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Tag Archives: cheap wine

When cheap wine tastes cheap

wineadvice

cheap wine tastes cheapThe quality of cheap wine is better than ever, but that doesn’t mean that all cheap wine is worth drinking. Or, as the erudite Lew Perdue has noted: “Crappy wine holds back the wine market far more than any other factor.”

So how can you tell when cheap wine tastes cheap?

• Quality is not about style. Sweet wines should taste sweet; that’s their style, and whether they’re poorly made has nothing to do with whether they’re sweet. Dry wines that taste sweet are poorly made, no matter how many cases they sell. The Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t like alcoholic, over-the-top zinfandels, but that’s a style preference, not a reflection of quality.

• Bitterness, off-flavors, and green or unripe fruit, in both red and white wine. This is not nearly as common as it used to be, and is rarely seen in California anymore. But it still happens with imported wine.

• Missing tannins in red wine. The winemaker uses technology to remove tannins to make the wine “smooth,” because a focus group said smooth was a desirable quality without actually defining it. In this, tannins and tannic acid are perhaps the most misunderstood part of cheap wine. Quality red wine, at any price, needs tannic acid for structure and balance, and when the tannins are right you may not even notice them. But it’s usually too expensive or too much trouble to deal with tannins properly in $10 wine, which is why so much of it is astringent. So the winemaker takes the tannins out, and you get a flabby, boring wine.

• Fake oak. Again, this is not a style preference, but a winemaking decision, sometimes used to cover up poor quality grapes. If your chardonnay smells like Adams Best vanilla, then the oak is there because something else isn’t. Also, be wary of red wines that promise chocolate cherry flavors, also an oak trick. If producers could make $10 wine with those flavors, why would anyone need to buy $100 wine?

• Sweetness for sweetness’ sake. The best sweet wines have something to balance the sweetness, in the way that iced tea with lemon and sugar is balanced. They’re not supposed to taste like Coke. What made this $7 Sara Bee moscato so enjoyable was not that it was sweet, but that it had a little orange fruit and some bubbles to complement the sweetness. Sweet wine that is just sweet is as about as cynical as winemaking gets.

Image courtesy of Cheap Wine Records, using a Creative Commons license

Wine of the week: Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2013

wineofweek

Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2009This South African white is one of the world’s great cheap wines. So why did I have to taste it in a restaurant in San Diego, instead of buying it in a store in Dallas?

You know the reason for that: the three tier-system.

But the Wine Curmudgeon will not let that deter him from his life’s work. What’s a constitutionally-protected regulatory system when terrific cheap wine is at stake?

Because the Ken Forrester ($10, purchased, 13%) is terrific – a surprisingly rich mouth feel given this is $10 chenin blanc, plus green apple fruit, a tiny hint of honey in the middle, and even some minerality on the finish. In this, it’s the kind of chenin — not sweet, not syrupy, not a sauvignon blanc knockoff, but with character and interest — that makes me wonder why the grape isn’t more popular. I rarely quote producer websites, but this is spot on: “Perfect everyday drinking wine.”

Especially if you live in the ninth largest city in the country where 100-degree summer days cry out for this kind of wine. Or, as several of my colleagues said when we bought the wine in San Diego, “What do you mean, you can’t buy this in Dallas?” Which, come to think of it, has always been a problem.

Highly recommended, but since it’s not for sale in Dallas, it can’t be in the $10 Hall of Fame. Unless I change the rules, but I don’t run that kind of Hall of Fame.

 

Winebits 345: Sipping wine, wine in China, cheap wine

winenews

wine news ChinaBring on the students: It’s hard to believe that Texas is more progressive about wine than California, but it apparently was until last month in one area. That’s when the latter’s governor signed legislation to allow underage beer and wine students to taste in class. The bill requires them to spit, but that’s what we’ve been doing in Texas for years. One of the great joys during my tenure as the wine instructor at the Cordon Bleu in Dallas was enforcing the spit rule during the classes’ red and white tastings at the end of each term. Not surprisingly, the students who didn’t like wine were most demonstrative in showing me they were spitting.

Not quite yet: The wine business has been falling all over itself trying to sell wine to China, figuring that was the easiest way to make zillions and solve its other problems while not actually doing anything to solve them. Now, someone besides the Wine Curmudgeon is wondering if that’s the best policy. Margareth Henriquez, who heads Krug Champagne, told Britain’s Harpers wine trade magazine that the wine business should devote more resources to serving customers in more established markets, including and especially the United States.”China will take some time, certainly for sparkling wine producers and it would be a mistake, I believe, for the wine world to put too much emphasis on this market,” she said. And to think I’ve been giving that advice away for free; I never was much of a businessman.

Bring on the cheap wine: This is not news here, of course, but is worth noting since it’s a health item, and how often does one see cheap wine and health linked? (And also why it gets an exemption from the blog’s ban on wine and health news). A British cardiologist says cheap wine is better for you than expensive wine, since $10 wine may have more anti-oxidants than the expensive stuff. The story in the link is poorly reported (picked up and edited from elsewhere, perhaps?), and seems to apply only to wines from certain parts of the world. But it’s still worth a giggle.

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