Tag Archives: Rene Barbier

wine of week

Wine of the week: Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red NV

Rene Barbier Mediterranean RedThe Wine Curmudgeon has pretty much had it with the wine business over the last three or four months, as regular visitors here probably noticed the moaning and complaining. The cranky meter has been turned up to 11, but why not? Most of the samples since April have been insipid and flabby, and were so overpriced they wouldn’t have been worth buying even if they had been drinkable. I’ve dumped more wine down the drain since Tax Day than I usually do in two years.

Fortunately, there is the Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red ($5, purchased, 12.5%), the merlot and tempranillo blend from Spain that has had a well-deserved spot in the $10 Hall of Fame for several years. How a very cheap wine offers so much that wines costing three or four times more don’t have speaks to the cynicism and tomfoolery that is dominating the wine business these days.

Look for red fruit that tastes like wine, and not cherry cough syrup or Hawaiian Punch; soft but noticeable tannins, which so many of these wines have abandoned in their quest to cram in as much sweet fruit as possible; and a finish that is neither bitter, green, nor annoying. It’s a wonder of winemaking in the post-modern world, and it’s one I appreciate so much that I bought a case. I use it to wash out the taste of the more expensive samples.

Serve the Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red whenever you want a glass after work (it has a screwcap now) or with any sort of summer red wine dinner. And don’t be afraid to chill it, which doesn’t dull the wine at all.


Wine to drink when the power goes out, 2014 edition

three cheap wines

The Wine Curmudgeon has entirely too much experience cooking like this.

Who knew, after last December’s ice storm and four days without power, that the Wine Curmudgeon would get to do it again — and only nine months later? Ain’t electricity deregulation grand, TXU?

We lost power for 2 1/2 days at the beginning of October after 30 minutes of rain and high winds. The difference this time is that temperatures were in the 70s and 80s and not the 20s and 30s. Hence, when it was time to eat dinner, I felt like drinking wine (though I had to use ice cubes for the white instead of leaving it on the kitchen table to chill).

The wine, in fact, was one of the highlights of the blackout (along with the Dallas Public Library, where my branch — despite the outages and years of draconian budget cuts by the shysters who run the city — somehow had electricity and Internet service). Otherwise, the Wine Curmudgeon was even more cranky and irritable than normal; I’m tired of losing electricity the way the rest of the United States gets an annual vacation.

So what did I drink?

? Rene Barbier Mediterranean White NV ($4, purchased, 11.5%): My favorite cheap white wine was a godsend. When the power went off on Thursday afternoon, I screwed open a bottle, dropped in some ice, and tried to convince myself the lights would be back on that evening. The Spanish Barbier is made with the same grapes as cava and has many of the same flavors, though more lemon than apple. Very dry, very crisp, and always a terrific value.

? Cote Mas Blanc Mediterrannee 2012 ($10 for a 1-liter bottle, sample, 12.5%): This French white blend of grenache blanc, vermentino, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc was almost $10 Hall of Fame quality. It really doesn’t need the chardonnay, which I assume was added to make it softer and more appealing to the mythical U.S. consumer who is supposed to need those things. Having said that, the first two grapes give it freshness and white fruit, and that’s really all it needs. Especially tasty with takeout from Cowboy Chicken, where they did yeoman duty dealing with the outage.

? Cote Mas Rouge Intense Mediterrannee 2012 ($10 for a 1-liter bottle, sample, 13.5%): This red, like the Cote Mas white, comes from Paul Mas, who knows a thing or two about quality cheap wine. Again, my only complaint is that there is merlot and syrah, neither of which does much except make the wine more chalky. Trust me — a red from southern France with grenache, carignan, and cinsault can be delicious without any help, as we have learned with this style of red blend in Texas. But the wine is still enjoyable, with lots of dark fruit and soft tannins.

Know what I was glad I didn’t have drink? The $3 wines I tasted at the end of September. Talk about adding insult to injury.


Wine review: Rene Barbier Mediterranean White NV

Wine review: rene barbier Mediterranean white NVThe Wine Curmudgeon’s enthusiasm for cava, the sparkling wine from Spain, is well known. It’s cheap and well made — no doubt much of the wine world shakes its head and sighs every time I recite its wonders. But how can I help myself? It’s $10. And it tastes like this. And this. And this.

So what does this have to do with the Barbier ($5, purchased, 11.5%), a white blend from Spain? It’s made with the same grapes that cava is made from, and tastes mostly like cava without the bubbles — some lemon with a bit of tartness (like a lemon square minus the sugar?). It’s not as well done as most cavas and it won’t win any awards, and when I tell people how much I like it, they shake their head and sigh yet again. But it’s clean and refreshing and it doesn’t have any flaws, and it only costs $5. How many other wines at that price can you say that about?

