This year, the Wine Curmudgeon picked two Barefoot award winners to review ? the pink moscato, which earned a double gold this month at a prestigious California competition, and the merlot, which got a gold at the 2011 Critics Challenge (the 2013 version of which I judged over the weekend).
My impressions? Both were sound, not flawed, provided value, and were much more impressive than the pinot noir and sauvignon blanc in the 2012 Barefoot review.
I write an annual Barefoot review because hardly anyone one else does; the Winestream Media can ?t be bothered reviewing wines that people actually drink. Not surprisingly, the Barefoot post is always among the most popular on the blog, with Barefoot reviews coming in at No. 2 and No. 4 in 2012 ?s top 10. This year, it was heartening to see others taking up the cause, and my annual Google search found a handful of other recent reviews. How can one not appreciate a blog called Honest Wine Reviews?
The pink moscato ($6, purchased, 9%), made with California grapes and non-vintage, was surprisingly balanced for a wine cashing in on the moscato craze. Think of it as sweet pink lemonade with a bit of fizziness, and make sure to chill it. Having said that, it was firmly sweet, much more in the style of white zinfandel than rose. But, having said that, it was one of the best sweet wines I ?ve tasted recently, and especially for the price.
Was it a double gold medal wine? Yes and no. When I first tasted it, the moscato didn ?t seem much more than a very well-made, lemony white zinfandel. But, on a hunch, I tasted it after I tried the merlot, and the difference was amazing. That ?s when I got the pink lemonade, and the wine tasted fuller and more complete. I ?d have given it gold, too, and I think I know what happened.
The contrast with the merlot, which was drier and more tannic, brought out the moscato ?s flavors. This happens all the time in wine competitions, where judges alternate between colors to lessen palate fatigue, and that was probably the case at this competition.
The most noticeable flavor in the merlot ($5, purchased, 13%) was caramel. Who knows how many valiant oak chips sacrificed their lives for this wine? In this, the merlot goes for the chocolate cherry flavor that so many casual wine drinkers look for, and mostly succeeds. It ?s a simple wine (also made with California grapes and non-vintage), and is almost certainly not the one that won a gold two years ago. A merlot from Bogle or McManis would be more interesting. But you ?ll get your $5 worth with the Barefoot.
Ironically, I chilled the merlot before I tasted it, on the theory that some cheap red wines are better cooler. That wasn ?t the case here, and the wine needs to be red wine temperature (60-ish F/16-ish C) to be at its best. And don ?t worry if you smell burnt rubber or cork when you open the bottle, something I ?ve noticed with many Barefoot reds. The aroma goes away quickly (in wine terms, it blows off), and is probably a function of the sulfur used to help preserve the wine.