Category:Spanish wine

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.

Pairing wine with fast food

One of the most common questions I get in my Cordon Bleu classes is whether wine can be paired with fast food. This usually comes from students, trying to be wise guys, who do not yet realize that the Wine Curmudgeon is all knowing and all powerful in the classroom.

Actually, I welcome the question. Showing how to pair wine with a Big Mac (think inexpensive California merlot, with some tannins and acid but lots of blueberry fruit) helps demystify the subject for the students. It also helps change their way of thinking, since most don’t realize that wine is something to drink every day, and just not on special occasions.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who gets questions about this. There is a lot more advice about this floating in the cyber-ether than I realized, whether it’s arguing whether an oenophile is allowed to do it (of course!) or White Castles with beaujolais nouveau. Which sounds mighty damn good.

And then there was this, from the Click Wine Group, which does eight labels from $10-$15, including Fat Bastard. It sent a news release around this week touting its wines’ compatibility with pizza, chicken fingers, takeout Chinese, and even burritos. Some of the pairings seemed a stretch (cabernet sauvignon with a grilled chicken burrito, for instance), but several were excellent, like riesling with a spicy chicken stir fry and a Spanish red blend with barbecued chicken pizza.

The release makes the point that Americans are not only cooking less, but ordering more takeout and delivery. This, it notes, is a reason to pair fast food with wine. That’s all well and good, I suppose, but it does miss the point I make to my classes. Wine goes with anything, regardless of where you got if from.

Wine of the week: Solaz Blanco 2007

image The Wine Curmudgeon has a closet full of free wine, samples from producers who want me to try their stuff and write about it. But I use my money to buy Solaz — and a lot of it. And why is that?

Because it's cheap, around $7. And it's well-made. And it tastes good. What more can a wine drinker ask for?

Solaz, as regular visitors here know, is the wonderfully inexpensive wine brand from Spain's Osborne, one of my favorite producers. The various red blends have long been in the $10 Wine Hall of Fame, and the white has been in a couple of years. It's made from the viura grape, a mostly Spanish varietal that produces clean, crisp and floral wines with just a bit of apple fruit. Serve this chilled with salads (I had it the other night with a chef's salad with Russian dressing), Mediterranean food like hummus or bulgur salad, or on its own.

A handy guide to wine regions, part I

image This is the first of two parts looking at ways to decipher the world’s wine regions without making your head hurt. The second part will run on Monday.

One of the most difficult concepts to get across about wine is the idea of wine regions. You can get someone to acknowledge  that wine is different depending on where it’s from, but understanding that it is something else entirely. And I won’t even mention there are more than 3,200 wine regions in the world.

Yes, they’ll say, they realize cabernet sauvignon is different from merlot which is different from chardonnay. But doesn’t all French wine (or California wine or whatever) taste the same?

No, it doesn’t. But given how complicated wine regions can be — Quick: Name the sub-AVAs within the Sonoma AVA — and it’s easy to see why people give up in confusion.

Which is why the Wine Curmudgeon exists. Wine geography does not have to be a barrier to buying and enjoying wine. It’s helpful to know that the Rhone is divided into north and south, but not essential.

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Wine of the week: Torreoria 2006

People often ask how I can tell whether a wine is good, especially inexpensive wines. And the best answer I can give is to paraphrase Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart, who was discussing obscenity: “I know it when I see it.”

And, literally, that’s what happens. I take a sip, and I know. The quality of the wine does all the work. That was the case with this $8 red, a tempranillo from the Utiel-Requena region of Valencia, which is hardly Spain’s best known wine area. But this is one of the best cheap wines I’ve had in a long time. It’s not as sophisticated as a Rioja, even an inexpensive one. And the cherry fruit was a bit muted and it was a little too vanilla-y. But this is nitpicking. I paired it with grilled Cornish hen, and it worked like a charm. This wine is a terrific value, and is almost certain to enter the $10 Hall of Fame in 2009.

Wine of the week: Freixenet Cava Brut Rosé NV

image Freixenet, once one of the best cheap Spanish cavas, has been more or less a grocery store wine in the past several years. Brands like Cristalino, Perfect and Extra offer more bang for the same or even less bucks.

So when I saw this during my New Year’s bubbly expedition, I picked it up. It was $8 — certainly worth a try. I’m glad I did. This was dry and bubbly, but with a subtle red berry fruitiness that comes out the longer the bottle is open. It’s not as rough as the Freixenet Brut, but it still has that distinctive cava tightness. Highly recommended, either for sipping on its own or with salads and even seafood.

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