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Tag Archives: cheap wine

The Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t hate expensive wine

winerant

wine curmudgeon expensive wine“So, Jeff,” the conversation begins, “Why don’t you like expensive wine?”

This isn’t the most common question I’ve been asked over the past eight years, but it’s common enough. These days, unfortunately, it’s not only more common, but there’s often an edge in the voice of the person asking it. As in, “So you’d rather drink crappy wine just to prove a point?”

Of course not. I love wine; why would I want to deprive myself of the pleasure it brings, regardless of price? How many times have I bored the cyber-ether with my odes to white Burgundy or Oregon pinot noir?

Because I don’t dislike expensive wine. I dislike poorly-made wine and overpriced wine, where profit is all that matters and quality is barely a consideration. I dislike dishonest wine from producers who use winemaking tricks or marketing sleight of hand to fool the consumer. I dislike pretentious wine, which we’re supposed to like because our betters tell us we should.

Cheap wine can be any of those things just as easily as expensive wine can, and I call out that kind of cheap wine all the time. Hasn’t anyone read my Cupcake reviews?

The difference, wine being wine, is that too many still assume that those qualities can’t possibly apply to the wine they bought for $24.99. After all, it came from a retailer who winked and nodded with them as if they were pals in on a big secret, and didn’t the wine get 93 points from this really smart guy who has the best palate in the world, and which we know because he tells us so?

So when I write something about their wine that they don’t like, as I am wont to do, they assume it’s because I don’t like expensive wine. Otherwise, they’d have to acknowledge that they’ve been suckered by a system as unwinnable as any three-card monte.

Allow me to quote my friend Dave McIntyre, who has said many nice things about me over the years: “Siegel doesn’t equate cheap with bad, like so many others do. He sniffs out inexpensive wines that are well made and provide exceptional value, and his passion is sharing them with the world.”

How can anyone object to that?

More about cheap wine:
Can cheap wine do this?
Cheap wine and wine that is made cheaply
The backlash against cheap wine
Wine I like

 

 

Joe Maddon, expensive wine, and the Chicago Cubs

cubsslider

joe maddon wineDear Joe:

You and I have much in common — you’re the new manager of the Chicago Cubs, and I am a long-suffering Cubs fan who once waited more than an hour to get Kenny Holtzman’s autograph. In the finest Cubs tradition, Holtzman never showed up.

Apparently, we also share wine in common, though what you drink is about as far removed from what I drink as the Cubs are from a successful baseball team. You are, by all accounts, a wine geek of the first order, whose taste runs to Opus One, Insignia, and hot, heavy, oaky California pinot noirs. (Unfortunately, my request to ask you about wine apparently disappeared into the cyber-ether; I never heard back from the Cubs.)

Frankly, your preference for these kinds of wines worries me. This is the Cubs you’re managing, a team that has not won the World Series since 1908, and not the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs have had more players like Larry Biittner and Glen Hobbie than Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax, and Opus One is a lot more like Ruth than it is Biittner.

Besides, we’re more comfortable with players like Biittner, who was a mainstay on the woebegone Cubs teams of the late 1970s when I was in college and would sit in the right field bleachers and offer the players various words of encouragement. Who can forget the 1977 game when Biittner, an outfielder, pitched 1 1/3 innings and the Cubs lost 19-3 — and, in the finest Cubs tradition, was fined for throwing at a batter.

In this, the Cubs are more Bogle than Insignia, more cava than Champagne. And that’s a more practical approach anyway. What are you going to do after a tough late-night loss to the hated Brewers in Milwaukee when you want a glass of wine and you won’t be able to find a bottle of $50 Napa meritage? On the other hand, almost any Roundy’s supermarket that’s still open will have more than one wine from this year’s $10 Hall of Fame.

Which is not to say I wouldn’t mind sharing a bottle of white Burgundy with you, particularly if you do the impossible and help the Cubs win something after more than a century of losing. I’d even pay for it — a 2010 Corton from Sylvain Loichet, perhaps? That I’m willing to pay for it should tell you how long suffering a Cubs fan I am.

Until then, try the Little James Basket Press wines. I’m sure Binny’s has them, and will get them for you if they don’t.

Yours in 107 years of Cubs futility,
The Wine Curmudgeon

Wine of the week: Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2012

wineofweek

Cusumano Nero d'Avola Two years ago, I wrote: “One day, perhaps, Sicily will take its place as one of the world’s great wine regions…” and then listed all the horrible things that would happen when it did. Which is mostly what has happened, and the Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2012 ($10, purchased, 14%) demonstrates just that.

Six years ago, when I first tasted Cusumano, few people who weren’t the Italian Wine Guy knew about Sicilian wine. Today, it’s all over the wine magazines, the best Sicilian wines from the Mt. Etna region cost as much as $100, and there is even Sicilian wine made to taste like grocery store merlot.

The Cusumano Nero d’Avola, a red wine made with the nero d’avola grape, has gone down a similar path, from a wine rarely tasted in the U.S. to one imported by one of the most successful American wine marketers. Along the way, the price went up, the wine lost something that made it what it was, and I took it out of the $10 Hall of Fame. I’m not the Wine Curmudgeon for nothing.

But I’ve made my peace with these changes, and two recent tastings, this red and the white Insolia, have restored my faith in the brand. This version of the Cusumano Nero d’Avola isn’t as dark and plummy as previous vintages, but it isn’t as fruity as it was when I tasted it a year ago, either. Bottle age helped restore the balance between the red fruit and its Sicilian earthiness, and I enjoyed the wine. It’s red sauce, pizza with cheese and sausage, and maybe even chicken cacciatore.

It probably won’t return to the Hall of Fame when the 2013 vintage arrives this year, given the price increase, but I’ll buy it and no doubt enjoy it. And that will be enough.

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