Category:Red wine

Wine of the week: Torres Vina Brava Rojo 2006

vina brava garnacha fr Miguel Torres is one of Spain ?s biggest producers, and its bull wine ? the Sangre de Toro with the little plastic bull ? is available almost everywhere wine is sold. So what is the Vina Brava wine, and why does Torres do it?

It ?s called a second label, which it sells in the U.S. as a private label to retailers who want something more than the bull wine and is various spinoffs. In this, the Vina Brava (about $10) has much to recommend it. It ?s a red blend of grenache and carignan, which means it has more heft, but less fruitiness, than grenache-only wines. And, like Spanish labels in general, it ?s made to go with food. Streak frites comes to mind, but it would also work with meat loaf, hamburgers and grilled mushrooms.

The drawback? Since it ?s a private label, availability is probably limited. But if you do see it, it ?s certainly worth buying.

Wine of the week: Pillar Box Red 2007

The Wine Curmudgeon isn ?t enamored of many Australian red wines, which tend to be so overwhelming that it ?s difficult to appreciate them. But that ?s not the case with the Pillar Box (about $12).

It ?s actually quite restrained for an Aussie red blend that ?s dominated by shiraz ? and, with only 14.5 percent alcohol, practically milquetoast by Down Under standards. Still, it ?s a full-bodied wine (the tasting notes say fleshy, which is reasonable) that isn’t over-oaked, over-extracted, over-tannic, or too acidic. The irony is that people who like huge Aussie wines also like this, and it gets good scores from the Wine Magazines. But the Wine Curmudgeon has always appreciated irony.

Drink this with almost any kind of barbecue (even smoked chicken or turkey), and it will pair with a variety of red sauce food.

Zinfandel update: Yes, there are some worth paying for

The Wine Curmudgeon spoke too soon last month. I ?m still not overwhelmed by what is happening with zinfandel in the U.S., but ? as Rich Coughlan ?s comment in that post noted ? there are still some wines that are made to be wine and not port, which means they have too much fruit and too much alcohol.

I did go to the Dallas stop on the Zinfandel Advocate & Producers tour, and found several wines worth trying. Plus, my chat with Ravenswood ?s Joel Peterson, which will go up next week as a podcast, helped. And his Sonoma County zinfandel isn ?t bad, either.

The ZAP wines included:

? Ridge ?s product line. Don ?t know how I could overlook that, since I think Ridge is, dollar for dollar, the best winery in the U.S. The Lytton Springs (about $35) remains one of my all-time favorites (though the current vintage could sit for another year).

? Pedroncelli Mother Clone 2007 ($12): An old-style zinfandel that isn ?t old-fashioned ? affordable, moderate alcohol, and jammy, brambly fruit.

? Ironstone Old Vine Zinfandel 2008 ($11): I was quite surprised by the quality of this wine, which you might be able to find for as little as $10. This is what inexpensive, value-oriented zinfandel used to taste like, peppery and with decent fruit.

Wine of the week: Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel 2006

imageThose of you who remember my post last month lamenting the current state of zinfandel will be surprised to see this particular wine of the week. But the Wine Curmudgeon is more than willing to admit when I make a mistake. And this Ravenswood Sonoma County (about $15) is worth drinking.

Joel Peterson, who runs the winery today for Constellation Brands, started  Ravenswood as a zinfandel house more than 30 years ago. And he still remembers how to do it in the classic style ? moderate alcohol with jammy, berry fruit. Is it old-fashioned in this day of high alcohol, over-ripe zinfandels, many of which taste more like port than table wine? You bet, and that ?s a good thing. Serve this zingy red wine (not to be confused with sweetish white zinfandels or Ravenswood ?s basic $10 wine) with barbecue ? brisket, sausage and all of the trimmings.

I’m going to write more about zinfandel in the next week or so, after pondering my April post and tasting some more of the wine, and I have a podcast with Peterson that will go up next week.

Expensive bottle of wine, May edition: Bressan Cru Pignol 1998


The Wine Curmudgeon does not often quote back label wine descriptions, but this is one of those times that it is warranted. Bressan, a producer in northeast Italy — where most of the wines that anyone has ever heard of are white — has this to say about its red Pignol: ?The flavour is almost hidden, as though it is fearful of being discovered. ?

I can ?t do better than that.

The Pignol (about $80) is one of the most interesting and unique wines I have ever tasted. How, at this age, it can still be almost too young to drink is amazing. I decanted the wine for an hour, and it wasn ?t enough. It kept changing over the next 90 minutes as we drank it, getting darker and more Italian over time. It was a completely different wine when we finished — less fruity, more acidic and more earthy. Pignol, incidentally, is the grape, one of those dozens of Italian varieties that are little known even in Italy.

Was it worth $80? Not if you're looking for something that you feel comfortable with, because it doesn't in any way resemble a Super Tuscan (or a Bordeaux or a Napa, for that matter). But if you want to try something that doesn't taste like what you ?d expect, something that is an example of old-fashioned regional Italian winemaking and Parker be damned, then take the chance. And it does need food — top-quality cooked sausages and the best hard cheese you can find, plus real European-style bread.

Wine of the week: Bota Box Cabernet Sauvignon 2007


Regular visitors here know that the Wine Curmudgeon does not much care for boxed wine for boxed wine ?s sake. Poorly made wine in a box is still poorly made wine, despite being cheaper and more environmentally friendly. In fact, one could argue that poorly made boxed wine is even more of an environmental waste, since there is no reason for it to exist at all.

So when I find a boxed wine that is well made, I get giggly. Or at least as giggly as the Wine Curmudgeon can get. The Bota Box (about $22 for three liters, the equivalent of four bottles) is a simple, fruity (think cherry) California wine that is so much better than similar wines at this price that it ?s difficult to believe. It doesn ?t have any of the raw tannins these wines often have, it ?s varietally correct, and it isn ?t green ? that is, it doesn ?t have an unripe fruit flavor also typical of very cheap wines. (Which, sadly, some of its Bota compatriots do.)

It ?s not quite as well done as the Avalon cabernet, but it ?s also less than half the price. Which means it ?s highly recommended and a candidate for the 2010 $10 Hall of Fame.Serve this with spaghetti and meatballs and burgers on the grill, or to people who only drink red wine.

Wine of the week: Campo Viejo Rioja Crianza 2005

Campo Viejo crianxa: Still a $10 value Spanish wine remains a fine value, despite the fluctuation of the dollar, and the Campo Viejo is an excellent example of why.

It ?s a red wine made with tempranillo from the Rijoa region of Spain. Crianza is the basic wine in the three tiers of Rioja. The middle level is reserva and the best is gran reserva; winemakers must follow specific guidelines for the wines to attain those levels.

So why the Campo Viejo? It has been $10 for as long as I can remember; it ?s widely available, from grocery stores to wine shops; and it ?s consistently made. (The label is owned by the very large Pernod Ricard group). The 2005 tastes more modern than I remember, which means more cherry fruit. But it ?s still Rioja, which means it ?s tart, a bit tannic (though soft tannins) and occupies that that in-between ground between red and white wine foods.

Drink this with everything from roast chicken to burgers to ? yes ? tapas and paella.