The Wine Curmudgeon ?s entire reason for being is cheap wine. Anyone can write about the pricey stuff; hell, there ?s an entire industry devoted to the subject called the Wine Magazines. So when I get to chance to taste something that costs more than $10, I pay careful attention.
That ?s what happened last week at a Dallas restaurant, Hector ?s on Henderson, where I shared a bottle of Domaine Amiot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Desmoiselles 2003.
Reasons not to like this wine: First, the label, which makes the young woman on the Lulu B. wines look matronly. The Wine Curmudgeon has nothing against sex, but on a wine label? Second, it ?s cheap pinot noir from the Languedoc region of France, which means there ?s a decent chance it won ?t taste like pinot noir. (In fact, so many negociants are producing Languedoc pinots these days that the region has an identifiable style.) Third, I never trust cheap wine that says things about itself like ?richly textured palate ? and ?velvety tannins and well-integrated oak. ?
Which is why one should always taste the wine before one judges it, because the French Maid (about $12) is quality wine. It ?s fruity and berry-ish, but a little fresher and not as fruity or berry-ish as other pinot noirs from the Languedoc. Plus, it has a touch of pinot character that most cheap Languedoc and New World pinots don ?t have.
It ?s light enough to drink as a New Year ?s aperitif or with almost any sort of New Year ?s meal. It ?s also a fine barbecue wine as spring approaches, with everything from hamburgers to smoked chicken.
Is inexpensive Beaujolais more than the annual Nouveau release? The answer, thankfully, is yes.
I stumbled across this wine, sold by a reasonably well-known Burgundy negociant, while looking for red Burgundy. Since it was $11, I figured it work as a comparison with this year ?s Nouveau. There was no comparison.
The Jaboulet is typical entry level Beaujolais ? light, fruity (black cherries, perhaps?), low in alcohol and not much in the way of acid or tannins. As such, it ?s exactly the kind of wine to drink with dinner. But it was also a much more interesting wine, at more or less the same price, as this year ?s Nouveau, and didn ?t taste gimmicky. In fact, try a blind tasting, comparing this wine (or any Beaujolais-Villages) with the Nouveau. The difference is easy to spot, even for beginners.
The good news is that the Duboeuf nouveau has some character this year. It's not the soft, soapy, banana frosting wine that it was last year. There is actually more of a berry aroma, and even some tannins and acid in the back. All told, this vintage is a marked improvement over most of the past several years.
The bad news is the price. The Duboeuf costs as much as $14 in Dallas, and that's silly. Nouveau's entire reason for being is that it's cheap, since it doesn't age. When nouveau starts to cost as much as red wine that has spent six or nine months in oak, there is very little incentive to drink it. The Duboeuf went on sale in Paris today at 6.5 euros, which is a bit more than $8. That's probably closer to the right price.
In fact, this has been a very controversial year for nouveau. There were evens calls to boycott the wine because it isn ?t especially eco-friendly. I mentioned this earlier, but my cohort in regional wine, Dave McIntyre, had an even better take on how silly a boycott was.
Regular visitors here know that the Wine Curmudgeon does not put much stock in expensive wine. Even when it ?s worthwhile, these wines often fail the 10 times test: Is a typical $100 wine 10 times better than a typical $10 wine?
This red Burgundy (what the French call pinot noir) is from a 400-year French wine family and it does pass the 10 times test. The 2002 vintage, meanwhile, is one of the best in Burgundy in decades. Even better, the wine is only about $30 (though I can ?t guarantee availability outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth area). This is classic red Burgundy, with zippy tannins and a pleasantly rustic feel and taste. It isn ?t especially fruity, so if you drink a lot of New World pinot noir you may be disappointed. Try it anyway.
I drank most of a bottle of this on the porch, enjoying a pleasant fall afternoon. It will also pair with almost anything you can throw at it for Thanksgiving, and it has lots of aging potential. How often can you say that about a $30 wine?
The French region of Gascony is famous for two things, foie gras and D’Artagnan, the Fourth Musketeer. The Wine Curmudgeon submits that a third item should be added ?- great, cheap wine.
The Tariquet (about $10) is just another in a long line of terrific $10 wines from Gascony. These wines are made with grapes that are little known, like ugni blanc, or have bad reputations, like French colombard. But in the hands of a variety of Gascon winemakers, they become clean, crisp and refreshing, with a bit more fruit than other French white wines. The Tariquet has a lemony, floral aroma and a touch of lemon flavor (maybe even lemon zest), without any unpleasant minerality. This is cheap wine the way it should be. Serve it chilled on its own, or with seafood or something like chicken Caesar salad.
The Wine Curmudgeon likes blind tastings a lot, and it ?s not because I always get them right. It ?s because they are a humbling, necessary experience, something to remind me that I don ?t know nearly enough about wine.
Which brings us to last week ?s Texas-Beaujolais blind tasting, where I correctly identified three of the six wines. And I was happy to do that well.