Category:A Featured Post

Wine review: Antoine Delaune Chardonnay 2018

Antoine Delaune chardonnayThe French Antoine Delaune chardonnay is a $6 Aldi white that hints at what the discount grocer can accomplish with its wine

Aldi, the discount grocer, has never seemed to be able to deliver cheap wine quality in its U.S. stores the way it does in Europe. There have been exceptions, but for the most part the wines have been Winking Owl and its ilk. So where does the French Antoine Delaune chardonnay fit into this?

Hopefully, it’s the beginning of Aldi’s commitment to better quality cheap wine — a good thing, since the chain will open a store near my mom in the spring, and we know the trouble she has buying quality cheap wine. The Antoine Delaune chardonnay ($6, purchased, 13%) is a sign that Aldi is focusing more on selling competent and professional wine that you can buy, drink, and not worry about.

This is not to say it’s white Burgundy, the epitome of French chardonnay. But it does taste like chardonnay (some green apple); mostly tastes like it came from France (none of that California slickness); and is clean and fresh without a hint of residual sugar. It’s not even especially thin, which is usually what happens at this price.

And it’s not quite a wine of the week. It’s not stupid, but it is a little too  simple and straightforward and the lesser quality of the grapes does show. Plus, you’ll need to open the screwcap 10 or 15 minutes before you drink it, since the wine needs to breathe.

Mostly, the Antoine Delaune chardonnay is worth $6. That’s an accomplishment these days; I recently tasted a $20 chardonnay that was too precious for words, tasting more like non-alcoholic wine than anything.

Imported by Prestige Beverage Group

Labor Day wine 2019

Labor Day wine 2019

Fire up the grill and break out the Labor Day 2019 wine

Enjoy Labor Day 2019 with four wines that focus on value and quality

It has been a mild summer in Dallas — lots of rain in June, an unseasonably cool day in July, and no 100 degree days until July 30. Having said that, Labor Day means cooler weather sooner rather than later, so let’s celebrate with Labor Day wine 2019.

These four bottles will get you started, and don’t overlook the blog’s porch wine guidelines:

Bonny Doon Malvasia Bianca 2018 ($18, purchased, 13.5%): This California white is nothing if not interesting, as well as a terrific food wine: Flavors of orange, lime, and then more orange. This means it’s varietally correct, and there is freshness and a very zippy acidity.

Sierra Cantabria Rosado 2018  ($12, purchased, 13%): This Spanish pink, made from tempranillo in the Rioja region, does all it should for the price — a little orangish red fruit, some stoniness on the back, and crisp throughout.
Imported by Fine Estates from Spain

Ludovicus Garnacha 2015 ($12, sample, 14%): It’s amazing that this Spanish red has aged this well, given the grape and the cost. Rich and full, easy tannins, lots of dark fruit (cherry? blackberry?), and surprisingly clean and un-cloying for a garnacha. Needs food — Labor Day barbecue, anyone?. Imported by Ole Wine Imports

La Granja 360 Brut NV ($6, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish bubbly from Trader Joe’s is pleasant and sweetish, more like Prosecco than Cava. That means  softer fruit (less tart green apple and more red delicious) and a much softer mouth feel. But the bubbles are tight, and you can do a lot worse for $6. Imported by Evaki

Photo: “Picnic-2004-681” by Nashville First Baptist is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

For more about Labor Day wine:
Labor Day wine 2018
Labor Day wine 2017
Labor Day wine 2016

Wine of the week: Tiamo Rose NV

Tiamo roseHow do you make quality, affordable canned wine? Check out the Tiamo rose

A restaurant trade magazine review of the Tiamo rose, an Italian pink, called it a “serious wine in a can.” Frankly, I can think of no higher praise.

Too much canned wine, as I’ve discovered over the past couple of years, is made to be sold in a can, and not made to be wine. The Tiamo, from the always top-notch Winesellers, Ltd., in suburban Chicago, is wine that happens to come in a can instead of a bottle. And boy, can you can taste the difference.

That means you can take the Tiamo rose ($5/375 ml can, purchased, 12%) on a picnic, to the beach, or on a camping trip and not worry that it will taste like like cherry Kool-Aid or watery and bitter lemonade. Frankly, it’s also wine you can drink at home. Open the fridge, pop open the top, pour it in a glass, and not know the difference. In other words, just the wine for the upcoming Labor Day weekend, whether you’re on the road or staying on the back porch.

The Tiamo is slightly fizzy, with some floral aromas and almost red plum fruit. It’s balanced, as all rose should be, is bone dry, and has a surprisingly long finish. The price works out to $10 a bottle, which is a fair value. One key to that, given the inflated prices of many canned wines, is that it’s non-vintage; that is, the grapes used to make it come from several vintages. This keeps the price down, and vintage doesn’t really matter any way. It’s a canned win, after all – who is going to age it?

Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Winebits 608: Wine writing, weed sommeliers, driver-less tractors

wine writing

Kingman Ag Services’ driver-less tractor

This week’s wine news: The Italian Wine Guy ponders wine writing, plus cannabis sommeliers and driver-less tractors for the vineyard.

