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Tag Archives: wine advice

Ask the WC 8: Restaurant wine, storing wine, sparkling wine

wineadvice

wine advice Because the customers always have wine questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular wine advice feature. Ask me a wine-related question by clicking here.

Jeff:
I agree with you about restaurant wine prices. Even though I want wine with my meal, I rarely order it when I eat out. First, the cost of a glass of wine in a restaurant is two-thirds of the price of a bottle in a store. Second, with few exceptions, wine lists offer very little, if any, local wine, and the wines they do offer are unimaginative grocery store wines. Why don’t restaurants listen to consumers, or their consultants? The consultants tell them this, don’t they?
Frustrated in Texas

Dear Frustrated:
Ironically, I had a similar conversation with an executive at a major U.S. wine company the other day. You’d think, he said, since almost every restaurant that lowers prices sells more wine, that everyone would lower prices. Instead, he said, restaurants seem to be focused on revenue, where they don’t care if they sell less wine because they think higher prices will make up the difference in sales. This approach didn’t make much sense to either of us, but what do we know?

Dear Curmudgeon:
With all the screwcaps and synthetic corks these days, is it still necessary to store wine with the neck tilting down? And is there a period of time where traditionally corked wine can be stored standing up?
A standup wine drinker

Dear Standup:
Wines with cork closures are stored on their sides to prevent the cork from drying out. Since a screwcap or synthetic won’t dry out, you can store it anyway you want (as long as you keep the wine away from light, heat, and vibrations). Having said that, and to answer the second part of your question, most wine can be stored standing up, regardless of closure, since you’re probably going to drink it long before it matters how it was stored. One of my favorite wine statistics: as much as 90 percent of the wine that is bought is consumed with 24 hours, making storage irrelevant.

Hey Curmudge:
Enlightened wine drinkers know that white wines are at their best when poured at a few degrees above refrigerator temp. Ergo, shouldn’t the same apply to sparkling wines and Champagnes? So when people get the juice as cold as possible and then make an effort to keep things that way by shuttling the opened bottle back and forth to fridge or ice bucket, is that not counterproductive?
Love those bubbles

Dear Bubbles:
You asked something I have never thought about, figuring white wine was white wine. However, most of the sources I consulted said bubbly should be a little cooler than non-sparkling white wine — mid-40s F vs. low- to mid-50s F. No one quite knew why (I’m assuming it has something to do with the bubbles), but this gives me an opportunity for a class project in the fall when I teach at El Centro. We can do a temperature tasting.

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 7: Winespeak, availability, Bordeaux
Ask the WC 6: Box wine, wine closeouts, open wine
Ask the WC 5: Getting drunk, restaurant wine, wine reviews

Money magazine’s not very cheap cheap wine story

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cheap wineOne would think, after almost a decade of writing about cheap wine, winning awards, writing a critically-acclaimed book, and seeing the blog annually ranked as one of the most influential wine sites on the Internet, that the Wine Curmudgeon would have made an impression on the wine world. Apparently not, if this week’s Money magazine cheap wine story is any indication.

Mark Edward Harris asked four experts to list their “favorite bottle bargains,” and the results were so depressing that I almost gave up wine writing on the spot. The selections, save for those from “Wine for Dummies” impresario Mary Ewing-Mulligan (who I know and have judged with), reinforced every wine stereotype I have been fighting against for years. It’s as if the cheap wine revolution that has given us better wine for less money never happened, and it’s still 1999.

This is not to denigrate the other three experts, all of whom are immensely qualified and probably know infinitely more about their specialties than I could ever imagine knowing. But they don’t know more about cheap wine than I do, and their selections showed that. Among the problems with the recommendations that weren’t Ewing-Mulligan’s:

• Almost half of the other 42 wines cost $20 or more, ignoring that 95 percent of us will never spend more than $20 for a bottle of wine. Granted, Money’s readers may well be in that five percent, but if you’re looking for bargains, shouldn’t the editors know what a bargain is?

