Category:French wine

Wine of the week: Domaine des Corbillieres Sauvignon 2018

TDomaine des Corbilliereshe Domaine des Corbillieres sauvignon blanc that reminds us that the varietal doesn’t have to taste like grapefruit on steroids.

The Domaine des Corbillieres sauvignon comes from another of those century-old, family-owned French producers; their wines used to be common on U.S. store shelves, but  seem to be disappearing as importers and distributors consolidate. Which is a shame, because this sauvignon blanc from the Touraine region of the Loire speaks to place and varietal.

Touraine isn’t as well known for sauvignon blanc as nearby Sancerre, but that has nothing to do with quality. The Domaine des Corbillieres sauvignon ($13, purchased, 13%) is fuller and fruitier and not as flinty as a Sancerre. This is neither good nor bad, just different. What matters is that the wine focuses on something other than piercing citrus fruit — some grassiness, maybe some soft lemon and green apple, and a long and clean stony finish.

Highly recommended. This is a perfect weeknight wine, and especially for summer. It’s food friendly in that it will pair with almost anything except red meat, be it vegetable salads (couscous, chickpeas and herbs, perhaps?) or grilled chicken. Plus, it’s light enough so you don’t have to worry about waking up in the morning.

Imported by Wines with Conviction

Expensive wine 121: Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet 2013

Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet The Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet is young white Burgundy in all its glory

Wine is known for making food taste better, but it can also improve the ambiance of a meal. This has little do with the alcohol; rather, it’s about the quality of the wine and how its enjoyment makes everything else seem better. Which is exactly what the Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet did recently.

The Big Guy wanted to have wine with lunch, which meant we had to eat at the blog’s unofficial BYOB restaurant. The catch, as we discussed on the drive there, was that the food had been ordinary lately and the service worse. It’s not asking too much to be greeted politely at a restaurant, is it? And especially when you eat there as often as we do?

Not to worry, The Big Guy told me. I have some Puligny, and all will be well. And he was exactly correct – the Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet ($50, purchased, 13.5%) smoothed out all the rough edges, and I remember the wine much more than I remember the rest of the lunch.

The Clerc is the kind of wine that reminds us why French wine is French wine, if only because the estate dates to the 16th century. The wine itself — chardonnay from the Puligny-Montrachet region of Burgundy is young. The term is “nerovisite” – sort of like a teenager who can’t sit still. As such, it should open and become more elegant and richer as it ages over the next decade. Now, though, it’s delightful – lots of fruity acidity (crisp pear, pleasantly tart pineapple?); full through the middle; and lots and lots of the wonderful Puligny minerality on the finish.

Highly recommended, and just the gift for Father’s Day if Dad wants something other than a big, red, and fruit bomb-y wine.

Imported by Vos Selections

Welcome back, Domaine Tariquet

domaine tariquetDomaine Tariquet’s 2018 vintages are top-notch and well-worth buying – once again, some of the world’s great cheap wines

The Wine Curmudgeon admits he was worried – would Domaine Tariquet, one of the all-time great cheap wines, still be terrific on its return from importer exile?

Of course. How could I have doubted? This is, after the all, the only cheap wine ever honored with a sonnet.

If anything, the four wines that were sold in the U.S. before the producer lost its importer in 2018 are even a little better than before. The white blend and the rose were always top notch, but the chardonnay and the sauvignon blanc – often inconsistent – are much improved.

Here’s a look at each of the wines, made in France’s Gascony region. There’s also a new one, a sweetish, riesling-style white. The wines are imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons; all are highly recommended:

• Domaine Tariquet Classic 2018 ($10, sample, 10.5%): Fresh, crisp, and low in alcohol – how often does that happen? This vintage’s fruit is a little more lemon-lime than white grapey, but that’s just the wine geek in me. Buy a couple of cases of this white blend, keep them chilled, and enjoy.

• Domaine Tariquet Chardonnay 2018 ($10, sample, 12.5%): This was probably the best of the three whites, which is saying something since it was usually boring and could even be a little off. But this vintage was crisp and aromatic, with almost green apple and a little tropical fruit. If anything, it sort of tasted like chardonnay from France’s Macon, which is always a touchstone of inexpensive quality.

• Domaine Tariquet Sauvignon 2018 ($10, sample, 11.5%): Much better than past vintages, which tended to taste like New Zealand kockoffs. This time, though, the wine had a bit of a grassy aroma, not too much citrus, and a certain Gascon fruitiness.

• Domaine Tariquet Rose 2018 ($10, sample, 12.5%): This pink wine is dry but not Provencal in style. Look for darker fruit, less zippiness on the finish, and a little heft in the mouth. But it’s not heavy so that it’s a rose for red wine drinkers, and so sits somewhere between the Bieler Provencal rose and the Charles & Charles from Washington state.

• Domaine Tariquet Les Premières Grives 2018 ($17, sample, 11.5%): Professionally sweet, with an almost honeyed finish and mostly balanced. It’s a different and interesting wine, in the style of a German just-sweet riesling like a kabinett. The only question: Is it worth $17?

More about Domaine Tariquet:
Domaine Tariquet returns to the U.S.
Domaine Tariquet loses U.S. importer
Wine to drink when the air conditoner is replaced

Wine of the week: Alain Brumont Tannat-Merlot 2015

Brumont tannat-merlotThe Brumont tannat-merlot shows the tannat grape to its best advantage in a delicious $10 wine

During a recent Skype tasting for the American Wine Society, someone asked me about tannat. It’s a red grape, very geeky, best known in South America. When it’s made as a varietal wine, the result is often hard, tannic, and not all that enjoyable. But when it’s blended, like the Brumont tannat-merlot from Gascony in France, it can be a wine of the week.

I’ve tasted three bottles of this vintage of the Brumont Tannat-Merlot ($10, purchased, 13.5%) over the past three years, and each one has been different. Who knew there would be such a variation in bottle age for a $10 wine?

But that’s the tannat at work, and it’s also worth noting that the 2015 is the vintage in most stores. As such, the third  tasting was a delight – some of the tannat’s heartiness was still there, but the rough edges were gone, softened by the merlot. But this is not a soft wine – there’s not any hint of sweetness or too ripe black fruit (blackberry?), and the tannins and acidity remain part of the wine’s still complete structure. Hence, a food wine, and ideal for summer barbecue, burgers, and especially bratwurst.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Kindred Vines

Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Blanc 2016

chateau bonnet blancThe Chateau Bonnet Blanc reminds us of the greatness inherent in cheap when the producer truly cares

The greatest testament to Chateau Bonnet’s wines and founder Andre Lurton’s vision is that this bottle of  Chateau Bonnet Blanc was three years old, but still tasted fresh — and may even more interesting than it was when it was released. How often does that happen with $10 wine?

There is a 2018 version, apparently, though it and the 2017 have not made it to Dallas yet. In fact, I’ve resisted buying this vintage for just that reason. How could any $10 wine, even one as well made as the Chateau Bonnet Blanc ($10, purchased, 12.5%) hold up this long?

Oh Wine Curmudgeon of little faith.

Know that this wine is structured, impeccably made, and will pair with anything from greasy takeout to one of those perfectly roasted chickens that the French pride themselves on. Look for some stone fruit backed with a not so tart kind of lemon, and the richness that adding semillon to the blend (55 percent sauvignon blanc) provides.

Highly recommended, and I’m sure – even without tasting them – that the 2017 and 2108 are just as delicious. And toast Andre Lurton, who died this month at the age of 94, for advancing the cause of well-made wine that anyone can afford to buy.

Mini-reviews 121: Even more rose reviews 2019

rose reviews 2019Reviews 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. This month, six rose reviews 2019 in honor of the blog’s 12th annual rose fest.

The 12th annual Memorial Day and rose 2019 post

La Vieille Ferme Rose 2018 ($7, purchased, 13%): This French pink is not what it was in 2017, when it was among the best roses of the season. The 2018 is a little thinner and less interesting, and the fruit doesn’t jump like it did last year — probably from poorer quality grapes. But it’s still dry, still worth $6 or $7, and still worth buying. Imported by Vineyard Brands

La Galope Comté Tolosan Rose ( $10, purchased, 12%): Once again, $10 buys quality rose — this, time from the French region of Gascony. There is a little tart cherry fruit, some flintiness, and it’s fresh, and clean. Highly recommended. Imported by Bridge Imports

Gianni Masciarelli Rosato 2017 ($11, purchased, 12.5%): Beautiful, zesty, and refreshing, this Italian pink shows off montepulciano, not all that common as a rose grape. Highly recommended, and an example of how rose technical quality has improved so dramatically that some older vintages remain delicious. Imported by Vintus

Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French pink, made mostly with grenache, is yummy and delicious — another 2017 that has more than held up (though the 2018 is available in some areas). Surprising structure and depth, with tart strawberry fruit and crisp, fresh, and minerally on the finish. Highly recommended. Imported by Pioneer Wine Co.

