Category:Wine of the week

Wine of the week: Chateau La Graviere Blanc 2019

Chateau La Graviere BlancThis vintage of the Chateau La Graviere Blanc reminds us it’s possible to make great cheap wine despite all of the post-modern obstacles

The Wine Curmudgeon has been remiss. Blame it on the pandemic or the rigors of daily wine writing or simply an oversight on my part, but I have not yet praised the current vintage of the Chateau La Graviere Blanc.

So consider it praised. This version of the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year is again top-notch – professional, well-made, and quality wine. Best yet, despite the Trump Administration tariff, the Chateau La Graviere ($10, sample, 13%) has not appreciated 25 percent in price.

This French white blend sports the usual grassiness and citrus, but, as always, restrained and not the wine’s reason for being. New Zealand sauvignon blanc this is not. In fact, there seems to be some sort of stone fruit (from the muscadelle in the blend with the sauvignon blanc, perhaps?) that makes the wine a touch softer and almost more interesting.

In addition, the 2019 may even age a little – become a little stonier and less soft? And how often can we say that about a wine at his price? Once again, highly recommended and certain to return to the Hall of Fame in January.

Imported by Luneau USA

 

Wine of the week: Mont Gravet Carignan 2018

Mont Gravet CarignanThe Mont Gravet Carignan offers value and quality and interest – impressive in any wine, and even more so for $10

This vintage of the Mont Gravet Carignan, a red wine from France, isn’t as amazing as the 2015, which was one of the great cheap wines of all time. But that doesn’t mean the 2018 isn’t a terrific cheap wine.

Because it is. The Mont Gravet Carignan 2018 ($10, purchased, 12%) is everything a great $10 wine should be – professionally made, varietally correct, and interesting. Why interesting?

• It’s not tannic, but it’s not the kind of “smoooooth” wine that a focus group would approve of.

• It’s made with carignan, usually used for blending. So it doesn’t taste like cabernet sauvignon, merlot or pinot noir. Which is OK, since it’s not supposed to.

• It’s both food friendly (burgers and fajitas) and something to drink when you feel like a glass of red wine. That just doesn’t happen much any more.

Look for berry fruit, not quite brambly and not too much of it, plus a little bit of earth (one of my favorite things about this wine every vintage). The  smidgen of tannins and acidity make the wine complete. Highly recommended, and should return to the Hall of Fame in 2021.

Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.

Wine of the week: El Coto Rioja Blanco 2018

El Coto Rioja BlancoThe El Coto Rioja Blanco delivers once again – quality Spanish white wine for $10

El Coto, one of my favorite Spanish producers, understands how to make great cheap wine – and that it’s just not about what’s in the bottle.

Does that sound odd, especially coming from the Wine Curmudgeon? Not at all. Because not only is the wine top-notch, but the El Coto Rioja Bianco doesn’t waste money on a heavy bottle with a punt, which so many $15 supermarket wines still do. Plus, it comes with a screwcap. What more could the WC ask for?

So drink and enjoy the El Coto Rioja Blanco 2018 ($10, purchased, 12%), a white wine made with almost all viura. That means it doesn’t taste like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. Rather, it’s viura as it should be: Tart, lemony, and simple without being stupid. Plus, it’s also consistent from vintage to vintage without being boring, perhaps the third hallmark of a great cheap wine after quality and minimal marketing costs. Hence, the kind of wine to buy because you know it will offer quality and value every time. And buy more than one bottle at a time.

This vintage of the El Coto Rioja Blanco may be a touch light on the back; I couldn’t tell because I enjoyed it so much that I drank it without paying enough attention. Regardless, it’s well worth drinking, and especially at this price and especially given the tariff.

Imported by Opici Wines

Expensive wine 137: St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Kabinett 2016

St. Urbans-Hof Riesling KabinettSweet? Yes, but the St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Kabinett shows how gorgeous sweet wine can be

The Wine Curmudgeon’s campaign to increase U.S. riesling consumption continues with the St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Kabinett. This vintage isn’t necessarily a typical approach to German riesling, given how cold and wet the year was, but it is a delicious one.

The St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Kabinett 2016 ($25, sample, 8.5%) is sweet – make no mistake about it. But this is not sweet as we understand it from focus group supermarket wine, but sweetness that comes from beautiful candied lemon fruit and a fresh, honeyed sweetness. In this, the acidity and minerality balance the sweetness. The former, though not necessarily noticeable, keeps the wine from being syrupy, while the latter cleans the palate at the finish. Who am I to argue with the Wine Spectator’s assessment: “Elegant.”

