Category:Holiday wine

Holiday wine gift guide 2018

holiday wine gift guide 2018The Wine Curmudgeon holiday wine gift guide 2018 — because no one wants to give the wine equivalent of a fruitcake

• Holiday wine trends 2018

How to avoid giving tacky wine gift bags — “for the wine lover on your lists” — or overpriced, celebrity-endorsed wine accessories (because if an A lister likes it, we should buy it)? The Wine Curmudgeon’s holiday wine gift guide out 2018, of course. Because why waste money on bad gifts when you can use it for quality wine?

Keep in mind two must-haves for anyone who drinks wine regularly – the Rabbit wine preserver ($10), cheap and effective, and a top-notch waiter’s corkscrew from Murano ($10). Both have passed the WC’s lengthy, real-life testing process — which means I use them over and over and over. And over.

Plus:

• Kevin Zraly’s new edition of the “Windows on the World” wine course (Sterling Epicure, $18) is probably the best one-volume wine book available. That means it’s worth buying, whether for beginning wine drinker or cranky wine critic. Plus, Zraly’s memoir is scheduled to be published in the next year or so, chronicling his 40 years in the wine business.

Chateau La Tour Carnet ($38) is a red Bordeaux that offers quality but doesn’t cost a fortune, given the prices of red Bordeaux. This French blend, more cabernet sauvignon than merlot, combines modern winemaking with traditional Bordeaux style and terroir. Older vintages like the 2010, which may be more expensive, will especially show that combination. This is the red wine for someone who thinks cabernet begins and ends in the Napa Valley.

The L’Conti Blanquette ($15) is sparkling wine from the Limoux region of France, and tastes nothing like any other French sparkling wine. It’s probably closer to Spanish cava, with lemon and green apple fruit. Plus, you can tell people you tasted a wine made with the mauzac grape. Highly recommended.

• Those who know Italian wine find refosco, a red from northern Italy, to be an acquired tasted. I’ve acquired it, and you’l find quality in refosco from $10 to $20. The Tenuta Luisa ($20) is dark but also bright; a little savory but also a little spicy. It’s more interesting than the less expensive versions, and surprisingly available.

• My new weakness is white wine from Spain’s Basque region made with the hondarrabi zuri grape, most costing around $20. The labels include the phrase “Getariako Txakolina,” which is the name of the region. I haven’t had one yet that wasn’t well-made — almost herbal, with citrus and stone fruit, a little fizz, and some minerality — but not sweet. This is about as far from chardonnay as you can get.

More holiday wine gift guides:
• Holiday wine gift guide 2017
• Holiday wine gift guide 2016
• Holiday wine gift guide 2015

Holiday wine trends 2018

holiday wine trends 2018Holiday wine trends 2018: We aren’t necessarily spending more money, but we’re demanding better quality and looking for something different

• Holiday wine gift guide 2018

Wine drinkers aren’t necessarily looking for more expensive wine this holiday season. Rather, as part of holiday wine trends 2018, they’re looking for quality – and even something out of the ordinary.

“My customers are looking for wine not just for special occasions anymore, but for something they can drink every day that combines value and quality,” says Adam Acquistapace, whose family owns two gourmet grocery stores in the New Orleans area. “They want something they can drink that’s just good.”

In other words, not as many changes as you would expect, given what we’ve heard about wine prices this year. Even at Pogo’s, a high-end Dallas wine store, $15 to $20 is the sweet spot, says Neal Caldwell, who has been watching Dallas wine trends for more than three decades.

So what are we looking for this holiday season (aside from the mass-produced Meomis, La Cremas, and Veuve Clicquots that always sell well this time of year)?

• One change? Traditional is back, says Caldwell. This includes cru Beaujolais, the $15 to $20 French red wine from the Beaujolais region of France. Other retailers are seeing increased demand for Chianti, the Italian red long regarded as something only for people who remember Chianti’s straw bottles.

