Tag Archives: sparkling wine

wine news

Winebits 428: English wine, corks, Peter Mondavi

English wine ? Just like Champagne: Not the quality or flavor or price, but the appellation law. The European Union is expected to rule that sparkling wine from Sussex in England can be called Sussex, just like sparkling wine from Champagne in France is called Champagne. This known as protected status, and it’s an important development for usually little respected English wine. So, the next time you’re at your favorite wine bar in London, you won’t have to ask for a bottle of English sparkling — you can ask for a bottle of Sussex.

? Screwcaps are OK? There’s a journalism term called “parachuting in” that makes cranky ex-newspaper reporters even crankier, and this story from something called Business Insider looks to be classic parachuting. That’s when someone who doesn’t know much about the subject writes about it in a one-off and the story is mostly breathless prose telling us something we already knew. Such as: “While many bulk wines use screw caps ? which is likely where the stigma originated ? a screw cap is by no means and indicator of the quality of your wine.” No kidding. Where has this reporter been for the past 20 years? The rest of the story is mostly in the same vein, including the obligatory reference to the romance of the cork.

? Peter Mondavi: Peter Mondavi’s death at 101 didn’t elicit the same kind of response as that of his brother, Robert Mondavi, when the latter died in 2008. Chalk that up to the way the wine world works, and that Robert was a more public person than Peter. Nevertheless, Peter Mondavi was one of the people who made wine the way it is today, and the wine world would be significantly different if not for him. The Grape Collective ran its interview with Peter Mondavi, then 98, to commemorate his death, and it’s well worth watching.

winereview

Mini-reviews 81: Estancia, malbec, Macon, Scarpetta

estanciaReviews 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.

? Estancia Pinot Grigo 2014 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): This California white is another example of the deteriorating state of cheap wine. If you drank it when it was released almost a year ago, it had pleasant apple and tropical fruit and was certainly worth what it cost. Drink it almost a year after release, which I did, and the fruit is gone and what’s left is mostly pithy bitterness — the kind of wine people cite when they say they don’t like wine. Even $9 white wine should last 15 or 18 months.

? Pascual Toso Malbec 2014 ($8, purchased, 14%): This red is a decent enough grocery store Argentine malbec, without too much jammy berry fruit and a little rusticity for balance, though there is way too much fake oak. It’s not bad, but not as good as it could be.

? Louis Jadot M con-Villages 2014 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French white is everything the Estancia isn’t, and offers at least $10 worth of chardonnay. Look for green apple, a nicely rich mouth feel, and short if refreshing finish. It should be in most supermarkets in the country, so you have something to buy if all else fails.

? Scarpetta Timido NV ($17, purchased, 12%): This sweetish Italian rose sparkling wine has lots of strawberry and then some more sweetness, just like I remember from the bad old days. You can buy the same quality wine for half the price without any trouble at all.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Segura Viudas Gran Cuvee Reserva NV

Segura Viudas Gran Cuvee ReservaGiven Segura Viudas’ $10 Hall of Fame reputation, it’s no surprise that the new Segura Viudas Gran Cuvee Reserva is another top-notch wine.

I say this even though the Gran Cuvee Reserva ($14, purchased, 12%) is the company’s attempt at trading consumers up, and we all know how the Wine Curmudgeon feels about premiumization. And, to make matters worse, it includes a little chardonnay and pinot noir, two grapes that sometimes show up in cava and rarely add much more than a flabby sweetness.

This time, though, the result is a more elegant, Champagne-like cava — which, of course, I should have expected given Segura’s devotion to quality. Look for some crisp apple, tart lemon, and even a hint of berry fruit, as well as a creamy mousse and a bit of yeasty aroma. Plus, it still has all those wonderful tight bubbles.

This is a step up from the regular Segura and well worth the extra three or four dollars. Highly recommended, whether you’re toasting the New Year in a couple of days or you feel like sparkling wine to brighten a gloomy winter’s day. I drank this with my annual holiday gumbo (chicken, sausage, and okra, made in the finest Cajun tradition, including a nutty, chocolate-colored roux) and my only regret was that I didn’t have a second bottle to drink.

champagne

New Year ?s sparkling wine 2015

New Year's sparkling wine 2015The Wine Curmudgeon will soon start the second year of his Champagne boycott, and I can’t say I’ve missed spending lots of money for wine that — as terrific as it can be — is almost never a value. With that in mind, here are my annual New Year’s sparkling wine suggestions, focusing on affordable bubbly that also offers value.

Also handy: The blog’s annual wine gift guidelines and the sparkling wine primer.

? Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee ($10, sample, 11.5%): Every time I taste this California sparkler, and I taste it a couple of times a year, I’m always stunned at how well made it is. Even though it’s charmat, a less sophisticated production method than methode champenoise, the bubbles are still tight and the wine isn’t flabby or too sweet. Look for crisp apple fruit and a little creaminess, and serve well chilled.

? Fantinel Prosecco Extra Dry NV ($15, sample, 11.5%): The Champagne boycott has forced me to spend more time with Prosecco, and I’m glad I did, discovering wines that were neither too soft or too simple and demonstrating again one should taste the wine before judging it. The Fantinel, though it’s labeled extra dry, is not appreciably sweeter than many bruts, and it features a flowery aroma and well done tropical fruit.

? Mistinguett Cava Brut NV ($12, sample, 12%): Yet another Spanish bubbly that is simple but well-made and well worth the price. It’s got some sort of lemon-lime thing going on, but not too sweet and with a refreshing pop to it. Probably a little more Prosecco like than most cavas, but not unpleasant in the least.

