Category:White wine

The 2008 $10 Wine Hall of Fame

Take a peek at the upper left hand corner, and you’ll find the new Hall of Fame.

What makes a Hall of Fame wine? There ?s not necessarily a precise explanation. It ?s better than it should be, and it ?s consistent from year to year, just like more expensive wines with better reputations. That ?s one reason wines have been dropped from the Hall of Fame, and several were this year.

Several other notes:

? These wines are generally available in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, so I don’t have to get involved in the Two Buck Chuck debate. There are no Trader Joe’s in this part of the country.

? I am not enamored of Yellow Tail, which doesn’t rise above the level of grocery store wine. They may represent good value, but they aren’t Hall of Fame wines.

? I ?m still searching for that terrific $10 Argentine malbec. Most of the malbec I ?ve tasted in this country is $15 or so; good wines, certainly, but not eligible for the Hall of Fame.

? And there is no pinot noir in the U.S. for less than $10 that is Hall worthy. The French labels like Red Bicyclette and Lulu B are easy to drink, but not especially pinot like. And most of the $10 U.S. I have tasted has some varietal character, but almost nothing else.

Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Blanc 2006

image Curse the weak dollar. Otherwise, this white blend from Bordeaux would be $8, which it used to be a couple of years ago. Then I’d have a case of it in the wine closet and I’d have no worries about what to drink for dinner when I needed some everyday white wine.

Sadly, however, the Bonnet is $13. It’s still worthwhile — just not a bargain. But the wine is very Bordeaux-like, and in that respect is still a value. There is a  hint of sauvignon blanc citrus, some semillon to take the edge off, and muscadelle for fruitiness. Plus, unusual in a wine at this price (and even more unusual at $8), it has a wonderful mineral finish that hints at what you’ll find in the sauvignon blancs of Sancerre.

Serve this chilled with any kind of seafood (raw oysters or steamed mussels come to mind) or by itself. And keep careful watch, in case your local retailer puts it on sale.

Holiday wine suggestions

A few thoughts for next week:

? For whites, consider Alsace. These wines — mostly pinot gris, riesling and gew rztraminer — are versatile, pairing with fish and chicken as well as lighter meat like pork. They aren’t the value they were a year or 18 months ago, thanks to the weak dollar, but they’re still fairly priced. Try Willm Gew rztraminer Reserve 2006 ($18), which is a touch sweet with apricot fruitiness on the front and had Alsace minerality in the back.

? Spanish reds. Regular visitors to this space know how much the Wine Curmudgeon likes Rioja, where you can still buy top-level wine for $30 or less. Look for Montecillo reservas ($15) or gran reservas ($25-$30), made by one of the true originals in the wine business, Maria Martinez Sierra. The classic pairing is game, but it also works with beef and cheese.

? Sparkling. Lindauer Brut NV ($11) is New Zealand’s best-selling bubbly, which is just another example of the country’s wine acumen. It ?s softer than a French champagne, though still not sweet. Why this wine isn’t more easily available baffles me.

Wine of the week: Tamas Estates Pinot Grigio 2005

This is a long-time favorite (it used to have another name and another label), but one that doesn’t seem to be available when I want to buy it. It’s a $13 California wine with Italian-style minerality — the flinty quality that in poorly-made pinot grigios tastes like turpentine. But it also has lots of California citrus fruitiness. This is an excellent wine to serve as an aperitif during the holiday season, or with Christmas dinner leftovers.

 

Yes, alcohol makes a difference

imageHad crab cakes — special crab cakes, made with fresh blue crab from the Gulf of Mexico from an old friend of the family — on Saturday night, so I opened a bottle of Shannon Ridge sauvignon blanc ($16). Drank one glass, and opened something else.

This is not my annual plea for winemakers to cut back on alcohol content (I’ll save that for the spring). Rather, it’s an example of why I need to make that plea. This wine is 14.1 percent alcohol — 1.1 points higher than Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc, 1.3 points higher than Bogle sauvignon blanc, and 2.1 points higher than Chateau Bonnet blanc. And that’s almost three times the alcohol content in a similar serving of beer.

The Shannon was not fresh or vibrant or lively, all trademarks of sauvignon blanc. It was not food friendly, and if we had sipped it with the crab cakes, we never would have tasted the crab.

It did not taste like sauvignon blanc. There was almost no fruit and very little acidity — just an overwhelming heaviness that made me think the wine was spoiled or that it had been aged in oak for 24 months. But it was not spoiled and it was aged six months in stainless steel. The only explanation was the high alcohol, which robbed the wine of of its character.

Why make sauvignon blanc that doesn’t taste like sauvignon blanc?

Wine of the week: Boutari Moschofilero 2006

We don ?t get much Greek wine this far in the middle of the country, which is a shame. Most Greek wine that that the Wine Curmudgeon has sampled is well-made, inexpensive and very food friendly.

This Boutari is no exception. It ?s a light, low alcohol wine that is more fruity (think melons) than sweet. The grape variety, by the way, is moschofilero ? important in Greece and almost nowhere else in the world. Serve it chilled for sipping at holiday gatherings, with salads, or to accompany a Mediterranean spread with dishes like hummus, tabouleh, pita bread, olives, yogurt cheese, and tzatziki.

Upgrading your wine for the holidays

image You ?re pretty confident about wine, as far as it goes. You know a good $10 or $12 bottle from a not-so-good one, and if one of your friends needs a recommendation for a decent red wine to take to someone ?s house for dinner, you can offer two or three suggestions.

But there ?s a holiday coming up, and so it seems like the right time to spend a bit more ? whether it ?s as a gift for the significant person in your life or to treat yourself. But if all you know is $10 wine, what do you do?

Consider the following:

? Find out if the $10 wine you like has a more expensive label. Bogle, one of the best $10 wineries, does a couple: The Phantom, a red blend, and a Russian Rover pinot noir, both around $17.

? Buy a less expensive bottle from a winery that makes high-end wines. Ridge and Newton are both expensive and well-regarded California names. But Ridge ?s Three Valleys, a red blend featuring zinfandel, is a steal at about $23. Newton ?s Claret, made with mostly merlot in the Bordeaux style, is another terrific $25 wine.

? Buy a nicer wine from a region that you like. New Zealand is famous for its $16 sauvignon blancs and pinot noirs. So why not try something like Cloudy Bay, whose prices are closer to $30?

? Upgrade your grocery store favorite. Most offer not only a basic line, but one or even two more at higher prices and, usually, better quality. Kendall-Jackson, for instance, sells its vintner ?s reserve wines for $12 to $18. The next step up is the grand reserve, where prices run from $20 to $35.