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Tag Archives: Cava

Celebrating without Champagne

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champagneEven before the Champagne business adopted Stormtrooper 101 as its business model, its product was too expensive for almost all of us who buy wine. A decent bottle costs at least $30, and it’s probably closer to $40 by the time you find something interesting. So what’s a wine drinker to do who wants to celebrate with sparkling wine, but doesn’t want to buy Champagne?

Consider these alternatives (and if you’re confused, check out the blog’s sparkling wine FAQ):

• Look elsewhere in France: Champagne isn’t the only part of the country that produces sparkling wine, and the values elsewhere can sometimes be astounding. These wines, called cremant, include Louis Bouillot Brut Rose ($18, purchased, 12%). The Bouillot is from Burgundy, where there is no question of quality, and it’s made with the same kinds of grapes as Champagne. Look for tight bubbles, a little caramel, and muted strawberry fruit. Highly recommended.

• Go domestic: Big Wine comes through here, with Domaine Ste. Michelle from Washington state (the same company that does table wine as Chateau Ste. Michelle). These sparklers are made in the Champagne style, so that the second fermentation is in the bottle, cost about $12, and are available in what seems like every grocery store in the country. If they aren’t complex wines, they usually deliver more than $12 worth of value.

• Spend a couple of dollars more for a better quality Prosecco: The surge in Prosecco’s popularity means a lot of ordinary wine is selling for $15, which can make it difficult to find value. Still, it’s out there, like the Valdo Prosecco Brut ($11, sample, 11%). It was much better than I expected, with more depth and character, a touch of yeast, and some sweet lemon fruit.

• Cava is your friend: Regular visitors know how the Wine Curmudgeon feels about cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, but it’s worth repeating — it may be the best wine value in the world. The Casa Pedro Domecq Cava Gran Campo Viejo Brut Reserva ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is a serious cava, with lots of apple fruit and lots of bubbles, and it will be gone before you know it.

Winebits 392: Wine closures, cava, women winemakers

wine closures

wine closuresBring on the screwcaps: Mike Veseth at the Wine Economist offers one of the best analyses of the state of the wine closures, noting that the number of wineries that used corks, synthetic corks, and screwcaps isn’t as important as the size of the winieres. This is something that the cork people ignore in their quest to convince us that 19th century technology is still relevant. In other words, the next time you see something from a cork producer talking about how many wineries use natural cork, know that about half the wine in the U.S. has a synthetic cork. The post also includes this great quote from Australian wine guru Hugh Johnson: “I am faintly irritated now when I come to open a bottle of wine and find I need a corkscrew.” Who knew a wine guru would sound like the Wine Curmudgeon?

Bring on the cava: Shocking news for the wine business, of course, because this is mostly cheap wine, but nothing that those of us who don’t pay attention already know: Cava sales are soaring, up by 4.6 percent last year. By comparison, overall wine sales were mostly flat in 2014. The top cava brand, black bottle Freixenet, is the country’s best-selling imported sparkling brand as well, even beating all those moscatos.

Update: Bring on the women: Apparently, I’m not the only one who found flaws in this study. I wonder: What’s going on with people who publish studies with serious errors?

Women winemakers, woefully underrepresented in the male-dominated wine business, make the best wine, despite accounting for only about 10 percent of winemakers. That’s the conclusion of a sort of study from Gabriel Froymovich at consultancy Vineyard Financial Associates, who says “I have often lamented the under-representation of women in this business.” This would be huge news and worth its own blog post, save for the methodology, which is why I call it a sort of study. Froymovich equates price with quality, and we know what a swamp that is — and only does so because using scores would be too much work, he says. This not only assumes that higher priced wine is better, which no one has ever demonstrated to be true, but that it doesn’t require skill to make cheap wine. Somehow, I think Jenn Wall at Barefoot would argue that point. Note, too, that the Wine Curmudgeon has advocated for women winemakers for more than a decade, so my problems with the study are not the results, but that better math wasn’t used to get them.

Image courtesy of Wine Anorak, using a Creative Commons license

Mini-reviews 74: White wines for summer

winereview

white winesReviews 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, white wines for the beginning of summer:

Honora Vera Rueda 2013 ($6, purchased, 13%): Ordinary grocery store verdejo, missing some lemon fruit that should be there and a little harsh on the finish. Yet, having said this, that a national retailer is selling this hardly common Spanish white speaks to how far cheap wine has come.

Canals Canals Cava Classic NV ($15, sample, 11.5%): Very pretty cava, the sparkling wine from Spain, that is softer and more Prosecco like, with green apples and lemons. Not crazy about the price, if you appreciate the style, worth the money.

Amarte Mas Albariño 2013 ($15, sample, 13%): Quality albarino, a white wine from Spain, though there are equally as good wines made with the same grape for less money. Look for soft white fruit aromas, some lemongrass in the middle, and a full finish.

Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc 2013 ($15, sample, 13.5%): This California white is a touch overpriced, but a solid, dry, crisp, and lemony chenin blanc — the kind of inexpensive and well-made California white wine we need more of.

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