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Christopher Kimball: “Wine is too hard”

Good news for those of us who care about wine. The past decade’s enthusiasm for food and home cooking, which has given us the slow food, local food, and the farm to Read More »

wineofweek

Wine of the week: Moulin de Gassac Guilhem 2013

The Wine Curmudgeon is a sucker for wines made with less known grapes from less known parts of the world. That’s because the revolution in winemaking and grape growing technology over the Read More »

winenews

Winebits 356: Big Wine edition

Because it’s always worth knowing what the six companies that control 60 percent of the U.S. wine business, plus their biggest competitors, are up to: • The biggest producer you’ve never heard of: Delicato Read More »

unt 2014 2

Two UNT classes and one very important wine lesson

This has not been the best of times for the Wine Curmudgeon, as anyone who has visited the blog over the past three or four months may have noticed. The posts have Read More »

wineadvice

The difference between cheap wine and wine that is made cheaply

It’s not enough to advocate cheap wine; consumers need to know how to tell the difference between cheap wine and wine that is made cheaply. The Wine Curmudgeon was reminded of this Read More »

Winebits 354: Costco wine, wine demographics, wine and drugs

winenews
costco wine

Annette Alvarez-Peters

Costco’s Peters speaks: Annette Alvarez-Peters, who buys alcohol for the Costco warehouse chain, is one of the most important people in the wine business; as such, she rarely gives interviews. Hence my surprise at an interview with the Shanken News Daily trade news service, even thought it’s short and Alvarez-Peters doesn’t say all that much. What’s worth noting is how much of its private label wine Costco sells; its Kirkland pinot grigio and cabernet sauvignon are two of the chain’s biggest sellers, both at less than $10 a bottle. That consumers will drive to Costco just to buy its wines is mind-boggling in the day of the Great Wall of Wine. Most retailers would kill for that kind of loyalty, which they’d have to do because they don’t know how to get it any other way. The other reason to mention this? Because a Costco piece that ran on the blog in 2012 is the second most popular post , based on one-day visitors, in blog history. Shoppers don’t just want to go Costco — they want to read about it.

Who drinks wine? The Wine Market Council has updated some of its numbers, and the results are intriguing. If you’re a high-frequency wine drinker (you drink wine at least once a week), you’re more likely to be married than if you drink wine less than once a week, the occasional wine drinker. High frequency wine drinkers are older, 51-44, than occasionals, but it’s not like either of them is young. The latter makes perfect sense given the wine business’ inability to understand it should try to sell wine to people other than old white guys. Note to advertisers: the blog’s demographics skew younger than that, no doubt because I write about wine that younger people can afford.

Examine that spending: The British spend about £1 billion (about US$1.6 billion) more on illegal drugs and sex each year than they do on wine and beer, according to a just-released UK government study. That works out to about £260 (US$422) per adult. I don’t know whether that’s a lot of money for dope and whores, but I think the numbers are a little dicey. The average adult in the U.S. spends about $150 a year on wine (based on 242 million adults and $36.3 billion in wine sales, per the Wine Institute) and $413 on beer (based on $100 billion in beer sales, per the Brewers Association). That a country with a pub culture spends less per capita than we do on beer and wine is hard to believe, which makes me think the drugs and sex number should be higher. By comparison, I spend nothing on the latter and some US$2,500 (about £1,500) annually on wine, which doesn’t include other booze or restaurant wine purchases. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that.

Second annual five-day $3 wine challenge: The results

$3 wine challenge
$3 wine

“The horror, the horror. …”

In one respect, this year’s five-day, $3 wine challenge was no different than last year’s: I made it through unscathed. But the results were also depressing in a way they weren’t last year.

I wanted to find a wine among the six — five $3 merlots and a $4 red blend — that I could enjoy without reservation and use as another example in my campaign to help wine drinkers understand that price is not the most important thing about wine quality. One was OK, one was undrinkable, and the rest were as brainless as bottled ice tea. With so much quality cheap wine in the world, and sometimes for just a dollar or two more, why do so many people buy these, often making a special trip to do so?

When that analysis comes from someone who has spent 20 years trying to say nice things about cheap wine, it means there’s very little reason to drink them. The sad details are after the jump:

Spanish wine may offer the best value in the world — part II

Spanish wine

Spanish wine reviewsThis is the second of two parts discussing why Spanish wine may be the best value in the world today. Part I, an overview of why Spain offers so much value, is here.

If wine drinkers know Spanish wine, it’s tempranillo from Rijoa or Ribera del Duero. Older wine drinker might know Spanish sherry, while the hipsters know garnacha and the Winestream Media-hyped wines from the Priorat. In this, it’s as if nothing has happened in Spain over the past 20 years.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Spanish wine — red, white, pink, and bubbly — is better than ever. Cava, the Spanish sparkling, has received most of the attention, but it’s not alone in the Spanish wine renaissance. The whites, including viura, verdejo, and albarino, can be spectacular for as little as $10. The reds, always excellent from the best regions, have improved dramatically regardless of where they’re from. Aldi’s $5 Vina Decana tempranillo (which, sadly, appears to be gone) is from Utiel-Requena, about as little known as a Spanish wine region gets.

These wines, tasted over the past six months, will get you started in understanding what’s going on in Spain. But they’re just a sample, and I could have listed a dozen more. The lesson? Don’t be afraid to strike out on your own. It will be hard to go wrong.

Muga Rosado 2013 ($10, purchased, 13%): One of the best roses in the world, always fresh and delicious. This vintage has tart strawberry fruit. As one CellarTracker user wrote: “My fifth bottle this summer,” which seems about as good a recommendation as possible.

deAlto Amo Blanco 2012 ($10, purchased, 13%): My tasting notes for this white, made mostly with viura, quibble about crispness and whether it’s too floral. How much have the Spanish spoiled me that I’m looking for things to complain about? 

Columna Rías Baixas 2011 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This white, made with albarino, is another excellent example of the quality wine that Ole Imports brings to the U.S. Still fresh, despite being an older vintage, with a really interesting, almost baking spice middle.

Cune Crianza 2010 ($15, purchased, 13.5%): Yes, this red from Rioja, a tempranillo blend, is three times better than the Decana, which means it’s close to spectacular. Deep, rich cherry fruit, a hint of bitter orange, layered oak, and a full, complete finish. Highly recommended.

Evodia 2013 ($10, sample, 14.5%): This red, made with garnacha, is a hipster wine that the rest of us can enjoy. The last time I tasted it, it was 15 percent alcohol and still drinkable; this vintage, with lots of cherry fruit, good weight, and some black pepper, is even better. I’m always surprised I like it as much as I do.

Val de Vid Verdejo 2010 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): Yes, the vintage is correct, and how a white wine that costs $10 and is this old can be this delicious is beyond me. Has white pepper and a sort of pear fruit that could also be lime without the citrus, plus a longish finish.

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