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Tag Archives: cheap wine

Winebits 371: Winston Churchill, cheap wine, Kevin Zraly

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winston churchill wineA Churchillian anniversary: This is the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death, which the Wine Curmudgeon notes for several reasons. First, so I can run a picture of Churchill on the blog; second, because he was a fine writer and historian, which he somehow found time to do in addition to saving the world from Adolph Hitler; and third, because he appreciated wine. How many of us get a Champagne named after us? Churchill also drank wine with dinner, a practice that I like to think helped him in his battle against the Nazis — mostly red Bordeaux, which the English call claret.

Pull out those vines: Grape growers in California’s Central Valley are ripping out vines and replacing them with more profitable crops such as almonds, thanks to slowing sales of cheap wine and a glut of cheap wine from overseas. The Sacramento Bee, covering one of the biggest wine trade shows of the year, reports that some 22,000 acres of vineyards have been removed since the 2014 harvest ended. Before we panic, know that these sorts of things are cyclical, and as soon as demand picks up, the grape vines will return. It’s also worth mentioning that these vines are used in wines cost $7 or less, and often used to make the huge boxes like Franzia.

Happy No. 30: This year marks the 30th anniversary of perhaps the best wine book ever written, Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Wine Course. How good is it? I use it in my El Centro class. Mike Veseth at the the Wine Economist offers a few thoughts about the anniversary, noting that “Where many wine guides jump into geography, geology, variety and so forth in encyclopedic detail, Zraly more or less begins with the question, ‘A bottle of white? A bottle of red?’ as you would in a restaurant.” Best yet, it’s written in English, mostly avoids winespeak, and covers the basics without bogging down into wine geekdom.

Wine of the week: Pillar Box Red 2012

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Pillar Box RedWant to dissect the sad, recent history of the Australian wine business? Then look at the blog’s reviews for Pillar Box Red ($10, sample, 14.5%), which first appeared in 2009, and again in 2011. It cost $12 for the 2007 vintage, and many retailers marked it up to as much as $15. In those days, the Pillar Box Red was an affordable and more accessible alternative to the inky and overpriced Aussie reds that got high scores and glowing reviews.

These days, the wine costs $10, and you can find older wines for as little as $8. Meanwhile, the release of new Pillar Box Red vintages has been irregular — another sign that the market has dried up for Australian wine at almost any price. Which is good news for wine drinkers, because this an exceptional red blend worth $12, a steal at $10, and even worth buying in older vintages.

Look for powerful, rich black fruit, which remains a signature of this kind of Australian wine. But the Pillar Box Red doesn’t taste cheap, hot, or ashy, and there is more than fruit here. The cabernet sauvignon and merlot in the blend take the edge of the shiraz, and it’s a more enjoyable wine because of it. This is red meat wine, and don’t overlook sausages. Nicely done, and a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame.

Winebits 369: Cheap wine, sweet red wine, wine lawsuits

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wine lawsuitsAlmost correct: The Wine Curmudgeon is always happy to see other wine sites hop on the cheap wine bandwagon, and this recent piece from Wine Folly. a qualiity site, offers several fine pointers: Beware the back label, watch out for private label brands, and double check pricing. My concern is its passive-aggressive style, which comes out in the headline. “Good cheap wine is lying to you.” The piece makes it seem as if only cheap wine does these things, when the entire wine business is full of half-truths, misconceptions, and obfuscations. Which is my reason for being, after all. I was also confused by the post’s fixation on U.S. wine — what’s wrong with buying cheap wine from Spain, France, and Italy?

Bring on the sweet stuff: You know sweet red wine is firmly established in the market when one of the wine trade newsletters talks about its popularity without one nasty comment. “While ‘sweet’ drinkers may be gravitating toward certain blends and varietals, and ‘dry’ drinkers supporting others, consumers clearly are exploring a variety of options.” That’s quite shocking, that Shanken News Daily (owned by the same company that owns the Wine Spectator), suggests that wine drinkers have minds of their own. But the numbers make believers: sweet red wine is growing at 4 1/2 percent a year, ahead of wine’s overall growth, says the report. And this is where I mention that I was writing about this stuff when the Winestream Media was dismissing it.

One more lawsuit: Regular visitors know that the Wine Curmudgeon loves lawsuits, when wine companies throw money at their attorneys for no other reason than they can. Though, this suit, about two wines with the same name, does seem to have some merit (with the caveat that I’m not a lawyer and could be completely wrong). I also thought I’d throw this in, two companies named Cipriani suing each other. I mention it for two reasons — first, that it shows wine doesn’t have a monopoly on this sort of thing, and second, that the smaller company, based ion a Chicago suburb, makes some of the best noodles I’ve ever had, and I hope it wins. Update: The two wineries settled out of court a couple of days after this posted. Chalk it up to common sense

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