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wine and sex

Wine and sex

The Wine Curmudgeon, being a sort of academic these days, understands the need to publish, garner attention for your institution, and prove how wonderful you are. That’s the way the Ivory Tower Read More »

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Fourth of July wine 2015

What do many of us do when we celebrate a birthday? Drink wine, of course, whether it’s for a toast or for a birthday dinner. So why not do the same thing Read More »

wineofweek

Wine of the week: Shannon Ridge Wrangler Red 2012

There are a variety of red blends from California, usually older vintages from smaller wineries, that you won’t find unless you dig through the bottom shelves at your local retailer. The Wine Read More »

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Winebits 392: Wine closures, cava, women winemakers

• Bring on the screwcaps: Mike Veseth at the Wine Economist offers one of the best analyses of the state of the wine closures, noting that the number of wineries that used Read More »

winetrends

Has the wine establishment turned its back on wine scores?

The Wine Curmudgeon writes stuff like this all the time: “Why the 100-point system of rating wine is irrelevant.” In fact, I write about the foolishness of wine scores so often that Read More »

Mini-reviews 74: White wines for summer

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white winesReviews 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. This month, white wines for the beginning of summer:

Honora Vera Rueda 2013 ($6, purchased, 13%): Ordinary grocery store verdejo, missing some lemon fruit that should be there and a little harsh on the finish. Yet, having said this, that a national retailer is selling this hardly common Spanish white speaks to how far cheap wine has come.

Canals Canals Cava Classic NV ($15, sample, 11.5%): Very pretty cava, the sparkling wine from Spain, that is softer and more Prosecco like, with green apples and lemons. Not crazy about the price, if you appreciate the style, worth the money.

Amarte Mas Albariño 2013 ($15, sample, 13%): Quality albarino, a white wine from Spain, though there are equally as good wines made with the same grape for less money. Look for soft white fruit aromas, some lemongrass in the middle, and a full finish.

Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc 2013 ($15, sample, 13.5%): This California white is a touch overpriced, but a solid, dry, crisp, and lemony chenin blanc — the kind of inexpensive and well-made California white wine we need more of.

Restaurant wine prices in Europe

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restaurant wine prices in EuropeThe email from my friend visiting Spain not only waxed poetic about the wine, but about the prices: “Talk about cheap wine. Beautiful wine for €12, and the most expensive bottle was €24.” In other words, restaurant wine prices in Europe were U.S. retail prices — which is unheard of in the States.

This is not unusual. When my brother was in Sicily, he marveled at both the quality and the prices in restaurants, drinking Cusumano for more or less what I pay for it at a Dallas liquor store. I’ve seen the same thing when I’ve traveled to Europe; as one sommelier at a very high-end restaurant owned by a famous Spanish chef told me: “Why would we want to charge as much as you do in the States? Then people won’t order as much wine.”

How is this possible? After all, talk to most restaurateurs in the U.S., and they make it sound as if they’ll go out of business if they don’t charge $30 for a wine that cost them $8:

• Europe’s on-gong recession, and especially in southern Europe. If there is 25 percent unemployment, it doesn’t make much economic sense to overcharge for wine.

• The idea that wine is part of dinner, which is the way Europeans have always seen wine, and not something in addition to dinner, the way Americans — and especially American restaurateurs — have always seen wine.

• Better wine list sensibilities, where the restaurant sells wine to drink and not to impress high-dollar patrons or wine snobs. Or, as Jacques Pepin told me, why would anyone want to pay for Bordeaux when you can drink the local wine, usually of high quality, and spend less money?

• No three-tier system, which may be the most important reason. In Europe, there isn’t a distributor getting its cut, which can add as much as 20 percent to the cost of wine. The restaurant can order directly from the producer, who is often local, and enjoys supply chain efficiencies that we can only dream about here.

Wine of the week: Maxwell Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2013

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Maxwell Creek Sauvignon BlancThe Maxwell Creek Sauvignon Blanc is the wine that could destroy every assumption wine snobs, the Winestream Media, and the wine business make about cheap wine. It doesn’t taste cheap, it’s made by a one of California’s most respected producers, and it comes from Napa Valley. That this wine costs $10, given all of those, speaks volumes about high overpriced so much wine in the world is.

The Maxwell Creek ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is a second label from Napa’s St. Supery, long-regarded as one of the country’s top sauvignon blanc producers. This wine offers a hint of citrus, appealing California grassyness, and minerality, and it’s round and especially balanced for a $10 sauvingon blanc. This comes from a little semillion that is blended in, also unusual for a $10 sauvignon blanc.

The Maxwell Creek is not a big, showy wine, and it’s less full, not as intense, and not as sophisticated as the $20 St. Supery, but I’d argue that doesn’t matter. I don’t want to impress anyone; I want wine for dinner that is cheap and well-made, and the Maxwell Creek is not only that, but offers more than enough value for what it costs.

Highly recommended, and the best vintage in recent memory. The catch? It’s a World Market private label in much of the country, so it may be difficult to find if you don’t have World Market near you. Otherwise, almost certain to be in the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame.

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