More Great Adventures in Cheap Wine

Copyright © 2015 SYDNEY SCHUSTER

My last posts about liquid refreshments were such big hits, here’s some more!

wine

And now, the bad news. 2012 wines blow.

What 1929 was to the stock market, what 1963 and 2000 were to presidential debacles, what 2001 was to the demise of the Fourth Amendment and 3,000 people who mostly weren’t bothering anyone, 2012 is to wine.

I say this because every single 2012 I’ve tried — and there is no nice way to put this — sucked so loud I needed earmuffs to drink it.

Flat. Bitter. Mediciney. Weird colors. I will not touch any more 2012s with a barge pole. Unless someone gives me one for free, in which case I’ll cook with it. Maybe. 2012s are not — repeat NOT —  going to improve with age.

Why? A good question. And I have a theory. So permit me to winesplain.

Before you suggest that perhaps my neighborhood packies park their stock too close to the radiator, let me just say this: All wines usually aren’t bad at once.

That means the problem with the 2012s is something else, something way bigger. (Although the radiator thing is pretty bad too, and it actually happened at one store I used to frequent and don’t anymore.) That’s why this is such a disaster. Being a wine aficionado without being a dick is hard enough without obstacles like this.

As you know, we here at Casa Loco are ardent fans of cheap good wine. We consume it like pop. We don’t care if it has a screw cap. We’re fond of spritzers and goofy cocktails. It’s not that we don’t have refined palates. It’s just that, for the most part, expensive wine is wasted on us because we’ll drink it with corndogs. Plus also, fake wine sucks.

Until 2012 it was easy to score cheap delicious wines from all over the world. It’s stupid not to. Our go-to winners were Berco Do Infante Regional, a $6 super-Tuscan-like red from Portugal that I just adored, and a bangin’ $9 Medoc from Chateau Haut Queyran. Good stuff! Until 2012. Our first bottle of 2012 Berco mostly went into the ragout. There was not a second. And after we cleaned out the 2011 Haut Queyran Medocs, the store didn’t get any more.

Chateau Haut Queyran

Chateau Haut Queyran Medoc

An endless parade of 2012 swill ensued, along with my theory: I suspected 2012 was the first year wine growers got slammed by climate change, and it was major. Too much heat or cold, too much rain or not enough, hail in deserts, shorter growing seasons. The result: a uniform awfulness of product beyond description (and the reason I didn’t post about wine for a long time).

I figured I’d interview some real experts to get the poop, because I was going there anyway.

Everyone should have a wine store like my favorite, owned by two guys (Terry and Terry, I am not making this up) who sample everything they sell because they, you know, care. So I can always ask Terry, “Is this any good?” and they’ll answer “Yes!” or “Maybe get this other one instead.”

Anyway, I asked them what’s the deal with the 2012s. There was a lot of whispering and shoulder shrugging, followed by crickets.

Okay. So next I visited the Interwebs to see what I could find about the death march that is 2012 wine. Here ya go:

It turns out 2012 was a benchmark year in wine fails. According to this lady who clearly knows more than I do, European vineyards were ravaged by bad weather in 2012, “leading to what could be the worst grape harvest in 50 years.” Crop damage was so widespread, some fancypants French and Italian vintners, such as Château d’Yquem, wrote off 2012 altogether rather than produce crap wine.

So much for Europe (and my beloved Berco and Medoc). Unfortunately, I endured equally vile stuff from South America, so don’t believe any PR blather about what a great year 2012 was for their malbecs and carmeneres. It wasn’t. Although some whites took somewhat less of a beating. We did get all the way through a 2012 Concha Y Toro sauvignon blanc magnum. Not terrible, just meh.

Now if you’ll recall, 2012 also was the year Hurricane Sandy destroyed most of the east coast of the US and seven other countries, so don’t expect anything good from them. Not that I was such a fan, but Martha’s Vineyard and Newport do produce wine that some people actually don’t mind drinking when it doesn’t taste like lighter fluid.

