Tag Archives: white wine

wine of week

Wine of the week: Ferraton Cotes du Rhone Blanc Samorens 2015

Ferraton SamorensThe Ferraton Samorens is a white blend from the Rhone region of France with two odd grapes, which is one reason why the Wine Curmudgeon liked it. The other? How about terroir and value?

The Ferraton Samorens ($13, sample, 13%) is the kind of wine I wished we saw more often in the U.S. But since we’ve been told we have to drink varietal wine, you have to look harder for something like the Ferraton Samorens.

What will you find if you see it on a shelf? A white blend with grenache blanc and clairette, about as far removed from Big Wine chardonnay and pinot grigio as possible. That means a certain floral aroma, with soft pear and apple fruit and what one review called liveliness – despite not having a lot of the acidity usually found in white wines at this price.

In this, the price is the only disappointment. A couple of years ago, the Ferraton Samorens would have been closer to $10, and the weak euro should have kept it that way. But we’re seeing producers, importers, and distributors keep prices up, and that’s the cost of enjoying this wine.

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Mini-reviews 87: Lindemans, Toad Hollow, Dancing Coyote, Mont Gravet

stockwine2Mini-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.

vinho verde review 2015

Vinho verde review 2016

vinho verdePremiumization has come to vinho verde, the cheap Portuguese white wine with a little fizz and a greenish tint. In this case, though, that’s not a bad thing.

Too many of the vinhos in the U.S. are non-vintage blends that are indifferently made, with the focus on cranking out as much as possible. The Portuguese, seeing a chance to upgrade quality and sell more expensive wine in the process, have started offering single varietal and vintage vinhos to Americans. The good news is that theses wines are better than the traditional blends, yet still cost around $10.

Our vinho verde primer is here; also know that the wine can be slightly sweet and should usually be served as cold as possible. These four wines will get you started, but these days, there are many to choose from.

Quinta de Raza Rose 2015 ($10, sample, 11.5%): Find this for $9, and buy a case – it’s almost sweet, refreshingly tingly, and with summery red fruit. It’s a little simple for $10, and hence the caveat, but still well made and enjoyable pink wine.

Gazela Vinho Verde NV ($6, purchased, 9%): This is probably the best of the traditional $5 and $6 vinhos that include Santola, Sonalta, and Famega (and that are made by the same couple of producers). That means fizzy and almost sweet, and with soft lemon-lime fruit. You can drink it all day and barely notice.

Quinta da Lixa Pouco Comum 2015 ($13, sample, 13.5%): Vinho as wine and not as a novelty. That means no fizz and varietal character – made with the Portuguese version of albarino, though it’s a little more tart than its Spanish cousin, with more lemon. Nicely done.

Broadbent Vinho Verde NV ($8, purchased, 9%): A step up from the Gazelas and Famegas, though more traditional this year – more fizz, less structure, but still top quality vinho.

For more on vinho verde:
Vinho verde review 2015
Vinho verde review 2014
Vinho verde review 2013

 

wine of week

Wine of the week: Domaine de la Gaffeliere Les Hauts de la Gaffeliere 2015

Les Hauts de la GaffeliereSo much for bellyaching about the lack of quality cheap white Bordeaux. Since that rant, I’ve found several top-notch bottles, and the most recent is the Les Hauts de la Gaffeliere.

Why the Wine Curmudgeon’s fixation with white Bordeaux? It’s French, sometimes a blend but always made with sauvignon blanc, and have offered value, quality, and terroir for decades. If you wanted a cheap white wine, but weren’t sure what to buy, white Bordeaux was always an excellent choice.

That has changed since the end of the recession, as prices went up and quality didn’t get any better. A $10 wine that costs $15 or $18 isn’t a value, and that has been happening all too often.

But the Les Hauts de la Gaffeliere ($12, purchased, 12%) is. This is a delightful white Bordeaux, made entirely with sauvignon blanc, that offers a sort of flowery aroma, lots of lemon, and the minerality and long, clean finish that sets it apart from sauvignon blanc made elsewhere in the world.

Drink this chilled with almost any kind of chicken or grilled fish. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame.

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Fourth of July wine 2016

Fourth of July wine 2016This weekend, we’re supposed to get our first 100-degree days in Dallas. That means lighter and fruitier – though still tasty and value-driven – Fourth of July wine 2016.

Keep the concepts behind summer wine (and porch wine) in mind as you decide on wine for this holiday weekend. It’s not so much the food that matters, but that lots of oak and high alcohol aren’t especially refreshing when it’s hot, humid, or both.

Consider these Fourth of July wine 2016 suggestions:

Muga Rosado 2015 ($12, purchased, 13.5%) This Spanish pink is consistently one of the best roses in the world. Look for crisp red raspberry fruit, bright acidity, and a long mineral finish. It’s so well done, in fact, that if I raise the price ceiling on the $10 Hall of Fame next year, this wine will be one of the main reasons.

Dancing Coyote Albarino 2014 ($12, sample, 13%): This California white helped introduce albarino to U.S. consumers, and I am most grateful. Look for crisp green apple fruit and minerality, though it’s not quite as salty (really) as a Spanish albarino. A tremendous value.

Hey Mambo Red 2014 ($10, sample, 13.5%): Great cheap California red blend the way it should be, with something else besides lots of berry fruit. That means freshness instead of that horrible cloying fruitiness, as well as proper soft tannins. Very well done, especially for Big Wine, and an example for others who think Americans will only drink wine masquerading as Kool-Aid.

Scharffenberger Brut Excellence NV ($20, sample, 12%): California bubbly that is softer than Spanish cava, not as sweet as Italian Prosecco, and a better value than Champagne. Look for some of the latter’s yeastiness and caramel, though the fruit is almost berryish from the 40 percent pinot noir. The bubbles are tight and long lasting, and the wine improves the longer it is open.

More Fourth of July wine:
Fourth of July wine 2015
Fourth of July wine 2014
Wine of the week: Charles & Charles rose 2015

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Mini-reviews 86: Meh wine edition

meh wineReviews 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.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Moulin de Gassac Guilhem 2014

Moulin de Gassac GuihemThe Wine Curmudgeon’s crankiness, as regular visitors here know, is not an act. It’s because I am forced to taste so much insulting wine that is sold by retailers who don’t care as long as they make their numbers. Hence $8 wine with a $15 price tag and private label junk dressed in winespeak and a cute label.

So when I find something like the Moulin de Gassac Guilhem ($12, purchased, 12.5%), I buy two bottles. Or even more. This is cheap white wine – and French cheap white wine at that – that reminds us what cheap white wine is supposed to taste like. And that it is made with the little known grenache blanc and the even more obscure clairette doesn’t hurt, either. Take that, fake oak chardonnay!

Look for amazing acidity, tempered by just enough white fruit (barely ripe pears?) and a certain white pepper spiciness. It’s easy to tell that the producer, best known for some highly-rated and pricey wines from southern France, cares about the cheap stuff, too.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame.