Category:Spanish wine

Memorial Day and rose 2018

Memorial day and roseCheck out these six roses — still cheap and delicious — for the blog’s 11th annual Memorial Day and rose celebration

Talk about the best kind of  tasting fatigue — I sampled close 100 roses this year for the 11th annual Memorial Day and rose post, and I’m not tired of pink wine yet.

Rose, as noted, has been resilient enough to withstand the onslaught of high alcohol, lifestyle-designed bottles, and sweet rose passed off as dry. And why not? Many of the producers who make rose the right way do it as a labor of love. As one told me this spring: “Yes, I could charge more for it. But then fewer people would drink it, and I love rose enough that I want as many people as possible to drink it.”

So enjoy this year’s rose extravaganza. My six pinks are after the jump. But you should also check out the rose category link, which lists 11 years of rose reviews. And 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. Wines older than two years — 2016, in this case — are more likely to be off, tired, or worn out. Continue reading

Mother’s Day wine 2018

Mother's Day wine 2018Four suggestions — red, white, rose, and sparkling — for Mother’s Day wine 2018

This Mother’s Day wine 2018 post is the 12th time we’ve done it on the blog, and one thing has remained consistent every year. Buy — or serve — Mom a wine she will like, and not something you think she should drink. Our Mother’s Day wine gift giving guidelines are here; the idea is to please your mother. What’s the point otherwise?

These Mother’s Day wine 2018 suggestions should get you started:

Arrumaco Verdejo 2016 ($8, purchased, 12%): A Spanish white that is a little richer than expected (more stone fruit than citrus), and as well made as all Arrumaco wines are. Imported by Hand Picked Selections

Scharffenberger Cellars Excellence Brut Rose NV ($24, purchased, 12%): This California sparking wine is impressive in many ways — the very aromatic raspberry fruit; the hint of spice that is a surprising and welcome note; and just the right amount of yeastiness, which lets the fruit show. Highly recommended.

Justin Rose 2017 ($18, sample, 13%): A California pink that is one of the shockers of rose season — a pricer wine from a winery best known for big red wine that is intriguing, almost subtle and delightful. Not nearly as fruity as I expected (barely ripe raspberry), with a little minerality and floral aroma. Highly recommended.

Domaine de Courbissac Les Traverses 2015 ($15, sample, 13%): This French red blend is delicious, and it’s even more delicious if you can find it for $12 (and it’s only about $9 in France). Mom wouldn’t want you to overpay. Look for some earth, a little rusticity, and black fruit. Imported by European Cellars

More about Mother’s Day wine:
Mother’s Day wine 2017
Mother’s Day wine 2016
Mother’s Day wine 2015
Two Murrieta’s Well wines

Wine of the week: Arrumaco Tempranillo 2015

Arrumaco TempranilloThe Spanish Arrumaco Tempranillo is cheap, delicious, and the perfect house red wine

The Wine Curmudgeon has been looking for a cheap, reliable, and well-made everyday red wine since giving up on the the Vino Fuerte and the Rene Barbier (a blend change softened and sweetened it). The Spanish Arrumaco Tempranillo may well be their successor.

No, the Arrumaco Tempranillo ($8, purchased, 13%) does not cost $5. Other than that, it’s everything the others used to be and more – an exceptional wine, stunningly well done for what it costs. It’s much more complex and interesting than an $8 wine should be, and reminds us how much difference terroir and varietal character makes.

Look for tempranillo’s cherry fruit, though a bit softer and not as tart. That’s balanced, however, by an almost licorice flavor and easy, just right tannins. The result is a lighter red wine, perfect for summer, and that it can have this much going on for this price is amazing.

Drink this on its own (maybe even a little chilled), or with burgers, pizza, or roast and grilled chicken. Highly recommended, and almost certain to enter the $10 Hall of Fame in 2019. Also worth noting: The rose and white Arrumacos are equally as delicious.

Imported by Handpicked Selections

Wine review: Vina Fuerte 2015

vina fuerteThe new vintage of the Vina Fuerte, once a dependable $5 Spanish red, isn’t very Spanish or  worth $5

The Aldi discount grocer is famous for its cheap, quality wine in Europe. Unfortunately, we’re not getting any of that in the U.S. – as the new vintage of the Vina Fuerte sadly demonstrates.

The Vina Fuerte ($5, purchased, 13%) is a Spanish tempranillo, and the 2014 was more than serviceable. It tasted like Spanish tempranillo – tart cherry fruit with some character and interest in the back. It wasn’t $10 Hall of Fame quality, but it was the kind of red wine to buy for dinner without worrying about whether it would be any good. In fact, I usually bought two.

