Category:$10 wine

Wine and food pairings 6: Louisiana-style shrimp boil

shrimp boilThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with a traditional Louisiana-style shrimp boil.

My adventures in south Louisiana as a young newspaperman taught me more about the world than I will ever be able to explain. Like a shrimp boil.

I’m 23 years old and the only thing I know about shrimp is that they’re served only on special occasions, maybe once a year. And that they’re boiled in salted water, and if they taste rubbery and bland, that’s OK, because they’re served only on special occasions. And then another reporter took me to Gino’s in Houma, La.

It was a revelation. This was food, and not Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. This was not something for a special occasion, but something people ate regularly. It opened my mind to the idea of food that wasn’t what I grew up with, and that opened my mind to the idea of other cultures, and that made it possible to open my mind to wine. And I’m not the only one who experienced this kind of revelation: The same thing happened to Julia Child when she went to a boil at Emeril Lagasse’s house.

There are really only two rules for a shrimp boil. Everything else is a suggestion, and any recipe is just a guideline. First, use shrimp from the Gulf of  Mexico and avoid imported shrimp at all costs. The latter have as much flavor as Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. Second, use the boxed pouch seasoning called crab boil from Zatarain’s or Louisiana Fish Fry. And make sure the boxes are nowhere near their expiration date; otherwise, all their flavor is gone. Both companies make other styles of seasoning, but this is the easiest to use. And the less said about Old Bay (which is mostly celery salt), the better.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. No red wine with a shrimp boil — there’s no way to get the flavors right:

St. Hilaire Crémant de Limoux Brut NV ($13, purchased, 12%): This French sparkling wine from the Languedoc, mostly chardonnay but also chenin blanc and mauzac, is crisp and bubbly, with pear and apple fruit. Exactly what the shrimp needs. Highly recommended. Imported by Esprit du Vin

Celler de Capçanes Mas Donís Rosato 2018 ($11, purchased, 13%): This Spanish pink is a little soften than I expected, but that’s because it’s made with garnacha. But it’s still well worth drinking — fresh, ripe red fruit (cherry?), and an almost stony finish. Imported by European Cellars

Hay Maker Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($10, sample, 12.5%): The marketing on this Big Wine brand from New Zealand is more than a little goofy –“hand crafted goodness,” whatever that means. But the wine itself is spot on — New Zealand citrus, but not overdone; a little something else in the middle to soften the citrus; and a clean and refreshing finish. Imported by Accolade Wines North America

More about wine and food pairings:
• Wine and food pairings 5: America’s Test Kitchen pizza
• Wine and food pairings 4: Oven-friend chicken and gravy
• Wine and food pairings 3: Bratwurst and sauerkraut

Wine of the week: Cortijo Tinto 2016

cortijo tintoThe Cortijo Tinto is is another reminder that Spain’s Roija produces some of the world’s best red wine — cheap, expensive and everywhere in between

The Wine Curmudgeon has watched in horror this summer as several of Dallas leading retailers stuffed much too old vintages of cheap wine on their shelves. How about a $10 white Bordeaux from 2011?. They’re playing off the consumer perception that old wine is better wine; in fact. most old cheap wine is vinegar. Unless, of course, it’s something like the Cortijo Tinto.

The Cortijo Tinto ($10, sample, 13.5%) is a Spanish red made with tempranillo from the Rioja, which produces some of the world’s best red wine, cheap, expensive and everywhere in between. The Cortijo is no exception – that it can provide so much interest and character, despite the vintage, speaks to the quality of Rioja, the producer, and the importer.

Look for lots of dark fruit (blackberries?), but where the fruit doesn’t overwhelm what Rioja wines are supposed to be like. That means a bit of floral aroma, some spice, a bit of smokiness on the finish, and just enough in the way of tannins to hold everything together.

This is one of my favorite wines to keep around the house, so I know I’ll have something worth drinking when I feel like a glass of red wine. It’s fine on its own (you can even chill it a touch), and it pairs with almost everything except delicate fish.