Serve this well chilled (an ice cube never hurts it), and drink it with almost anything that isn’t red meat. And, if and when winter ever ends, this is the kind of wine that makes porch sipping such a pleasure.

Finally, a sad note: Rene Barbier also makes an excellent $5 rose, and I just tasted it again — fruitier than other Spanish roses, but well-made and a step up from the white. So, of course, because the wine business works this way, the rose is being phased out. No more will be made after this year. Which means that if you see it in a store, buy a case, because you won’t be able to buy it again.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Rene Barbier Red NV

Rene Barbier RedThe Wine Curmudgeon has tasted some 15,000 wines since starting the blog seven years ago, and perhaps the biggest surprise was tasting the Rene Barber red 18 months ago. Somehow, a soft, fruity Spanish blend that was made for ice cubes and people who didn’t like red wine had turned into a $10 Hall of Fame effort.

The good news — the amazing news — is that 18 months later, the Barbier ($6, purchased, 13.5%) is still a terrific value, even at a higher price. The difference between this style and the previous, I’ve been told, is more merlot. How Spanish merlot can make that much difference is beyond me, but who am I to question the results?

Look for red fruit; a beginning, middle, and end; and even some tannins. It doesn’t taste New World, with a little darkness, but don’t expect something very Spanish like Aldi’s Vina Decana. And people who don’t like red wine may well still enjoy it. In this, the Barbier shows how Big Wine can uses its resources to make something that doesn’t insult our intelligence, either in quality or price.

One caveat: NV means non-vintage, so there’s no guarantee the next bottling will taste like this one. These kinds of wine are made to hit a certain price, and if better grapes are too expensive, the producer almost always switches to less expensive grapes, and the wine suffers in quality.

Mini-reviews 47: Rene Barbier, Geyser Peak, Esperto, Dashwood

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:

? Rene Barbier Rose NV ($6, purchased, 12.5%): Not quite $10 Hall of Fame quality, but consistent, varietally correct and a steal at this price. A little more fruity (strawberry) this time around

? Geyser Peak Pinot Grigio 2012 ($10, sample, 13%): Flabby, with banana fruit and not very pinot grigio in taste or style. You can get the same thing with $6 grocery store wine.

? Esperto Pinot Grigio 2011 ($10, sample, 12.5%): Inoffensive, clean, subtly flavored Italian white without the turpentine of so many other cheap pinot grigios. Much better than I thought it would be.

? Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($9, purchased, 12.5%): Perfectly acceptable cheap New Zealand white; lots of grapefruit up front and not much else. But fresh and clean and not flawed.

Wine of the week: Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red NV

Yeah, yeah, I know. What is this wine ? perfectly acceptable as a $5 fill-in when there is not much else to drink ? doing as a wine of the week? All I can say is that the Wine Curmudgeon is as surprised as you are.

I bought this at the end of a long, tiring stretch that saw too much travel, too little time at home, and too much work. All I wanted was something to drink with dinner, and since dinner was hot dogs and beans, I didn ?t need much.

The Barbier ($5, purchased) delivered so much more than that. This used to be the red wine I recommended to people who didn ?t like red wine, since it was soft and cherry-ish and could be chilled. This “vintage,” though, is completely different.

The wine has more structure, including tannins, which I don’t remember it having. In addition, the fruit is darker and more Spanish in style (with more acidity), and certainly not soft cherry. I think there is more and better quality tempranillo in it than before, which would account for the difference.

Having said that, there is no guarantee that the wine will taste like this in six months, since it ?s non-vintage; the blend could change when the producer makes the next batch and it will go back to what it was. Until then, enjoy the improvement. At $5, this is a steal.

Try a wine you don’t like

Wine drinkers are creatures of habit. Once we find a wine we like, it ?s almost impossible to get us to try something different. That ?s one reason why the wine business spends so much time and money on marketing gimmicks, cute wine labels, and the like. They know how difficult it is to overcome our lethargy.

But wine should not be that way. There are, at best guess, more than 15,000 different wines on sale in the U.S., so it ?s not like we don ?t have a lot of choices. And there is plenty of quality within that quantity. Wine, whether cheap or expensive, sweet or dry, red or white, has never been better made.

Nevertheless, how many times have we said, ?But I don ?t like that" when someone has suggested we try something new. The Wine Curmudgeon is no different in that regard, and it sometimes takes all my professionalism to taste a wine I just know I ?m not going to like. And, more often than not, my preconceived notion is wrong and I do like the wine. More, after the jump:

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