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Tag Archives: $10 wine

The Wine Curmudgeon visits The Reverse Wine Snob

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reverse wine snobJon Thorsen is one of the hottest wine writers in the world these days, showing up on all sorts of most influential lists, as a Wine Blog Awards finalist, and with a book deal (out next year).

What makes it even more impressive is that Jon writes about cheap wine as The Reverse Wine Snob.

We don’t approach the subject in the exact same way (his top price is $20), but our points are the same: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to buy a quality bottle of wine. Jon was kind of enough to let me write something for his blog today, and we’re giving away a couple of cheap wine books as part of my guest post:

[W]riters like Jon are pitching in, helping to educate wine drinkers and to disabuse them of the notion that wine is elitist and snooty. Trust me: That was not something a lot people wanted to do in the bad old days, when they would have turned their noses up at anyone who featured wines sold at retailers like Costco and Trader Joe’s. That just wasn’t done.

You’ll have to visit Jon’s website to read the rest. But it’s OK. That’s the point of this exercise.

When I started writing about cheap wine in those long ago days of the 20th century, the Winestream Media was so entrenched that Elin McCoy wrote a book about Robert Parker called “The Emperor of Wine,” and cheap wine got as much respect as a social disease.  How that has changed — so much so that I actually smile when I think about it. Who would have thought that was possible?

Wine of the week: Campo Viejo Brut Reserva NV

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Campo Viejo brut reservaThe Wine Curmudgeon is always ready to recommend sparkling wine, and even more ready to recommend it given the  United States’ 238th birthday this week. So why not mark July 4 with Campo Viejo Brut Reserva NV ($10, purchased, 11.5%), a Spanish cava that combines quality, value, and a history lesson?

That’s because Spain played an important role in the U.S. victory in the War of Independence, declaring war on Great Britain and providing money and supplies for George Washington’s army. Campo Viejo, meanwhile, is a well-known Spanish producer in Rioja, whose wines offer an introduction to Spanish tempranillo at a fair price. The cava, though not what the producer is best known for, is a solid offering somewhere between Cristalino and Segura Viudas.

That means the Camp Viejo has more sweetness than the Cristalino, but not so much as to be sweet. It’s not as polished as the Seguras, but still provides lots of apple fruit and maybe even some peach, as well as some very impressive bubbles. The best way to know this is a wine worth drinking? It will be gone before you know it, and you’ll have to open a second bottle when you watch the July Fourth fireworks.

Barefoot wine review 2014

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barefoot wineThis year’s verdict for the best-selling wine brand in the U.S., with some 11 million cases? Much, much better than I expected, and perhaps the two best I’ve tasted since I started doing annual Barefoot wine reviews in 2009.

The Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee NV ($10, purchased, 11.5%) won a platinum medal at the Critics Challenge, and that’s a tough audience. I don’t know about platinum, which is one medal above gold, but this is a quality sparkling wine that tastes exactly like it is supposed to taste — crisp apple fruit and a little creaminess. It was wine, and not like something put together by the marketing department to appeal to consumers who assume sparkling wine should be sweet and gooey. The bubbles weren’t quite as tight and long-lasting as I like, but given that the wine is made using the charmat method (common for less expensive sparklers and which results in less impressive bubbles), they weren’t bad. I’d buy it again, and serve it blind to get a few giggles.

The only problem? Price, ironically, which may be the only time in wine writing history that price will be mentioned as a problem with a Barefoot product. Much cava, made with the more expensive methode champenoise, costs less than the Barefoot, and is at least the same quality. And other California bubblies, like Korbel, are methode champenoise and about the same price. But Barefoot, knowing its audience likely doesn’t know the difference between charmat and methode champenoise (or much care), probably isn’t overly concerned.

The Barefoot Zinfandel NV ($6, purchased, 13.5%), meanwhile, is exactly the kind of wine that helped make the brand such a success. It’s dry, but loaded with the kind of fake oak that lends a chocolately finish, giving it the flavor profile that Barefoot reds are famous for. Having said that, the oak isn’t offensive — just obvious. In fact, minus the oak, the wine reminded me of the inexpensive, brambly, dark berry, and low alcohol zinfandels I drank in the old days and hoped would become the next big thing in cheap wine but didn’t.

Is the zinfandel a value the way Aldi’s $5 Vina Decana tempranillo is? Probably not, but the Decana is a $10 Hall of Fame wine. But it’s certainly a value compared to most of the $10 red wines, with their cute labels and sweet fruit, that overwhelm grocery store shoppers. That’s not a bad thing for a $6 wine, is it?

More Barefoot wine reviews:
Barefoot wine reviews 2013
Barefoot wine review 2012
Barefoot wines (again): Value or just cheap?

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