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Christmas wine 2014

• Order by noon Monday for holiday delivery for the cheap wine book Wine suggestions for the holiday next week, whether you need to buy a gift or aren’t sure about what to Read More »

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Bogle edges Barefoot to win 2014 cheap wine poll

• Order by noon Monday for holiday delivery for the cheap wine book Talk about a hanging chad. Bogle won the 2014 cheap wine poll by a margin so thin that the Read More »

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Wine of the week: Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco 2011

• Order by noon Monday for holiday delivery for the cheap wine book Many of us who were liberal arts students in the 1970s spent a lot of time with European history, Read More »

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WC will teach wine class at El Centro College

What’s the best way to reach consumers and undermine all the foolishness that the wine business and its allies in the Winestream Media foist off on them? Get ‘em while they’re young. Read More »

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Winebits 364: Corks, liquor stores, restaurant wine

• When will they learn? The cork business, as has been noted previously, doesn’t understand wine in the 21st century. And their problems with quality control haven’t helped, either. Hence yet another Read More »

Winebits 363: CDC, lawsuits, Big Wine

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CDC excessive drinkingSaving us from ourselves: The Centers of Disease Control is at it again, reassuring those of us who drink too much that there is hope. Says the head of the health agency’s alcohol program: “Many people tend to equate excessive drinking with alcohol dependence. We need to think about other strategies to address these people who are drinking too much but who are not addicted to alcohol.” This strikes me like being sort of pregnant, but what really matters is that the CDC’s definition of excessive drinking is wine with dinner, and this fact doesn’t appear in the story. For which the Wine Curmudgeon must call out Tara Parker-Pope at the New York Times for repeating that assertion. Which, as near as I can tell after doing the reporting, is scientifically unfounded.

When is Champagne not Champagne? When it’s the name of a wine writer, reports Decanter, the British wine magazine. Hence the lawsuit filed by France’s Champagne trade association against Australian Rachel Jayne Powell, who goes by Champagne Jayne. Since Powell also writes about other sparkling wine, the Champagne group says her name violates European Union rules. Their logic? That Champagne can only come from the Champagne region of France, so a writer who uses Champagne as a name can only write about Champagne. The case is scheduled to go to trial next week in Melbourne, believe it or not, and Decanter reports that it could set precedents. The Wine Curmudgeon, whose aversion to silly lawsuits like this is well known, has a suggestion: Settle by letting Powell call herself champagne Jayne with a small C, since every wine geek knows Champagne only comes from Champagne with a capital C.

Yet another million case producer: One of my goals with the blog is to help consumers understand that most of the wine we drink doesn’t come from artisanal producers, but from Big Wine — the multi-million case producers who dominate the business. That’s why this two-part interview with someone I’ve barely heard of is worthwhile. In it, Vintage Point’s David Biggar talks about his company’s 17 brands, the best known of which is Layer Cake. In this, what the wines taste like barely comes up, though there is plenty of discussion about pricing, distribution and the three-tier system, and margins. Which is what the wine business really is, and not all that foolishness that the Winestream Media would have you believe.

Holiday wine gift guide 2014

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Holiday wine gift guide

Silly yes, but who wouldn’t get a kick out of the High Heel Wine Bottle Caddy?

Holiday wine trends 2014

If you go by my email, the hottest holiday wine gifts this year are accessories — every day has brought yet another news release with lots of exclamation points and breathless prose. But gadgets, as always, are not at the top of the Wine Curmudgeon’s recommendations. Because the math rarely works out: How many $100 accessories are worth 10 bottles of quality $10 wine? This year’s recommendations are after the jump:

Diane Teitelbaum, 1946-2014

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Diane TeitelbaumThe next Dallas Morning News wine competition will see many changes — new name, new people in charge, new format. But the biggest change will be that I won’t drive Diane Teitelbaum to the judging.

Diane died this morning, and there is no way to express how much she will be missed. I might still be an ex-sportswriter looking for something to freelance about if not for Diane, and I’m not the only person she helped. She was a force in the wine business — not just in Dallas, but internationally — for some 40 years, whether as critic, judge, consultant, buyer, confidant, and retailer. She answered questions, offered advice, and listened to complaints, and always with an open mind and a keen intelligence.

She was a professional, and I know of no higher compliment. She cared about wine, and she cared about helping others love wine as much as she did; that’s a much rarer quality than it should be. Drinking wine with Diane was both a treat and a revelation. Her palate was impeccable, and not just because she could taste something I couldn’t. It’s because she understood how the wine fit together, and she could explain it so that something that was usually lost in winespeak and gobbledygook made perfect sense.

I tasted 26 pinot noirs with Diane two summers ago for a freelance story. In the process, I got a history lesson about red Burgundy, pinot noir from France; details about how the wine import business worked; and insights into how pinot noir had changed over the last couple of decades. All of that was wonderful, but the best part was that she helped me figure out the wines in a way I never would have by myself. Her patience for those $10 pinots, most of which were very ordinary, was remarkable, as was her sense of humor as we slogged from wine to wine. I wrote a better story because of her, and I’m a better wine writer because of her. I’ll never be able to thank her for that.

The other thing to know about Diane is that she always spoke her mind. When you were right, she told you so. When you were wrong, she told you so, and many of us over the years were forced to listen, often sheepishly, as Diane explained how we had screwed something up. I never resented this, because I appreciated her honesty. Diane was a woman in the wine business when there weren’t many, and she would not have done all that she did if she had not stood up for herself.

And why did I drive Diane to the Morning News competition? Because she was famous worldwide for her inability to get anywhere on time. We both knew that if I didn’t pick her up (“and tell her you’ll be there 15 minutes before you will be,” everyone who knew her always said), there was a 50-50 chance she might not make it at all. Which would be a damn shame, because judging with Diane made every competition that much better.

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