Category:Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Chateau de la Ragotiere Muscadet 2019

Chateau de la Ragotiere MuscadetThe Chateau de la Ragotiere Muscadet is a French white that offers more than simple pleasure at a more than fair price

The Wine Curmudgeon appreciates Muscadet, the white wine made with the goofily-named melon de bourgogne grape, and would drink it often if it was more readily available. So those of you who figure the wine world ends with chardonnay, save for a brief visit to sauvignon blanc every once in a while, can skip this and wait for tomorrow’s post.

Why my affection for Muscadet? Because it’s cheap, usually well made, and offers a glimpse of all of the amazing wines in the world – if we’re willing open our minds.

Case in point is the Chateau de la Ragotiere ($13, purchased, 12.5%), which is a fair value even at this price. Imagine it at $10 in a tariff-less world.

Melon de bourgogne wines are not necessarily complex, but even the simple ones are usually worth drinking. The Chateau de la Ragotiere is not simple by any means – surprisingly rich and full for a Muscadet, thanks to extended aging in the winery (another bonus for the price). Look for some lemon and soft apple fruit mingling with more minerality than I expected.

Highly recommended. Drink this on its own as the weather warms up, and it’s also a wine to pair with seafood that is a little more complex than grilled shrimp – something with a pan sauce, for instance, using the wine.

Imported by Vineyard Brands


Mini-reviews 142: Dueling Pistols, Grgich, Frenzy, Louis Jadot

dueling pistolsReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

Dueling Pistols Red Blend 2016 ($50, sample, 14%): Surprisingly restrained red blend from California’s Paso Robles, with more juiciness than sweet fruit. Look for cherry fruit, a long, almost stony finish, and and fine, almost earthy tannins. Very nicely done.

Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignom 2014 ($72, sample, 14.5%): This red from one of California’s most respected long-time producers is everything it should be – fruity (dark berries?), rich, complex, and age worthy.

Frenzy Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($12 purchased, 12.5%): Typical “meh” supermarket New Zealand sauvignon blanc – lots of grapefruit and not much else. Imported by Wilson Daniels

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2019 ($12, purchased, 13%): This French red might taste better when and if you try it; I found it fruity (cherries?), but so tart as to be unpleasant. This producer’s quality control has become notoriously inconsistent. Imported by Kobrand

Wine of the week: Carletto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2017

Carletto Montepulciano d'AbruzzoThe Carletto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a $10 Italian red that’s a step from most $10 Italian reds

The blog features a lot of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, the red wine from the middle of Italy. That’s because it’s cheap, dependable, terrific with food, and almost always well made. If the wines have a flaw, it’s that they all tend to taste more or less the same. The Carletto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, on the other hand, is cheap and well made – but far from just another bottle of d’Abruzzo.

The Carletto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2017 ($10, purchased, 13%) has a little more interest and heft than similar wines. Yes, it’s made with the montelpuciano grape, like the others, but it’s more balanced and more structured. Maybe it’s the age, unusual for a $10 wine, or paying more attention in the wine room.

Look for lots of cherry fruit, but also some dark spices and freshness in the back that is more than just the contrast between the fruit and the wine’s natural acidity. In this, it’s much more than spaghetti wine; serve it with something more complex and complicated, including roast lamb.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2022 Hall of Fame and Cheap Wine of the Year.

Imported by Arel Group

Wine to drink during rolling power blackouts

power blackouts
The idea is to have cheap wine in the house so you don’t have to drive in this mess to buy cheap wine to drink during rolling power blackouts.

Three wines to drink during Texas’ rolling power blackouts — because that’s when you really need quality cheap wine

The weather in Dallas for the past 10 days has been exceptional – record, almost sub-zero cold and more snow in a couple of days than we usually get in a couple of years. As such, we’ve had rolling power blackouts thanks to the unprecedented electrical demand. Here at Wine Curmudgeon World Headquarters in Dallas, the power went off eight times between Sunday and Wednesday — and I was luckier than most, who didn’t have any power at all. And a friend in suburban Arlington lost water, and had to use snow to flush the toilet.

Fortunately, I have lots of sweaters, as well as flashlights positioned around the house. Churro, the blog’s associate editor, showed grace under pressure — he barely objected when I wiped his feet off after a trip outside.

The situation raises two questions: First, how did the state’s grid operator get in this mess, which isn’t really in the purview of the blog (though I have had long experience with Texas’ electricity ineptness). Second, what wine to drink during rolling power blackouts?

