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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 »

Memorial Day and rose 2012

Memorial Day and rose 2015

The blog’s eighth annual rose post, which runs every year at the traditional start of summer, is notable for two reasons. First, it may well be the only place on the Internet Read More »

Wine of the week: Domaine du Tariquet Rosé

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tariquet roseWhat’s the perfect wine for rose week here on the blog? How about a rose from the Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite Gascon producer, Domaine du Tariquet?

Tariquet, of course, is the Gascon producer that introduced me to the wonders of ugni blanc and colombard in a cheap white blend. And the Tariquet rose ($10, sample, 12%), if not exactly the wine I expected, is another delicious cheap wine that demonstrates the Tariquet ability to deliver low prices and high quality.

Why not the wine I expected? Because it was much fruitier (watermelon?) than I thought it would be, given it’s French and not from California or Washington state. However, since it has merlot and syrah among its four-grape blend, that shouldn’t be surprising. This makes the Tariqet rose more New World than Old, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a terrific cheap wine. There is still balance, freshness, and a surprising amount of fullness and length for a $10 rose.

My only complaint? I’m not sure what vintage is for sale, and how available the wine will be this spring. Though there is a retailer in this area that carries the wine, it’s almost an hour away in Fort Worth. This sample, a 2012, came last fall from the importer, who was probably trying to get rid of inventory. Hopefully, most of us will be to find the wine more easily than I can, and will find a newer vintage.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to join the Tariquet white blend in the $10 Hall of Fame next year assuming I can find a more recent vintage.

Winebits 386: Rose wine edition

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Rose wine We mark the blog’s eighth annual rose week with these notes about rose from around the Internet:

Nine recommendations: And nine solid recommendations as well, from Laurie Daniel at the San Jose Mercury-News. Among her choices are so the blog’s favorites, including Bonny Doon, Pedroncelli, and Muga. As Laurie, who I’ve judged with and who has a fine palate, notes, there is no reason to spend a lot of money on rose. That’s not the point of it.

Restaurant choices: The Boston Herald has a piece by one of the city’s restaurant types touting his locations’ roses, and one of them is a $10 rose from blog favorite Sascha Lachine that I haven’t been able to find in this part of the country. Lachine’s Single Blend Rose follows through on his other value wines, offering lots of quality (strawberry fruit) for not much money.

Even the glasses: How do we know, as has been widely reported over the past year, that rose has finally been accepted by mainstream wine drinkers? Riedel has developed a pricey glass for it. Acceptance in the wine business doesn’t get more accepting than that. Of course, it begs the question of why a wine that rarely costs more than $10 needs a $69 glass, but I’m just happy there is a Riedel rose glass. Pink wine, no matter how hard the snobs try, is something they can’t take away from us.

Wine availability, and how it drives readers crazy, too

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Wine availabilityThe email from the reader (paraphrased here) was direct: “I put together a list of 15 of your recommendations and searched online at two big West Coast chains, two of our local retailers, and was only able to find 4 out of the 15 wines. That’s mostly the same experience I’ve had with recommendations from the wine magazines. The wines just aren’t available for ordinary folks. What’s going on with how you determine wine availability?”

Ouch. “Mostly the same experience with the wine magazines”? “Not available for ordinary folks”? So much for 20-plus years of writing about the wine that most of us drink.

Welcome, once again, to the horror that is wine availability, the bane of my existence as a wine writer. I’ve written about this many times, and despite the changes in the wine business over the past 20 years, wine availability has not gotten any better. As this reader noted, it may actually have gotten worse.

How can this happen in the age of the Internet, where we have more retail choices than ever? Much of the blame lies with our old friend three-tier, which requires producers to do more work than they want to do — or are capable of doing — to sell the same wine in each of the 50 states. But that’s not the only reason:

• That there aren’t any national wine retailers, the way there are for supermarkets. The biggest chains, like Total Wine, are only in 15 states, so what does someone do in the other 35 if I write about a wine I bought at Total?

• That there aren’t any national brands in wine, like there are in other consumer goods. Every grocery store in the country is going to carry Heinz ketchup, but there is no brand similar to Heinz in wine. Even Barefoot, the best-selling U.S. wine, isn’t in every supermarket.

• The growth of private label wine, and especially in grocery stores and the largest chains. If they’re carrying more private label, there is less room for the wines that I write about, which are almost always not private label.

• The idea that European imports are less available as one moves west across the country, so that Italian, French, and Spanish wine is going to be more difficult to find in California than in New York.

So all I can do is to keep making the effort. I buy wine at supermarkets like Kroger, specialty grocers like Whole Foods, large retailers like Total, independent retailers in Texas, and national chains like World Market. My approach is that if the producer makes enough wine that I can buy it at one of those stores, it should be generally available in a decent-sized city with quality retailers. This way, I have the best chance of avoiding the 800-case wines that the Wine Spectator seems so fond of. And the first question I always ask when I get samples? “Who is the distributor?”, because if it is too small or too niche-driven, the wine won’t be easy to find.

But this, as the reader noted, is no guarantee. My only consolation? That if Franz Kafka had been a wine writer, we’d have a new definition for Kafkaesque.

More about the dilemma of wine availability:
Wine availability: Whose fault is it anyway?
Wine availability: How to find what you’re looking for when it’s not on the shelf
Eric Asimov and the dilemma of wine availablity

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