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Mini-reviews 70: Ponzi, white Rhone, lemberger, pinot blanc

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. • Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Read More »

great quotes

Great quotes in wine history: Sgt. Schultz

Sgt. Schultz has just discovered that Col. Hogan and his men have devised the most ingenious plan ever to make wine accessible and easy to understand for anyone who wants to drink Read More »

wineofweek

Wine of the week: Caposaldo Chianti 2012

Who thought the Wine Curmudgeon would ever have anything nice to say about an Italian wine made with merlot? But that was before I tasted the Caposaldi Chianti. This Italian red from Read More »

winenews

Winebits 378: Box wine, South African wine, nutrition labels

• Bring on the cartons: Box wine, since it’s too awkward for most store shelves and because consumers are confused about its quality, has been little more than a niche product in Read More »

winerant

Will cheap wine kill you?

Yes, “Will cheap wine kill you?” is a great search engine headline. And no, it’s not a plot by the the Winestream Media to return us to the good old days before Read More »

Wine of the week: Clayhouse Adobe Red 2011

wineofweek

 Clayhouse Adobe Red The Wine Curmudgeon spends an inordinate amount of time trying to find California labels to use for the wine of the week. Either they’re too pricey, $10 wines in $16 packaging, or too crummy, one-note wines with little more than focus group sweet fruit.

So when I find a California wine to use, like the Clayhouse Adobe Red ($12, purchased, 13.7%), you know it’s not a wine of the week just to fill space. Rather, it’s one of a too-rare example of what California — in this case, the Paso Robles region — can do with cheap wine when a producer focuses on wine and not hocus pocus.

This red blend, mostly zinfandel, has lots of sweet red fruit. But that’s not all it has, and the fruit is more than balanced by a surprising grip, some zinfandel brambliness that you almost never see anymore, and soft tannins on the finish. That a wine at this price and this style has tannins to complement the fruit shows how serious Clayhouse is about quality.

Highly recommended, and so far above the glut of grocery store wine that I must endure to do what I do that I could carve out a special place in the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame for it. Serve the Clayhouse Adobe Red as winter ends, but keep it around for summer barbecues.

Winebits 376: Apothic, restaurant wine, wine consumption

winenews

apothicA revolutionary product? Gallo’s Apothic, which revolutionized sweet red wine when it was introduced in 2007, may be doing it again. The company has released Apothic Crush, a slightly sweet red wine with 14.5 percent alcohol. In this, it appears to be the first sweet high alcohol wine that actually admits to being sweet and high in alcohol. For most of wine’s history, sweet table wines had less alcohol than dry wines not only because that’s how fermentation worked, but because no one thought consumers would drink a high alcohol sweet wine. But that has changed, first with the trend toward riper, more alcoholic wines, and second, with improvements in winemaking technology. In this, who knew Robert Parker, who has championed riper, higher alcohol wines, would pave the way for a Gallo product? Or, as the noted philosopher Mick Jagger has said more than once, “You can’t always get what you want/But if you try sometime you find/You get what you need.”

Less hope for wine lists? Is the end coming for the independent restaurant? That may be one of the conclusions from a recent study, which found that the number of independents fell by two percent in the U.S. in 2014, and that the number of full-service independents dropped three percent. Chains, meanwhile, continued to grow in the low single digits. Why does this matter to wine drinkers? Because those independents, and especially the full-serves, are the last best hope for improved restaurant wine lists. Chains usually don’t care about wine and make decisions in a corporate office based on price, which means they have the crummiest and most overpriced wine lists. Independents, for all their problems with wine, generally do a better job than chains. So any drop in the number of chains should be worrisome for wine drinkers who want choices that aren’t from Big Wine.

Beer, wine, or spirits? This chart, from Ghost in the Data, should answer all questions about whether the U.S. (or any other country in the world) is a wine drinking country. We’re not — it’s still beer. In fact, save for part of western Europe, the world is mostly indifferent to wine. This is something my colleagues in the Winestream Media should pay more attention to, instead of patting themselves on the back because we drink more wine than any other country in because we have more people than France and Italy.

The new truth about oxidized wine

winetrends

oxidized wineWine will oxidize — that is, become brandyish and taste funny — within 24 hours after you open the bottle. Oxygen gets into the bottle, and the same thing happens to the wine that happens to a cut apple. This has been true for decades, and the wine preserver industry, including Coravin, nitrogen systems, and vacuum pumps, has become a multi-million dollar business because of oxidized wine.

But what if post-modern winemaking technology has made oxidation less likely? What if the wine business has discovered how to keep wine from oxidizing with 24 hours, so that it will last days or even a week? In fact, this seems to have happened, and especially with bottles from Big Wine. That has been my experience over the past 18 months — bottles, red and white, left on the counter for several days and closed only with their cork or screwcap, tasted just as fresh as they did when I opened the bottle.

So I checked with a well-known and award-winning California winemaker, and he said I was right. He asked not to be named for this post, given that he was letting us behind, as he called it, the wizard’s curtain. “The science of wine has advanced immeasurably in the last 20 years,” he told me. “And, in part, that is why a $6 bottle of wine does not taste like crap anymore.”

There is lots of science in his explanation (“build stronger chains of anthocyanins and phenolic compounds”); more than we need here. But wine is oxidizing less quickly because:

• Grapes are riper than ever when they’re harvested. This has led to more stable phenolics, which is the compound in grapes that adds color, taste, and helps preserve it.

• Adding more tannins to the wine, either oak, grape-derived, or from other exotic hardwoods. I actually have a bottle of liquid tannins in a desk drawer that I got at a trade show. If your wine isn’t tannic enough, you can dump it in.

• These added tannins, combined with a technique called micro-oxidation, which adds oxygen to the wine at certain times during the winemaking process. This means, said the winemaker, better wines with improved color, richer flavors, and better shelf life. “This is a novel idea,” he said with a laugh, “since the industry has for so many years maligned oxygen and taught the exact opposite. But oxygen is good.”

Is this true with all wines? Probably not. But for the majority of wine that most of us drink, oxidized wine is apparently one less thing to worry about.

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