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, meh wine — four wines you probably won’t want to buy.
• Lindemans Bin 85 Pinot Grigio 2015 ($6, sample, 12.5%): $6 worth of pinot grigio in the cheap Italian style, more tonic water than anything else. It’s certainly drinkable for people who like this sort of thing, and in its own way an honest wine. But you can do much better for not much more money.
• Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($18, sample, 13.5%): Nicely done California white, as always, with varietal grassy character. But not for $18 (after a price increase from last year), and it’s not twice as enjoyable as a quality $10 sauvignon blanc or white Bordeaux.
• Camino del Peregrino Albariño 2015 ($5, purchased, 12.5%): Spanish white is almost varietally correct, but there is almost nothing going on save some tart lemon. Certainly drinkable, but probably not worth buying again, even for $5.
• Sauvignon Republic Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($8, sample, 12.5%): Thinnish, simple, $8 grocery store white from New Zealand that is OK as long as you don’t have to pay any more for it. This is what’s left after the recession-induced collapse of the high quality Republic of Sauvignon Blanc label, and it’s not nearly the same thing.
Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.
? Mateus Rose NV ($5, purchased, 11%): I don’t remember this wine, popular when I was in high school, tasting like raspberry 7 Up. But that was a long time ago. The wine has been repackaged since then, so that it’s in a clear glass bottle instead of the traditional green and doesn’t look quite the same as it did. And maybe it did taste like raspberry 7 Up all those years ago, which isn’t offensive — just odd.
? Chateau Graville-Lacoste Graves 2014 ($20, purchased, 12%): The legendary Kermit Lynch imports this French white Bordeaux, and it’s another example why you should buy any wine that has Lynch’s name on it. Look for freshness, minerality, and a clean sort of citrus flavor. Well worth every penny of the $20 it cost.
? Muga Rioja Reserva 2011 ($23, purchased, 13%): This Spanish tempranillo blend from one of my favorite producers was much lusher and fruitier than I expected, without as much of the tart cherry acidity and herbal appeal that I like about wines from the Rioja region. Having said that, it’s well worth drinking, and should age for close to forever. As it does, the fruit and oak will probably give way to more traditional flavors.
?Peter Yealands Pinot Gris 2014 ($12, purchased, 13%): Why grocery store wine makes me crazy. Yealands is a respected New Zealand producer, and this white should have been delicious. But the bottle I bought was a previous vintage that was bitter and pithy on the back, and much of the fruit, freshness and crispness — hallmarks of pinot gris — were gone. Who knows how long it was sitting and baking in some warehouse? Did anyone at Kroger care?
Treasury Wine Estates has come in for its share of criticism on the blog, including its failure to help me retire to Burgundy. In this, Treasury has been everything Big Wine shouldn’t be — arrogant, unwieldy, and not focused on its customers. So how does the Matua Valley sauvignon blanc fit in?
As an example that shows what Big Wine can do when it isn’t arrogant, unwieldy, and unfocused. Treasury owns the company that makes the Matua Valley sauvignon blanc ($10, purchased, 13%), and this white from New Zealand is exactly what you want to be able to buy at the grocery store — well-made, tasty, food-friendly, and something that offers more than $10 worth of value. I wish I could say that about more supermarket wines.
Look for enough red grapefruit so that you can tell it’s sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, plus some tropical fruit in the middle that is usually a sign of a more expensive wine. It’s not as simple as other $10 Kiwi sauvignon blancs, and there was even more of a finish than I expected.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this chilled on its own, especially as summer drags on, or with grilled or boiled seafood. And, as with most sauvignon blancs, it pairs well with almost anything made with olive oil, parsley, and garlic.
And be glad that someone at Treasury didn’t think Matua was important enough to micro-manage, and so left it alone to make something of this quality.
One of the most important trends in the wine business is the increase in private label wines, which give retailers an exclusive to sell and a bigger profit margin when they do. The catch is that private label wines, which are sold in only one retailer and can be limited in availability, are too often of indifferent quality.
