Category:Wine of the week

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: Sanford Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir 2005

image Regular visitors to this space know that the Wine Curmudgeon hates overpriced wine — and that way too many wines that cost more than $10 are overpriced. So when he finds something that is expensive and fabulous, he swoons. Or as close as he can come to swooning.

The Sanford is among the best pinots made in California, and Sanford makes some of the best pinot noirs in the world. Hence, $45 is not a stretch. The wine has a bit of a red Burgundy nose and flavor, which is more rustic than those from California and Oregon. But it also has terrific California-style fruit (think cherry and raspberry), without any of the candied flavors of too many other U.S. pinots.

Drink this by itself (I shared it on a Sunday with several people who came over to talk away the afternoon) or with any classic pinot food, be it duck or beef braised in red wine.

Wine of the week: Ajello Bianca 2006

image Those of us who love cheap wine love to share cheap wine finds, which means I’ve been getting whispers about Sicilian wine for a couple of years.

The quality of Sicilian wine has improved dramatically in the past decade, while prices have stayed pretty much the same. That’s because Sicily gets very little respect from the wine snobs. In addition, most Sicilian wine is made with grapes only a master sommelier has ever heard of, which makes it more difficult to sell

The Ajello is a perfect example of all of that. It’s cheap (list price is $12, so it’s probably available for around $10 at some places) and it tastes great. Really, really great. It’s a white wine, but without any of the off-putting turpentine flavors in similarly priced pinot grigio. Instead, it’s clean, clear, and crisp, with a mineral-like finish. Don’t expect much fruit — just a bit of lemon (and you have to look for that). This wine is ideal for shellfish or grilled scallops, any kind of grilled chicken or even just drinking on a slow afternoon.

If the price holds up against the weak dollar, this is definitely a candidate for the 2009 $10 Wine Hall of Fame.

Wine of the week: Archetype Vineyards Shiraz 2005

The Wine Curmudgeon, as a general rule, does not like shiraz. (It’s one of the two main differences between Robert Parker and myself.) I find the wines to be exaggerations of what they should taste like — too much fruit, too much tannin, and too much alcohol.

So why am I writing about the Archetype? Because it manages to offer shiraz character without tasting like a parody of the grape. It’s not nearly as big and as rich as a shiraz, but much fruiter than a California or French syrah. Look for Wonderful bright berry fruit, with balance between the fruit, acid and alcohol.And, at $15, it offers exceptional value.

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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Wine of the week: Loredan Gasparini Prosecco

Italian sparkling wines are usually not my first choice. Most of the time, they/re sweeter than I like, without the crisp acidity of champagne or Spanish and New World sparkling wine. But this one is a winner, combining prosecco’s trademark 7-Up fizz with a sturdy backbone.

It’s the finish that makes the difference. Too often, Italian sparkling wines offer an interesting sweet fruitiness in the front, but nothing much after that. Part of that is intentional, especially for less expensive wines, and part of it is the way the wines are made, using the charmat method. That’s why I call it 7-Up fizz, because the taste is so reminiscent of the soft drink.

But the Gasparini (about $14) has a solid, interesting, almost steely finish. There’s actually something there, and not just the sweetness hanging around your mouth like 7-Up on a hot day.This is easily one of the best proseccos I have ever had, and a steal at this price.

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.