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Category Archives: Wine of the week

Winebits 339: TechCrunch on wine and more lawsuits

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techcrunch wineWhat about those wine menus? TechCrunch, for those of us who are sort of computer geeky, offers mostly reliable tech news, reviews, and the like. Which made last week’s post about the WineGlass phone app so odd, and not just because Josh Constine, who wrote it, kept referring to restaurant wine lists as wine menus. The couple of dozen comments (including one from CellarTracker’s Eric LeVine) were at times snarky and mean, and included plugs for other phone wine apps. It’s as if I reviewed a wine here, and everyone who makes similar wine saw it and recommended their wine instead. The other thing that was fun? The quotes from the app’s creator that his effort will help end restaurant wine ripoffs. At the risk of sounding especially curmudgeonly, there’s about as much chance of that happening as there is of me writing for the Wine Spectator. For one thing, none of the hundreds of previous wine apps have made a difference; for another, most restaurants don’t care, or the system would have changed years ago.

Doing the duck walk: The lawsuit between Duckhorn, the high-end Napa winery, and a Long Island winery called Duck Walk, which was settled 11 years ago, has reappeared, reports On Reserve, a wine law blog that is essential reading for anyone who gets a giggle about these things. The details are, not surprisingly, difficult to understand, and seem to have something to do with whether Duck Walk is complying with the terms of the settlement. And, lest those of us who aren’t attorneys become even more confused, this complaint is completely different from Duckhorn’s current action against Duck Dynasty.

Don’t count on .wine just yet: The Wine Curmudgeon, who recently checked to see if he could buy the winecurmudgeon.wine domain name, has run into a hurdle — the French.  They are furious that anyone will be able to buy a .wine name, which they claim violates the spirit of the various trade agreements they have negotiated to prevent non-French producers from giving their wines French names, like Argentine Bordeaux. For instance, what would prevent someone from selling non-French sparkling wine under the champagne.wine domain? This would imply they’re selling French wine, even though trade agreements mandate that only sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne. Boycotts have been threatened, which will probably dissuade me from buying the name. I want the French to read the blog.

Wine of the week: Toad Hollow Chardonnay 2012

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Toad Hollow Chardonnay One of the most difficult things about buying cheap wine is consistency. Given the way the system works, where production costs often matter more than quality, a great $10 wine one vintage is no guarantee of a great $10 wine the next vintage. Right, Meridian?

Fortunately, the Toad Hollow Chardonnay ($12, sample, 13.9%) is usually immune from that process. It has its up and downs since it was first made 20 years ago, but those are more likely vintage differences than pencil pushers squeezing the bottom line. When the wine is right, and the 2012 is the best vintage in several years, un-oaked chardonnay don’t get much better than this, even for wines that cost $15 or $18. It’s even a value at the suggested retail price of $12. If you can find it at $10, which it often is with grocery store discount cards, buy a case.

Look for green apple fruit in the front, a little tropical something or other in the middle, and some stoniness in the back. This is a clean and refreshing wine, without the fake oak used to make so many other wines at this price. But it also has some body, so it’s not as crisp as a sauvignon blanc. Drink the Toad Hollow Chardonnay on its own, or with summer salads, grilled chicken, and the like. If I can find it for $10 in Dallas, it’s a candidate for the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame.

Wine of the week: Chateau Recougne 2009

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Château RecougneThe Chateau Recougne, a French red blend, is an excellent example of the pricing dilemma facing U.S. wine consumers. At $10, this is a Hall of Fame wine, but increase the price by one-third, and it’s not nearly as impressive.

So what did I pay for the Chateau Recougne ($13, purchased, 13%)? One-third more than $10, of course. None of this means that the Recougne, mostly merlot from a lesser part of Bordeaux called Bordeaux Superieur, isn’t well made or enjoyable, because it is and especially for an older wine. There is more oak and fruit (black cherry?) than I expected, but there is also some earthiness and the proper balance between all of the parts. It’s a little New World for my taste, but I enjoyed it and would buy it again.

Which brings us back to price. Does the Chateau Recougne offer one-third more value than the Little James Basket Press or McManis’ gold-medal petite sirah? Not really, and that’s the dilemma: How do we decide what to buy, given the incredible selection of wine to choose from and the lack of information to help us make that decision? The Recougne label isn’t much help, though it looks very French, and since I bought it at a grocery store, there was no one to ask.

My colleagues and I regularly argue about whether Americans buy wine on price; the Recougne seems to be argument that we do. If there’s a similar $10 wine next to it on the shelf, given an equal lack of information, how many of us won’t pay one-third less?

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