? Pierre Boniface Les Rocailles Brut de Savoie NV ($15, purchased, 12%): This cremant from the Savoie region (cremant is French sparkling wine not from Champagne) is made with jacqu re, altesse, and chardonnay, so regular visitors know I would like it just for the two odd grapes. But it shows a touch of sweetness, some fresh white fruit, and a very intriguing minerality. It probably needs food, which you can’t say about most bubbly.

More about New Year ?s sparkling wine:
? New Year ?s sparkling wine 2014
? New Year ?s sparkling wine 2013
? New Year ?s sparkling wine 2012
? Wine of the week: Astoria Prosecco NV
? Wine of the week: Casteller Cava NV

wine news

Winebits 414: Label lawsuits, sparkling wine, wine investments

Label lawsuits ? Handmade matters: Or so says a federal judge, ruling in a lawsuit challenging the validity of calling a multi-million case vodka “handmade.” Judge Jeffrey Miller, writing in a Tito ?s ?Handmade ? Vodka case, said that consumers have a right to expect a label — and the words on it — to mean something if the label has been approved by a regulatory agency. His decision means the case will continue towards trial, so any decision is a ways off. In fact, the blog’s liquor attorney told me he thought the judge overstepped here. Still, as has been noted on the blog before, this is yet another warning for the wine business to clean up its label act before the class action lawsuits begin.

? Raise a toast to bubbly: Sparkling wine production and consumption is at an all-time high, and why not? Most of it is cheap, well-made, and produced by people who aren’t bully boys. That I have been advocating for sparkling wine throughout the blog’s history is just another reason for happiness. The most interesting bit in this report? That Prosecco, the Italian sparkler, is the best-selling sparkling wine in the world and the favorite imported sparkling wine in the U.S. — though not the best-selling in this country. That remains sparkling wine made in the U.S, which means lots and lots and lots of wine like Andre.

? A lousy investment: The Wine Curmudgeon has always been baffled by the growth of wine as in investment, and now someone who knows much more about making money than I do has explained why. My pal Joe Roberts writes: “[I]investing ? in fine wine (in terms of hoping it will accrue in value, and that you will actually be able to realize that gain) is basically a really, really poor way to utilize your money. … [I]nvesting in any collectibles or commodities is, frankly, a joke.” He points out, in terms of risk mitigation and diversification, that wine investing in no way compares to a mutual index fund, making it little different from roulette or blackjack.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Casteller Cava NV

casteller cavaSomehow, despite the Wine Curmudgeon’s passion for cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, and several reviews of the Casteller rose cava, I have neglected to review the Casteller brut. What better time time to rectify this than for Thanksgiving?

The Casteller cava ($10, purchased, 11.5%) does everything sparkling wine is supposed to do, regardless of price. It has tight bubbles that sparkle up from the bottom of the glass; a vague notion of the toast that is part of Champagne’s appeal; and crisp, fresh, sweet lemon fruit. In this, it’s not exactly soft like some Proseccos or sweet sparklers, but more fruit forward, and certainly not unpleasant.

And, for your $10, you can buy four bottles the Casteller cava instead of one bottle of very ordinary Champagne. Highly recommended, and almost certain to enter the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame in six weeks. Chill this and serve it with Thanksgiving dinner, on its own, or any time you feel like something bubbly. Which, as regular visitors here know, is any time at all.

winereview

Thanksgiving wine 2015

thanksgiving wineThis year’s “Why did they bother?” Thanksgiving wine press release offered two roses, costing $65 and $100, as the perfect holiday wines. We’ll ignore for the moment that the point of rose is to cost much less than that; rather, why would anyone need or want to pay that much money for wine for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is the greatest wine holiday in the world because it isn’t about money or showing off, but because it’s about being thankful that we can be together to enjoy the food and the wine.

Needless to say, my suggestions for Thanksgiving wine cost much less and almost certainly offer more value. Guidelines for holiday wine buying are here.

? King Estate Pinot Noir 2013 ($26, sample, 13.5%): I tasted this Oregon red at an American Wine Society dinner, where we also had a $160 California red. Guess which one I liked best? This is is not to take anything away from the California red, but to note the King Estate’s quality and value, and especially for pinot noir — lighter but with a touch of earthiness, cherry and raspberry fruit, and a wonderful food wine. Highly recommended.

? Pierre Sparr Cr mant d’Alsace Brut R serve NV ($18, sample, 12.5%): Sophisticated sparkling wine from France’s Alsace that got better the longer it sat in the glass, and which surprised me with its terroir and sophistication. Look for stoniness and minerality with ripe white fruit.

? Bonny Doon Le Pousseur 2013 ($26, sample, 13,5%): This California red is my favorite Randall Grahm wine, not necessarily because it’s better than any of the others, but because of what it is — syrah that somehow combines New World terroir with old world style. Lots of black fruit, soft tannins, and that wonderful bacon fat and earthy aroma that makes syrah so enjoyable.

?Domaine Fazi le De Beaut 2014 ($10, purchased, 11.5%): A Corsican rose made with a grape blend that includes sciaccarellu, the best known red on the French island. Maybe a touch thin on the back, but an otherwise more than acceptable rose with a little tart red fruit and that Mediterranean herbal aroma known as garrigue. And yes, I’d take 10 bottles of this over any $100 rose.

? Muga Rioja Blanco 2014 ($13, sample, 13%): Spanish white made with mostly viura has some oak, tropical fruit, and refreshing acidity, and why the Spanish don’t bother with chardonnay. Muga is one of my favorite Spanish producers, and almost everything it makes is affordable, well-done, and worth drinking.

More about Thanksgiving wine:
?Thanksgiving wine 2014

? Thanksgiving wine 2013
? Thanksgiving wine 2012