Category:Red wine

Mini-reviews 116: Maybe New Year’s wine, maybe not

New Year's wineReviews 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: Maybe New Year’s wine, maybe not

Mumm Napa Brut Reserve NV ($18, purchased, 12.5%): How the mighty have fallen, and how sad it is to taste. This used to be one of the best affordable California sparklers, with fresh fruit and lots of interest. These days, it’s soft and almost flabby, with gassy bubbles — just one more focus group wine.

Boordy Vineyards Landmark Reserve 2014 ($44, purchased, 12%):  Maryland red blend speaks to terroir and how distinctive regional wine can be when it’s not trying to imitate French or California wine. Soft tannins and a long finish, plus a little spice and ripe, but not sweet black fruit.

Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): This French red is better than what has passed for Beaujolais Nouveau over the past decade, with a little more acidity and not nearly as much banana fruit. But it’s still softish and too bubble gummy. Imported by Boisset America

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier 2017 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): This California white used to be one of the world’s great cheap wines, combining chenin blanc’s crispness with viognier’s stone fruit. Now, it’s just overpriced plonk, with acidity added to counterbalance all of that residual sugar. It’s awkward, unbalanced, and oh so disappointing.

Christmas wine 2018

christmas wine 2018Four recommendations for Christmas wine 2018

Suggestions for Christmas wine 2018, whether for a last minute gift or for a holiday dinner. As always, keep our wine gift giving tips in mind — don’t overlook the blog’s 2018 holiday gift guide.

These will get you started:

Sacha Lichine Single Blend Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, %): Quality $10 pink from the Languedoc, so it’s not quite as subtle as something from Provence. But the wine uses first-class grenache, so it’s not too jellyish. Hence a crisp, fresh, and enjoyable wine. Look for strawberry fruit and a stony kind of finish. Imported by Shaw-Ross International

Château La Gravière Blanc 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This white French Bordeaux is almost certainly the best cheap wine I tasted in 2018. It did everything cheap wine should do — offer value, be varietally correct, and taste delicious. Some lemon fruit with an almost grassiness, and old-fashioned white Bordeaux minerality. The difference may be more semillion in the blend than sauvignon blanc, so the wine isn’t a New Zealand knockoff. Highly recommended. Imported by Luneau USA

Rotari Trento Brut 2013 ($18, sample, 12.5%): Impeccably made Prosecco. the Italian sparkling wine. Look for berry fruit, plus more body and depth than in cheaper Proseccos, as well as deliciously tight bubbles. If there’s a catch, it’s the price. Imported by Prestige Wine Imports

Librandi Rosso Classico 2015 ($11, purchased, 13.5%): This Italian red is made with the almost unknown gaglioppo grape, which may or may not be related to sangiovese. That means quite Italian in style (earthiness and grip), but more ripe red fruit than a Chianti. Interesting and very well done. Imported by Winebow

More about Christmas wine:
Christmas wine 2017
Christmas wine 2016
Christmas wine 2015
Wine of the week: CVNE Rioja Cune Crianza 2014
Expensive wine 114: Alberto Nanclares Dandelion Albarino 2016

 

Wine of the week: Henry Fessy Gamay Noir 2016

Henry Fessy gamayThe Henry Fessy gamay noir is a quality red at a more than fair price — and just in time for the holidays

The cheap wine gods have taken pity on the Wine Curmudgeon. Maybe it was all the plonk I drank this year, or that I had to write the same things over and over in 2018 – sweet when it’s supposed to be dry, over-ripe with too much alcohol, and not varietally correct. Because the cheap wine gods put the Henry Fessy gamay on a store shelf where I could find it.

The Henry Fessy gamay noir ($12, purchased, 12.5%) is the kind of red wine that used to be relatively easy to find but is a rarity in our Big Wine, sweet and smooth 21st century world. This French red is delicious, but more importantly, it’s varietally correct: It’s made with the gamay grape, so that means not quite tart berry fruit instead of the flabby softness that is all too common in cheap Beaujolais. Plus, there is a bit of zip, a lick of baking spice, and refreshing tannins. Missing is any hint of focus-group inspired smoothness or of residual sugar hiding behind fake oak and handfuls of added acidity.

This wine tastes like it should cost $17 or $18 instead of $12 (and I bought it on sale for $10). So what’s going on here? First, gamay isn’t a grape that gets much respect, even in France, and that tends to lower the price. Second, it’s not an appellation wine, but a vin de France, where the grapes came from anywhere in the country and which also lowers the price. Third, the producer is known for quality, high-end Beaujolais, so we get the expertise without the cost.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame and Cheap Wine of the Year. This is the kind of wine to buy by the case and drink when you want a glass of quality at a more than fair price.

Imported by Louis Latour

 

Wine and food pairings 4: Oven-fried chicken and gravy

oven-fried chickenThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with oven-fried chicken and gravy

The Wine Curmudgeon can’t fry food. At all. In any way. No matter what I do, it’s under-cooked or overcooked – and greasy. Which is why this oven-fried chicken recipe works so well.

