Category:Spanish wine

Wine review: Sangre de Toro 2006

sangre de toroSomewhere in my house, either stuffed in a drawer or buried in a box, are probably hundreds of the little plastic bulls that are attached to the neck of the bottle of the Sangre de Toro, a Spanish red blend. When I started doing this 20-some odd years ago, I drank a lot of what I called bull wine. It was $6 or $7 then, well made, and dependable.

I haven;t had Sangre de Toro in years. No reason to, really. I thought I knew what it tasted like, and I thought I had outgrown it. Which is a good reason to repeat the Wine Curmudgeon mantra: “Taste the wine before you judge it, dummy.”

So I bought a bottle for about $10, took it home, unscrewed the cap (a welcome change from the old days) and discovered that the wine has remained relevant. These days, it ?s made with Spanish versions of grenache and carignan. The former gives it fruitiness I don’t remember from before, while the latter adds body. It was fine on its own before dinner, and would also pair with simple red wine food — burgers, sausages, and the like.

Wine of the week: Osborne Solaz Cabernet-Tempranillo 2006

image There is a chance this isn ?t the world ?s most perfect cheap wine. But it ?s a very small chance. This Spanish red is $7, and it has body and structure that most $7 wines can only dream of. It has remarkable fruit; usually, cheap wine either has body or fruit, but rarely both.

What ?s even more impressive is that the Solaz is consistent from vintage to vintage, something else that you don ?t see in quality cheap wine. Most good inexpensive wines will have a four-, five-, or six-year run, and then fade from the scene like old ballplayers. That ?s what happened to two of my all-time favorites, Hogue ?s sauvignon blanc and a red blend from France, Jaja de Jau. Great wine, and then not great.

But not the Solaz. How good is it? Even Robert Parker agrees with me, and how often does that happen?

This should please the cabernet drinkers at Thanksgiving dinner. But save it for Saturday night when everyone has gone home and you ?re alone and worn out and you feel like take out pizza. Open the Solaz then, and marvel at how they do it.

Wine of the week: Garnacha de Fuego 2007

The Wine Curmudgeon has never been a huge fan of this wine, mostly because it cost as little as $6 and $7 in other parts of the country, but as much as $12 and even $15 in Dallas. Lately, though, the price in this area seems to have settled closer to $10. That makes this Spanish red a fine bargain.

Garnacha is a grape that produces very fruity wines with little in the way of tannins. This one has a lot of red fruit, but it's not especially heavy, which is a testament to Spanish wine making skills. The wine magazines adore this wine, and I've never quite been able to figure out why. One reason, probably, is that it's imported by Jorge Ordonez, who is one of the best at bringing Spanish wine into the U.S.

Drink this on its own, because it's light enough, or with pizza or similar casual food. It will also be more than adequate with Thanksgiving dinner (and don ? tell anyone, but the non-wine drinkers might even enjoy it chilled).

Wine of the week: Segura Viudas Brut Rose NV

imageHow much did the Wine Curmudgeon like this Segura Viudas? I went back to the store and bought a second bottle the next day.

This is classic cheap wine, as well as pretty good bubbly in its own right. It ?s $10 and well made, balanced, bone dry and fruity, with an almost pinot noir berry-like flavor. Which is a neat trick, since it doesn ?t have any pinot in it.

Segura Viudas is best known for its more expensive sparkler, the bottle with the pewter fittings (which is even more dry than this). It ?s part of the Freixenet cava empire (cava being the term for Spanish sparkling wine), and I don ?t know that I ?ve had a Freixenet bubbly that didn ?t have something to recommend it. Serve this on its own for holiday toasts or with seafood (lobster rolls would be terrific) or roast chicken.

Wine of the week: Cristalino Rose NV

Cris 2
The high temperature here has been 100 degrees or more for most of the past month, which makes the Wine Curmudgeon even crankier than usual. Which is pretty cranky,

So what do I do on a sun-blaring, lawn-scorching Tuesday evening after a long, trying day of dealing with editors? Open a bottle of Cristalino ?s rose (about $8), of course.

First, it ?s cheap, which always cheers me up. Second, it ?s bubbles, which cheers me up even more. Third, it ?s well-made, delicious, cheap bubbles, which cheers me up most of all. The rose is bone dry, refreshing and brisk, with low alcohol, a bit of strawberry and caramel, and lots of fizz. I ?m not exaggerating: It ?s amazing how much better this wine makes me feel.

And I ?m not the only who feels that way. Cristalino sparklers have won just about every award possible from those of us who care about good cheap wine, from my $10 Hall of Fame to the New York Times to the Wine Magazines (as difficult as that is to believe). Drink this well-chilled, and serve it with everything from those Tuesday night leftovers to Indian or Thai (it ?s more than fruity enough for the spice) to big salads.

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Roses: The good, the best, and the better

If it’s summer and you have $10, you can buy a pretty good rose — and sometimes even get change back. In fact, this may be the best rose season in memory. The Wine Curmudgeon can’t remember when he has seen more quality pink wine at an affordable price.

For some reason, the slowing economy and the weak dollar, which have pushed up a variety of other wine prices, haven’t done the same for rose. In addition, the “rose is hip, so let’s charge $20 a bottle” trend, which has been big the past couple of summers, seems to be running out of steam. There are still pink wines that cost that much, but the focus has returned to where it should be ? quality stuff for $15 and much less.

What do you need to know about rose? It’s a fruity wine that’s not as heavy as most red wines and even some whites. But it’s not sweet. That’s white zinfandel or white merlot or whatever, and if that’s what you drink, give rose a try.

Also, rose’s fruit flavors are mostly red berries (think strawberry), as opposed to the white fruits or citrus of most white wines. Roses should be served chilled, and they pair pretty much with any food, including beef and barbecue — some of them are that dry.

A note on vintages: Look for 2007, and be wary if anyone sells anything much earlier than 2006. Roses are not made to age, and should be fresh and flavorful. The color in older vintages starts to fade, like paper that yellows.

Any of the following are well worth trying, and this is far form a complete list. One of the beauties of :rose is that they ?re cheap enough to try, so try lots of them:

• From France: Tortoise Creek ($9), Matignon Cabernet d’Anjou, ($10), Fat Bastard ($10), and Pink Criquet ($15). Some of the Fat Bastard wines don’t impress me, but this one does. And the Pink Criquet, made with St. Emillion grapes, is especially impressive.

• From Spain: Cortijo III ($8), Espelt Corali ($10), and Faustino V ($9). Actually, I tasted about a dozen Spanish roses this spring, and all were worth drinking.

• From the U.S.: McPherson Cellars ($12), Toad Hollow ($11), and Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare ($13).

Wine of the week: Rene Barbier Mediterranean White NV

image My specialty is $10 wine, but even I’m surprised when I find quality wine for much less than $10. Below that price, producers are more concerned with profit margins than with quality, and much-sub $10 wine tastes like it. The reds are harsh and raw, and the whites are green and unripe. The alternative is sugaring the wine to mask those flavors, and that brings unpleasantness all its own.

Which is why I was stunned to find the Barbier ($4.99 at World Market) during my research for a $6 wine story that will run in the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth next week. It’s terrific — clean and crisp, with lemon, some minerality and a floral aroma. It ?s made with the same grapes used in Spanish sparkling wine like Cristalino, though it tastes quite different. Serve it as a porch sipper or with anything made with garlic and parsley. It will also pair well with Fourth of July grilled chicken. One caveat: Make sure it’s well chilled. The warmer the wine gets, the thinner and less interesting it tastes.