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Mini-reviews 64: Muscadet, Stoller, Prosecco, Villa Maria

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. This month, four more wines Read More »

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Labor Day wine 2014

Labor Day weekend marks not just the end of summer, but the Wine Curmudgeon’s annual appearance at the Kerrville Fall Music Festival to talk about Texas wine (and to drive 5 mph). Read More »

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The Wine Curmudgeon’s annual Kerrville Texas wine extravaganza

And with a cheap wine book signing this year, as well. The wine panel at the Kerrville Fall Music Festival is at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 30, where we’ll talk about Texas Read More »

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Wine of the week: Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc 2012

In the old days, which in wine means the end of the 20th century, sauvignon blanc came in three styles — California, French, and New Zealand. Each tasted like sauvignon blanc, but Read More »

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Winebits 348: Wine press release edition

This year, the Wine Curmudgeon has been overwhelmed with some of the most bizarre wine press releases ever. That I have not written the greatest rant in the blog’s history is because Read More »

Ask the WC 5: Getting drunk, restaurant wine, wine reviews

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wine advice getting drunkBecause the customers always write, and the Wine Curmudgeon always has the answers in this periodic feature. Ask me a wine-related question by clicking here.

Hey Wine Guy:
I would think alcohol is alcohol is alcohol, and a buzz is a buzz is a buzz. However, I seem to experience what I will call a “lighter” buzz from wine, which dissipates more quickly than a buzz from other alcoholic drinks. Do you think that’s possible? Have you heard it before? Have you experienced it?
Sober as much as possible

Dear Sober:
The difference is food. Yes, one drink — whether spirits, beer, or wine — should affect everyone the same way (allowing for size and gender), but we don’t drink spirits, beer, and wine the same way. Cocktails are bar drinks. Beer is a TV drink. Wine, though, is a meal drink, so we drink it more slowly and the food we’re eating helps absorb the alcohol in a way bar nuts and nacho-flavored Doritos don’t. It’s the difference between a bottle of wine over a couple of hours with dinner as opposed to four beers during the first quarter of a football game. That’s something that those of us who judge wine competitions understand. Even with spitting, we can get as light-headed on a morning’s worth of wine as with four or five shots in a bar, because the object is to drink, not to enjoy ourselves.

Dear Curmie:
Why do restaurants, even chain restaurants, go through all the show about opening a bottle of wine, like letting me sniff the cork and presenting the bottle. It’s not like these are any great wines, and it’s not like the waitstaff knows what it’s doing.
Annoyed and confused

Dear Annoyed:
It’s all part of the flim flammery that is too much restaurant wine service, and especially in restaurants that sell wine because they have to and not because they want to. A fine dining restaurant does the presentation because that’s the best way to serve an expensive bottle of wine. They’ll show it, for instance, to make sure that’s what you ordered, because they don’t want to find out they’ve brought the wrong bottle (which happens more often than you’d think). They’ll let you taste the wine first because older wines do go off, no matter how expensive or well made. In other restaurants, though, they do it because they’re trying to give you value for the $8 bottle of wine that they’re charging $25 for, and that’s the only way they know how. Recently, a waiter started to do the presentation for a $10 bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc with a screwcap, and I told him not to bother. He thanked me, because doing it embarrassed him. And this was at a Dallas restaurant that actually cares about wine.

Wine Curmudgeon:
How do you decide to review the wines that you review? Is there a plan? Or do you just wing it? I doubt someone pays you to review their wines, do they?
Curious and curiouser

Dear Curious:
No, no one pays me to review their wines, though it has been suggested by some who want a good review. I alternate red and white wines for the wine of the week, throwing in sparkling or rose when it seems like a good idea. Otherwise, the only rules are that the wine has to fit the concept of the blog — affordable and generally available (where availability is the bane of my existence as a wine writer). The latter means it might be in a grocery store; at the very least, you should be able to find it if you live in a city with quality independent wine shops. Also, save for the monthly mini-reviews, I usually don’t write about bad wine. There’s too much good wine to waste time on that.

Wine of the week: Feudo Zirtari Nero d’Avola-Syrah 2011

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Feudo Zirtari Nero d'Avola-Syrah One more reason that Sicilian wine deserves to enter the mainstream — the Zirtari ($12, purchased, 14%), a funky wine that is delicious yet does not seem especially Sicilian. One knows a wine region has found its niche when you can write that about one of its wines.

First, the Zirtari is almost one-half syrah, hardly a grape indigenous to the island. Second, the syrah gives it an almost Rhone-like character, richer (almost fatty) than similarly-priced Sicilian reds. Plus, there isn’t much earthiness, but there is well-balanced black fruit and the particular character that the Sicilian nero d’avola grape adds to a well-made wine.

In all, a wine that is enjoyable, dark, and almost brooding. It’s intense enough for summer barbecue and red meat, but not so heavy, with its 14 percent alcohol, to be be off-putting in hot weather. It was a most pleasant surprise to find when I was looking for something else.

Winebits 346: Lawsuits, drunks, cheap wine

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wine lawsuitsGet off my horse: Chateau Cheval Blanc, the top-rated Bordeaux producer whose wines can cost thousands of dollars a bottle, is suing Domaine du Cheval Blanc, a small family-owned Bordeaux winery that hardly anyone has heard of, claiming the latter must change its name. The Wine Curmudgeon mentions this because of his interest in wine lawsuits and their inherent foolishness, in which the biggest companies pursue legal action for no other reason than they can. Because, honestly, who would confuse this wine with this wine? But not this wine with this wine? Wine-Searcher.com reports that Chateau Cheval Blanc, which lost the case once, won on appeal and has returned to court to force Domaine du Cheval Blanc to pick a new name. The story is complicated, as most are for those of us who aren’t trademark attorneys, but the upshot is that it looks like Chateau will win. And people wonder why I get so cranky.

Turn up the Beethoven: Commit lots of alcohol-related crimes in London? Then you’ll be forced to wear ankle tags that monitor the levels of alcohol in your sweat. Yes, it’s all very “Clockwork Orange,” but London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, has other concerns. Drunks deter “law-abiding citizens from enjoying our great city, especially at night.” The impetus for the idea? The success of similar ankle systems with drunk drivers in the U.S. So glad the British can learn something from us, especially after all they have given this country.

Drink that cheap wine: English wine consultant Jerry Lockspeiser writes in Harpers, a British trade magazine, that consumers are perfectly happy buying cheap wine, noting that there is no correlation between price and wine people like. Then he asks: If consumers are happy, why does the wine business try so hard to sell them expensive wine? The Wine Curmudgeon practically swooned when he read that. The interesting bit, of course, is the question, which he answers in two parts: That the business is convinced it will make more money off pricey wine, which may or may not be true, and that they’re snobs: “… we pity the poor souls who have not see the light. We know, because we are chosen.” I should send this guy a cheap wine book, no?

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