The biggest story of 2013 was the harvest. The vintage was perfect, maybe even better than the excellent 2012 harvest. The Wine Institute praised the harvest in a recent press release, stating that winemakers throughout California reported outstanding quality and yield. Make a mental note to self: 2012 and 2013, yum.
This year, Charles Shaw wine, also called “Two-Buck Chuck,” raised its price to $2.49. The wine, sold exclusively by Trader Joe’s and made by the Bronco Wine Co., sells five million cases a year, according to a Los Angeles Business Journal report. That’s over 600 million bottles in the last 11 years at $1.99 per bottle. You do the math. I haven’t read any current sales reports, but I doubt the 50-cent increase has bothered those loyal Trader Joe’s shoppers. A case of wine for less than $30. Are you kidding me? In fact, “Two-Buck Chuck” has been good for the entire wine industry. All wineries have had to step up and produce a better value-priced wine. The winners are you and me. Find a wine you like at the price you’re willing to pay. Drink it. Enjoy it. Repeat.
If you like wine and would like to learn more, here are two books worth reading. They are fun, easy reads and won’t bother you with all that technical winey stuff. The “One Minute Wine Master” by Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan will determine 10 wines you will like in just 60 seconds. It sells for just $15. The other is “The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert” by Richard Betts. If you want to become an oenophile in about 45 minutes of reading and sniffing, buy this book ($19.99) and put your nose to work. Vivino, the smartphone wine app I wrote about a few columns ago, really is slick. Take a picture of the wine label and up pops the price, varietal, vintage, tasting notes, comments, ratings and nearby retailers. It’s perfect for figuring out the wine labels in the Grocery Outlet.
If you are a serious wine collector, you need a Coravin ($299). This gizmo attaches to the neck of the wine bottle and has a Teflon-coated hollow needle that glides through the cork, allowing the user to extract a glass of wine. As the wine goes out, argon gas goes in to fill the space of the vacated wine. When the Coravin needle is removed, the cork automatically reseals. This is the perfect tool for the one-percent crowd who want to see how their 1982 Lafite and 1961 Chateau Latour are aging.
Memorable wines from 2013 that made our table more than once were; the multiple gold medal winner Barefoot Cellars Moscato, the 2008 Three Rivers Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2012 Saint Roch Les Vignes Rose, and currently a 2012 Sancerre La Vigne aux Filles ($4.99 Grocery Outlet). Happy wine hunting and cheers to 2014!