Tag Archives: wine reviews

wine of week

Wine of the week: Arrumaco Verdejo 2014

Arrumaco Verdejo Want to find out what real verdejo tastes like? Want to strike a blow for quality, terroir and value? Then buy the Arrumaco Verdejo. Its importer, Handpicked Selections, is one of those well-run but too small companies that are being squeezed by consolidation and premiumization.

The Arrumaco Verdejo ($9, purchased, 12%) is a $10 Hall of Fame wine from a Spanish producer that also does a Hall of Fame quality rose. As such, it’s completely different from the grocery store plonk that we’re expected to drink; it has interest and character and exists to do more than to be smooth.

Look for white fruit flavors and aromas (apricot?), plus a certain rich feel in the mouth that I didn’t expect and the touch of almond and lemon peel that top-notch verdejo is supposed to have. I couldn’t believe how well done this wine was after the first bottle, and went back and bought a couple more just to be sure.

Highly recommended. Drink this chilled on its own or with grilled fish, and it would also match a summer salad with lots of fresh herbs.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Columbia Winery Composition NV

Columbia Winery CompositionColumbia Winery’s Sean Hails is refreshingly honest, given that many winemakers aren’t always happy to answer the questions I like to ask: Why this oak level, why this alcohol level, and what was the thought behind putting this wine together?

Hails, though, had no qualms about any of that. He said he makes this non-vintage red blend from Washington state for one of E&J Gallo’s recent acquisitions within the framework that Gallo sets, but also with an eye to what he thinks the wine should be.

And the two are not contradictory. The Columbia Winery Composition ($14, sample, 13.8%) includes the softness that is a Gallo hallmark, but it also tastes like it came from Washington state. The blend is mostly merlot and syrah, with sweet cherry and blackberry fruit, a little pepper and spice, and surprising structural acidity. The softness is mostly in the tannins, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Pair the Composition with grilled meat and chicken — a Sunday spring afternoon on the back porch, perhaps?

wine of week

Wine of the week: Hugel Gentil “Hugel” 2013

Hugel GentilWhen I started doing this, Alsatian wine was one of the world’s great values and the Hugel Gentil was $10 Hall of Fame quality wine. Then the euro gained in value against the dollar, the Alsatians didn’t try told the line on price, and that was that. There were still nice wines, but didn’t offer the value they once had.

Fast forward to 2016, when wine value is going to hell in a handbasket. The Hugel Gentil ($13, purchased, 12.5%) is about the same price it was five or six years ago, but given how much junk is out there at $13, it has become a value once again. Which pleased the Wine Curmudgeon, not only because I like the wine but because it once helped someone who didn’t drink much wine impress several business colleagues when she picked it off a confusing wine list.

In this, the Hugel Gentil is an old standby that remains all that it should be — a soft, enjoyable, riesiing-ish blend that is made with riesling as well as most of the white grapes grown in the Alsace region of France. It’s not sweet, but it is comfortable and easy, with ripe white fruit and and a flowery aroma. It’s the kind of wine that fits nicely between all the sweet riesling with cute labels that give riesling a bad name and those gorgeous German rieslings that we can’t afford to buy.

Drink this chilled on its own, or pair with with almost any grilled or sauteed fish.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Vionta Albarino 2014

Vionta albarinoA couple of years ago, about the only people who knew about albarino were the ones who made it. And since they were in Spain, the idea of albarino didn’t bother most American wine drinkers.

Today, though, you can find albarino, a white wine, in a surprising number of U.S. wine retailers, a development that makes the Wine Curmudgeon smile. And why not? The Vionta Albarino ($14, purchased, 12.5%) is a welcome change of pace, existing somewhere between chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and pinot grigo. Think of the relationship as a wine-related Venn diagram.

The Vionta albarino is an excellent example of how the grape does that — fresh lemon fruit (Meyer lemon?), a little something that comes off as earthy, and fresh herbs. It also offers, as quality albarinos do, a touch of savory and what aficionados call saltiness (since the wine is made near the sea).

The Vionta albarino is a food wine — pair it with rich, fresh, grilled or boiled seafood, so the flavors can play off each other. Highly recommended, and something I’ve bought twice since the first time. Who says all $15 wine is overpriced?

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 of week

Wine of the week: Ch teau Moulin De Mallet 2011

Ch teau Moulin De MalletThis will sound like damning with faint praise, but it isn’t meant to be. Rather, this review of the Ch teau Moulin De Mallet speaks to how much the wine world has changed over the past couple of decades.

Is the Mallet ($11, sample, 13.5%), a French red Bordeaux blend, as French as I want it to be? No, but since it’s almost impossible to find that style of French wine at this price any more, it will do. In fact, save for the Chateau Bonnet red and one or two others, you’re probably not going to find any better or more interesting Bordeaux that is this affordable, given that winemaking styles today emphasize fruit at the expense of the rest of the wine.

Look for softish red fruit, some earth (but not enough to be unpleasant if you don’t like that quality), the requisite amount of tannins, and just enough terroir so that it tastes French. This is an older vintage because it was a sample, but the newer vintages, including the 2014, are probably just as worth drinking. Enjoy Ch teau Moulin De Mallet on its own, or pair it with any straightforward red wine dinner, whether hamburgers or a tomato-based soup.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Tormaresca Neprica 2012

tormaresca nepricaOnce, the Tormaresca Neprica was among the greatest cheap wines in the world. It was the best-loved wine on the blog, getting the most visitors for any review, and its popularity here even translated into better sales and distribution (or so I was told).

And then one of those things happened that happens in wine, and the Neprica ($12, sample, 13.5%), an Italian red blend, was never the same. Where it had been dark and plummy and even a little earthy, it became soft and too fruity and a little ashy in the middle. Who knows why? Did the grapes come from a different place? Did the winemaker decide to do something different? Was the brand sold (which, apparently, is sort of what happened)?

The result was just another $12 grocery store red wine that tasted like every other grocery store wine. The Neprica dropped out of the Hall of Fame, the number of people who read the reviewed dwindled to insignificance, and the world moved on. I’d taste the wine every year or so to see if anything had changed, and it hadn’t.

Until this one. The Tormaresca Neprica still isn’t what it was, but it is more than another grocery store wine. Look for lots of red fruit, but not so much that there isn’t anything else in the wine. The ashy taste in the middle is mostly gone, and the finish is pleasant if not long. Pair this with red sauce and winter dishes, and be glad it’s worth drinking again.