ex-newspaperman who wants to help someone who apparently doesn’t do a lot of wine writing, mentioning Robert Parker in the blurb for Sterling cabernet sauvignon was counterproductive. Anyone who cares about Parker scores probably isn’t going to buy $10 cabernet at Target.

Stoned wine: Beppi Crosariol at the Toronto Globe & Mail answers a reader question about the wine term stony, complete with bad jokes. It’s actually a decent explanation, and includes a good description of minerality: “Flint, wet stone, chalk, limestone, slate, graphite – various rocky words get trotted out with increasing frequency today…” and he notes recent scientific findings that the grapes probably didn’t pick up these qualities from the soil.

How many wineries? The state of Texas, with 266,874 square miles, has about 300 wineries. Napa County, with 748 square miles, recently celebrated its 500th winery. This is a mind-boggling figure — there are more wineries in Napa than in all but two or three states (depending on whose figures you use). Is it any wonder that it’s the center of the U.S. wine universe, even for people who don’t know much about wine? Will we start hearing phrases like “carrying grapes to Napa?”

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