lulu, hillsider companion

lulu, hillsider companion

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

more rain (lots of it) on the hill, and boring white wines (it doesn't have to be that way does it?)

we wished for it and we got it: rain and more rain. in fact, it has now been raining pretty much steadily for the past two weeks, with an outlook of more to come. cabin fever is setting in on me, the dogs, and my wife, as well, even though she's not really an outdoorsy person. I think I'm going to take lulu, my red heeler, out for a tramp in the hills regardless; she won't mind being wet, and neither will I.

before that, however, I want to lodge a complaint: I'm really getting tired of all the insipid, clunky, candy-ish, coarse, and generally miserable white wine floating around. most of it is labeled "chardonnay", and I'm certain that almost all of it conforms to present laws regarding minimum content, etc., but that doesn't change the fact that a whole bunch of it is garbage. and make no mistake, there's plenty of sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, and riesling on the shelves that is every bit as miserable.

the only reason it's there, I have to think, is because someone is buying it. so there are two issues: first, that producers are content to continue pumping out dreck (for dollars, of course), and second, that consumers are willing to settle for second-rate wines when they really could be drinking something of value and interest at the same price point.

I should be clear on one point: I'm not really pointing the finger at the bulk producers who routinely pump hundreds of thousands of gallons of "jug wines" into the market, most sold in 1.5 liter format, or in boxes. these people are, for the most part, presenting their wines as exactly what they are: value-oriented bulk wines for quaffing with a pizza or chicken pot pie, or for sipping on a blanket at the local beach, some of which are consistently pretty sound and good values. rather, I'm talking about the folks who are bombarding the supermarket shelves with labels and bottles that appear to be the product of some marketing genius with an eye for bright-and-shiny but no idea whatsoever about wines or the differences between them. or, on the other hand, maybe he/she knows very well the differences, and so must find ways to sell second-rate stuff. either way, it's a shame, because it doesn't have to be that way.

why do we have to buy a mediocre $18 chardonnay, when an excellent $15 albarino or chenin blanc will serve us better? why is no one touting chenin blanc these days? there are some very good ones around: in California, Chappellet and Dry Creek, to name only two of the very finest, have been producing superb wine from this once-widely-planted varietal for many, many years, and both are fairly easy to locate. pine ridge produces an excellent chenin blanc/viognier blend that is fine an everyday "house" wine as you'll ever want. there are at least a couple of dozen other California examples with good distribution, and distributors have to beg retailers to give them a foot or so of shelf space because almost no one working in the shops or waiting tables in restaurants today knows anything about the grape or the wine it produces. there are also many excellent chenin blancs from south africa, where the grape is well-known and much appreciated, that are being imported these days, and they are beginning to find a toehold here, particularly on the east coast and in the south. try ernie els' example if you find it (it's becoming a popular restaurant item in some markets, florida particulary) or graham beck's "game preserve" chenin, which will be harder to come by but worthwhile if you can. and there are many more, so do yourself a favor and seek them out; abstain from chardonnay for a month, and devote yourself to discovering not only chenin blanc (and don't forget the fine vouvrays of france, the original examples of great chenin blac), but also viognier, and albarino (a grape of Spanish/Portuguese origins), all of which can be found as varietal labellings in most decent wine shops, liquor stores, and supermarkets. you'll discover remarkable wines at reasonable prices (particularly when compared to the prices of chardonnays of comparable quality), and you'll also find that each of these new discoveries points you to another and another. believe me, you'll be glad you did it.
and you can do the same with reds; I've got some complaints to lodge there, as well, but we'll save that for later in the week.
by the way, for those of you who have asked who I am, I've attached a link to my little consultancy's website (if it works). your comments are invited.

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