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Delayed publication next week!
I apologize for breaking the rhythm again next week, but I'll be spending the weekend at the Boston Wine Expo, followed by a couple of days doing business and visiting wine pals in New York City, so it won't be practical to distribute The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday. Rather than skipping another week so soon, I'll plan (weather and travel issues permitting) to distribute next week's edition toward the end of the week, Thursday or Friday.

30 Second Wine Tasting Tip:
Good cheap wine or "plonk"?
Wine lovers around the world have joyously adopted the British slang word "plonk" to describe poor, cheap wine. "Plonk," perhaps inspired by the splashy sound of wine hitting the sink or dump bucket, is one of those lovely poetic terms whose sound somehow communicates its emotion if not its meaning.

But is all cheap wine "plonk"? I don't think so, or there'd be no purpose in what for many of us is an ongoing quest, the search for decent, interesting wine that's affordable for everyday enjoyment.

If we define the "budget" range for quality wine as being under $8 or £6, then, as I noted in our Sept. 20, 1999 edition, "Shopping for wine bargains," even a careful search through the bargain bins may result in only a 50 percent success rate - half the wine we find will be of interest and the rest not worth tasting.

But provided that you don't bring unrealistic expectations to the venture - we are not going to find the equivalent of great claret or ageworthy collectibles for a single-digit price - it is possible to enjoy quite decent wine for a surprisingly low cost. Don't expect a wonderful $5 Cabernet Sauvignon or White Burgundy or Margaux, but mine the bargain bins for the hearty country wines of the world's less sought-after wine regions, from Southern France to Southern Italy to Greece, and, if you have a gambler's soul, you'll enjoy frequent payoffs and an occasional jackpot.

"Plonk," after all, doesn't mean merely "cheap," but "boring." No wine should be boring, but there's no shame in a good wine being cheap. The real question - and the answer may be different for each of us - is how much you are prepared to forgive if the price is right. Both of the wines rated in this edition, for example, seem a bit light-bodied and thin. My wife, sipping the Duca Leonardo pictured below without knowing what was in her glass, mused, "It's thin. It tastes like Chianti with a little water in it." She sniffed, took another sip, and added, "But I like it. It's interesting." And that, to me, is what distinguishes good cheap wine from "plonk."

How do you define "plonk"? Tell us your story in E-mail to I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note, but I'll answer as many as I can; and please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine. Please feel free to get in touch if you'd like to comment on our topics and tasting notes, suggest a topic for a future bulletin, or just talk about wine.

If you're enjoying The 30 Second Wine Advisor, we hope you'll tell your wine-loving friends to register for their own free weekly copy at

30 Second Tasting Notes
Two good cheap wines
Duca Leonardo Duca Leonardo 1997 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo ($3.99)
Dark ruby in color, with a light sour-cherry scent and tart-cherry fruit flavors. Tart with fresh-fruit acidity on the palate, on the thin side, but it's clean and snappy, and the flavors wake up when it's served with the freesh tomatoes and tangy herbs on a pizza Margherita. U.S. importer: La Gioiosa - USA, Atlanta. (Jan. 27, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: Pizza, of course!

Pepperwood Grove 1998 California Syrah ($5.99)
Dark ruby, with typical Syrah aromas of black fruit and fragrant pepper, with a slightly odd back note of green bell peppers. Bright, peppery fruit flavor, a bit on the light-bodied side, but with decent fruit and zippy lemon-squirt acidity for balance. (Jan. 28, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with a pan-grilled T-bone.

30 Second Wine Link
Wine lover Martin Brown says he's "just a chap in a bedroom" in London, but his Website, as best I can determine, is unique in the world of wine on the Web., is an international database of wine shops and their inventories. Looking for a hard-to-find wine? Plug it in to the Wine-Searcher database, and up comes a clickable list of online shops that have the wine and (your local laws permitting) will ship it to you.

Wine Lovers' Voting Booth:
Your dream wine career?
Some wine lovers quietly dream of throwing over their day job, chucking it all for a chance at a career in wine. For others, this may sound more like a nightmare. This week's Wine Lovers' Voting Booth topic asks you to tell us about your dream: Do you ever dream of having a career in the wine business? If so, what would your ideal job be? We hope you'll drop by and cast your ballot.

30 Second Advertising Partner
California Wine Club,, is the perfect, affordable way to get two different bottles of excellent wine every month, along with its fun and fact-filled newsletter Uncorked. Commercially unavailable, these wines are like secret treasures we hand-select from California's small, award-winning wineries. Join for as many months as you like, or use The California Wine Club as a special, unique gift for friends, family, customers and colleagues. You can reach the Club at the link above or, in the U.S., by calling 1-800-777-4443.

California Wine Club

30 Second Administrivia
This free weekly E-mail publication is distributed to subscribers every Monday. Previous editions are archived on The Wine Lovers' Page. See

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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

More time for wine?
You don't need to wait for Mondays to read about wine! Drop in any time on Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page, where we add new tasting notes several times each week and frequently expand our selection of wine-appreciation articles, tips and tutorials.

If you'd like to talk about wine online with fellow wine enthusiasts around the world, we'd be delighted to have you visit the interactive forums in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group. If you're from another part of the world and don't feel entirely comfortable chatting in English, visit our International Forum and introduce yourself in the language of your choice.

Vol. 2, No. 2, Jan. 31, 2000

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