Over on the left coast, 2011 was the start of a rough streak for the Northwest. Which makes me sad, because Oregon and Washington state wines had always been among my favorites. I remember a pre-climate change Columbia Crest Two Vines shiraz so divine, it made me weep. RIP, my friend.

Northern California wines got T-boned too, with their climate-related slide starting back in 2010. Out-of-control wildfires aren’t helping them, either. I’d bag Napa and Sonoma brands for now. Also Central Valley. The current drought there pretty much ensures they won’t be producing anything promising any time soon.

Reportedly SoCal wines dodged the ick bullet. But I tired of them a while back — the whites are too minerally and acidic for my taste, the reds too big and unnecessarily complex, and most are stupid expensive.

Doubters: Check out this chart below from Wine Folly. It only covers 2004 to 2011 vintages, but the point’s pretty obvious.

Vintage Badness Chart

Vintage Badness Chart

For what it’s worth, this guy here swears some 2012 German wines aren’t so bad. And while Australia had smaller 2012 crop yields due to drought, they’re not necessarily nasty-ass ones so don’t dismiss them out of hand if you can afford the jacked-up prices.

Now if one were to ask me, I’d guess that many 2012 wines that did make it to stores are “special blends” cobbled together from leftover dregs of previous years and recent rejects that in a million years would never have made it into any bottle. Except, obviously, in an emergency. Which clearly 2012 is. And I’m guessing the few 2012s that don’t suck aren’t really made from 2012 harvests.

Mystery wines to try at your own risk

Mystery wines to try at your own risk

I’m telling ya, it’s been a long year waiting for reinforcements to replace the dogshit 2012s that still bogart the store shelves. So it was with great emotion and gratitude that I flung myself upon the 2013s that finally rolled in and, just last week, a 2014! I was so happy to see it, I took a picture.

Frontera malbec

Frontera malbec (above) is a long-time bargain fave here at Casa Loco. (If you have a choice, 2014 is better than 2013.)

And now you know what torpedoed 2012. Take a moment. Breathe. Then buy something else, okay? Anything else. Thank me later.

Herewith are some wines that are affordable, available now, pretty damn tasty and, most important, not 2012s. Enjoy!

🍷Tricky (Rabbit) Reserva Sauvignon Blanc/Carmenere blend (white, from Chile) 2013 $11.49
🍷The Bean Pinotage (red, from South Africa) 2014 $12
🍷Concha Y Toro Frontera Malbec (Argentina) 2014 $10 magnum!
🍷Concha Y Toro Frontera Carmenere (Chile) 2014 $10 magnum!
🍷Black River Malbec (Argentina) 2014 $12 magnum!
🍷Hedges Family Estate CMS Red Blend (Cab/Merlot/Syrah from Columbia Valley, Washington state) 2011 $12
🍷Lab Vinho Regional Lisboa White Blend (Vital, Arinto, Moscatel, and Sauvignon Blanc, from Portugal) 2013 $6
🍷Lab Vinho Regional Lisboa Red Blend (Castelao, Tinta Roriz, Syrah, and Touriga Nacional, from Portugal) 2013 $6
🍷Slavcek Sivi Pinot (white, from Slovenia) 2014 $13 (a splurge for a bargain wine, and totes worth it!)
🍷Mandrarossa Nero D’Avola (red, from Sicily) 2013 $10
🍷Purato Nero D’Avola (organic red, from Sicily) 2013 $13
🍷Tilia Bonarda (red, from Argentina) 2013 $10
🍷Fairview Goats Do Roam (Cote du Rhone-style red blend from South Africa) 2014 $10
🍷Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava (bubbly goodness from Spain) 2014 $11
🍷Mionetta Prosecco Brut (bubbly goodness from Italy) $13
🍷Terrilogio Primitivo (red, from Italy) 2014 $10
🍷Morgan Cotes du Crow’s (syrah and grenache blend from Monterey) 2013 $18 — well worth the splurge!)
🍷Ninety+ Cellars Old Vine Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina) 2014 (earthier) and 2015 (cleaner; Lot 23 is awesome) $11

wine

Copyright © 2015 SYDNEY SCHUSTER — All Rights Reserved

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Wine Snobism (and how to defeat it)

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

People often ask me: What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Why, the drinking, of course! Not much point in one without the other.

