Tag Archives: sweet wine

Four things that would make wine more fun to drink


“Why didn’t the label say this was a sweet red wine?”

Four things that would make wine more fun to drink after a summer and fall spent traveling and tasting, because I really don’t want to have so many wine complaints:

• Better restaurant wine pricing. I mention this yet again not because I expect it to change, but because so few people in the restaurant business truly understand. I had a restaurateur approach me at a recent event to tell me how wonderful her wine list was. “We’re the only restaurant in this area that cares about wine,” she said. The list? Not awful, and even a couple of interesting bottles, but every wine, even the $8 Big Wine riesling, was marked up at least three times. This restaurant in a tiny town in Arizona was charging $40 for crappy grocery store wine, and the woman was proud of the list. How am I supposed to answer that?

• Back label honesty. I did a tasting this week for cheap holiday wines for a Dallas publication, and what struck me — besides how awful so many of the wines were — was how little the back label description had to do with what the wine tasted like. Soft, syrupy cabernet sauvignons without any tannins were described as elegant, while chardonnay made with so much fake oak that it hurt to swallow were said to be rich and full bodied. How about truth in labeling: “We made this wine to hit a certain price, and it really doesn’t taste like much, but what do you expect for $8?”

If the wine is sweet, call it sweet. Why does the wine business insist on confusing consumers by leaving sweet off the label when the wine is sweet? I realize that the industry has taught “real” wine drinkers that sweet wine is inferior, and that only old ladies with cats drink it. But I’m tired of tasting wine labeled as dry that is sweet, and I have heard from many consumers who feel the same way. Besides, isn’t it possible that sweet wine labeled sweet would sell better?

• Lidl can’t get to the U.S.too soon. The German discount grocer, known for its quality cheap wines, broke ground on a U.S. distribution center last month, and should start opening stores in the next couple of years. If Lidl does wine in the U.S. the way it does in Europe, those of us who care about cheap wine will have an alternative to the wines in the second item in this post. Or, as my brother emailed me during a trip to Europe, “Love Lidl — great wine selection.”

For more on making wine more fun:
Wine education: Four things you don’t need to know about wine
Five things that make me crazy when I buy wine
Five things the wine business can do to help consumers figure out wine

Winebits 395: Prosecco shortage, sweet wine, label fraud


Prosecco shortagePlenty of bubbly: The Wine Curmudgeon has not mentioned the news reports over the past several months heralding a Prosecco shortage, mostly because the “shortage” made my reporter’s stomach hurt. It’s the just the kind of “news” that offers an excuse for price increases — coincidentally, as the euro drops — and it turns out my hunch wasn’t far from the truth. The head of the Prosecco consortium, which oversees production of the Italian sparker, told Wine Business Monthly that supply increased almost 18 percent in 2014, and that there is no shortage. “We call on those who write, market and educate people about wine to do their part to inform the public about what Prosecco represents as a specific wine of place year,” he said.

Deciding what is sweet: Sweet wine is making an impression in Canada as well as the U.S., as Bill Zacharkiw writes in the Montreal Gazette: “There still seems to be some confusion about the role of sugar in wine, as many of these emails ask what the relationship is between residual sugar and quality. But there are other interesting questions as well.” Which he answers quite intelligently, noting the same thing that I have found. It’s not sweetness itself that is the problem with sweet wine, but how badly made too many sweet wines are. Says Zacharkiw: “I cast no judgment here. In the end, you choose what you want to drink. I simply want people to know the facts, and believe you should have access to all the information in order to make an informed choice.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Fix the label: Remember how those “artisan” spirits were going to fight to the bitter end the lawsuits accusing them of not being especially artisan? Templeton, the Iowa producer using whiskey from Indiana, has settled, and I would expect more settlements to follow now that a precedent has been set. The Templeton co-founder said his whiskey’s marketing “should have provided more clarity,” in one of those wonderful understatements that I so enjoy. Hopefully, the wine industry, with its artisan and hand-crafted claims for brands that make hundreds of thousands of cases, is paying attention.

Cupcake wine review 2015


cupcake wine review 2015Cupcake Moscato 2013 ($10, purchased, 9.5%)

Cupcake Red Velvet 2012 ($10, purchased, 13.5%)

When the Wine Curmudgeon finishes a day of wine judging, he usually gets a beer or glass of whiskey to cut the taste of the sweet wines that we judge at the end of each round. After tasting the two wines for the Cupcake wine review 2015, I needed a couple of belts of Wild Turkey.

It’s not so much that the Red Velvet, the legendary Cupcake sweet red blend, and the Italian moscato were sweet, which I was prepared for. Rather, they were sweet in that cynical, Big Wine, better living through chemistry way that drives me crazy. Sweet doesn’t mean bad; the best German rieslings are some of the world’s great wines.

But wines made to be sweet for sweetness’ sake? No thank you — and the moscato went past even that to sweet tea territory. There was a little orange-ish moscato aroma, and then some sweetness. And more sweetness.  And, in case you missed it, even more sweetness. No acidity, no freshness, just lots of sugar. Assuming my math is correct, it may be as much as 10 percent residual sugar, about one-third higher than a typical Old World moscato, and with one-third more alcohol. In this, as my old pal Tom Johnson noted, it’s Boone’s Farm for Baby Boomer grandchildren (with the resultant sugar-fueled hangover).

The Red Velvet, though even more a product of post-modern winemaking, was more like wine than the moscato. It had flavors — a sort of cherryish, chocolate thing — as well as tannins and acidity. There wasn’t much of either of the latter, but enough so that you could drink it and not go into a sugar coma. Serve it chilled with hamburgers and it’s drinkable in a way the moscato isn’t, even for those of us who prefer more balanced sweet wines.

It’s also why wine needs ingredient labels. Cupcake says Red Velvet has zinfandel, merlot, and petite sirah, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a couple of other grapes, as well as MegaPurple grape juice concentrate for added color. Plus, what Cupcake describes as a “unique oak regimen” smells and tastes like caramel-flavored fake oak.

So one yes, the Red Velvet, and one no, the moscato. In this case, .500 is not a bad average.

For more on Cupcake wine:
Cupcake wine review 2014
Cupcake wine review 2013
Cupcake wine review 2012


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