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Mini-reviews 72: Estancia, Toad Hollow, Les Dauphins, Belleruche

Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. • Estancia Chardonnay Unoaked Read More »

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Critics Challenge 2015

This year, as the Wine Curmudgeon parses wine competitions and tries to understand how they fit into the next generation of the wine business, the Critics Challenge 2015 stands out. It’s one Read More »

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Wine of the week: Félines Jourdan Picpoul-de-Pinet 2013

Picpoul, the white wine made with the picpoul grape in southern France, is one of those summertime wines that most Americans, unless they write a wine blog, don’t know about. The catch, Read More »

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Winebits 387: Syrah, canned wine, Chablis

• So long to syrah? Talk to retailers, and they’ll tell you they can’t give away syrah. Now there are Nielsen figures to back that up. Syrah’s sales in grocery stores are Read More »

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Colorado Governor’s Cup 2015

Midway through yet another enthusiastic debate during the sweepstakes round of this year’s Colorado Governor’s Cup wine competition, I asked Doug Caskey, who runs the event, “When’s the last time you heard Read More »

Winebits 387: Syrah, canned wine, Chablis

winenews

canned wineSo long to syrah? Talk to retailers, and they’ll tell you they can’t give away syrah. Now there are Nielsen figures to back that up. Syrah’s sales in grocery stores are down 16 percent over the past year, the worst performance of the nine wines surveyed and three times as bad as the second worst, merlot (also interesting, and probably worth a post on its own). How did this happen? Chalk it up to the usual short-sightedness from the wine business and its allies in the Winestream Media, which kept telling consumers they should  drink wine that was undrinkable. And when consumers said they’d had enough, which they’ve done, there was no Plan B.

Can I have that in a can? What do you do if you’re a Big Wine company and sales tank? Put your wine in a can. That’s what FlipFlop, the Barefoot knockoff from The Wine Group, is doing. The producer will do a four-pack of 250-milliliter cans (about 1 1/3 bottles) for $12. Canned wine, other than as a novelty, has never been popular in the U.S., and this may be an attempt to breathe life in a brand that hasn’t done as well as The Wine Group hoped.

Fake Chablis: A French wine producer has been accused of using grapes from other parts of the country to make Chablis, chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France. All of which is bad enough, but he has apparently been doing it for a decade without anyone noticing. Wine-Searcher.com reports that the Maison Fromont winery put grapes from Provence and the Rhône Valley, where there is very little chardonnay, in the company’s Chablis. How they got away with this for 10 years, until tax records tripped them up, is stunning. Did no one taste the wine? Chablis’ taste is unique, even for white Burgundy. One clue: The company exports 95 percent of its wine.

 

Memorial Day 2015

The blog is off today for the holiday, but will return tomorrow with our usual features. Until then, enjoy this 1964 episode of The Avengers TV series, where John Sneed executes perhaps the best spit I’ve ever seen (and certainly better than I can do); Mrs. Peel looks ravishing, despite a poor choice in hair styles; and they deflate a couple of wine snobs who badly need deflating. The video is courtesy of Hudson Winter via YouTube.

Colorado Governor’s Cup 2015

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Colorado Governor's CupMidway through yet another enthusiastic debate during the sweepstakes round of this year’s Colorado Governor’s Cup wine competition, I asked Doug Caskey, who runs the event, “When’s the last time you heard people get this worked up about regional wine?” Doug laughed, and said he wasn’t sure he had ever heard this many people get this excited about this many wines at a regional wine competition.

Which says pretty much everything you need to know about this year’s Governor’s Cup, which annually picks the best wines in Colorado. It’s not so much the quality of the wines, which are much better than they were when I first judged in the state a decade ago. It’s that the judges, most of whom don’t specialize in regional wine but work for restaurants, retailers, and distributors, have a completely different opinion than was common then. They don’t dismiss the wines out of hand, and they understand that Colorado wine isn’t supposed to takes like wine from Napa or Sonoma.

How else to explain Warren Winiarski, one of the greatest winemakers in Napa history, giving double gold medals to several Colorado wines?

The results haven’t been released yet, so I can’t name names (but will post them when they are). But I was especially impressed by:

Two less-oaked chardonnays, which were crisp, fresh, and fruity. One of the judges went so far as to say one tasted more like Chablis, one of France’s great chardonnay regions, than the Colorado chardonnay he was used to.

Two syrahs, cause of tremendous arguing about which was the best wine of the competition. Both were delicious, and what made them even more appealing is that they were completely different in style — one more Old World, with that almost bacon fat aroma, and one more New World, with lots of berry fruit.

An absolutely gorgeous viognier, a grape I don’t usually associate with Colorado, that was on par with the best in Texas and Virginia, and much better than almost every California viognier I’ve ever tasted.

In this, Doug, who heads the Colorado Wine Board; his colleague, Kyle Schlachter; and state enologist Steve Menke have done yeoman work with the state’s wineries. This is always one of my favorite events to judge, and not just because they pay me $200. It’s a pleasure to judge an event where the winemakers want to get better, and where they have.

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