Category:Wine reviews

Wine of the week: McGuigan The Plan 2016

McGuigan The PlanMcGuigan The Plan – an Aussie shiraz that shows sense and sensibility

Australian red wines are infamous for high alcohol, jammy, too ripe fruit, and an absence of balance. So what’s the catch with McGuigan The Plan, which clocks in at an almost unbelievable 12.5 percent alcohol?

Chalk it up to the wonderful unpredictability of wine, where we should regularly discover how little we actually know. McGuigan The Plan ($13, purchased, 12.5%), though it’s from a top producer, is about the last thing one expects from an Australian red made with shiraz – it shows sense and sensibility, to steal a phrase. Yes, it’s rich and fruity, with lots and lots of blackberry. But the wine isn’t hot or sweet, the way some too alcoholic wines can be. Plus, there’s a little spice (and maybe even some pepper) in the middle. And I could swear I tasted a tannin or two. Honest.

In this, McGuigan The Plan is one more reason not to judge a wine before you taste it. It needs food, but with summer burgers or barbecue, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Imported by Palm Bay International

Fourth of July wine 2020

forth of july wine 2020Fourth of July wine 2020: Four bottles to enjoy for the United States’ 244th birthday

The Unites States celebrates its 244th birthday on Saturday, which means a need for quality cheap wine. Hence, these suggestions from the Wine Curmudgeon. As always, keep our summer wine and porch wine guidelines in mind: Lighter, fresher wines, even for red, since lots of oak and high alcohol aren’t especially refreshing when it’s 98 degrees outside (which is the forecast for Dallas).

Consider these Fourth of July wine 2020 suggestions:

MAN Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): This South African white is well-made and enjoyable — citrus (softer lemon?), but fruitier than France though not as tart as New Zealand. Simple, but enjoyable and a fine value. Imported by Vineyard Brands

Olivares Altos de la Hoya 2017 ($12, purchased, 14.5%): This Spanish red, mostly monastrell, is a heavy, more Parker-style effort that is mostly balanced. There’s lots of dark fruit, and though it’s a bit hot, there is a surprisingly clean finish. Imported by Rare Wine Co.

Masciarelli Rosato 2019 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This Italian pink is a revelation: Barely ripe strawberry fruit, an almost chalky finish, and so much else going on it’s difficult to believe that it doesn’t cost $18 and have a too cute label. Highly recommended. Imported by Vintus, LLC

Princesa Brut Nature Cava NV ($12, purchased, 11.5%): Brut nature is the driest sparkling wine, and this Spanish bubbly doesn’t disappoint. It’s crisp, very dry, and has cava’s trademark apple and pear fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Quintessential

Photo: “20150702_182103000_iOS” by annisette64 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

More Fourth of July wine:
Fourth of July wine 2018
Fourth of July wine 2018
Fourth of July wine 2017
Wine of the week: La Vieille Ferme Rose 2019

Wine of the week: Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2019

pedroncelli roseCalifornia’s Pedroncelli rose is one of the best pinks from the 2019 vintage – balanced, fruity, and delicious

It’s not easy making quality rose out of the zinfandel grape, and not just because zinfandel tends to make a heavier wine. It’s also because well-made zinfandel roses don’t necessarily taste like the roses most consumers expect – light and fresh and crisp. Which is why the California Pedroncelli rose is worth writing about, for it offers zinfandel’s fruit and spice in a pleasing and enjoyable way.

The Pedroncelli rose ($12, sample, 13.7%) is always top-notch every vintage, but the 2019 is one of the best I have tasted from anywhere this rose season, and certainly and among the best the winery has made in many years. It isn’t especially heavy, and the spice – and even a little pepper – is pleasingly noticeable in the middle, after a burst of zinfandel-ish berry fruit. Plus, the wine finishes cleanly and doesn’t feel syrupy or overdone in the mouth.

Highly recommended and a candidate for the 2021 Hall of Fame. Drink this chilled on on its own, or enjoy it with almost any Fourth of July barbecue.

Mini-reviews 134: OZV, CK Mondavi, Domaines Ott, Tour de Bonnet

ozvReviews 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.

OZV Red 2017 ($13, sample, 14%): Yes, way too much fake vanilla and way too much berry fruit without anything in the back, like tannins or a finish. So hardly balanced. But all things considered, it’s more than drinkable – and if you like this style, it’s a fine value.