• Another change? Even older wine drinkers, usually the least adventurous, are taking chances, says Caldwell. How about sparkling wine from the Limoux region of France? Or an Italian nebbiolo instead of California cabernet sauvignon? The number of different wines sold on Wine.com, the country’s largest Internet wine retailer, increased 40 percent from this time last year. Says Michael Osborn, Wien.com’s founder and vice president merchandising: “Consumers are buying everything from aglianico to zweigelt.”

• A third change: Lighter red wines, something that started a couple of years ago and shows no signs of slowing down. That’s more than just sweet red blends, say retailers, but the also Oregon pinot noir, and European reds.

• And rose continues to surge, and especially for less than $15 (music to the Wine Curmudgeon’s beleaguered cheap wine ears). Roses account for 3 1/2 percent of Wine.com’s sales, and it’s a year-round product that shows up on holiday tables. That was unheard of just a couple of years ago.

Mini-reviews 115: Rioja, German rose, Youngberg, Umani Rochi

german roseReviews 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: a German rose, plus Oregon pinot noir, a Rioja, and an Italian white for Black Friday 2018

Vallobera Rioja Crianza 2015 ($15, purchased, 14%): Heavy, old-fashioned Spanish red that isn’t very interesting – sweet cherry fruit, not much orange peel or earth, and almost flabby. Very disappointing. Imported by Evaki

Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 11.5%): This German pink is sweet (not quite white zinfandel, but noticeable) and fizzy, with almost crisp cherry fruit. Neither sweet nor fizzy is a bad thing, and there will be people who will like it. But not for anyone expecting a dry rose. Imported by Loosen Bros. USA

Youngberg Hill Pinot Noir Jordan Block 2014 ($49, sample, 14%): This is a well-made wine, and the winemakers apparently accomplished what they were trying to do – an Oregon pinot noir that is heavier and more California in style than Oregon. It doesn’t have any brambly fruit, but more concentrated, rich black fruit.

Umani Rochi Villa Bianchi 2016 ($9, purchased, 12%): This Italian white is not quite $9 worth of wine – very tart (citrus fruit?), too simple, and not crisp or fresh enough to balance the tartness.

Thanksgiving wine 2018

thanksgiving wine 2018Four Thanksgiving wine 2018 suggestions

The Wine Curmudgeon looks forward to Thanksgiving like no other holiday. When else do families and friends get to share lots of wine and good food without worrying about money, showing off, or big-screen plasma TVs? Instead, it’s about being thankful that we can be together to enjoy the holiday. The blog’s guidelines for holiday wine buying are here.

This year’s Thanksgiving wine 2018 suggestions should get you started:

Toscolo Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2016 ($14, purchased, 12.5%): Another winner from the Italian Wine Guy. This white, made with the vernaccia grape, is delightful, if a little simple. Look for peach fruit, some almond spice. and white flowers. A turkey wine par excellence. Imported by Empson USA

Fantini Farnese Rosato 2017 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Italian pink wine, part of the always reliable Fantini brand, is a little darker than other roses (black cherry fruit?), but still fresh and delicious. Highly recommended — all $10 rose should be this well made. Imported by Empson USA

Domaine de L’Ameillaud Côtes du Rhône 2015 ($17, purchased, 13%): This French red blend (a little more than half grenache) is competent, professional, and well-made, showing how round and interesting this kind of wine can be. Look for black fruit and soft tannins – another excellent turkey wine. Imported by Dionysus Imports

Carpenè Malvolti Rosé Cuvée Brut ($17, sample, 12%): Nicely done Italian rose sparkling that’s not Prosecco, so it’s a little sturdier in style and bubbles, without Prosecco’s softness. Plus, there is nice pinot noir fruit (cherry and strawberry?). Imported by Angelini Wine

More about Thanksgiving wine:
Thanksgiving wine 2017
Thanksgiving wine 2016
Thanksgiving wine 2015
Wine of the week: Feudo Arancio Stemmari Grillo 2017
Expensive wine 113: Justin Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Wine of the week: Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco 2017

Lageder pinot biancoThe Lageder pinot bianco is well worth the extra couple of dollars that it costs

What better question for the wine of the week during the blog’s 11th annual Birthday Week: How does one know when spending more than $10 on a wine in this age of crappy $15 wine isn’t a waste of money? When the wine is something like the Lageder pinot bianco.

