The cheap wine poll 2018 Sticky

cheap wine poll 2018Vote in the cheap wine poll 2018.

Dec. 14 update: Bogle takes the lead in the cheap wine poll. Voting ends at midnight today.

Welcome to the Wine Curmudgeon’s cheap wine poll 2018, the sixth annual. Voting ends at midnight Dec. 14. I’ll post the results on Dec. 17. Vote for one brand only, and just one vote per person. Click on the respective buttons next to each entry at the bottom of this post. If you get the blog via RSS or email, click here to vote on the blog.

Share the poll with your friends and fellow cheap wine drinkers by clicking on any of the social media buttons at the end of the post. The first five polls attracted some 18,000 visitors. The winners:

Falesco Vitiano in 2013

Bogle in 2014, 2015, and 2017

McManis in 2016.

There are 8 producers for 2018; I trimmed the list to those that actually get votes. Plus, you’ll be able to add write-ins this year, something many of you have requested.

Wine and food pairings 4: Oven-fried chicken and gravy

oven-fried chickenThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with oven-fried chicken and gravy

The Wine Curmudgeon can’t fry food. At all. In any way. No matter what I do, it’s under-cooked or overcooked – and greasy. Which is why this oven-fried chicken recipe works so well.

Marinate the chicken in plain yogurt, roll it in seasoned flour, and roast it in the oven for 30 or 40 minutes. No splattering, no burning, and no mess all over the top of the stove. I’ve used this recipe, or a variation, since my mom gave me a copy of the legendary Campus Survival Cookbook, where it first appeared..

What makes this recipe work? Because it’s as close to traditional fried chicken as I’ve found. The key is that the chicken is cooking more or less the same way as if you fried it. Yes, the crust isn’t quite the same, but it’s as tender and juicy as if it was fried. And the leftover cooking oil, with all the fried bits, is just begging to be turned into gravy. Mix a couple of tablespoons of flour to make a roux, stir for a couple of minutes, and add stock, water, or milk to reach the desired consistency.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. These wines will get you started on pairings:

M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Blanc 2017 ($15, sample, 13.5%): The French white blend is always well made – refreshing with bright green apple and pear fruit and a clean finish. If you can find it closer to $12, you’ve got a bargain. Imported by Sera Wine Imports

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2017 ($10, purchased, 13%): Mostly what it should be – a French red wine made with gamay from the Beaujolais region. No ripe banana flavor, which happens too often these days, but soft cherry and a little (not much) spice. Imported by Kobrand

Mont Gravet Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12%): This French pink does just what $10 rose should do, and that’s why it’s rarely necessary to pay more. It’s fresh and juicy, with barely ripe strawberry and raspberry fruit. And it’s made with cinsault, which I’m beginning to think is the perfect grape for rose. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

More about wine and food pairings:
• Wine and food pairings 3: Bratwurst and sauerkraut
• Wine and food pairings 2: Roast chicken salad with Chinese noodles
• Wine and food pairings 1: Chicken, okra and sausage gumbo

Hangover cures: The worst part of the holiday season?

hangover curesThe annual  PR hangover cures offensive is here again, and it’s as annoying as ever

This holiday season, my in-box has overflowed with emails for hangover cures. Any number of experts claim to have figured out how to fix the headaches, nausea, and overall green feeling that comes with too much alcohol.

In fact, one expert has published a book detailing his remedy, and the effort got a moderately favorable review in the Sunday New York Times book section. Which, to be honest, might be more impressive than discovering an effective hangover cure.

For some reason, hangover cures have been all the rage for the past couple of years. Drink this. Eat this. Follow this routine. Each solution is supposed to do for hangovers what penicillin did for venereal disease, and the hangover experts have the anecdotes, surveys, and assorted facts and figures to support their claims.

What none of them apparently have, of course, is any scientific evidence. But, as has been noted on the blog many times, what does science matter when it comes to booze and our health?

That’s because, scientifically, the only way to cure a hangover is not to get one. Or, as I used to tell my El Centro classes in the alcohol and health lecture, “Drink in moderation.” Even the hangover book author sort of acknowledges this, noting that alcohol causes several physical changes in the body, and that too much drinking involves psychological factors as well. Which is a difficult hurdle for one pill or potion to overcome.

The other thing that baffled me about all of this? Americans are drinking less now than ever, so why the increase in hangover cures? One would think, in the post-modern world of designated drivers, increased police scrutiny, and improved alcohol education, there wouldn’t be much need for a hangover cure. But again, the relationship between health, alcohol, and reality is never quite what common sense says it should be.

Wine of the week: Domaine de Bernier Chardonnay 2016

Domaine de Bernier chardonnayThe Domaine de Bernier Chardonnay, a French white, is just this close to being named 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year

The Wine Curmudgeon rarely questions what other people think about what they drink. After all, it’s part of the blog’s reason for being. But this comment, on wine-searcher.com discussing the Domaine de Bernier chardonnay, is worth noting:

“Light on flavor, but good nose. Not as good as Yellow Tail.”

Arghhhhhhhhhh.

Taste, of course, is relative. But to say that tarted up Yellow Tail chardonnay, fortified with residual sugar and pumped full of fake oak, tastes better than this French white from the Loire region? That’s like saying I enjoy spending $100 on 92-point Wine Spectator Napa cabernet sauvignons.

No, Yellow Tail is not better than the Domaine de Bernier chardonnay ($10, purchased, 12%). The wines are just different. That’s the point of wine, something that I have been trying to get across for 11 years. Obviously, I still have some work to do.