CK Mondavi Pinot Grigio 2019 ($6, sample, 13.5%): Cheap supermarket pinot grigio, which means no character, no flavor, and not much else save some tonic water flavor. One more reason why cheap doesn’t always mean worth buying.

Domaines Ott By.Ott Rose 2019 ($25, purchased, 13.5%): French rose that tastes more California than Provencal and comes in a heavy bottle with these winemaker notes: “Lovely pink hue with glistening golden highlights.” Ouch. This much money should buy a much better bottle of wine. Imported by Maison Marques & Domaines USA

Château Tour de Bonnet Blanc 2019 ($13, purchased, 13%): This Total Wine private label is mostly a New Zealand sauvignon blanc knockoff, and not very white Bordeaux-like. This is annoying, since it’s from Bordeaux and not New Zealand. Not to be confused with this wine. Imported by Saranty Imports.

Wine of the week: Balnea Verdejo 2018

Balnea VerdejoThe Balnea verdejo is a stunning wine, one of the best of its type I’ve tasted in years

Verdejo is a common Spanish white grape used to make lots and lots of wine, most of it OK and some even more than OK. But the Wine Curmudgeon had not tasted a verdejo as decidedly uncommon as the Balnea verdejo in a long time – if ever.

The Balnea Verdejo ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is a stunning wine, somehow layered and almost nuanced – but costing nothing more than a bottle of very ordinary supermarket plonk that tastes sweet and syrupy. A wine of this quality at this price, and especially these days, is nearly unprecedented.

Look for almost candied lemon fruit, although the Balnea is not a sweet wine; an almost flinty minerality; and a fullness in the mouth that is rare in verdejo at any price, given how simple most of the wines are and how tart lemon fruit is their reason for being.

Highly recommended and a wine destined for the 2021 Hall of Fame. And it is almost certainly on the short list for the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year.
Imported by Wines of Spain

Father’s Day wine 2020

Father's Day wine 2020Father’s Day wine 2020: Four wines to make Dad proud

Pandemic got you down? Worried about more wine tariffs? Tired of buying overpriced but not very good wine? Then check out the blog’s Father’s Day wine 2020, where we allow for all of that. Just keep the blog’s wine gift-giving guidelines in mind throughout the process: Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.

Father’s Day wine 2020 suggestions:

Pedroncelli Friends.red 2018 ($11, sample, 14.2%): This red blend from one of my favorite producers is what all inexpensive California wine should aspire to — soft but not sappy, fruity but not syrupy (dark berries?), balanced and enjoyable. There’s even a tannin wandering around the back. Highly recommended.

Vinha do Cais da Ribeira Douro 2018 ($9, purchased, 12.5%): Rustic Portuguese white blend, mostly available at Total Wine, that has a touch of citrus and a little minerality. Be better at $7, but still a fair value. Imported by Middlesex Wine & Spirits

Bodegas Olivares Rosado 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): Grenache-based Spanish pink that combines the grape’s red fruit with long acidity and even a touch of minerality. Much more interesting that it should be and highly recommended.

Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux Brut Rosé 2017 ($15, purchased, 12.5%): Bright, fresh, and fruity sparkling (lots of red fruit) from Bordeaux, and the bubbles are zippy, too.. Not particularly subtle, and you won’t find any brioche or biscuit. But why would you need to?

More Father’s Day wine:
Father’s Day wine 2019
Father’s Day wine 2018
Father’s Day wine 2017
Expensive wine 131: Justin Isosceles 2015

Wine of the week: LAN Rioja Crianza 2016

LAN Rioja CrianzaThe Spanish LAN Rioja Crianza is red wine for a Father’s Day cookout

What do you need to know about the LAN Rioja Crianza?

• A terrific price, as little as $10 in some parts of the country.

• More than decent availability (91 results on wine-searcher, as one example).

• A surprisingly decent score on CellarTracker, given how its members look down on wines like this.

In other words, buy a bottle of the LAN Rioja Crianza ($12, purchased, 13.5%) and enjoy it for Father’s Day. It’s a step up from something like Aldi’s La Cornada – better grape quality and even a bit of oak. In this, it’s classic crianza from Spain’s Rioja region, the entry level wine made with tempranillo. Look for cinnamon, maybe something orangeish in the aroma, red cherry and berry fruit, and nary a tannin out of place. And the oak doesn’t get in the way, actually adding to the whole.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to appear in the 2021 Hall of Fame. Pair this with almost anything on the grill, be it sausage, burgers, chicken, or pizza.

Imported by Mid-State Wine & Liquors