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winereview

Dinner with an old Concannon petite sirah

These days, Concannon Vineyard is just another part of multi-billion dollar The Wine Group and its wine is mostly ordinary grocery store stuff. A couple of decades ago, though, Concannon made some Read More »

winetrends

Big Wine growth 2016

Three sets of numbers — two public, one passed to me by my source in Big Wine — show just how dominant Big Wine continues to be, and how Big Wine growth Read More »

wineofweek

Wine of the week: Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Big Wine’s increasing domination of the marketplace brings with it the idea that brands don’t matter the way they used to. If a brand doesn’t perform the way its owner thinks it Read More »

winenews

Winebits 424: Scottish wine, domain names, crowdfunding

 • Too much rain: Scotland’s hopes for its own wine, which never seemed possible because the climate was too cold and too went, have been dashed once again. The drinks business reports Read More »

winereview

Can it be? Was that affordable red Bordeaux I tasted?

The Wine Curmudgeon grew up when French wine ruled the world, and I have watched with sadness as the French — and especially in Bordeaux — have done everything they can to Read More »

Winebits 424: Scottish wine, domain names, crowdfunding

winenews
Scottish wine

A Scottish wine story requires a picture of haggis, the Scottish national dish.

 • Too much rain: Scotland’s hopes for its own wine, which never seemed possible because the climate was too cold and too went, have been dashed once again. The drinks business reports that persistent rain in eastern Scotland has prevented Aberdeen’s Christopher Trotter, a chef and food writer, from producing anything commercially viable. He wasn’t able to bottle any wine in 2015, and the 2014 vintage yielded just 10 bottles — which critics called “undrinkable.” The Wine Curmudgeon feels Trotter’s pain. Regional wine, no matter where the region, is always more difficult than you think it will be, and there are always problems you never imagined. And I’ve tasted plenty of undrinkable regional wine.

Bring on .wine: Want to brand your website as definitely wine? Then you can buy the .wine and .vin domain names, two so-called not-coms that are finally available. There was concern from some legally protected wine regions, like our friends in Champagne, that the .wine and .vin names would be used to abuse their place names, but they bought Champagne.wine and solved the problem. The Wine Curmudgeon probably won’t buy winecurmudgoen.wine or .vin — not sure it would make much different to my brand, and winecurmudgeon.wine sounds stupid, anyway.

Kickstarting a winery: Recent changes in federal investment law allow businesses like wineries to use crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to raise $1 million in any 12-month period from friends, followers, customers and community as long as the sites meet federal guidelines. This is a significant change to current law, though not everyone is sure it’s a good idea. It’s one thing to raise money for a wine book on Kickstarter; it’s another to raise millions to expand a winery. Regardless of anything else, writes Jesse Debban in the North Bay Business Journal, the new regulations mean “the public — including your competitors and customers — will have access to sensitive information about your business.”  Which may be OK in the tech business, but is something completely different in the highly private wine business.

Can it be? Was that affordable red Bordeaux I tasted?

winereview

affordable red BordeauxThe Wine Curmudgeon grew up when French wine ruled the world, and I have watched with sadness as the French — and especially in Bordeaux — have done everything they can to teach the world to ignore French wine. It’s not just that so much Bordeaux is overpriced and underwhelming, but that the Bordelais are in such denial about it. We just need a new marketing company!

That’s why I was so excited last week, during a Bordeaux tasting in Dallas organized by the Spec’s retail chain, to find a handful of $15 to $20 wines that were worth buying. Granted, that’s still more than I wish they cost, and those at the $20 end were pushing the price/value barrier, but it’s a start. That’s because the couple of times I mentioned price to producers at the event, they looked at me as if I was crazy. They truly don’t understand that they have priced themselves out of the reach of almost all U.S. wine drinkers, and I guess no one noticed that only 9 of the 60 or wines at the tasting cost less than $30.

The best affordable wine at the event, and perhaps the best under $20 red Bordeaux I have tasted in years, was the 2011 Chateau Ampelia ($17, sample, 13.5%), made by from the seventh generation Despagne winemaking family. It’s a blend of 95 percent merlot and five percent cabernet franc, and tastes not only like it’s worth that much money, but is honest in its approach. That means it doesn’t tart up the fruit to appeal to U.S. drinkers, so that the merlot tastes like merlot, the cabernet franc adds a little heft, and it’s not a too fruity malbec. Look for red fruit, a bit of spice, and a wine that will age for a couple of more years. Highly recommended.

Also worth trying: the Chateau Croix Mouton ($17, sample, 13.5%), not quite as impressive as the Ampelia, but with ripe fruit and French style; and the Chateau Puygueraud ($20, sample, 14%), an old standby with fresh fruit and an almost herbal aroma — would that it cost a couple of bucks less.

Finally, to be fair, the quality of almost all the wines was tremendous, Bordeaux as it should be — incredible fruit, top-notch winemaking, and everything that is wonderful about French wine. The 2011 Chateau Clinet was earthy, peppery, deep, and full, all I could have hoped for. That it costs $90 was the only problem.

Once more into the Super Bowl breach

NFL

super bowlOne of the biggest shocks in the 8 1/2 year history of the blog is that Super Bowl Sunday is the worst day for visitors every year. It’s worse than Christmas and New Year’s, both of which are actually pretty good days for traffic.

The Wine Curmudgeon does not know why this is, but I do know that it annoys the hell out of me. I am an ex-sportswriter who was so worn out by pro sports that the only thing I still pay attention to is baseball and my Chicago Cubs, and one can argue that the Cubs are not sports or very professional.

So the country’s obsession with the Super Bowl leaves me at a loss. I haven’t watched the game since 1986, which is more or less the last time I got paid to watch it.

Nevertheless, because so many of you do care, I offer you this wine story about the Super Bowl from the New York Times — “Wine Here! A Football Bud Gets Competition,” which includes a cartoon as badly conceived as that headline and this truly dreadful lede: “Beer and football may go together like wine and cheese. But lately more and more people seem be favoring a Bordeaux over a Bud Light.”

Which would have made me rise from the copy desk, pica pole in hand, to chase down the offending reporter (if my pal Johnny D. Boggs hadn’t already forcefully reprimanded the miscreant).

The point of all this is that since the game is being played in suburban San Francisco, which is in wine country, there must be a wine angle to the Super Bowl (even if Bordeaux is a French wine region). To the reporter’s credit, he quotes an expert, some former NFL types, and a wine person or two. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make the story any more interesting, and it’s way too long, but if you’re on deadline and the composing room is screaming for the copy, you spell check it, slap a headline on it, and hope for the best.

Right, Johnny?

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