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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 »

NFL

Once more into the Super Bowl breach

One 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 Read More »

Blue-Apron-Wine

Blue Apron wine: Disappointing and depressing

This was going to be a glowing post about the wine program at Blue Apron, the home delivery service that supplies recipes and ingredients for home cooks who want to try something Read More »

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?

Blue Apron wine: Disappointing and depressing

Blue-Apron-Wine

blue apron wineThis was going to be a glowing post about the wine program at Blue Apron, the home delivery service that supplies recipes and ingredients for home cooks who want to try something more adventurous than Wednesday night meatloaf. When Blue Apron wine debuted last fall, giving its customers the opportunity to buy wine paired for its recipes, I thought: “Finally. Someone in the food business understands wine.”

Which turned out to be as far from the truth as possible. The six Blue Apron wines that I tasted (all samples) were poorly made, rarely varietally correct, mostly old and worn out, and apparently came from a bulk house whose website seems more excited about label design than wine quality. Adding to the aggravation: I emailed Blue Apron requesting an interview in October, and was told to submit my questions in writing because its executives didn’t do interviews. I’m still waiting for the answers to my questions; maybe they didn’t want to tell me what I found out by tasting the wine (and I hope that the conscientious PR woman who sent the samples doesn’t get fired,  because none of this is her fault).

How depressing was my Blue Apron wine experience? The best tasting wine was a South African pinotage, and one rarely gets to say that about pinotage. Besides, if you’re trying to teach foodies about wine, why would you send them pinotage, a grape that is difficult to make into quality wine and isn’t widely available? The pinot noir, labeled Hilliard Bruce but vinted and bottled at the bulk company, was bland and faded. A Lodi vermentino tasted as much like the Italian grape as a crayon does, and a California sauvignon blanc was green, stemmy, and bitter with almost no sauvignon blanc fruit. The less said about the Spanish monastrell and California chardonnay the better.

In the end, the Blue Apron wine was no better than the wine club plonk I tasted last fall. If Blue Apron treated its food the way it treats its wine, it would not be a $2 billion company and startup darling.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that Blue Apron wine has nothing to do with wine and everything with what marketers call adding value to the product. For an extra $65.99 a month, they’ll send you six “incredible” bottles that will “complement your upcoming Blue Apron meals.” In this, the company is giving its customers something they wouldn’t or couldn’t do on their own. If most Blue Apron customers subscribe because they love food and cooking, they’re less likely to know what incredible tastes like or how wine complements a meal. So six bottles (even 500-ml ones, about two-thirds of normal) for $10 each? Sign me up.

Which means Blue Apron wine is about selling Blue Apron and very little about teaching anyone about wine. I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but I really wanted to believe Blue Apron wine was the real thing. Even a curmudgeon has hopes.

Finally, to anyone who has subscribed to Blue Apron wine and wonders if all wine tastes like this, no, it doesn’t. The next time you want to pair your Blue Apron Lebanese Arayes (filled pitas), buy a $10 Bogle sauvingon blanc instead of the recommended Blue Apron sauvignon blanc. The Bogle tastes like real wine, and you get an extra couple of glasses for the same price.

Wine of the week: Chapoutier Bila-Haut 2014

wineofweek

Chapoutier Bila-HautIt’s probably an exaggeration to call Michel Chapoutier of the renowned Rhone winemaking family France’s version of Fred Franzia, the man the U.S. wine business loves to hate. But the two have much in common — both are controversial and both do things that they’re not supposed to do. Chapoutier, for instance, has gone into the riesling business, something a Rhone producer has probably never done in all of France’s recorded wine history.

They even understand the U.S. market in a way that too many of their competitors don’t. What they don’t have in common is the quality of the wine; Chapoutier’s are much better than anything Franzia does these days, despite the latter’s claims to the contrary. The Chapoutier Bila-Haut ($15, sample, 14%) is a case in point: It’s a varietally correct Rhone-style red blend from the less known Roussillon region in southern France that appeals to both the commercial side of the market — its premiumized price (almost twice what it costs in Europe) and fruit forward style — and to those of us who think Rhone-style wine should taste a certain way.

Look for a hint of the earthiness and rusticity that I appreciate, but which isn’t overwhelmed by lots of red fruit (cherry?) and a richer mouth feel that has more to do with the New World than the Old. Having said that, it was quite pleasant and enjoyable, a red wine that will come in handy as spring arrives and that I would buy at $12 or $13.

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