Category:French wine

Wine of the week: Château Bonnet Blanc 2014

Château Bonnet BlancThere aren’t many wines that I would drink every day, but the Chateau Bonnet Blanc is one of them. What higher praise does a cheap wine need?

The Bonnet has been in the $10 Hall of Fame since I started the blog, and it has never been anything other than consistent, delicious, and a value. Quality cheap wines come and go, but not the Bonnet – something I wish the rest of the wine world understood. That the Bonnet doesn’t do better in the annual best cheap wine poll is surprising and may speak to distribution difficulties for inexpensive foreign wine in the U.S. One retailer told me his store, part of good-sized chain, was at the mercy of the wine’s distributor, which brought the wine in from France when it wanted to, and not when the retailer needed it. Regardless, the Bonnet Blanc – as well as the red and rose – is worth looking for and asking your retailer to find if he or she doesn’t carry it.

What do you need to know about this version of the Chateau Bonnet Blanc ($10, purchased, 12%)? It’s a white blend from France’s Bordeaux region, mostly sauvignon blanc, but also semillon (typical of white Bordeaux), plus muscadelle to add interest. Look for some tropical fruit aromas; clean and long throughout; some, but not a lot of citrus; and even white flowers from the muscadelle.

Drink this chilled on its own, or with any kind of summer food that isn’t big and beefy. Highly recommended, and this time the marketing blurb on the website isn’t more annoying gratuitous foolishness: “In 2014, Château Bonnet produced a wine in keeping with its legendary reputation.”

Memorial Day and rose 2016

rose 2016This year, as we celebrate the blog’s ninth annual Memorial Day and rose post at the traditional start of summer, we have much to enjoy. Not only have the hipsters and the Hamptons elite embraced rose, but so has Big Wine – Dark Horse, an E&J Gallo label, has released a dry rose, something I don’t remember Gallo brands doing very often (though the wine isn’t quite up to this post’s standards).

So let us rejoice. The rest of the wine world might be going to hell in a hand-basket – premiumization, consolidation, Millennialization and all the other -ations that have taken so much fun out of wine – but rose remains cheap and delicious and widely available.

This year’s recommendations are after the jump. You should also check out the rose category link, which lists eight years of rose reviews. The blog’s rose primer discusses styles, why rose is dry, how it gets its pink color, and why vintage matters. Vintage, in fact, is especially important this year; I didn’t see as many 2015s on shelves as I should have, and there seemed to be more older wines. In rose, older does not usually mean better. Continue reading

Wine of the week: Les Maurins Reserve Bordeaux 2014

les maurinsThe biggest mistake I made with this wine was not buying a case after I tasted the first bottle. But I only bought two bottles the next time, and the Les Maurins was gone the third time I went back to the store.

Which is the catch for the Les Maurins ($7, purchased, 12%) – otherwise a $10 Hall of Fame wine. It’s an Aldi product in the U.S. (though apparently widely available in Europe), which means availability is always going to be a problem.

Which is incredibly frustrating, because this is a great cheap wine – not quite as well done as the $10 Chateau Bonnet Blanc, but very well done and so much better than most of the wine that costs $7 that I have to taste. For one thing, it’s a white wine from the Bordeaux region of France that tastes like white Bordeaux, with lemon-lime fruit, chalky minerality, and a very clean finish. It’s not too citrusy or too fruity, two common problems with cheap white Bordeaux (much of which isn’t all that cheap at $12 to $15).

So those of us in the 33 states with Aldi stores should watch for the Les Maurins. There is also a $7 Les Maurins red Bordeaux, which is apparently as equally as well made as the white and is a big hit in Australia. Hopefully, that will show up here sooner rather than later.

Mother’s Day wine 2016

Mother's Day wineWelcome to the Wine Curmudgeon’s 10th annual Mother’s Day wine post, in which the point has always been about finding something to make Mom happy. It’s funny how often that doesn’t happen in wine, isn’t it?

As always, the most important piece of advice to make that possible? Buy Mom a Mother’s Day wine gift that she will like, and not something that you think Mom should like because you know more about wine than she does. In other words, if Mom likes sweet white, then buy her the best sweet white you can find, and don’t worry about whether it’s a proper wine for her to drink.

These Mother’s Day wine suggestions should get you started doing just that – and all are highly recommended:

Domaine Robert Sérol Turbullent NV ($18, sample, 8.5%): This rose sparkling wine, made with the gamay grape from a less well known part of the Loire in France, is one of those wines that most of us are afraid to try because it’s so different. So take my word for it: Terrific Mother’s Day bubbly, with raspberry fruit, tight bubbles, and surprisingly dry given the lack of alcohol.

Domaine Séguinot-Bordet Petit Chablis ($20, purchased, 12.5%): Delicious and almost affordable white Burgundy (chardonnay from the Chablis area in the Burgundy region of France) that is varietally correct – a rich mouth feel, wonderful lemon fruit, hints of white spice, and an almost nutty flavor mixed in with all the rest. A good introduction to Chablis for someone who drinks mostly California chardonnay.

Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Rose 2015 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): Given how many roses – even from the Old World – are amping up the fruit this vintage because some focus group said they should, the Bieler remains what a great Provencal rose should be: Tart raspberry fruit, crisp and refreshing, and always enjoyable. There is even a hint of what the French call garrigue – an almost herbal aroma from the flowers and herbs growing near the vineyards.

Alois Lageder Schiava 2014 ($15, purchased, 12%): A fascinating wine from one of my favorite Itlalian producers made with the odd schiava grape. It produces a light, spicy, fruity (berry?) red wine with few tannins. Somewhere between gamay and pinot noir, but truly its own wine and one that should please both red and white drinkers.

More about Mother’s Day wine:
Mother’s Day wine 2015
Mother’s day wine 2014
Expensive wine 86: Jansz Premium Cuvee NV
Wine of the week: Banfi CollePino 2014

Expensive wine 86: Louis Latour Corton Grand Cru 2004

Latour Corton Grand CruIt has always been difficult to understand the post-modern French haste to sell their wine birthright to anyone who will pony up too much money for a mediocre product. Why make overpriced plonk to get a high score when you can do it the right way and make something that has amazed the world for centuries?

Case in point is the Latour Corton Grand Cru ($365, sample, 14%), which is everything French wine has been and should be. This is red Burgundy, pinot noir from the Corton section in Burgundy, and any discussion of Corton involves hundreds of years of history and which particular spot on a hill in Corton the grapes came from. If that’s the starting point, why do you need anything else?

I tasted this wine at the Sunday night dinner for Critics Challenge judges, attended by the handful of us who have to stay an extra night. The judges bring wine (I brought some Texas, of course, which was well received), and competition organizer Robert Whitley adds some from his cellar. This came from Robert, and it was the kind of wine that makes you pause after a sip to wonder how it’s possible to make that kind of wine.

The Latour Corton Grand Cru was earthy and dark, but because 2004 was a warm vintage, it also had more red fruit than I expected. Yet those descriptors are almost useless, because this wine won’t be ready to drink for at least five or six years, and probably longer. That means it’s certainly delicious now, but hasn’t aged long enough to bring the whole into focus, and is too young for the various components to have come together. The best analogy I can think of? Marinating a piece of beef or chicken, where the ultimate goal is not to taste the marinade, but to make the beef or chicken taste better.

Highly recommended, and don’t worry too much about the price. That has been skewed by demand in Asia, where a bottle costs more than five times what it costs in Europe. I found this wine for €44 France, about US$60. Not cheap, but more than fair considering what you get.

Mini-reviews 83: Muscadet, Masseria Surani, Toad Hollow, Chateau Ste. Michelle

muscadetReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

Domaine de la Quilla Muscadet 2014 ($13, purchased, 12%): Muscadet is under-appreciated in this country, not only because the name is so different but because the style — clean, tart, and lemony without a trace of softness — isn’t popular. This is an excellent example of Muscadet (made with the equally unappreciated melon de bourgone grape in the Loire region of France), though it would be better a couple of bucks cheaper.

Masseria Surani Ares 2012 ($10, purchased, 13%): Not much Italian style in this red blend from the Puglia region in the bootheel; it’s mostly fruit forward (cherry) in the international style. But as Cellar Tracker user Merky_Waters wrote: “This is a nice break from all the California blends on the market. No earth, definitely fruit forward but not too clumsy and not sweet.” Why someone in Puglia would emulate California is a question for another day.

Toad Hollow Rose 2015 ($14, sample, 11.5%): Better than previous vintages and closer to what it was when this California rose was one of the great cheap wines of all time, but still missing something — and the price increase from last year doesn’t help. You can buy much better roses for $4 or $5 less. Looks for lots of strawberry fruit, but not much else.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Pinot Gris 2014 ($11, purchased, 13%): One more in what is getting to be a long line of bitter, not all that pleasant sub-$15 pinot gris from quality producers. I have no idea why this is, but there is no excuse for making wine that tastes this way. The Chateau Ste. Michelle from Washington state has some apple fruit, but that’s not enough to save this white wine.

Wine of the week: Domaine d’Aupilhac Lou Maset 2013

Domaine d'Aupilhac Lou MasetA Kermit Lynch red wine for $15? Do I even need to write a review for the Domaine d’Aupilhac Lou Maset?

Kermit Lynch, for those who aren’t familiar with him, is the legendary importer whose name on a label means quality wine at a more than fair price. One can buy Kermit Lynch wines without a second thought, and the Domaine d’Aupilhac Lou Maset ($15, purchased, 13%) is no exception. That it is less than $20 is a double bonus.

This is a red Rhone blend (mostly grenache and cinsault) from the Languedoc in southern France, and combines a modern, fruity style with solid, traditional French winemaking. That means it has the earthiness I love, but more red fruit from the grenache than I expected. The cinsualt, meanwhile, adds spiciness, and the whole combines for a surprisingly sophisticated wine with a longish finish and soft tannins that puts most $15 California grocery store plonk to shame.

It’s heavy enough to need food (roast chicken, roast lamb, or even hamburgers), but not in an old-fashioned, unpleasant way. Highly recommended; I bought the Lou Maset to see if it was worth reviewing and enjoyed it so much I bought another bottle a couple of days later. That I buy a second bottle of a $15 wine that quickly happens about as often as I find $15 California grocery store plonk to write about.