Category:Wine of the week

Wine of the week: Lucien Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvee Balthazar 2018

Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvee BalthazarThe Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvee Balthazar, an Alsatian white, offers terroir and varietal character at a more than a fair price

One reason why the Wine Curmudgeon buys so much wine to review is that too many of the samples I get taste like bowdlerized plonk. And yes, if you don’t know bowdlerized, click the link. It’s worth knowing. Those wines are the reason why I bought the Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvee Balthazar.

Best yet, this is an Alsatian wine that’s actually affordable. Producers in this part of France used to export great cheap whites (remember when the Hugel Gentil cost $10 and not $16?), but prices started going up before the recession, when all “high-end” French wine became more expensive.

So don’t miss the chance to buy the Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvee Balthazar ($13, purchased, 13%). Riesling is the most common Alsatian white, but the region makes excellent pinot blanc, too. These wines are drier, but not especially rich or tart. The Albrecht pinot blanc offers pear fruit, a fresh and appealing body, and a long, stony finish. The bottle was gone much too quickly.

Highly recommended. Pair this with any summer salad or grilled seafood or chicken.

Imported by Foley Family Artisan Imports & Spirits

Wine of the week: Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2016

Masciareli Montepulciano d'AbruzzoThe Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a brilliant, well-made, and delicious $10 Italian red wine

Some things, fortunately, haven’t changed for the worse during the duration. One of them is the Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

I first tasted this wine at the beginning of 2019 and loved it. My notes ask, “Where has this wine been all my life?” But, somehow, I neglected to use it on the blog. So when I saw a bottle of the Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($10, purchased, 13%) on wine.com, I bought it again, and this review is the result.

Wines from Italy’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo region have traditionally been terrific values, and this one is no exception. It tastes Italian and it tastes like the montepulciano grape it is made with (and which is not the same thing as the region). Plus, as the Italian Wine Guy pointed out to me, the producer cares about quality, and isn’t in this to fob off faux Italian wines on an unsuspecting public.

It’s not too much to call this wine brilliant, well-made, and delicious — everything $10 wine should be. The fruit this time wasn’t quite as dark and plummy as it was in 2019 (more tart and zippy, actually), but it was still earthy and still had all that bright Italian acidity. Mushroom ragu, anyone?

Highly recommended, and it should join the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame in January, as well as make the short list for 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Wine of the week: Torres Verdeo 2018

torres verdeoThe Torres Verdeo offers a welcome and refreshing take on Spanish verdejo

The Wine Curmudgeon hasn’t been able to visit his local shops as much as usual during the duration, which means I’ve been buying more from national wine retailers. That also means I’ve had to drink more Big Wine products than usual, and many of them have been as expected. On the other hand, there have been a variety of pleasant surprises, including the Torres verdeo.

The Spanish white comes from a branch of the Torres family, which has been making wine in Spain for five generations and 150 years. It’s best known for Sangre de Toro, a supermarket red wine that comes with a plastic bull. The Torres Verdeo ($11, purchased, 13%) costs three or four dollars more, but it also tastes like this part of the family wants to do something a little different than make supermarket red wine.

The wine is made with the verdejo grape, which can be turned into into quality cheap wine but can also be tart or bitter or both. In this, the Torres verdeo is a step up, much better than I expected (and this comes from someone who has bought and enjoyed cases and cases of the Sangre de Toro). It’s almost layered, so that the lime flavors aren’t quite as limey as in less well made versions, and there seems to be the taste of some kind of stone fruit. Plus, the wine shows an almost nutty oiliness that rarely shows up in wines of this price.

If not highly recommended, certainly worth trying, and I will taste a second bottle to see if this is a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Wine of the week: CVNE Vina Real Rosado 2019

CVNE rosadoThe CVNE rosado is Spanish pink that does exactly what it should do for $11 – and even a little more

It’s difficult to believe, as we celebrate the blog’s 13th annual Memorial Day and rose extravaganza, that most wine drinkers used to think rose and white zinfandel were the same thing. That’s why, back then, it wasn’t always easy to find quality rose. But when you did, it was Spanish more often than not. The CVNE rosado continues that tradition.