So know the producer. The Lageder pinot bianco ( $13, purchased, 13%) comes from one of the best small wineries in Italy – a 200-year-old family business tucked away on Italy’s northern border between Switzerland and Austria. I’ve written about the Lageder wines many times. All have been worth spending the extra three for four dollars for, including and especially the pinot grigio.

The pinot bianco is no exception. Look for bright, fresh lime and green apple fruit with an almost floral aroma. In this, the wine may be more like an Oregon pinot blanc, since white wine fruit flavors tend to be subdued in Italian wine. The finish is clean and long, not quite stony but still satisfying. It’s an approachable and enjoyable wine, either on its own or with roast chicken or grilled fish. And it would be terrific for Thanksgiving – a lighter style to go with all that food.

Labor Day wine 2018

labor day wine 2018Four value and quality-oriented bottles to enjoy for Labor Day wine 2018

What’s a Labor Day wine? Wine that takes the edge of the heat (it will be mid-90s in Dallas, fairly normal), suitable for porch sitting, picnics, and barbecues. In other words, light wines for warm weather.

These four bottles are fine start as part of Labor Day wine 2018:

La Fiera Pinot Grigio 2017 ($10, purchased, 12%): This Italian white wine is almost always worth drinking, a step up from grocery store pinot grigio (a little lemon fruit to go with the tonic water). This vintage is certainly that, and almost Hall of Fame quality. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Matua Pinot Noir Rose 2017  ($12, sample, 13%): Big Wine at its best — Fresh and tart berry fruit, plus a crispness I didn’t expect from a company that is one of the largest in the world. If not a little choppy in the back, it’s a candidate for the Hall of Fame. Imported by TWE Imports

Moulin de Canhaut 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): This French red Bordeaux is everything cheap French wine should be — simple but not stupid, earthy, and just enough tart black fruit. It’s also an example of how screwed up the wine business is, that someone would send me a sample of a wine that may not be available in the U.S.

Naveran Brut Rosado 2016 ($15, sample, 12%): This Spanish bubbly is one of the world’s great sparkling wines, a cava that compares favorablly to wines costing two and three times as much. Clean and bright, with more citrus than berry flavors.  Highly recommended.

For more about Labor Day wine:
Labor Day wine 2017
Labor Day wine 2016
Labor Day wine 2015

Wine of the week: Comte de Galeran Blanquette de Limoux Brut NV

Comte de GaleranCelebrate the Fourth of July and our French allies with the Comte de Galeran sparkling wine

How to explain all the joys of sparkling wine, from cava and Prosecco to Champagne to everything else? In this case, the everything else includes the Comte de Galeran, an intriguing bubbly from the French region of Limoux.

The Comte de Galeran ($15, sample, 12.5%) is made using the ancient methode ancestrale, which locals claim predates Champagne’s methode champenois. The differences are subtle; more important is the mauzac grape used in Limoux. It offers some of chardonnay’s green apple fruit, but it’s not as crisp and can be almost honeyed.

That’s why the Comte de Galeran seems to taste like chenin blanc or chardonnay before the mauzac makes itself known. It’s just not the hint of sweetness, but a little spiciness, and which adds complexity missing from most bubbly at this price. There are also lots and lots of tight and refreshing bubbles.

I drank this with nachos with jalapenos, and it was a spot on pairing. Highly recommended, and just the kind of wine to pop for the Fourth of July. After all, without the French, we might well be spelling favorite as favourite.

Imported by Wines with Conviction