• The implication that wine that doesn’t cost more than $20 isn’t worth drinking. I’ll offer the writer, his editors, and the other three experts the same challenge I always make when I see something like this: Let’s taste the best cheap wines blind against more expensive wines, and you see if you can tell which is which.

• One rose, and a three-year-old rose that is apparently not in any U.S. retail stores, if Wine Searcher is to be believed. How a list of bargain wines could leave out rose, the greatest bargain in wine, is astounding.

• The usual wine geek choices that only wine geeks know about and that most of us can’t buy, including three Austrian wines and a Greek. I live in the ninth largest city in the country, with terrific retailers locked in death grip competition, and none of those four wines are available here.

• Almost half of the other 42 selections came from France and California, ignoring what has happened in South America, Australia, Oregon, Washington, Spain, and southern Italy over the past two decades.

And I wasn’t the only one who was upset. The New York Times’ Eric Asimov, hardly a champion of cheap wine, didn’t like it, either. And, for some reason, one of the experts was allowed to recommend a wine made by the winery that he works for. Has a major U.S. publication sunk so far that no one at Money sees that as a conflict of interest? Or is it OK to do it because it’s only wine?

Want a real list of bargain wines? Then check out the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame or the story I wrote for the Bottom Line Personal magazine. Or, since I don’t like to criticize without offering an alternative, my list of 10 bargain wines, $12 or less, that Money should have included. It’s a PDF, so you can print it and take it the next time you go wine shopping.

Wine education: Four things you don’t need to know about wine

winerant

wine educationBut that the wine business, through its allies in the Winestream Media, harps on ad nauseum. That’s because it makes them feel important to write about this stuff, even though no one else cares and it has nothing do with wine education. Hence, four things that you don’t need to know about wine:

Wine fraud. This is an issue that affects almost no one who drinks wine; who is going to counterfeit Cupcake Red Velvet, Barefoot moscato, or any of the hundreds of other wines that dominate sales in the U.S.?  Nevertheless, wine fraud been blasting around the Internet for years, and especially if it’s in China. There seem to be couple of stories about it every day, bemoaning the fact that a very rich person has been cheated or that a world famous French winery has been besmirched by Chinese counterfeits. In fact, counterfeit wine probably accounts for less than one percent of all the wine made in the world each year. But you’d never know that by reading the Winestream Media.

Bordeaux futures. This is the process in which very rich people buy very expensive French wine at a discount, even though they haven’t tasted it and won’t take delivery for a couple of years. In other words, about as far removed from buying wine at the grocery store as possible. Each week, I see at least a dozen stories about the futures process, which again affects fewer than one percent of the people who buy wine in the U.S.

The next big thing. These stories make the Wine Curmudgeon the craziest, since they focus on an obscure grape, usually produced in small quantities in a lesser known part the world. And they always quote a Manhattan sommelier about how this wine will sweep the country, taking for granted that if someone in Manhattan says it is true, it must be, and ignoring three-tier and how little of the wine is actually for sale in the U.S. Hence, Georgian wine (and not the state in the southern U.S.) Note to Winestream Media: The next big thing is sweet red wine, and it has been here for two years.

Wine writing. Every week, someone will write a long, garment-rending piece about how terrible wine writing is and how it was so much better in the old days. Or someone will write a long, snarky piece about how much better wine writing is today than it was in the old days. Or, and this is my favorite, someone — usually the same couple of older white guys — will do both in the same story. Wine drinkers don’t care about wine writing, which is why I stopped writing about it a couple of years ago. Writing about wine writing is just one more kind of cyber porn, and not nearly as interesting as the rest.

None of this is wine education. That would include practical advice about wine pricing, how to buy wine, and why three-tier matters to the ordinary wine drinker. But who gets famous writing about that?

More about wine things you need to know:
Five things that make me crazy when I buy wine
Five things the wine business can do to help consumers figure out wine
Finding the next big wine region

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