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Second Cheapest Wine

Second Cheapest Wine

The Wine Curmudgeon has often lamented the quality of wine humor, but here is something that’s not only funny, but entirely too accurate. Consider just these two lines from a fake commercial Read More »

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Wine of the week: Anne Amie Cuvée A Muller-Thurgau 2012

One of the most nefarious developments in the wine business is the $15 wine that is only worth about $10. You’ll see this a lot at grocery stores, but it shows up Read More »

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Winebits 329: Legal affairs edition

Because the Wine Curmudgeon is always amused by the legal side of the wine business: • Blame it on Utah: The Wine Curmudgeon has first-hand experience with Utah’s liquor laws, thanks to Read More »

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New features for the blog?

Update: Thanks for all the emails — some very good advice and comments about what we’re doing here and how we do it. I was quite flattered to have so many people Read More »

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Cheap wine can be intimidating

Sounds weird, doesn’t it? That cheap wine can be intimidating, given that cheap wine’s reason for being is that it’s approachable in a way more expensive wine isn’t. But too many wine Read More »

Book review: Buy the Right Wine Every Time

Stitched Panorama

Book review: Buy the Right Wine Every TimeTom Stevenson is a British wine writer and critic best known for his work with pricey and high-end wines, and especially Champagne. So what’s he doing writing a book that rates hundreds of wines with an emphasis on value, and where cheap wines are allowed to shine?

Writes Stevenson:

Inevitably the most widely available wines include many of the cheapest brands, an area of wine habitually avoided by critics. As such wines are almost exclusively purchased by most wine drinkers, those critics (myself included) have effectively disenfranchised most wine consumers. That is something I want to correct. …

Welcome to the fight, Tom.

This makes “Buy the Right Wine Every Time” (Sterling Epicure, $14.95) the ideal complement to the cheap wine book. I didn’t want to list wines, which is what the blog is for. Stevenson does, and includes not only Winestream Media favorites like Cakebread and Dom Perignon, but lots and lots of cheap wine, including $10 Hall of Fame mainstays like Bogle and Seguras Viudas. It even includes — gasp — favorable entries for white zinfandel, which surprised even Stevenson.

The ratings list 382 wines by price and “recommended,” “highly recommended,” and “to die for.” They mostly avoid winespeak (though comparing the Santa Rita sauvignon blanc to nettles probably won’t help most $10 wine drinkers), and include a much welcome link to similar wines, the goal being to help readers try something different. That’s such a good idea that I think I’ll steal it for the blog.

Most importantly, and the true genius of the book, is that the wines, whether cheap or expensive, are “widely available.” This is a refreshing approach given all the upset about wine availability these days. The drawback is that a lot of very ordinary cheap wine is included, and probably too much from Australia, but it points to the difficulties availability presents to those of us who have to buy wine. My only criticism of the book: Not enough rose, and no roses from Spain or the U.S.

That someone like Stevenson has discovered that cheap wine is part of the wine world — and that it is one key to spreading the gospel of wine — is just another indication that the wine world has changed for the better. And who doesn’t want that?

Wine of the week: Aragonesas Los Dos 2012

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Wine of the week: Aragonesas Los Dos 2012One of the joys of wine is stumbling on something enjoyable when you least expect it. Which is also one of wine’s frustrations, since stumbling on something enjoyable doesn’t mean it’s going to be generally available.

Which pretty much sums up the Los Dos ($8, sample, 14%), a Spanish red blend made with garnacha and syrah. The producer, Bodegas Aragonesas, a decent-sized Spanish winery, doesn’t list the wine on its website, which means the wine may be a one-off made for the export market or not made every year. Hence my concern about availability, given the way these things work.

Still, if you can find the Los Dos, it’s worth buying. It’s not quite $10 Hall of Fame quality; it’s too simple, even for a $10 wine. But it delivers much, much more than its $8 cost. Look for garnacha-style red fruit (cherry?) and a certain richness in the mouth. There isn’t much else going on, but the fruit and alcohol don’t overwhelm the wine the way I thought they would. It’s clean and professional, and someone tried for balance when making it, which isn’t usually the case with wines targeted for the U.S.

This is a food wine, for red meat and barbeque, and a very pleasant and welcome surprise. Assuming we can find it on a store shelf, of course.

Winebits 328: Scottish wine, wine marketing, lawsuits

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Winebits 328: Scottish wine, wine marketing, lawsuits

Scottish wine for a Scottish dish, haggis

Talk about terroir: A Scottish winemaker — yes, that’s correct — says climate change has made it possible to make wine in his country. Christopher Trotter, a chef and food writer, wants to grow six acres of grapes in eastern Scotland, and says that the warmest weather in centuries will make it possible. One caveat: It’s still cooler than most of the world’s wine regions, so he has to use grapes that are cold hardy and that don’t necessarily make great wine. The article, from the Bloomberg news service, is also an excellent look at how warmer temperatures around the world will affect the wine business.

A glass of Chloe, please: The Wine Group, which gave the world Cupcake, is making another marketing play, this time with a brand called Chloe. As Robert Joseph writes, the company’s approach has nothing to do with wine per se, but with how it is sold to the public. Chloe is being marketed like jewelry or perfume, costing about one-third more than the $10 to $12 Cupcake. This is The Wine Group’s particular genius, and which is rarely seen in wine, that it can position its brands as lifestyle products and get a premium for what will almost certainly be a very ordinary bottle of Italian pinot grigio (given the quality of its other wines). But, as many have noted, the people who buy these kinds of wines aren’t buying them for what’s in the bottle.

Bring out the lawyers: The Wine Curmudgeon has always enjoyed watching companies sue each other over labels and brand names, and this one is particularly enjoyable. Beverage Digest reports that Diageo, the world’s largest drinks company, says family-owned Heaven Hill is trampling on its intellectual property in Canada with a product called Admiral Nelson spiced rum, which too closely resembles Diageo’s Captain Morgan spiced rum. How many billable hours will this require? The article discusses — seriously, I suppose — that one issue in the lawsuit will be how similar the character of Nelson, the greatest hero in British naval history, is to Morgan, who was a pirate. Sadly, wigs are no longer worn in Canadian courts, or this would be even more fun to watch.

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