Mini-reviews 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. This month, two whites you’ll enjoy and two reds you probably won’t.
• Lindemans Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($6, sample, 13.5%): It’s not so much that this Australian red tastes like a $6 cabernet, with overly sweet black fruit and lots of fake chocolate oak. It’s that so many wines that cost two and three times as much taste the same way (albeit with better grapes).
• Toad Hollow Merlot 2014 ($14, sample, 14.3%): Red from a once great California producer that tastes more like cabernet than merlot, complete with manly tannins. One fix? I put ice cubes in my glass, which toned down the wine enough so that it tasted like merlot.
• Dancing Coyote Gruner Veltliner 2015 ($15, sample, 13%): California white is a well-made, varietally correct version of the Austrian sommelier favorite – which is saying something given the Wine Curmudgeon’s lack of enthusiasm for gruner. Look for citrus and peach and a crisp finish.
• Mont Gravet Cotes de Gascogne 2015 ($10, purchased, 11.5%): This is yet another well made and value-drive French white from the region of Gascony, with lots of citrus and a clean finish. It’s not quite white grapey enough for me, but well worth buying and drinking.
This white blend from southern France gives the Wine Curmudgeon a chance to do two of his favorite things: Praise the genius of the winemakers in Gascony, who do what so few others in the world seem capable of ? make great cheap wine without any embarrassment; and criticize wine scores. Is it any wonder Gascon wine makes me so happy?
This vintage of the Cassagnoles ($10, purchased, 11.5%) has less citrus and more white grapiness than previous years, which is my preferred style. That gives the wine more balance, and it tastes less like sauvignon blanc and more like the intriguing cheap wine that it is. Ah, the wonders of the colombard, ugni blanc, and gros manseng grapes.
Best yet, this style makes the Cassagnoles even more refreshing and fruity, truly a bottle that is empty before you realize you have drunk the whole thing. Highly recommended, and it will return to the $10 Hall of Fame next year. My only regret? That we can’t buy it in the U.S. in the 10-liter box (the equivalent of 13 1/3 bottles) that it is sold in in France.
Yet someone, somehow, managed to give the wine 82 points on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory app), claiming that it was like pinot grigio and didn’t have any taste. If this wine is only worth 82 points, I’ll drink a bottle of overoaked, too alcoholic California chardonnay, which is probably what that person thinks is tasty.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee, Tariquet ($10, purchased, 10.5%), to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day ?s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light and I marvel at how refreshing this Gascon wine is when it has no right to be.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise, and wonder at the citrus flavors and at the tropical fruit (pineapple?) in this vintage.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood ?s faith, trusting Tariquet every year to make something extraordinary from ordinary colombard and ugni blanc.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints and after I tasted too much grocery store wine, so depressing and so much alike. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death. Or at least until the next vintage.
With sincere apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her Sonnets from the Portuguese 43, with the hope she had a sense of humor and is not spinning in her grave, plotting revenge.
What’s left to say about Gascon white wine blends that hasn’t been said since the first ones appeared in the 2008 $10 Hall of Fame? The same things I’ve been writing all along — cheap, well-made, food-friendly, and tasty. Can’t get too much of a $10 good thing, can we?
The Cedrus ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is more Gascon cheap white wine excellence, colombard and ugni blanc blended together to make a crisp, citrusy wine with the region’s trademark white grapiness and that is clean and delicious. And all for the same price as one of those incredibly dull, all too fruity grocery store red wines that California insists that we drink.
One of these days, I’ll do a Gascon tasteoff, and see which one is the best of the best. Until then, enjoy this abondance — and think about keeping a bottle or two around for the holidays. It’s a terrific wine if anyone stops by, if all you want is something to drink with Chinese takeout, or just feel like a glass after work.
A friend read the manuscript for the cheap wine book and said he had a fairly big question: ?Why aren ?t there any wine recommendations Because, of course, all wine books have to have wine recommendations.
The Cassagnoles ($10, purchased, 12%) helps answer his question: It ?s the quintessential cheap white wine ? professionally made and interesting, yet simple enough to appeal to people who are scared of wine and who don ?t want to spend a lot of money for something that they don ?t know.
It ?s produced in the wonderfully white grape and citrus style that defines Gascon white wine, and is made with grapes that don ?t show up too many other places ? one-half colombard, with ugni blanc and gros manseng filling out the blend. It ?s fresh and bright and lively and the bottle is gone before you know it. Wine for weeknight dinners doesn’t get much better than this. That’s why it’s in the $10 Hall of Fame and should stay there for a long while.
But what happens if I recommend it in the book, and a reader can ?t find it locally? Or buys an older vintage, which is worn out and off-putting? Or buys the wine one year when it isn ?t well done, which is possible given the vagaries of the wine business and that the book probably won ?t be updated every year with new recommendations. They ?ll fire off an angry email.
That ?s why the book is about the process of cheap wine ? its history, why cheap wine is possible, what makes a quality cheap wine, and how to find one. Then the reader won ?t be complaining. He or she will will be too busy drinking great cheap wine they found themselves, like the Cassagnoles. What more could I ask for?
This Gascon white wine set me up for a 2013 Curmudgie. I saw it in the store, and immediately doubted whether it would be any good, and for no reason other than I was being stupid.
A guy I know at the store talked me into buying it, and the first thing I did the next time I saw him was to apologize for being so cranky. What ?s the most important rule in tasting wine? Drink it before you judge it.
The de Pouy ($10, purchased, 10.5% alcohol) is another amazingly fresh, almost grapey wine from Gascony, made with grapes used almost nowhere else in the world. It ?s one of many Gascon wines I ?ve praised over the past several years, many of which are in the 2013 $10 Hall of Fame.
What sets the de Pouy apart is a green apple sort of citrus note that balances everything and takes the wine where most $10 wines don ?t go. Yes, it ?s a simple wine, but the best simple wines, like this one, aren ?t overdone or insulting. That ?s what makes them interesting.
Highly recommended; chill it and drink on its own, or with almost any kind of food that isn ?t red meat, a cream sauce, or spaghetti. It should stay in the Hall as long as it costs $10 — and as long as I don ?t judge it before I drink it.
Domaine D ?Arton, a white blend from the Gascony region of France, is great cheap wine, even by the Wine Curmudgeon ?s exacting standards. It ?s not only on a level with the Gascon wines in the $10 Hall of Fame, but it also demonstrates that wine doesn ?t have to come from the same old places and be made with the same old grapes.
The D ?Arton ($9, purchased) is an odd blend, even for Gascony, made with mostly colombard and fleshed out with sauvignon blanc (not the region ?s best grape) and gros manseng. The result is a dry white with some lemon peel in the front, yet underneath is that wonderful white grapiness that makes Gascon wines so distinctive and so much fun to drink. It's the kind of wine that doesn't require a critic or a sommelier; just a simple dinner or an evening on the porch, friends and conversation.
And I ?m not the only one who feels this way, for all the doubters and chardonnay drinkers out there.
Is this a Thanksgiving wine? Is the Wine Curmudgeon a crank about cheap wine?