Fortunately, the WC has the second one covered:

Grunhaus Maximin Riesling 2017 ($15, purchased, 11%): One more very pleasant German riesling surprise – sort of sweet, lemony, almost sparkly. It’s not complicated, but it is German in style. Highly recommended. Imported by Loosen Bros. USA

Fantini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2018 ($10, purchased, 13.5%): This vintage of an always dependable Italian red blend is a touch more interesting – a little earthier, more intriguing cherry fruit, and a little more complex. Just the thing for my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs, and especially when it’s snowing outside. Imported by Empson USA

Marquis de la Tour Brut NV ($10, purchased, 11%): This French bubbly from the Loire, made in the charmat style, is soft, a little sweet (honey?), with tight bubbles and lemon and apple fruit. Very nicely done, and especially for the price. Imported by Palm Bay International

More about wine and weather:
Porch wine for the long, hot summer
Wine to drink when the electricity goes out – yet again
Wine to drink when the air conditioner is replaced

Photo courtesy of Dallas Morning News

Wine of the week: Herdade do Esporao Monte Velho Branco 2019

Monte Velho BrancoThe Monte Velho Branco is another Portuguese white blend that does $10 wine proud

Portuguese wine has been one of the great cheap wine surprises of the past several years. Quality – and availability – has continued to improve, but prices have remained around $10. Maybe the Portuguese know something the rest of the world doesn’t?

Consider the Herdade do Esporao Monte Velho Branco 2019 ($10, purchased, 14%). Like the Alandra Branco, a white from the same producer and a long-time blog favorite, the Monte Velho is modern in style but Portuguese in temperament. That means traditional grapes (no chardonnay!) that most of us have never heard of, including antao vaz, perrum, and roupeiro. The first is common in the Alentejo region, and gives the wine its distinctive stone fruit flavors.

Look for almost floral aromas and a little spice and brightness to offset the stone fruits. This is not a complicated wine, but it’s hardly simple, either. Pair it with it grilled vegetables or chickpea and sausage stew. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2022 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Now Imports

Wine of the week: Graham Beck Cap Classique Brut NV

Graham Beck Cap ClassiqueThe Graham Beck Cap Classique Brut is a South African sparkler that specializes in quality and value

South Africa’s Graham Beck sparkling wines have long offered value and quality. But like many South African wines, availability has sometimes been a problem. That has especially been the case in the past couple of years, no doubt because premiumization made them seem too cheap and consolidation made it more difficult to get them on store shelves.

So it was with great joy that I scooped up the Graham Beck Cap Classique Brut ($15, purchased, 12%) when I found it on a store shelf. Sparkling wine at this price does not get much better, even if it’s one of my beloved cavas.

Look for tight bubbles, enough fruit so that it’s noticeable (green apples and lemon?), some minerality, and just enough creaminess for people who like that sort of thing in their sparkling wine. Even better, it doesn’t have any of the things that too many bubblies at this price pass off as acceptable – extra sweetness, a bitter finish, and big, sloppy bubbles.

Highly recommended, and especially with The Holiday that Must Not be Named taking place next week. A candidate for the 2022 Hall of Fame, and almost worth considering, despite the price, for the 2022 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Imported by Beck Family Estates

Expensive wine 141: Besserat de Bellefon Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru Brut NV

Besserat de BellefonYes, it’s pricey, but the Besserat de Bellefon is Champagne the way it should be

The Champagne business is suffering during the pandemic. A couple of weeks ago, it reported that sales fell by some $1.2 billion in 2020, dropping 18 percent in volume. Who would have thought?

Hence, the Besserat de Bellefon Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru ($90, sample, 12.5%) – and just in time for The Holiday that Must Not be Named.

The Besserat’s price is purely a function of premiumization; Champagne has managed to avoid the Trump wine tariffs. The region’s sales decline is a function of this surge in prices, as well as the pandemic’s hit on restaurant wine sales. Not many of us want to spend this much money on a bottle of Champagne for dinner at home.

The Besserat’s quality has nothing to do with premiumization. This is top-notch sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, offering everything one would expect of a high-priced bubbly. Look for some citrus and floral notes mixed with the almost toast-like aroma that high-end Champagne is known for. The fruit is a little softer than chardonnay; thank red apple and stone fruits. The bubbles, of course, are quite tight..

It’s not often I get to taste a wine that costs this much, but the Besserat de Bellefon was worth waiting for.

Imported by Winesellers Ltd.