Imported by Ole Imports

Mini-reviews 123: Sauvignon blanc, Trader Joe’s merlot, chambourcin, mencia

Trader Joe'sReviews 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.

Luis Felipe Edwards Sauvignon Blanc Autoritas 2018 ($8, purchased, 12%): Something very odd going on with this Chilean white — either that, or lots of winemaking to get it to some point I can’t figure out. Not especially Chilean in style, with barely ripe grapes and almost no fruit at all — just some California style grassiness. Imported by Pacific Highway

Trader Joe’s Merlot Grower’s Reserve 2017 ($6, purchased, 13%): This California red, a Trader Joe’s private label, is a bit thin on the back and a little too tart. Plus, the residual sugar shows up after three or four sips. Having said that, it’s easily one of the most drinkable and varietally correct wines I’ve had from TJ — for what that’s worth.

Oliver Winery Creekbend Chambourcin 2016 ($22, sample, 13.4%): Professionally made and varietally correct, this Indiana red shows how far regional wine has come. I wish it showed more terroir and less winemaking — it too much resembles a heavier wine like a cabernet sauvignon and it doesn’t need this much oak.

Virxe de Galir Pagos del Galir 2016 ($17, sample, 13.5%): There are quality grapes in this Spanish red, which is the best thing about it. Otherwise, it’s a very subdued approach to the mencia grape, taking out much of the darkness, earth, and interest. And $17 is problematical.

Photo: “Coburg wine cellar tour” by hewy is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Wine of the week: Herdade do Esporao Alandra Branco 2017

Esporao Alandra BrancoThe Esporao Alandra Branco is a Portuguese white blend that fits nicely into the middle of summer

A friend of mine insists that Portuguese wine offers some of the best value in the world, and he doesn’t understand why the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t embrace Portugal’s wines the way I do Spain’s. When I tasted the Esporao Alandra Branco, I understood his point.

The Esporao Alandra Branco ($8, purchased, 13%), a white blend, offers a couple of things that I haven’t found in enough other Portuguese wines. The reds are usually too heavy and the whites are usually too thin, but the Esporao Alandra Branco finds the spot in between.

It’s crisp and spicy, with lots of pleasantly ripe stone fruit. This is the result of the blend, a common combination in Portugal (antão vaz, perrum, arinto) ) that is almost unknown to U.S. wine drinkers. The wine was a little rounder and a little heavier than I expected, another result of the grape blend.

Highly recommended, and especially for the price. It’s an ideal wine for the middle of summer, and especially with richer seafood like tuna steaks or chicken and rice with saffron.

Imported by Aidil Wines & Liquors

Wine of the week: Zestos Old Vine Garnacha 2017

Zestos Old Vine GarnachaThe Zestos Old Vine Garnacha, a Spanish red, remains one of the world’s great wine values

One of the hallmarks of a great wine, regardless of price, is consistency – does it offer quality and value every vintage, while remaining true to its terroir and varietal? Which is exactly what the Spanish Zestos Old Vine Garnacha does.

That was true with the 2013 vintage, and it’s just as true for this one. The Zestos Old Vine Garnacha ($10, sample, 14%) shows off the fruit, but doesn’t overwhelm the wine drinker. That’s not easy to do with cheap garnacha.

Look for red fruit (cherry? berries?), but it’s not too jammy, which can be a problem with garnacha. There’s even a trace of minerality, and the bit of oak that seems to lurking in the background should fade as the wine ages. In this, it’s lively and juicy and everything I hope for in great $10 wine. But what else we expect from an importer as brilliant as Ole Imports?

The Zestos will complement almost any kind of food, tapas or otherwise. And you could even chill it a bit, and it would be fine its own on a lazy weekend afternoon. Highly recommended, and almost certain to appear in the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame – and it’s a candidate for the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Wine of the week: Vinho verde 2019

vinho verde 2018Vinho verde 2019: Better quality this year than in 2018, including the always dependable Broadbent plus the Gazela and Faisao.

The vinho verde 2019 review is good news — much improved quality from 2018, with prices about the same as last year. How can we do better than that?