The Domaine de Bernier is $10 Hall of Fame wine, an unoaked chardonnay that tastes exactly like it’s supposed to taste: Wonderful green apple aroma, clean and crisp, a bit of apple and pear fruit, no oak, and a little minerality. I drank it with spaghetti with clam sauce, and the wine was gone before I realized it. If it wasn’t a little thin on the back, I’d name it the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year here and now.

The Yellow Tail comment speaks to the danger of buying wine on price, which happens more and more given the sad state of cheap wine. The reasoning goes: “I like Yellow Tail, and it’s $10 chardonnay, so let me try this $10 chardonnay.” That approach, though, overlooks the differences in the wines, that the Domaine de Bernier is not supposed to taste like the Yellow Tail. The former is more subtle – a food wine instead of a cocktail wine. A French wine, and not an Australian wine. A wine shop wine instead of a grocery store wine.

And those differences are OK. All I ask is that wine drinkers try to understand why they exist and use that knowledge when they buy wine. Otherwise, we’ll continue to be stuck with overpriced, poorly made plonk.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

Winebits 571: Ed Lowe, three-tier foolishness, wine prices

ed loweThis week’s wine news: Ed Lowe, whose Dallas restaurant served Texas wine when hardly anyone knew what it was, has died. Plus, New York state three-tier foolishness and cheaper bulk wine prices

Ed Lowe: How important was Ed Lowe to the U.S. regional wine movement? He served Texas wine for 30 years at his Celebration restaurant in Dallas, and when he started doing that Texas wine was chancy at best. Lowe, 69, died before Thanksgiving during a canoe trip in the state’s Big Bend region. I knew Lowe a little, and we talked several times about local wine, his half-price Thursday night wine promotion, and quality local food. Celebration was farm-to-table long before the term was invented by some East Coast hype guru, and Lowe (who could still be seen busing tables) truly believed in the concept. The world will be a poorer place without him.

Take that, Wegman’s: The East Coast grocery store chain has been fined more than $1 million for illegally managing liquor stores by the New York state booze cops. That’s because grocery stores aren’t allowed to sell alcohol in New York, save in one location. The state liquor authority claimed Wegman’s violated any number of laws and regulations, including “illegally trafficking in wine.” That’s a delightful 21st century crime, yes? The infractions are arcane to anyone who doesn’t follow three-tier, and Wegman’s may actually have violated the law. The larger question, though, is why these laws still exist.

• “Awash with wine:” More bad news for premiumization – wine prices in the bulk market are dropping, “and in some cases, significantly,” reports a British wine trade magazine. The world is flush with wine after bountiful 2018 harvests around the world, and those interviewed in the story say prices could keep falling. Why do bulk prices matter? Because, save for the most expensive wines in the world, bulk prices influence the price of grapes everywhere. Cheaper bulk prices usually mean cheaper grape prices, and that usually means cheaper wine prices.

Illustration courtesy of Tampa Tribune using a Creative Commons license

Holiday cheap wine book extravaganza: Free shipping

cheap wine bookBuy one cheap wine book or 10 – you’ll get free shipping. What better way to shop for your favorite wine drinker?

Click on the link and buy a cheap wine book and get free shipping in time for Christmas. What better way to celebrate the holiday season than to buy three or four books? Demand has been so great that this is the last weekend I’m running the special, so order by midnight on Sunday.

Check out normally, and I’ll credit the free shipping when your order is processed. Also note that we’ve streamlined the WC web shop, making it easier to use. And, as always, I sign every book bought from the WC web shop. Just leave a note when you order the books.

The WC needs your help in choosing the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame

Hall of FameSend me your suggestions for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame, so we can show the wine business we want quality cheap wine and not the plonk they want us to drink

The 2019 $10 Hall of Fame will appear in one moth – Jan. 4, 2019. And I truly need your help to find wines worthy of induction this year.

I always ask for – and appreciate – suggestions when I compile the best cheap wines of the previous year. But I’m asking earlier this year because prospects for the 2019 Hall are not good. As I wrote last year, the warning signs for 2019 appeared in 2018, and the situation has deteriorated since.

This was easily the worst year for cheap wine since I started the $10 Hall at the turn of the century for a Dallas magazine. Prices are up, quality is down, and added sugar seems to be everywhere. Too many producers don’t want to sell us wine, but alcoholic fruit juice. Even the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier blend, once a Hall of Fame staple, has been tarted up with residual sugar.

What makes a $10 Hall of Fame wine?

• Price, of course. The wine should not cost more than $12 or $13; I’ve increased the limit over the past couple of years because of price creep.

• They should be varietally correct and without obvious flaws. In addition, they should be balanced and interesting enough to buy again. In other words, honest wines. I can’t emphasize this enough. Chardonnay should taste like chardonnay, French wine should taste like French wine, and so forth. Otherwise, what’s the point?

• A wine is not worthy of induction because it’s cheap; there’s a difference between quality cheap wine and wine that is made cheaply. We’re seeing entirely too much of the latter these days.

• Availability. No wines sold by just one retailer, like Two-buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s. My term is generally available – you should be able to buy the wine at a quality retailer in a medium-sized U.S. city.

Leave your suggestion in the comments to this post or . I start working on the Hall during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, so keep that in mind if you have wines to recommend. And thanks for your help and continued support – we’ll get through this bad patch and make the wine business understand they can’t continue to foist this plonk on us.