Talking down: Alfonso Cevola on his Italian Wine Guy blog, describes a conversation with a colleague. The latter, describing post-modern wine writing: “I have often been left with a depleted feeling, as if the writer was talking above me, to a more enlightened, more illuminated crowd. What an awful feeling, for a wine writer to make a wine lover feel bad about wine. But it is happening more and more on a regular basis.” This, of course, is something the Wine Curmudgeon has tried not to do; in fact, not talking down to readers has been my reason for being since I started wine writing in those long ago newspaper print days. Hence, Alfonso’s advice: “Pick your influencers with care. Make them count. Forget about how many ‘followers’ or ‘likes’ they have. Use your power of discernment, for those whom you follow will lead, for better or worse. You decide, not Instagram or Twitter. Not the influencer. It’s up to you.And up is where we want to be.”

How about an MC? That’s master of cannabis to go with Master of Wine and Master of Sommelier. And why not, says a Canadian workplace study looking at employment opportunities in 2030. The CBC reports that the study’s experts “felt it won’t be long before there’s money to be made as an expert on the best varieties of cannabis to consume. Having help to find flavour profiles that suit your personal tastes could make sense as cannabis continues to become more widely available following [Canadian] legalization last year.” Perhaps the best part about the survey? Its authors say there’s not necessarily any data to back it up, but that it’s a “a compelling and playful way to look at how work may evolve.” What a refreshing change of the usual run of studies – wine and health, anyone? – that pass themselves off as legitimate when they may not be.

No driver needed: They’re called autonomous tractors, and one looks like a post-modern armored personnel carrier. But we know them as driver-less tractors. Kingman Ag Services, which farms about 8,000 acres of wine grapes, pistachios, watermelons, cotton, and other crops in California’s San Joaquin Valley, rolled one out this summer. The tractors can be operated near the land, but also at what the story calls “great distances,” further reducing the need for expensive and hard to find farm labor.

Who needs a corkscrew? Pump that wine cork out!

Wouldn’t a screwcap be easier to use than paying for a gizmo to pump the wine cork out of the bottle?

Regular visitors know the Wine Curmudgeon’s long-running and Quixotic quest to convince the wine business that screwcaps can help save wine from itself. If we eliminate the wine cork, we make it easier to open the bottle. So won’t more people drink wine?

Which, of course, is advice that has been consistently ignored. And, as I always note, advice that aggravates blog visitors to such an extent that several always cancel their email when I write about this.

Nevertheless, I keep going. The wine cork is problem enough, but what may be worse is the other foolishness it has engendered. See the video for something called the Airly, which pumps the cork out of the bottle: “Gone are the days of broken corks, broken cork screws, floating cork bits in your wine, and for a lot of us…the pain of opening a bottle of wine!”

Pain, indeed.

To me, the pain comes when someone invents yet another gadget of limited value when the solution to the cork problem is simple: screwcaps. Twist and open. Twist and open. Twist and open. And no tools or expense required – just like craft beer and spirits.

The Airly, not surprisingly, apparently didn’t last much past the year-old video. I couldn’t find it for sale. But – and also not surprisingly – Amazon sells at least four similar products. Two of them have one-star ratings of about 20 percent; given’s Amazon’s reputation for inflated scoring, that should speak to how well the things work.

So cancel if you feel you must, but know that as long as wine corks and gizmos like the Airly exist, I’ll keep tilting at the windmill. Would you expect any less?

Video courtesy of GearDate via YouTube using a Creative Commons license

More about wine corks and screwcaps:
Corks: The most dangerous wine closure in the world
It’s not the quality of the wine – it’s the sound of the cork popping
Chehalem, pinot noir, and screwcaps

Mini-reviews 124: Freemark Abbey, Bogle rose, Lacrima, Terra Alpina

Freemark AbbeyReviews 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

Freemark Abbey Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2018 ($21, sample, 13.7%): Competent, mostly enjoyable California style sauvignon blanc (some grass, some citrus) with richness in the mouth but a surprisingly short finish. Hence, this white wine speaks to how difficult it is to offer value in entry level Napa wine. Because these days, $21 is entry level Napa wine.

Bogle Vineyards Rose 2018 ($10, sample, 13%): Thin, bitter, and slightly sweet California pink wine with almost no redeeming qualities. Rose for people who buy buy rose at the supermarket because someone tells them they should buy rose.

Marotti Campi Rùbico 2018 ($18, purchased, 13%): Intriguing Italian red made with the little known lacrima grape from the Marche wine region, which is best known for white wine. It resembles a quality Beaujolais – lots of red berry fruit, not too much acidity, and just enough heft to be interesting. Price is problematic, since you can buy better wine for less money. Imported by Dionysus Imports

Terra Alpina Pinot Grigo 2018 ($15, sample, 12.5%): Alois Lageder makes some of the best Italian white wine in the world.  This is apparently its second label, but why it would sully its name with this very ordinary and overpriced tonic water pinot grigio is beyond me.

Photo: “When in Italy” by simon.wright is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0