That’s not the case with the Ocean Blue Chardonnay ($9, purchased, 12.5%), a private label for the Aldi grocery store chain. This New Zealand white is unoaked, which helps to keep the price down and gives it a bright and fresh approach. In addition, there is lots of crisp green apple and a rich mouth feel despite the lack of oak.
In this, it’s not especially subtle, but $10 New Zealand wine has never been famous for being understated. That’s how the country’s sauvignon blanc became famous, after all. And those who need vanilla or toasty and oaky in their chardonnay will probably wonder what it’s doing here.
But those of us who are more open minded about chardonnay will appreciate the wine’s value. Drink this chilled, on its own or with white wine food, and even something with a simple sauce. Grilled chicken breasts with garlic and parsley, perhaps? And hope more private labels approach this level of quality.
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.
? Wairau River Chardonnay 2012 ($22, sample, 13%): Professionally made California-style chardonnay from New Zealand, with green apple fruit and enough oak to be noticed but not to be offensive. Having said that, why spend $22 for it when there are similar wines costing one-third less?
? Bodega Garz n Tannat 2012 ($20, sample, 13.8%): Tannat is a red grape that has caught on with wine geeks, and this bottle from Uruguay is well made, if pricey. But, save for a funky aroma, it tastes a lot like $15 California central coast merlot without any of tannat’s grip.
? M. Chapoutier Ros Belleruche 2013 ($15, sample, 13%): Dependable French rose has increased in price by almost one-third (thanks to a new importer?), which makes it a lot less dependable. Wine itself is OK, though this vintage has more strawberry fruit and less crispness. But there are dozens of $10 roses with same quality or better.
? Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis 2012 ($20, purchased, 12.5%): This chardonnay from Chablis region of Burgundy in France was sadly disappointing — thin and almost watery, with very little of the crisp, fresh green apple fruit that makes Chablis so wonderful. May have been corked, which is yet another reason for screwcaps. If not, the producer has serious quality control problems.
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, mini-reviews of four wines I really wanted to like, but didn’t:
? Gallo Family Vineyards Hearty Burgundy NV ($9/1.5 liters, sample, 12%): The wine your parents and grandparents drank in college (in a 50th anniversary edition) is more modern in style these days, with more ripe black fruit. But it still tastes pretty much like it did then, which is surprising, and, for better or worse, epitomizes the concept of jug wine.
? Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les S tilles 2011 ($25, purchased, 12.5%): Disappointing white Burgundy from one of my favorite producers — more like what California chardonnay tastes like when winemakers say they’ve made “French-style” wine. Oak isn’t integrated at all, though apple and pear fruit is evident.
? Sunshine Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013: ($7, purchased, 13%): Aldi store brand is one-note, citrus-aggressive New Zealand white that’s a step up from something like Monkey Bay but, oddly, not all that enjoyable when the bottle is empty.
? Globerati C tes de Gascogne ($6, purchased, 12%): Easily the worst made Gascon wine I’ve ever had — thin, lacking fruit, almost no terroir, and none of the white grapiness that makes Gascon wine so much fun. What was Globerati thinking?
New Zealand sauvignon blanc, a hot commodity in the 1990s, is mostly just another part of the wine landscape these days. Those of us who drink it know what to expect — citrus flavors, including grapefruit and sometimes a lot of it, a good price, and not much else. This doesn’t make it bad wine; just predictable, with the advantages and disadvantages that goes with that.
Which is why I was so surprised by the Kono ($11, sample, 13%) at a tasting for double-gold medal winners from the San Francisco International Wine Competitton. It was more than that, and at a price where many of the wines are one-note grapefruit efforts. Look for some citrus, of course, but also tropical fruit in the middle (mango?), and even a bit of green herb, believe it or not. It’s rounded, surprisingly complex, and a terrific value at this price.
Two other things worth nothing: First, the company that makes the wine is owned by Maoris, the indigenous people of New Zealand and who mostly aren’t in the wine business. Second, the company is very proud of its Wine Spectator score, 89 points for the 2011 vintage. This is another example of the fallacy of scores — how could the wine get a double gold and be worth less than 90 points?
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2014 $10 Hall of Fame (coming in a month) if I can find it somehere for $10.