The 2015, though, is about as Spanish as a pair of sweat socks. The tart cherry fruit has been bulldozed in favor of almost overripe California-style red fruit and the character and the interest in the back have been replaced by heaping amounts of fake oak.

This is disappointing, but not surprising. Aldi’s U.S. wine decisions have focused on the lowest common denominator over the past couple of years: Plonk like Winking Owl, copying the overpriced and very ordinary wines sold in traditional grocery stores, and bringing in one-offs that are priced for their labels and not what’s inside the bottle.

The days when Aldi sold Vina Decana, a Hall of Fame Spanish tempranillo, and the equally worthy Benedetto Chianti are long gone. Today, we’re stuck with focus group wines like the new Fuerte; apparently, we’ll never get to enjoy real wine like this.

It’s baffling. Aldi understands the U.S. grocery store market so well that even Walmart is running scared, but it treats wine with the same arrogance and disdain for the consumer that everyone else does. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

Wine of the week: Bilbainas Zaco 2015

Bilbainas ZacoThe Bilbainas Zaco, a $10 Spanish red, proves the first rule of wine criticism: Drink before you judge

The first rule of wine criticism – never, ever judge a wine before you drink it. The Bilbainas Zaco is a case in point.

The Bilbainas Zaco ($10, purchased, 14.5%) is not the sort of Spanish red from the Rioja region that I would normally buy; in fact, I bought it by accident, thinking it was something else. So when it was time to taste and I read the back label and saw the alcohol, I was prepared to write the wine off before the first sip. “Full bodied,” which is winespeak for too ripe fruit, is not what I want from Rioja.

Which is why there is the first rule of wine criticism. The Bilbainas Zaco is surprisingly enjoyable, even if it doesn’t exactly taste like tempranillo from Rijoa. There isn’t anything subtle or sophisticated here – just cherry fruit and a style that comes from young, not much aging before it’s released, Rioja. It’s a little rough from all the alcohol and the very unrefined tannins, but not in an unpleasant way. In other words, exactly the kind of wine that got 90 points from Parker and the Wine Spectator and that I would dismiss out of hand.

So taste it, and see what you think. Know, though, it’s a food wine: Beef, barbecue, and the like. Imported by Aveniu Brands

Mini-reviews 107: Big Smooth, malbec, Rioja, Sicily

Big smoothReviews 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, four red wines.

Big Smooth Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($17, sample, 14.5%): Much winemaking and craftsmanship went into this California red to make it taste like a cherry Tootise Pop. If that’s what you want your wine to taste like, then it’s worth $17. Otherwise, taste and be amazed at the post-modern marketing cynicism that also went into it.

Casillero del Diablo Malbec 2016 ($12, sample, 13.5%): This Chilean red speaks to terroir and varietal character, and is about more than the jammy black fruit of similarly-priced Argentine malbecs. Having said that, it’s not a value this price – a little thin and tart. But if you find it for $8 at the grocery store and you need a bottle of wine for dinner, you won’t be disappointed. Imported by Excelsior Wine

Bagordi Rioja Navardia 2016 ($13, sample, 14%): Nothing special about this Spanish red – just a full-bodied (heavier, more red fruit) and not especially varietal tempranillo made with organic grapes. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Cantina Cellaro Luma 2016 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Sicilian red, made with the nero d’avola grape, was either oxidized (doubtful, given the vintage) or so extracted and so overripe that it was about as Sicilian as my Honda. Imported by Gonzalez Bypass

Mini-reviews 106: Day Owl rose, Basque wine, Bousquet, and Innocent Bystander

day owlReviews 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.

Day Owl Rose 2017 ($13, sample, 12%): Intriguing California pink made with the barbera grape, not common in California or in rose. It’s still a bit young and a little heavier than I like (thanks to the barbera), but it’s a solid effort. Look for very aromatic cherry fruit and a sort of stony finish.

Etxeberria Bengoetxe 2015 ($20, purchased, 12%): This Spanish white from the Getariako Txakolina appellation in the Basque region is about as geeky as wine gets. The grape, hondarribi zuri, is past obscure, while the wine will sometimes have a little natural carbonation. Or not, as the case may be. It’s lemony and soft, but not sweet, and almost savory. Highly recommended, especially for summer.

Domaine Bousquet Sparkling Brut Rose NV ($13, sample, 12%): Fruity Argentine bubbly (berries?) that isn’t quite Prosecco, but soft and missing a little oomph. Not badly done, but $13 can buy more interesting sparkling.

Innocent Bystander Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($15, sample, 13%): One note New Zealand white, and that note is red grapefruit from beginning to end. This is professionally made wine, which makes me wonder – and at this price – why they didn’t try to add some complexity.