Marinate the chicken in plain yogurt, roll it in seasoned flour, and roast it in the oven for 30 or 40 minutes. No splattering, no burning, and no mess all over the top of the stove. I’ve used this recipe, or a variation, since my mom gave me a copy of the legendary Campus Survival Cookbook, where it first appeared..

What makes this recipe work? Because it’s as close to traditional fried chicken as I’ve found. The key is that the chicken is cooking more or less the same way as if you fried it. Yes, the crust isn’t quite the same, but it’s as tender and juicy as if it was fried. And the leftover cooking oil, with all the fried bits, is just begging to be turned into gravy. Mix a couple of tablespoons of flour to make a roux, stir for a couple of minutes, and add stock, water, or milk to reach the desired consistency.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. These wines will get you started on pairings:

M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Blanc 2017 ($15, sample, 13.5%): The French white blend is always well made – refreshing with bright green apple and pear fruit and a clean finish. If you can find it closer to $12, you’ve got a bargain. Imported by Sera Wine Imports

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2017 ($10, purchased, 13%): Mostly what it should be – a French red wine made with gamay from the Beaujolais region. No ripe banana flavor, which happens too often these days, but soft cherry and a little (not much) spice. Imported by Kobrand

Mont Gravet Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12%): This French pink does just what $10 rose should do, and that’s why it’s rarely necessary to pay more. It’s fresh and juicy, with barely ripe strawberry and raspberry fruit. And it’s made with cinsault, which I’m beginning to think is the perfect grape for rose. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

More about wine and food pairings:
• Wine and food pairings 3: Bratwurst and sauerkraut
• Wine and food pairings 2: Roast chicken salad with Chinese noodles
• Wine and food pairings 1: Chicken, okra and sausage gumbo

Wine of the week: CVNE Rioja Cune Crianza 2014

cune crianzaCVNE’s Cune Crianza is a red Spanish wine that delivers tremendous value and quality

Spanish wine still offers some of the best value in the world. And, whenever the Wine Curmudgeon despairs about the future of cheap wine, I drink something Spanish like CVNE’s Cune Crianza and feel better.

The Cune Crianza ($13, purchased, 13.5%) is everything an inexpensive Spanish Rioja (a red wine made with tempranillo from the Rioja region in northern Spain) should be. It’s varietally correct, with that faint orange peel aroma, not quite ripe cherry fruit, and a bit of earth and a touch of minerality. The touch of oak offers a little vanilla, but it’s in the background and doesn’t take over the wine. In this, there is a tremendous amount of structure for a crianza – the least expensive class of Rioja, and one that sees little of the oak aging that helps to provide structure.

And yes, it’s worth the extra two or three dollars – especially when you consider the alternative is something likes this.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame and the $2019 Cheap Wine of the Year. The past year has not been kind to cheap wine, but the CVNE Cune Crianaza is a reminder about what is possible.

Imported by Europvin

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

Wine to drink when you’re visiting your mom

wine to drinkFour wines to drink when you’re visiting your mom

I spent a week in Chicago with my mom before Thanksgiving, which brought up the question of wine. I wasn’t where I knew the stores, and I wanted to find wine my mom would enjoy. Because, as noted here many times, what’s the point of sharing wine with someone when you don’t take their tastes into consideration?

My mom’s palate is discriminating, and she looks for value almost as much as I do. She is also open to wines that aren’t mainstream, so lesser known regions and varietals are OK. But the wines had to be well made and taste like they’re supposed to.

The catch: I was limited to grocery stores and one visit to Binny’s, the biggest chain in the area. The grocery store selection wasn’t any better than it is in Dallas (and the pricing was just as screwy), and Binny’s was more expensive than I thought it would be.

In the end, I bought four wines – three from retailers and one at a local restaurant (and, as an added bonus, I know two of the winemakers – always nice to be able to brag to your mother):

Domaine de Pouy ($10): This Gascon white blend is suffering from the same problem as most of the rest – not enough white grapiness and almost too tart. Having said that, it was the least tart of those I’ve tasted this year, and Mom liked it. So a winner all around.

Charles & Charles rose ($12): Mom buys this Washington state pink at her local supermarket, so it was an easy choice. The price was a couple of bucks more than I pay in Dallas, but this rose remains one of the best and most consistent values in the world – rose or otherwise.

Armas de Guerra ($13): I’m not quite sure how this Spanish red, made with the little-known mencia grape, ended up in a supermarket. But I’m glad it did. Its bitter cherry fruit and earthiness made it a terrific match for Mom’s legendary spaghetti and meatballs.

Giesen sauvignon blanc ($10): This New Zealand white was the best of a very mediocre wine list at an otherwise interesting restaurant. Not surprisingly, almost no one else was drinking wine. Don’t the people who run the place see the correlation? The Giesen had more than just grapefruit, with a little tropical in the middle. It was much better than I thought it would be.

Graphic courtesy of Ephemera, using a Creative Commons license