Category:Wine of the week

Wine of the week: Cristalino Rose NV

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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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Wine of the week: Times Ten Cellars Carignane 2007

Carignane is an odd little red grape. It ?s used mostly for blending — in California to produce jug and inexpensive red blends, and in the Rhone region of France, where it ?s the poor cousin of syrah, grenache and mouvedre.

This single-varietal carignane, from Dallas ? Time Ten Cellars ($15), shows the grape off to nice advantage. It has a funky, Rhone-like aroma (wine types call it bacon fat), but plenty of New World style fruitiness, including a big dose of cranberry (something to keep in mind come Thanksgiving). It ?s not especially tannic, and the alcohol is a well-done 13.8 percent. This makes it an ideal red wine for hot summer days and good barbecue, be it pork or smoked chicken.

And don ?t be confused about the grape ?s spelling. It ?s carignan in France and carignane in the U.S.

Wine of the week: Trimbach Riesling 2005

Wine I had to buy a bottle of wine that my mother would enjoy, but that I would have to drink as well. Which meant no fancy, hip and with it selections; rather, a tried and true wine that offered value and quality. Hence, the Trimbach (about $18), another solid effort from one of my favorite producers. Yes, it's a bit more than I'd like to spend (thank the weak dollar for that), but it's friendly enough for my mother and serious enough for me. What else can one ask for from a wine?

We drank it with a Salad Nicoise (which the Wine Curmudgeon whipped up, being a dutiful son). The wine has just enough sweetness to match the dark flavors in the salad from the olives and tuna, but it's not so sweet as to overpower the food. It's also got enough lemony acid and a minerally finish to pair well. The Trimcach family (for it is still family-owned) has learned a thing or two in the almost 400 years it has been making wine.

Wine of the week: 2006 Louis Latour Macon-Lugny Les Genievres

Maco3 It’s not often that one can find an $18 wine that will improve with age. These days, spend less than $30, and you’d better hurry up and drink it. It’s as fruity and as interesting as it’s going to get.

The Latour (about $18), though, is a welcome exception. It ?s white Burgundy, which means chardonnay, and since it ?s Macon, it means it wasn’t aged in oak.

This wine is perfectly acceptable now, and the Wine Curmudgeon drank it last weekend (with mushroom and artichoke crepes ? why are crepes so little appreciated?). It’s still a little tight, with some spiciness typical of young white Burgundies. But let it sit for a year or two, and it will open up, becoming a fuller, richer, more complex wine. In fact, I ?ll probably buy another bottle and let it sit for 12 months to see just what happens.

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Wine of the week: Smoking Loon Old Vine Zinfandel 2006

Frankly, the Wine Curmudgeon didn ?t think he ?d like this. So what happened when I tasted it? I was quite taken with its quality ? a well-made, varietally-correct zinfandel for about $8 at most grocery stores. It ?s hard to beat that (and proves, once again, not to pre-judge wine).

Unlike some zinfandels, the Smoking Loon wasn ?t especially fruity. I ?m beginning to think that lack of fruit is a function of the 2006 vintage in California, since this wasn ?t the first time I ?ve noticed it. But this was not a problem, since the wine was spicy and brambly ?- just the way zinfandel should be. It ?s a contender for next year ?s $10 Hall of Fame. Serve this with barbecue, pizza and burgers.

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.

Wine of the week: Robert Skalli South of France Chardonnay 2006

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French wine, regardless of quality, has become ridiculously expensive. (Think weak dollar.) So when I tasted this chardonnay last week at a Skalli wine lunch, I could hardly wait to write about it.

It's well-made. It combines classic French style with a touch of New World green apple fruit. And, at $18, it's not ridiculously expensive.

How does winemaker Laurent Sauvage do it? He uses grapes from a less expensive region of France, the Languedoc, and can pick and choose which grapes to use to ensure the best quality. Because he is French, he understands the proper use of oak. Combine all that with vineyard management techniques that focus on maintaining acid levels instead of getting high alcohol, and you have a winner.

How big a hit was this wine? We had eight wines to choose from for lunch, and almost everyone picked the chardonnay. We ate it with chicken breasts in a dill sauce, and it was a smash.