Paul Mas Cote Mas Aurore 2017 ($10/1 liter, purchased, 12.5%): This is more than competent, Provence-style rose (barely ripe red fruit, a hint of garrigue, clean finish) in a liter bottle, so there are two extra glasses. What more do we need? (The 2018 should be available in some areas.) Imported by Espirit du Vin

Castle Rock Pinot Noir Rose 2018 ($10, sample, 13.5%): The kind of California wine that used to be common, but now is but a distant memory — well-made but affordable and decent availability. Look for a little orange zest to go with the barely ripe strawberry fruit.

Memorial Day and rose 2019

Check out these six roses — still cheap and delicious — for the blog’s 12th annual Memorial Day and rose celebration

Rose is officially mainstream after all those years in the wilderness. How else to explain a “dry” Provencal-style rose from E&J Gallo’s Apothic, the brand that all but invented sweet red blends?

So know, as we celebrate the blog’s 12th annual Memorial Day and rose extravaganza, that there is a lot of rose out there looks pink. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to taste like the dry rose we’ve taught the world to love.

In fact, as rose-maker extraordinaire Charles Bieler told me this spring, no-self respecting Big Wine company is going to let rose pass it by. Hence, some of them are making two, three, and even four labels to make sure they don’t miss any of the sales momentum. In this, there’s some talk among wine business types that rose is saving wine from the worst effects of premiumization, and that its popularity is boosting sales that otherwise would be even more flat than they already are.

So yes, there’s lots of plonk out there, which I know because I’ve tasted so much of it. How about thin? How about bitter? How about tannic? How about sweet? To paraphrase Joseph Conrad (though he was probably more of a vodka man): “The horror! The horror!”

But not when it comes to the roses reviewed this post and in tomorrow’s post. These are all cheap, delicious, and rose in style and honesty. What else would you expect from the Wine Curmudgeon?

Prices this year are a touch higher than last year, but there is still plenty of terrific rose for less than $15. Also, don’t overlook the blog’s rose primer, which discusses styles, why rose is dry, how it gets its pink color, and why vintage matters. This year, vintage isn’t quite as important as in the past, and many 2017s should still be wonderful. That’s because technical quality, traditionally a problem with rose, has improved and the wines don’t fall apart like they used to. But still be wary of anything older than two or years, and especially it isn’t pink any more. Brown wine isn’t worth drinking, no matter how little it costs.

For more suggestions, check out the rose category link, which lists 12 years of rose reviews. Today, six standout roses we’ve come to know and appreciate — each highly recommended. Tomorrow, six more roses worth drinking:

Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2018 ($15, sample, 13.5%): The most interesting of Randall Grahm’s California pink of the past several years. It’s more Provence in style, with barley tart strawberry fruit, and even fresher. Honest wine from an honest producer does matter.

Mont Gravet Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French rose is made with cinsault, a terrific grape for pink wine. It’s fresh, bright, and crisp – with more depth than the 2017 and better quality fruit. Plus, the red fruit (berries) taste likes red fruit and not soda pop. Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.

Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 13%): The cabernet sauvingon in the blend gives this Provencal wine a little more structure, depth, and body this year, as well as a little darker flavor (almost blackberry?). As it ages, the caberrnet should go to the back and more red fruit will come to the front. Imported by Bieler et Fils

Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2018 ($12, sample, 13.5%): One of the most consistent and enjoyable California pinks, and also made in a darker style (cranberry, blackberry?) that lots of people try but few succeed with. In this, it tastes like rose and not red wine.

Angels & Cowboys Rose 2018 ($15, purchased, 12.8%): This California effort, always one of my favorites, is much more subtle this vintage, with a wisp of strawberry fruit and not much else. Still enjoyable and interestingly different.

Charles & Charles Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 12.6%): This Washington state rose, from Chalres Bieler and Charles Smith, is fresh and crisp, with tart strawberry and orange fruit and a very clean finish. All in all, another exceptional effort.

More about Memorial Day and rose:
Memorial Day and rose 2018
Memorial Day and rose 2017
Memorial Day and rose 2016
Winecast 36: Charles Bieler
Wine of the week: Ken Forrester Petit Rose 2018

Photo: “Wine o’Clock” by VanessaC (EY) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0