Vinho verde is a Portuguese white wine with a greenish tint that rarely costs more than $8. It has a slightly sweet lemon lime flavor, low alcohol, and a little fizz — all of which makes it ideal for hot weather.

Our vinho verde primer is here. Most of the cheaper wines, like Santola, Famega, Casal Garcia, and Gazela, are made by the same couple of companies but sold under different names to different retailers. These vinho verde 2019 suggestions will get you started:

Broadbent Vinho Verde NV ($8, purchased, 9%): Not quite as well done as the 2018 (it’s missing some acidity), and it’s a little sweeter this year. But it remains balanced, rounded, and enjoyable — the vinho verde that sets the standard. Imported by Broadbent Selections

Gazela Vinho Verde NV ($6, purchased, 9%): Stunningly enjoyable, and especially given how wretched it was last year. This bottling is not as complete as the Broadbent, but it’s not stupid, either — lemon lime fruit, pleasant spritiziness, and not too sweet. Much more than $6 worth of wine. Imported by Evaton

Asnella Vinho Verde 2017 ($15, sample, 12.5%): Vintage vinho verde is becoming more common, but you still don’t see much of it. This bottle is more layered and more subtle than the $8 non-vintage labels — mostly dry, a more tropical fruit style, much less fizz, and more crispness. Imported by Ole Imports

Bernador Vinho Verde NV ($5, purchased, 9%): This Aldi private label was perhaps the biggest surprise of vinho verde 2019 — almost dry, the correct amount of fizz, and with refreshing lime fruit. It’s a little thin on the back, but that’s not necessarily a problem.

Aveleda Vinho Verde 2017 ($6.50, purchased, 9.5%):

Faisao Vinho Verde NV ($7/1-liter bottle, purchased, 10%): The Faisao is noticeably sweet, something that I don’t usually like. But there’s enough crackly lemon-lime fruit and the fizziness is so well done that I drank it with dinner (roasted chicken thighs marinated in orange and lime juice, herbs, garlic and olive oil) and enjoyed it. And how can you argue with the price for a 1-liter bottle? Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

For more about vinho verde:
Vinho verde review 2018
Vinho verde review 2017
Vinho verde review 2016

Fourth of July wine 2019

Fourth of July wine 2019Fourth of July wine 2019: Four bottles to enjoy for the United States’ 243rd birthday

The Unites States celebrates its 243rd vbithday this week, and the Wine Curmudgoen has four wines to bring to the party. As always, keep our summer wine and porch wine guidelines in mind: Lighter, fresher wines, even for red, since lots of oak and high alcohol aren’t especially refreshing when it’s 98 degrees outside

Consider these Fourth of July wine 2019 suggestions:

Ryder Estate Chardonnay 2017 ($14, sample, 13.5%): This California white is made in a less zippy style, with softer and less tart apple fruit. Otherwise, it’s well-made and proefessional, without too much oak and the right amount of apple and tropical fruit.

La Fiera Rose 2018 ($8, purchased, 12.5%): This Italian pink is a little softer than expected, without the acidity French-style roses have. But it’s bone dry with lots of red fruit, and offers tremendous value.  Imported by Winesellers Ltd

Renzo Masi Erta e China 2017 ($15, sample, 13.5%):A surprisingly balanced and Italian-like Super Tuscan, where cabernet sauvignon is blended with the sangovese. It has that wonderful tart cherry fruit that shouts Tuscany, plus some backbone from the 50 percent cabernet. It needs food — ribs on the grill, perhaps?
Imported by HB Wine Merchants

Princesa Brut Nature Cava NV ($12, purchased, 11.5%): Brut nature is the driest sparkling wine, and this Spanish bubbly doesn’t disappoint. It’s crisp, very dry, and has cava’s trademark apple and pear fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Quintessential

Photo: “Sydney Foreworks Detail” by Jürgen Lison is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

More Fourth of July wine:
Fourth of July wine 2018
Fourth of July wine 2017
Fourth of July wine 2016
Wine of the week: Bota Box rose 2018