Highly recommended. Drink now, but would probably improve with a couple of more years in in the bottle. It also needs food – and how often do you hear that about sweet wine? The St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Kabinett would pair more effectively with something like sausage and braised cabbage than anything spicy.

Imported by HB Wine Merchants

Wine of the week: Umani Ronchi Podere Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2018

Umani Ronchi PodereWines like the Umani Ronchi Podere, a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, fill the void for quality cheap wine brought on by the Trump wine tariff

Maybe it’s shopping different retailers during the pandemic. Maybe it’s retailers stocking more well-made cheap wine because of the pandemic. Regardless, the Wine Curmudgeon has been drinking even more Montepulicano d’Aruzzo than usual over the past six months.

Which is almost always a good thing. These Italian red wines, made with a lesser known grape (montepulicano) from a lesser known region (d’Aburzzo), are usually well made and terrific values. The Umani Ronchi Podere is no exception.

The Umani Ronchi Podere ($12, purchased, 13%) is classic Montepulicano d’Abruzzo. (The first two words are the producer and Podere is the name of the wine.)  That means tart cherry fruit, a minimal amount of tannins, and acidity in the back that says drink this with sausages and red sauce. And then maybe open another bottle.

This is wine for everyday drinking, something the Italians still send to the U.S. in vast quantities – and for which the WC remains quite grateful. The tariff has limited quality cheap Spanish wine, which I have depended on more and more over the years, but the Italians have more than picked up the slack.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Vineyards Brands

 

Wine of the week: Sokol Blosser Evolution Lucky No. 9 2019

EvolutionHow about a white wine from an Oregon producer in a 1.5 liter box that works out to $9 a bottle?

We’ve heard lots about the west coast grape glut, but we haven’t seen it translate into much in the way of lower wine prices. Sokol Blosser’s Evolution white blend, the Lucky No. 9, might be the first of many.

That’s because it’s unusual to see a wine like the Evolution, a white blend that usually carries an Oregon appellation, in a box at this price. The 1.5-liter box works out to $9 a bottle; typically, the wine costs around $15. So what’s the catch here? It may well be all those grapes. The box has an American appellation, which means 75 percent of the grapes didn’t come from any one one state. My guess, from tasting it, is that it’s Oregon fruit with more than a fair share from California’s Central Valley, the center of the grape glut.

Which is is not say the Evolution white blend ($18/1.5 liter box, sample, 12%) isn’t worth drinking. Because it is – the kind of wine to chill, keep in the fridge, and drink when you feel like a glass. Look for the slightest hint of sweetness, and not nearly as much as I thought there would be. Plus, it’s hidden among a variety of white fruit flavors – some tropical, maybe some peach, and a pleasing sort of apricot stone bitterness.

This is a fine value, and I’m not the only one who think so. Give Sokol Blosser credit – it saw all those grapes sitting there waiting for someone to be creative and figured out how to make a quality cheap wine and still turn a profit. What a unique concept for the post-modern wine business.

Wine of the week: Hedges CMS 2017

Hedges CMSWashington state’s Hedges CMS red blend remains one of the world’s great cheap wines

The Hedges CMS red blend from Washington state has traditionally been one of the world’s great cheap wines. So why hasn’t it been on the blog since 2013? Chalk it up to premiumization and availability – its price has been as high as $16 or $17, and I haven’t seen it in Dallas in years.

Enough of the bad news. The good news is that the Hedges CMS 2017 ($12, purchased, 14%) remains everything that it has always been – a Washington state red blend that has the state’s tell-tale richness and fruitiness. But it’s also wine, which means it’s balanced and sensible and never once saw a focus group on its way to a store shelf.

CMS stands for the grapes in the blend; in this case, about two-thirds merlot, with the rest more cabernet sauvignon than syrah. Look for lots and lots of dark berries, but  some heft from the cabernet and its tannins to play off the softness of the merlot. Finally, the syrah rounds it all out. It’s just the thing for Friday night pizza, but would also pair with something much more formal.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 Hall of Fame and the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year. What’s most impressive about the Hedges is that it doesn’t sit in the mouth like a fruit bomb waiting to explode in a mess of sweet, gooey muck. Rather, it’s so well made that it even appeals to people (like me) who prefer a more Old World style, with less fruit and more acidity. What more can we ask for from a $12 wine?