Besides, there’s nothing else to do around here except ride my bike to my fave beach bar, eat something I shouldn’t, drink margaritas and laugh at drunken tourists. If I’m on deadline or the weather sucks, I drive my cute little sports car to the local package store. Nothing fancy about it, just a reliable source of cheap and cheerful table wine.

The only other thing to do around here is watch movies. Remember Sideways? When that was the hot satellite flick, every booze store in the state was invaded by armies of toothless goobers who’d only ever drunk Bud until the week before, and now were overnight experts on pinot noir — experts driven to educate me about a wine I don’t particularly like. Thanks, Fox.

So because of one dumbass movie, giant islands of pinot noir miraculously replaced everything I went to my package store for. Keg of tequila for mixers? Problem. Six-packs of Heineken? Problem. Obscure sub-par pinot noir from Albania? How many truckloads you want?

“Where’s the tequila?” I asked the store owner. “All the agave crops — they was wiped out by droughts!” he lied. “Can’t get tequila no more.”

Why can’t there be a movie about Jimmy Choo, or goat cheese, so I can walk into any store in this backwater and get THAT?

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll drink an expensive pinot noir, if someone else pays for it. I do have a refined palette — we don’t drink swill here at Casa Loco. That’s for cooking (not my department). But I’ll openly drink jug wine or stuff from a box with a spout, if it tastes okay. That’s why, when some tractor jockey tries to lecture me on fine bordeaux, I just run away with my 2-for-1 malbecs, giggling hysterically.

I just loves me some good wine. Hate wine snobs.

I’m no expert, but I used to do a lot of wine reading back in ye olden days when I made way more money and blew much of it on choice vino. I lived in a place then where that was easy to do. Plus my father-in-law who was in the business frequently laid $100 bottles of divine barolo on us. I can still taste them. A good thing, because I’ll never drink that again. I could afford nebbiolo now, which is to barolo what weasel is to ermine (i.e., same thing, different season), but nebbiolo isn’t sold here in Hooterville and never will be.

Wine is actually a very interesting subject. I spent many joyful hours talking to my father-in-law and assorted New York City wine purveyors about, you know, wine stuff. I heard awesome gossip. Like, many fabulous Australian wines were in fact South African, back during the apartheid boycotts when most countries wouldn’t buy South Africa’s pencils (or anything else). And the carmenere grape was considered extinct until a shitload of it was discovered in a South American merlot field in the 1990s, and now it’s the signature wine of Chile. And the Italians, legendarily prolific wine producers, didn’t export any of it ever until the 1980s. Why? Because they drank it all.

I am not making this up. But better to drink wine than talk about it. And as far as I’m concerned, heaven is a great $7 bottle of wine. Yes, they do exist, and rooting them out is half the fun. The bargain wines of Spain and Portugal are highly underrated. (Try a dao. Do it today!)

Cabriz Dao

Cabriz Dao

I’ve never had bad cheap Argentine or Chilean wine, either, or Oregon or Washington State wine. And if you’re a fan of the (ridiculously overpriced) California zinfandels, try an Italian primitivo. Same grape, lower price point. Do you like beer but must impress your snotty friends? One word: gewurztraminer. Hard to say, easy to drink with its upscale lager-like flavor.

Here are some tasty cheap wines ($10 and under) currently making me very happy. Cheers!

Foral de Lisboa (Portugal – castelao, touriga franca, syrah)
Palo Alto Reserve (Chile – cabernet sauvignon, carmenere, syrah)
Los Dos (Spain – syrah, grenache)
Mandra Rossa Fiano (Sicily)
Nativa Terra Reserva Carmenere (Chile)
Castello Monaci Piluna Primitivo (Italy)
Lamarca Prosecco (Italy – okay, it’s $13, but it’s sparkling, dammit!)
Le Grand Noir GSM (France – grenache, shiraz, mourvedre)
Casillero del Diablo Malbec (Chile)
Natura Malbec (Chile – organic)

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

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Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.