Category:$10 wine

Riesling: It’s OK to drink sweet wine

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Sweet wine is much maligned ? so much so, in fact, that wine snobs don ?t like to admit they drink it. Instead, when they ?re forced to quaff something sweet, they call if off dry.

This not fair. Yes, some sweet wine doesn ?t taste a whole lot better than Coke laced with grain alcohol, but that ?s no reason ignore it. And it ?s not a sign of wine weakness to drink sweet wine. German rieslings, most of which are sweet, are some of the best-made wines in the world. They can age for decades, just like red wines from France and California, and they provide a wonderful sweet, lemony, stony flavor that can be addictive. Plus, they ?re a lot less costly than other high end stuff.

What to look for in a sweet wine? Stick to white, because most sweet reds aren ?t very interesting. Explore German riesling, especially those with the term auslese or spatlese on the label. They denote degrees of sweetness (the latter is less sweet than the former) and are only used on the best quality German wine.

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Wine of the week: Smoking Loon Old Vine Zinfandel 2006

Frankly, the Wine Curmudgeon didn ?t think he ?d like this. So what happened when I tasted it? I was quite taken with its quality ? a well-made, varietally-correct zinfandel for about $8 at most grocery stores. It ?s hard to beat that (and proves, once again, not to pre-judge wine).

Unlike some zinfandels, the Smoking Loon wasn ?t especially fruity. I ?m beginning to think that lack of fruit is a function of the 2006 vintage in California, since this wasn ?t the first time I ?ve noticed it. But this was not a problem, since the wine was spicy and brambly ?- just the way zinfandel should be. It ?s a contender for next year ?s $10 Hall of Fame. Serve this with barbecue, pizza and burgers.

Roses: The good, the best, and the better

If it’s summer and you have $10, you can buy a pretty good rose — and sometimes even get change back. In fact, this may be the best rose season in memory. The Wine Curmudgeon can’t remember when he has seen more quality pink wine at an affordable price.

For some reason, the slowing economy and the weak dollar, which have pushed up a variety of other wine prices, haven’t done the same for rose. In addition, the “rose is hip, so let’s charge $20 a bottle” trend, which has been big the past couple of summers, seems to be running out of steam. There are still pink wines that cost that much, but the focus has returned to where it should be ? quality stuff for $15 and much less.

What do you need to know about rose? It’s a fruity wine that’s not as heavy as most red wines and even some whites. But it’s not sweet. That’s white zinfandel or white merlot or whatever, and if that’s what you drink, give rose a try.

Also, rose’s fruit flavors are mostly red berries (think strawberry), as opposed to the white fruits or citrus of most white wines. Roses should be served chilled, and they pair pretty much with any food, including beef and barbecue — some of them are that dry.

A note on vintages: Look for 2007, and be wary if anyone sells anything much earlier than 2006. Roses are not made to age, and should be fresh and flavorful. The color in older vintages starts to fade, like paper that yellows.

Any of the following are well worth trying, and this is far form a complete list. One of the beauties of :rose is that they ?re cheap enough to try, so try lots of them:

• From France: Tortoise Creek ($9), Matignon Cabernet d’Anjou, ($10), Fat Bastard ($10), and Pink Criquet ($15). Some of the Fat Bastard wines don’t impress me, but this one does. And the Pink Criquet, made with St. Emillion grapes, is especially impressive.

• From Spain: Cortijo III ($8), Espelt Corali ($10), and Faustino V ($9). Actually, I tasted about a dozen Spanish roses this spring, and all were worth drinking.

• From the U.S.: McPherson Cellars ($12), Toad Hollow ($11), and Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare ($13).

Wine of the week: Rene Barbier Mediterranean White NV

image My specialty is $10 wine, but even I’m surprised when I find quality wine for much less than $10. Below that price, producers are more concerned with profit margins than with quality, and much-sub $10 wine tastes like it. The reds are harsh and raw, and the whites are green and unripe. The alternative is sugaring the wine to mask those flavors, and that brings unpleasantness all its own.

Which is why I was stunned to find the Barbier ($4.99 at World Market) during my research for a $6 wine story that will run in the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth next week. It’s terrific — clean and crisp, with lemon, some minerality and a floral aroma. It ?s made with the same grapes used in Spanish sparkling wine like Cristalino, though it tastes quite different. Serve it as a porch sipper or with anything made with garlic and parsley. It will also pair well with Fourth of July grilled chicken. One caveat: Make sure it’s well chilled. The warmer the wine gets, the thinner and less interesting it tastes.

Wine of the week: La Vigne D’Argent 2005

image The Wine Curmudgeon manages his inventory on some nifty software called CellarTracker, and one of its most interesting features is the ability to read what others write about wines that I've had. I especially enjoyed the comments for this wine.

It's not that other CellarTracker users didn't like the D'Argent, because they did. Rather, they were baffled by it. "Nice to experience a different kind of sauvignon blanc," wrote one. "I'm more familiar with 100 percent sauvignon blanc, and it was interesting to compare to this sauvignon blanc/semillon blend," wrote another.

In our increasingly review-oriented, score-driven wine world, the D'Argent (about $10) is an old-fashioned, very unhip kind of wine. Which means it's not going to be written up, which means people aren't going to try it. Which is a shame, because — as the CellarTracker drinkers learned — it's well worth trying. Forget about New Zealand sauvignon blanc  and grapefruit. This white Bordeaux has very little fruit flavor (maybe some lemon) and lots of flinty minerality — all of which makes for a refreshing, food-friendly wine. It's what most sauvignon blanc was 15 years ago, and that's not a back-handed compliment by any means.

Serve it chilled with big summer salads, almost any shellfish, or grilled chicken marinated in garlic, herbs, and olive oil.

Father’s Day wine suggestions

image Call it barbecuing or grilling. Use a smoker or a gas grill or charcoal. Choose between beef or pork or chicken or vegetables. Regardless of which, though, it’s part of the Father’s Day tradition.

So what wine do you pair with kind of food? The classic pairing for grilled sausage is sweetish white wine like riesling or gew rztraminer. And the heartiest red meats, like grilled rib eye or smoked brisket, can take a hearty red wine.

But sometimes, how you ?re cooking the food makes a difference. Grilled chicken marinated in olive oil, garlic and rosemary pairs with sauvignon blanc. But smoke that same piece of chicken with a dry rub, and it changes character entirely. Then, you ?ll want a light red wine like a tempranillo or a beaujolais. And rose, of course, will go with almost everything except that grilled rib eye. The bright fruit complements barbecue ?s smokiness quite nicely, in fact.

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