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.
? Geyser Peak Uncensored White 2012 ($10, sample, 13%): Disappointing California sweet white blend, featuring some unripe fruit, some ripe fruit, and a mix of banana and lemon pith flavors. Why so many producers insist on selling such poorly made wine is beyond me, other than that they figure anyone who likes sweet wine won’t know the difference.
? Mart n C dax Albari o 2012 ($15, sample, 12.5%): A professionally made, as always, Spanish white with lemon fruit, though softer and without the almost salty sea air tang of other albarinos. Price, as always, is $3 more than it should be.
? Jordan Chardonnay 2011 ($30, sample, 13.5%): The archetype for California Russian River Valley chardonnay, with green apple fruit, oak more or less in balance, and a rich mouth feel. Needs food, and especially classic chardonnay dishes made with cream sauces.
? Fess Parker Riesling 2012 ($15, sample, 12.5%): A very pleasant surprise — California off-dry riesling that was more than just sweet. Look for apricot and melon, and even a little honey. Very well done, and highly recommended.
Image courtesy of Talk-A-Vino, using a Creative Commons license
One of the themes on the blog for the past couple of weeks has been value — does a wine offer more to the consumer than it costs? In this, value is not about price, because not all cheap wine delivers value. Sometimes, it’s just cheap.
It’s also worth noting that a wine doesn’t have to be cheap to offer value. Yes, it’s more difficult for an expensive wine to do this, given that too many expensive wines are expensive because their reason for being is to be expensive. But it is certainly possible, and it happens more often than I acknowledge here.
One producer who consistently does this is New Zealand’s Spy Valley, which as been making $15 and $20 wines that taste like they cost much more for as long as I have been writing about wine. I had one of those sublime, geeky wine experiences with the sauvignon blanc last year, and it’s not even my favorite Spy Valley wine.
That would be the riesling ($18, purchased, 12.5%), which is as enjoyable as it is difficult to find. I only see it in Dallas every couple of years, given the vagaries of the three-tier system, so when I do see it, I buy it, even if it’s a previous vintage. The producer is good enough so that doesn’t matter.
The 2011 didn’t let me down. It’s not riesling like most consumers know it — no sweet tea-like sugar or fruit flavors that taste like they came out of a can. Instead, it’s a dry riesling, complex with layers of flavor that range from petrol on the nose (a classic riesling characteristic) to citrus and tropical in the front and middle. It’s still fresh and almost aggressive after almost two years in bottle, which is a sign that it’s only going to get better with age.
Serve this to someone who doesn’t think they like riesling, and see if they change their mind. Highly recommended, and well worth the money.
? Prepare for a rant: Marketwatch, which usually does a decent job of covering the business world, decided to do one of those ?Let ?s write a story because it sounds good even though it isn ?t much true ? pieces ? ?Could liquor stores go the way of bookstores The difference, regardless of anything else, is that wine sales are regulated and books sales aren ?t, something that isn ?t mentioned until the fourth from the final paragraph of the story. There ?s also the cost of shipping, which isn ?t mentioned at all. Sometimes, I wonder what assignment editors are thinking of when they do these stories. This piece is so bad that it immediately becomes a finalist for a Curmudgie.
? Getting a handle on riesling: Mike Veseth at the Wine Economist has a nice look at the dilemma facing riesling, which is sweet but not popular, made in weird places, and known pretty much only to Germans and wine geeks. He did a panel where they tasted great riesling from Idaho. Ah, go Drink Local.
? Love those Canadian liquor laws: Canada, which did not have Prohibition but still ended up with a highly regulated retail liquor system, always offers a good example that makes us feel better about three-tier. Witness this, from a study that says the Ontario provincial store system drives up beer prices by as much as C$9.50 a case. To make the results even more ironic, the study was paid for by a convenience store trade group that wants to sell beer. And we know how cheap beer is at convenience stores, don ?t we?
The graphic at left is from an Alsace riesling promotion, devised by Louise Jordan. Her goal? Show consumers that riesling doesn ?t always mean sweet.
?I kept seeing time and time again that in every infographic put out by consumers and wine professionals alike, that riesling was always in either the off-dry or sweet category, ? says Jordan, who works for the French wine region ?s marketing company, Teuwen Communications. ?Also, whenever we do large scale consumer Alsace tastings and serve riesling, people always assume they ?re sweet. And many times, even when we tell them the wine is bone dry, they still say it’s sweet. ?
Click here for a bigger version of the graphic, which will open in your browser. Comparing riesling ?s residual sugar to soft drinks and orange juice is brilliant, and I say that even if Louise wasn’t a friend of the blog. And noting that a Starbucks-style latte has eight times the sweetness of a riesling is brilliant. That more people don’t do more like this speaks volumes about what passes for wine marketing, including the all but useless descriptors on the back labels. Which do you think will help the consumer make a better decision?
This is just another example of how far behind wine is in sucessfully talking to its customers. If wine doesn’t believe in ingredient or nutritional labeling, I suppose it is too much to expect more like this.
The sweet wine craze, for some reason, has not really included wines that were available before sweet wine got hot. This is particularly true of riesling, which has been the world ?s best-known sweet wine for hundreds of years.
This is just another of the things about the wine business that I ?ll never understand, given how many quality, cheap rieslings exist. One of my favorites is Pacific Rim, which shows up more often than not in the $10 Hall of Fame.
The 2011 dry riesling ($12, purchased, 13.5%) is not the best of the past several vintages, but it does a workmanlike job of demonstrating why riesling deserves more attention than it gets. It ?s a touch sweet, which is true of most dry rieslings (sweet rieslings can have six times as much sugar), but that sweetness is balanced by some zingy lime fruit, a floral hint, and a little riesling oiliness. My only disappointment was that the wine ?s finish was too short, leaving me wondering where the rest of it went to. But that ?s the difference between a $10 wine and a Hall of Fame wine.
Chill this and pair it with Asian food, grilled seafood, or even cold plates. It ?s not so sweet that the manly among us will be offended, but it is sweet enough so that sweet drinkers will be happy.
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
? Knez Pinot Noir 2010 ($30, sample): California red was OK as far as it went, but not very interesting. The various parts were there ? pinot smokiness and some black fruit ? but something was missing.
? Leese-Fitch Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($12, sample): A stunning grocery store white that I ?d drink again — just 13 percent alcohol and almost no fruit at all (for a California wine, anyway). Lots of grassiness on the aroma and an almost flinty finish.
? Camelot Chardonnay NV ($7, sample): Lots and lots of fake oak, though it does taste like California chardonnay if you like lots and lots of fake oak.
? Domaine Paul Blanck Riesling 2011 ($18, sample): Disappointing, especially considering how much I enjoy Alsace riesling. Too sweet for the alcohol level, and though it had the requisite amounts of petrol on the nose and soft, ripe white fruit, seemed out of balance.
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:
? Georges Dub uf Beaujolais Nouveau 2012 ($8, purchased): Grape juice, and not especially good grape juice. No varietal character; perhaps the most poorly made nouvueau in decades.
? Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($135, sample): Aged well enough — 15 percent alcohol isn’t noticeable, lots of dark fruit left, and acid still shows — but anyone who paid three figures for this five years ago is probably very disappointed.
? Mart n C dax Albari o 2011 ($15, sample): Spanish white is always consistent and varietally correct, though there are $10 albarinos that deliver similar clean, soft citrus results,
? Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2010 ($10, purchased): Look for lemon-lime fruit and even some oiliness, but always tastes too sweet to me (which is odd for a Charles Smith wine).