The CVNE rosado ($11, sample, 12.5%) is a blend of tempranillo, garnacha, and viura, a white grape. The combination, if not uncommon, offers an interesting take on a typical tempranillo rose. Here, the viura adds a little lemon something or other to the tempranillo’s cherry fruit, which is welcome and interesting. It lightens the cherry and gives the wine a lift in the middle that it might not otherwise have. Plus, all the other qualities that make Spanish rose shine are there – the freshness and that lingering finish, a little crisp, a little tart, and even a little minerally.

This is a well-made rose, and CVNE once again shows why it’s one of my favorite cheap wine producers. It also makes the well-done Cune rose, which costs a little less. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Arano LLC

Wine of the week: Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin 2018

villa maria pinot noirThe Villa Maria pinot noir is simple but structured — a fine value for pinot noir

There’s no reason why the Villa Maria pinot noir should be such a value and taste so much like pinot noir. It’s almost a Big Wine product, for one thing, and it’s almost impossible to find quality pinot noir at this price.

Nevertheless, that’s the case – a welcome relief in these days of sweet, focus grouped pinot. In fact, you can’t ask more from the Villa Maria ($14, purchased, 13%) at this price. It isn’t complex, but it is structured, with an almost Burgundian forest floor aroma, some herbs and tannins, and lots of bright berry fruit in the New Zealand pinot style. It’s especially impressive for an entry level product.

So how does this happen? For one thing, Villa Maria is still owned by the Fistonich family; its Big Wine deal is an import agreement with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and the latter is lot more hands off when it comes to telling its “partners” what to do. Second, I was lucky enough to meet Villa Maria founder Sir George Fistonich early in the blog’s history. He impressed me as someone who cared about the wine his company made in a way that too many others don’t.

Serve the Villa Maria pinot noir with the usual suspects, like lamb and salmon, but don’t be afraid to experiment with it. It would make terrific coq a vin, both as the wine for the chicken and to drink with the dinner. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Wine of the week: Tiamo Pinot Grigio NV

tiamo pinot grigioYes, the Tiamo pinot grigio comes in a can – but it’s still top-notch cheap wine

Canned wine, for all its success in the U.S., has been held back by two things: canned formats are confusing, and the price too often reflects convenience and not quality. That’s where the Tiamo pinot grigio comes in.

The Tiamo pinot grigio ($5/375 ml can, sample, 12%) does what most other canned wines don’t: It tastes like the grape it’s made from, the quality matches the price, and it’s wine and not a sugared up canned beverage for the beach. In this, it could be the best canned wine I’ve tasted save for the Tiamo grillo, which is no longer available.

And it’s one of the best pinot grigios I’ve tasted in a while, canned or otherwise. This Italian white wine is crisp and clean, but it’s missing the tonic water finish that passes for varietal character in other cheap pinot grigios. Best yet, it has actual fruit flavors — some not quite ripe stone fruit that isn’t cloying or overdone. And at $5 for the equivalent of a half bottle, it offers plenty of value.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. This is back porch wine for Mother’s Day in the age of social distancing, and it wouldn’t be bad for an indoor campout, either.

Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Wine of the week: La Vieille Ferme Rose 2019

La Vieille Ferme roseLong-time favorite La Vieille Ferme rose reminds us how great cheap wine can be — and what better time to be reminded?

The wine world is in trouble, and it’s not just the coronavirus pandemic. Sales are down, the European tariff is still with us, and younger consumers are drinking something else. How to solve the problem? Make more wines like the La Vieille Ferme rose.

What better way to remember why we love wine than to open a bottle of the new vintage of the La Vieille Ferme rose ($10, purchased, 13%)? There are few better ways to improve the irritations caused by a stay at home order than sipping this French pink wine. Sip and savor, close your eyes, and remind yourself that this too will end. You’ll be surprised at how well that will work.

Look for minerality and barely ripe strawberry fruit, as well as the freshness that should be an integral part of all roses. And marvel at the price – this wine can still be found for as little as $8, despite the 25 percent tariff.

In fact, the point with the La Vieille Ferme rose is just not that it’s worth drinking or that it offers value. Lots of wines do that. Rather, since the producer decided to improve quality four years ago, the wine has remained a well-made, quality cheap pink. That just doesn’t happen much in post-modern wine, where it’s easier to let quality slip, ride the wave, and make up the difference with a cute label or fancy marketing (and especially for rose).

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. (And a tip of the WC’s fedora to everyone who has noticed that I regularly mis-type “LaVieille.” I’ve quadruple-checked the spelling this time, and I think they are all correct.)

Imported by Vineyard Brands