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Tag Archives: cheap wine

Winebits 380: Wine prices edition

winenews

wine pricesCheaper imported wine? That’s the question that many people were asking last month at a major European industry trade show, ProWein in Germany. The dollar has gained more than 20 percent against the euro in the past year, and the exchange rate is near 1-1, something that hasn’t happened in decades. This change was welcomed by many foreign producers, since it would make their wine easier to sell in the U.S. Said one Spanish winery official: “Obviously, the exchange rate is helping us very much and gives us a number of opportunities at the moment.” Whether consumers will see lower wine prices on store shelves, though, remains to be seen. Distributors and importers are reluctant to cut prices, not only because it means more profit for them if they don’t, but because the industry seems committed to the idea of premiumisation, trading U.S. consumers up to more expensive bottles of wine.

Less cheap wine? Maybe, maybe not. This story, from CNBC, is the sort of thing that makes me crazy — a reporter is given an assignment and isn’t quite sure how to do it. The story starts saying that California’s drought will make quality cheap wine more difficult to find, but soon detours into sake, wine writing, the difference between Old World and New World wines, and that drought isn’t necessarily a bad thing for grapes. Blame the editor, who was too busy or too lazy or too indifferent to offer the reporter any direction. How do I know this? The reporter quoted another reporter, which is not something you’re supposed to do. A better editor would have taken that out, with a stern warning not to do it again.

Lots of effort to little effect? Researchers say they have discovered how to successfully price wine futures, part of a disturbing trend in wine research that focuses on wine that almost no one buys but that gets a lot of attention. It’s one thing to research the futures market in corn, wheat, and pork bellies, because that determines the price of food. But wine futures? Would it matter to anyone but the Winestream Media, very rich people, and a handful of retailers if they went away tomorrow?

Wine of the week: Domaine des Cassagnoles Côtes de Gascogne 2013

wineofweek

cassagnolesThis white blend from southern France gives the Wine Curmudgeon a chance to do two of his favorite things: Praise the genius of the winemakers in Gascony, who do what so few others in the world seem capable of – make great cheap wine without any embarrassment; and criticize wine scores. Is it any wonder Gascon wine makes me so happy?

This vintage of the Cassagnoles ($10, purchased, 11.5%) has less citrus and more white grapiness than previous years, which is my preferred style. That gives the wine more balance, and it tastes less like sauvignon blanc and more like the intriguing cheap wine that it is. Ah, the wonders of the colombard, ugni blanc, and gros manseng grapes.

Best yet, this style makes the Cassagnoles even more refreshing and fruity, truly a bottle that is empty before you realize you have drunk the whole thing. Highly recommended, and it will return to the $10 Hall of Fame next year. My only regret? That we can’t buy it in the U.S. in the 10-liter box (the equivalent of 13 1/3 bottles) that it is sold in in France.

Yet someone, somehow, managed to give the wine 82 points on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory app), claiming that it was like pinot grigio and didn’t have any taste. If this wine is only worth 82 points, I’ll drink a bottle of overoaked, too alcoholic California chardonnay, which is probably what that person thinks is tasty.

Arsenic and cheap wine

winerant

arsenicDavid K. TeStelle may be a terrific trial attorney, a tremendous human being, and a snappy dresser. But he apparently knows little about logic and even less about wine.

“The lower the price of wine, the more arsenic you are getting,” said TeStelle, one of the lawyers suing Big Wine for knowingly selling arsenic-laced wine in the class action lawsuit that has the wine business all atwitter (pun fully intended).

The Wine Curmudgeon will assume that TeStelle was misquoted or taken out of context, since to assume that all cheap wine is stuffed full of arsenic and that all expensive wine is pure and virginal is silly. Logical fallacies, anyone? Did we stop driving cheap cars because the Yugo was a piece of junk? My Honda Fit certainly isn’t. Are Mercedes and BMW models never recalled?

The testing behind the lawsuit apparently didn’t check the arsenic level in any expensive wine, which takes the rest of the logic out of TeStelle’s argument. Maybe BeverageGrades, the lab that did the testing, didn’t want to to spend the extra money, and it was easier to buy Two-buck Chuck since there are three Trader Joe’s in Denver. Or that the Big Wine companies that make most of the cheap wine in the lawsuit have deeper pockets than a $40 brand that makes 25,000 cases. One can’t get damages out of a company that doesn’t have money to pay for damages.

Besides, and I can’t emphasize this enough, none of my wines — the three dozen or so in the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame — are on the arsenic list. This speaks volumes about the difference in quality in wine, cheap or otherwise, and something that I have repeated and repeated and repeated throughout my wine writing career. It’s not the price that matters — it’s the honesty of the wine. Does the producer care about quality and value, or is it just making wine to make wine? Which is just as true for $100 wine as it is for $10 wine.

That’s something that everyone who is being snarky about the quality of cheap wine in the wake of the lawsuit (including people I like and whose opinions I respect) should remember. Quality, as well as safety, isn’t something that can be measured by price. It’s something that depends on integrity, and no amount of money can guarantee that.

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