Tag Archives: wine review

wine of week

Wine of the week: Saint-Cosme C tes du Rh ne 2013

Saint-Cosme Cotes du RhoneDespite all the doom and gloom in the wine business, with prices rising and quality vanishing, there are still producers who care. And France’s Saint-Cosme is one of the best.

Its Little James Basket Press red and white blends from the Rhone are terrific examples of $10 wine, and the Saint-Cosme Cotes du Rhone red ($15, purchased, 13.5%) is a step up, a lesson in how to provide varietal character, terroir, and value. Or, as I wrote in my notes: “What a red Rhone blend at this price should taste like, and why can’t anyone else do this?”

Look for deep red fruit from the syrah and a little licorice, but more subtle than usual and almost tight; that is, where you think there should be more fruit flavor but it’s hiding but will come out as the wine ages. This Sainte-Cosme is earthy but not off-putting, and speaks to the traditional Rhone style where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Highly recommended. Pair this with any fall stew or meat dish as the weather gets cooler. And know that someone, for all the focus groups and private labels, still cares. Writes Sainte-Cosme’s Louis Barroul: “It is my pleasure to offer every year a wine of this quality at a reasonable level of price. This is what French wine means: bottle a bit of spirit even at an affordable price.”

wine of week

Wine of the week: Josep Masachs Ress 2013

Masachs RessoThe Wine Curmudgeon buys wine not because he wants to, or because he thinks he will enjoy drinking it, but because it’s in the store, it’s the right price, and it might be worth writing about. Needless to say, that doesn’t always work out, and my notes are full of angry comments: “plonk,” “overpriced grocery store junk,” and the like.

The Masachs Resso ($10, purchased, 13.5%) seemed to be one of those wines, garnacha from a part of Spain best known for cava, the region’s sparkling wine. Still, it was $10, and it was brought into the U.S. by Winesellers, Ltd., one of my favorite cheap wine importers. Call the result serendipity — a top-notch Spanish red wine when I didn’t expect it.

Look for garnacha-style sweet strawberry fruit in the middle, but fun to drink and not overdone. The fruit is surrounded by more earthiness than I had any right to hope for, fresh acidity, and what wine geeks call dusty tannins. Think of that as tannins that aren’t harsh or too astringent, but that complement all that fruit.

The Masachs Resso was much better than I thought it would be, and is just the wine for summer barbecues, burgers, and even on its own, slightly chilled. Sometimes, the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t have to suffer for his art.


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wine of week

Wine of the week: F lines Jourdan Picpoul-de-Pinet 2013

Felines Jourdan picpoulPicpoul, the white wine made with the picpoul grape in southern France, is one of those summertime wines that most Americans, unless they write a wine blog, don’t know about. The catch, of course, is that given the way the wine world works, even if more of us knew about picpoul, we probably wouldn’t be able to buy it. The last time I checked, the retailers that bother (and even the good ones) carry the same picpoul.

Because it’s not chardonnay, and aren’t we supposed to drink chardonnay?

Fortunately, the Wine Curmudgeon is ever vigilant, and can report that the Felines Jourdan picpoul ($10, sample, 13%) is well worth knowing, buying, and drinking — lots and lots of it, in fact. Jourdan makes a couple of picpouls, which by itself would recommend it to the Wine Curmudgeon. That this version of the Felines Jourdan picpoul is so well done, and offers so much more than almost any other picpoul I’ve tasted, makes it that much better.

Look for the varietal’s trademark tart lemon fruit (picpoul loosely translates as lip-stinger in English), as well as something softer — peach? — in the middle and a little minerality on the finish. Again, not something that a lot of $10, one-note wines have or even consider having.

Drink this chilled on its own or with almost any combination of boiled seafood this summer (or in any of the other nine months, actually). Highly recommended, and almost certain to go into the $10 Hall of Fame in January.

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.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Adami Prosecco Brut Garb l NV

Wine of the week: Adami Prosecco Brut Garb l NVThe problem with Prosecco for those of us who don’t understand it is that it doesn’t taste the way we expect it to. It’s made differently, so it’s sweeter and not as bubbly. That makes it difficult to judge Prosecco as Prosecco, and not in comparison to Champagne, cava, or any sparkling wine made in a more dry and bubbly style.

Which is even more difficult if you’re one of the world’s greatest living advocates of cava and someone whose only criticism of Champagne is that it’s too expensive.

But the Wine Curmudgeon is nothing if not persistent, and my exploration of Prosecco over the past month or so has helped me get a better idea of what it is and why so many people like it. Because they do: Two-thirds of the increase in imported sparkling wine sales in 2012 in the U.S. came from Italy, and most of that was Prosecco. The key to understanding Prosecco? To accept it for what it is, and not to make the mistake that Champagne snobs make when dismissing cava for no other reason than it isn’t Champagne. Prosecco is supposed to taste like Prosecco, and nothing else.

The Adami ($15, sample, 11%) is a big step in that direction. It tastes like quality Prosecco, with more character and interest than many others at this price. That means more structure — a beginning, middle, and end, instead of just a sweetish, fruity middle — and apple fruit instead of softer tropical flavors. The bubbles are also a little sturdier. All in all, very nicely done, and you could do much worse tonight when toasting the New Year.

Wine review: Falesco Vitiano Rosato 2010

image from www.falesco.it When the Wine Curmudgeon tastes this wine, he is not only enjoying one of the best $10 wines in the world, but remembering the day when he embarrassed himself in front of the legendary Riccardo Cotarella — not just once or twice, but three times.

The first instance has been documented, and the second I'll save for another day. The third came while tasting the rose, when I asked Cotarelli if the wine shouldn't be colder. It was at red wine temperature, and I had always been taught that roses, like whites, should be chilled 10 or 12 degrees more. No, no, no, he said. Don't drink it chilled. You'll never taste all of the flavors.

This was an amazing thing to say. First, how many $10 wines have more than one flavor? Second, it's not unusual for winemakers to want critics to taste their wines chilled, since that covers up most flaws. Third, Cotarella was correcting a critic, and while many, many winemakers would like to do that, most of them figure discretion is the better part of valor. Too many wine writers, secure in the knowledge that we already know everything, don't react well to criticism.

But Cotarella, secure in his talent and the quality of his wine, said what needed to be said. And I will always be grateful for that. This vintage ($10, purchased) is as well done as always, with some bone dry strawberry fruit and the nooks and crannies of quality that define the Cotarella style. Drink it over the Labor Day weekend on its own or with burgers or barbecued chicken, and you'll know  why there is a special Falesco wing in the $10 Hall of Fame.