Category:Wine news

2024 $10 Hall of Fame

woman drinking wine at dinner
“Thank you, WC, for another terrific $10 Hall of Fame.”

10 wines entered the Hall of Fame this year, while 5 dropped out

The blog’s final $10 Hall of Fame reflects all of wine’s troubles and travails over the past several years — supply chain woes, even more availability conundrums than usual, and the scourge that is premiumization.

Yes, 10 wines entered the hall, the most since 13 joined the Hall in 2018. But five dropped out, mostly for availability, and only a dozen or so merited consideration. That was down from the 18 I considered last year, and it’s only a third of the three dozen or so that were usually good enough to be considered in the blog’s pre-pandemic days.

The reason for the latter is simple: There are fewer and fewer quality wines that cost less than $15, as the wine business continues to ignore everyone who doesn’t consider $30 or $40 affordable and just the thing for a week night dinner. Nothing illustrates this more than the lack of decent rose for $15 or less — and that is actually available. That only one rose made the Hall this year is an affront to wine drinkers everywhere.

Nevertheless, the Hall is going out in style. The wines that earned selection demonstrate that it’s possible to make quality wine costing $10 or $12 — and that there is a market for such wines.

The 2024 inductees include:

• Six whites: Three French wines, including two picpouls — the Jadix and the La Chapelle du Bastion — and the Domaine Bel Air Muscadet; two Spanish whites, the Protocolo Blanco and the Marques Cacera verdejo; and South Africa’s Wolftrap white blend.

• Two reds: California’s Shannon Ridge Vineyard Wrangler Red and Wolftrap’s red blend.

• A sparkling: The Italian Jeio Bisol Prosecco Brut, a Prosecco.

• A rose: France’s Paul Mas Cote Mas Aurore — and in a 1-liter bottle, no less.

The dropouts: The French Le Petit Gueissard and the Chilean Tres Palacios roses, both for availability. The 1-liter Azul y Garanza tempranillo from Navarre in Spain and the French Little James Basket Press white blend for quality, prices increases, and because they’re  more difficult to find. The French Mont Gravet carignan is, apparently, no longer made.

The complete 2024 $10 Wine Hall of Fame is here. The Hall’s selection process and eligibility rules are here. Know that I considered wines that cost as much as $13 to $15 to take into account price creep and regional pricing differences.

Photo: “Kyla at dinner tonight at Cobre eating tacos and drinking Rose (not cougar juice)” by Chris Breikss is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


2024 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: Stemmari Grillo 2022

Stemmari grillo bottle
Stemmari Grillo 2022

Sicily’s Stemmari Grillo 2022 is the blog’s seventh annual Turner Cheap Wine of the Year

Usually, one of the wines on the shortlist for the blog’s Turner Cheap Wine of the Year award is just enough better than the others so that I don’t have much trouble choosing the winner.

Not so this year. All six of the wines were award worthy, and each would have been a fine choice. So how did I settle on the Stemmari Grillo ($8, purchased, 13%)?

Call it a shout out to the late Mack Turner, who the award is named after. He and I  spent more than a few Sunday afternoons drinking this wine, and we were rarely disappointed. And, without fail, he wold always ask,”Where did you get it?” and then we would wax poetic about Jimmy’s, the Dallas Italian grocer that sells this.

What to know about the wine? Nutty. Spicy. Green apple and stone fruit. Fresh. Clean. Drink chilled, on its own or with almost anything except big red meat.

The award’s shortlist is here. Selection criteria are here; I considered wines that cost as much as $15 to take into account price creep and regional pricing differences.

More Turner Cheap Wine of the Year:
2023 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: Matchbook Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
2022 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: Scaia Rosato 2020
2021 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: MAN Chenin Blanc 2019

Winebits 834: The final edition

Toronto Star newsroom
How many reporters does it take to make sense of news stories about wine?

Three news items that show just how detached the wine business is from reality

When I worked at the late and much missed Dallas Times Herald, the two sports columnists couldn’t stand each other and didn’t speak. So when they covered the same event, like a Cowboys game, they would often write the same column, which wasn’t good, or write the complete opposite of each other, which was even worse.

The latter happened a lot. So the guy who ran the copy desk coined a term: Dueling columnists. As in, “What did the dueling columnists write this time?”

Which happens all the time in wine — call it dueling news. So, for the blog’s final news briefs post, these three stories (which appeared just before the holidays):

Is the Negative Shift in Alcohol Spending Behavior Temporary?

Americans Spending on Holidays After all?

Luxury brands brace for lackluster Christmas, inventory pile-up?

The first says the decline in booze is because it’s too expensive, so when it gets cheaper (or we have more money), we’ll come back. The second says price isn’t a problem, really. And the third says it is, and wonders if it’s time to panic.

Trying to make sense of all of this is exactly the sort of thing I won’t miss.

Photo: “Toronto Star newsroom” by Toronto History is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Winebits 833: Anthony Dias Blue, AI, back labels

leggo robot
“”So, what does a similar wine taste like?”

This week’s wine news: Legendary wine writer Anthony Dias Blue dies, plus another attempt at AI wine tasting and back label writing advice

Anthony Dias Blue dies: Blue, perhaps the most important writer of his time, died on Christmas Day. He was 82. Blue was the Wine & Spirits Editor of Bon Appétit, co-founded The Tasting Panel, was an award-winning radio host, and helped start the . How big was Blue? I was talking to a Big Wine marketer at an important wine event in Dallas, and the marketer stopped in the middle of our conversation and said, “Sorry. There’s Andy Blue. I need to go say hello.”

AI tasting: Yet another group of researchers say they’ve figured out how to teach a computer to taste wine. This time, they used tasting notes from the Vivino app, combined with the results from a consumer tasting panel. Said one researcher: “The dimension of flavour that we created in the model provides us with information about which wines are similar in taste and which are not.” The catch, of course, is the idea of “similar wines” — one can argue that even chardonnays aren’t particularly similar in taste, let alone chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.

Better back labels: Finally, just as the blog is ending, a marketer offers practical advice for writing a back label. First and foremost, don’t use jargon or terms most consumers don’t understand, like malolactic fermentation or salinity. “While no one is asking you to be Einstein, the message holds: don’t get lost in the details, pick words that make sense to as large an audience as possible, and keep it simple.” The saddest bit about this? That wineries need to be told these things.

Turner Cheap Wine of the Year 2024 shortlist

women at Zoom wine tasting
“We need to look for the wines on the Turner shortlist, yes?”

One of these six wines will be named the Mack Turner 2024 Cheap Wine of the Year

The 2024 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year shortlist only has one red wine, but that’s probably not surprising. It has always been more difficult to make quality red wine for less than $15, and — given wine’s trends — it seems there is less reason to do so.

The award’s selection process and eligibility rules are here. I considered wines that cost as much as $15 to take into account price creep and regional pricing differences. The award is named for the late Mack Turner, to honor one of the WC’s dearest friends and a terrific cheap wine advocate. Mack (known on the blog as The Big Guy) died at the end of 2022, and he has been much missed.

Three South African wines are on the list, but it’s in no particular order; the winner will be announced Jan. 11:

Stemmari Grillo 2022 ($8, purchased, 13%): My tasting note is simple: “Damn.” I haven’t had a grillo, the Sicilian white grape, that tasted this good in years.

The Wolftrap White 2021 ($10, purchased, 13%): How can this Rhone-ish white blend from South Africa be so layered and fresh and yet cost only $10?

Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Blanc 2022 ($11, purchased, 12.5%): This vintage of the French white blend is even better than usual, and it’s always top notch.

Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 ($9, purchased, 14%): Another South African gem — $10 cabernet that tastes like cabernet, and how often do we see that?

La Vieille Ferme Blanc 2022 ($9, purchased, 13%): This French white blend from one of my favorite producers elicited this tasting note: “Oh, baby!”

The Curator White 2021 ($12, purchased, 13): White South African blend (mostly chenin blanc and chardonnnay) that is both oily, fruity (stone fruit), and fresh.

More Turner Cheap Wine of the Year:
2023 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: Matchbook Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
2022 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: Scaia Rosato 2020
2021 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: MAN Chenin Blanc 2019

Photo: Nataliya Vaitkevich via Pexels

Winebits 832: AI, higher taxes, counterfeit wine

Robot typing at keyboard
“Who says I can’t write a wine review as well as a human?”

This week’s wine news: Our jobs are safe from AI, plus a call for higher booze taxes and yet another high-end wine theft

“Our jobs are safe”: This is the sort of “Aren’t I clever writer” story that I usually ignore, full of bad jokes and worse puns and that wanders around the point. But since it’s about AI and chatbots and all the rest, it’s worth mentioning. The gist, as near as I can tell, is that anyone who works in the “drinks” business won’t be replaced by smarmy computers, since the computers aren’t as good at our jobs as we are. Although, and again, it’s difficult to tell, the “drinks” business does want to replace us with a smarmy computer since we cost more money.

Higher taxes: The news that the World Health Organization is calling for higher taxes on alcohol isn’t new, but I wanted to mention it because WHO has lumped wine, spirits, and beer with the Big Gulp. It wants higher taxes on soft drinks, too. Which, if you think about it, is brilliant marketing. There is nothing redeeming — culturally, socially, or health-wise — about sugary soft drinks, so the proposal implies that wine and the rest in moderation are just as evil and terrible for us, even though there is no evidence that is true. Is it any wonder the neo-Prohibitionists have the wine business on the run?

More fake wine: Chinese authorities have dismantled an elaborate fake wine operation in Beijing that counterfeited specific vintages of high-end wine on demand. Reports The group would purchase empty high-end wine bottles for as much as RMB 500 each (US$70.5), fill them with wines costing around RMB 300 and sell them for more than RMB 1,000 a bottle. That’s a nearly 90 percent discount over what the wines should cost. The story says police were surprised that the gang would take advance orders for the fake wines, “a significant departure from traditional mass production of counterfeit wines.”

Winebits 831: Wine surveys, postal service wine delivery, Mike Grgch

Two old-time newspaper reporters talking
“Who cares if the survey is legit? Just run it!”

This week’s wine news: A wine survey that really isn’t, plus letting the postal service deliver wine and Mke Grgich dies

Always ask first: This survey, commissioned by a wine accessories product company, offers to explain all that is troubling the wine business: “At what age do Americans hit their moderation era?” Because then we can figure out how and when to market to them. And, of course, it really doesn’t. In this case, it’s not even the sponsor that’s the problem, as it is with so many of these “social media”-style surveys. Rather, the survey doesn’t define moderation, but presents it as some great, ethereal goal that we all strive for. Sigh. is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

Postal service wine: Alex Koral, a long-time friend of the blog, pushes to let the U.S. Postal Service deliver wine. This is something the WC has long advocated, not only because the postal service needs the money, but because it will provide much-needed competition to FedEx and UPS. Koral does identify a potential legal issue, since the post office is a federal agency and each state has its own alcohol shipping laws. How does the post office apply for a state license to deliver wine?

Mike Grigch: Mike Grgich, one of the great winemakers in U.S. history, died last week. He was 100. Grgich, whose self-named Napa winery is an institution, was the winemaker for the 1973 Chateau Montelena chardonnay that was one of the winners at the Judgment of Paris, the 1976 blind tasting in Paris that established California as one of the world’s great wine regions.