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winereview

Mini-reviews 69: Marchesi di Barolo, Bibi Graetz, Clos du Val, Bolla

Reviews 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. • Marchesi di Barolo Read More »

winerant

Champagne Jayne and the new censorship

Censorship used to be easy to understand. The secret police came to the door in the dark of night and you were never heard from again. Which is what makes the Champagne Read More »

winetrends

TEXSOM International Wine Awards 2015

The wine competition business is at a crossroads, with entries still not back to pre-recession levels, with wineries cutting the marketing budgets that pay entry fees, and with the reliability of competition Read More »

wineofweek

Wine of the week: Lyeth Meritage 2012

Wineries are like rock ‘n roll bands — they come and go for no particular reason, and if you write about wine or drink it, that’s something you need to understand. Just Read More »

winenews

Winebits 374: Wine snobs, wine grapes, lawsuits

• Because we’re better than you are: The Wine Spectator reports that the next big grape will be cabernet franc, mostly because of its “gossamer structure.” The Wine Curmudgeon has absolutely no Read More »

How to buy wine at the grocery store

wineadvice

grocery store wine tips

The supermarket Great Wall of Wine is the Rubik’s Cube of wine buying, with hundreds and hundreds of bottles to choose from, confusing pricing, and no one to ask for help. But it is possible to buy quality wine at the grocery store, and you don’t even need to know much about varietal or region. Just keep these grocery store wine tips in mind:

• The cuter the label, the more simple the wine. This means there is little balance or interest. Instead, they’re what producers call easy to drink — red wine with lots of sweet fruit and almost no tannins, and white wine with almost honeyed fruit and the minimal amount of acidity necessary to make it palatable. Whether these wines are good or bad isn’t the point; rather, is this the kind of wine you want to buy (or avoid)? If it is, then these labels are a clue.

• Who makes the wine? This is almost impossible to tell, since most of the wine in the grocery store usually  comes from a dozen or so producers — our friends at Big Wine — and they would prefer you don’t know. So look for something like “Produced and bottled. …”, “Vinted and bottled. …”, or “Imported and bottled. …” The location that follows usually identifies the parent company, so that many Gallo-owned brands say Modesto, Calif. The “imported” line may have a company name similar to the name of the multi-national that owns the brand, so that CWUS is part of Constellation Brands. A more complete list is in this post.

• Decipher the back label. Pay attention to the choice of words, and not what they mean. Simple, less interesting wines rarely describe themselves as fresh, clean, or earthy. Rather, they use terms like rich, plush, luscious, and even roasted. Also, chocolate and caramel show up more often than not, especially in very ordinary red wine, along with badly written homages to oak — vanilla bean is one of my favorites.

• Beware older vintages with steep discounts, especially if the wine wasn’t made in the U.S. This is often a sign the wine has been sitting in a warehouse, sometimes for years, and is more likely to have gone off. The supermarket, which may have bought the wine for pennies on the dollar, doesn’t care if it’s spoiled; who returns bad wine to the grocery store? One rule of thumb: Be wary of white wine older than two years and red wine older than three.

Wine of the week: Juvé y Camps Cava Brut Rosé NV

wineofweek

Juvé y CampsThe Wine Curmudgeon, faced with the prospect of never drinking Champagne again, is not flinching. The bully boys at the Champagne trade council, whose behavior in the Champagne Jayne case is inexcusable on both moral and free speech grounds, can take their wine and water my garden with it.

I am more than happy to drink cava, which is not only a better value but made by people who seem to understand that their product is not more important than Liberté, Égalité, and Fraternité. Hence my the wine of the week for The Holiday that Must Not be Named: the Juvé y Camps Cava Brut Rosé ($15, purchased, 12%).

Juvé y Camps is one of my favorite cava producers, offering a little more style than the $10 and $12 cavas that I like so well, and this rose does just that. Look for ripe, red juicy fruit (strawberry?), made more in the style of a French cremant (sparkling wine from France not from the Champagne region) than most cavas. So it’s a little rounder and richer, which gives the wine a more pleasant and creamier mouth feel.

Drink this chilled on its own or with something grilled or roasted, be it shrimp, chicken, or beef. It’s the kind of wine to serve with dinner, enjoy, and then smile at how much you enjoyed it.

And did I mention it’s not Champagne?

Winebits 372: Valentine’s Day wine 2015

winenews

Valentine's Day wineA look at Valentine’s Day wine suggestions from around the Internet, because the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t want to do it himself, given this is The Holiday That Must Not be Named:

From a supermarket: HEB, the Texas grocery store chain that is one of the largest independents in the country, focuses on sweet and cute, including chocolate-flavored wine. I’m not sure there is anything here I would recommend, but the Wine Curmudgeon is not the target demographic for this post. Also note how the post uses descriptors that focus on sweet, like candied fruit. Anyone who wants to know why sweet red wine has become such a cash cow need only look here.

From a wine magazine: Decanter, the British equivalent of the Wine Spectator, sticks to sparkling wine, but includes cava and Prosecco, including “10 great value Cavas” and English sparkling wine. The point here is not whether these wines are available in the U.S., but that the editors understand not everyone wants to spend $200 on a bottle of Champagne. Would that wine magazines in this country took the same approach. My favorite pick? The Jansz sparkling from Tasmania, about $20, which I drank on New Year’s as part of my Champagne boycott.

From a financial news website: The Street runs a lot of wine-related items; why is anyone’s guess. But most of it is solid information, and its choice of 11 Valentine’s Day wines is more of the same. The 11 wines are mostly white, mostly quality (though not always easy to find), and mostly around $40. Having said that, the Marcel LaPierre from Morgon in Beaujolais, about $30, is an impressive recommendation.

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