Category:Wine reviews

In search of the mysterious aligote

Burgundy’s most important grapes are chardonnay and pinot noir, which produce the best chardonnay and pinot noir in the world. So why does the Wine Curmudgeon care about aligote?

Because it is so mysterious — Burgundy’s other white grape, sometimes used to blend but often used on its own. Legend has it that Burgundy’s landowners and winemakers grew aligote to make wine for their employees, the field hands who worked the harvest and did the heavy lifting in the wineries. After all, the bosses couldn’t let the employees drink the good stuff, could they?

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Pinot grigio: What’s in a name?

image Much pinot grigio has a poor reputation ? and deservedly so. Some of it is badly made Italian wine that gets shipped to the U.S. and sold to people who think it ?s supposed to taste like turpentine. Some of it is badly made U.S. wine, sold by companies piggybacking on the Italian wave.

How has this happened, with consumers paying as much as $25 for bottles of wine that really aren ?t very good? Much of it comes from people who want white wine that isn ?t chardonnay, and don ?t understand sauvignon blanc. Much of it comes from restaurants, which sell pinot grigio aggressively by the glass to people who want something more sophisticated than white zinfandel. In fact, it ?s the second most popular white wine sold in the U.S. according to Nielsen, and in 2006 it was even more popular than white zinfandel.

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Wine of the week: Armand Roux Carousel NV

I stumbled on this when I needed an inexpensive, French-style sparkling wine to use for the white wine tasting at my Cordon Bleu class. I was quite overwhelmed by its quality and its $8 price.

The wine, made with French chardonnay, comes from the Armand Roux company, best known for the L ?Epayri jug wines. But there is nothing jug-like about the Carousel. It’s dry, clean, and crisp with decent bubbles, and it doesn’t have any of the off-flavors or sweetness that inexpensive sparkling wine sometimes shows. It’s not as tight as similarly-priced Spanish sparklers; whether this is an advantage or not depends on how you feel about cavas like Cristalino.

I’m not quite sure that it’s as food friendly as the Spanish wines (it doesn’t have as much acid), but serve it chilled for summer porch sipping or Sunday morning brunch and you’ll be more than happy.

Wine of the week: Frei Bros. Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2006

image I have never been completely sold on California sauvignon blanc, especially for wines that cost $16 or less. They’re not necessarily poorly made; rather, the style is kind of wishy-washy — not New Zealand and not Sancerre, but not especially California, either.

Which brings us to the Frei Bros. (about $16), which does seem to have found a certain Sonoma style — not especially citrusy, but with some tropical fruit, a bit of grassiness and a long, pleasing finish not often found in wines of this price. It’s more than a solid value.

In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the entire Frei line. The operation, run by the Gallo empire, has improved the wines with this vintage, focusing on what it get can from the grapes and not what it wants to turn the wine into. Even more impressive than the sauvignon blanc was the pinot noir, a fine example of what can be accomplished in California (though pricey at around $25).

Wine of the week: Bonny Doon Syrah Le Pousseur 2005

Syrah_le_pousseur_2005-400pxI have written very nice things about Bonny Doon and winemaker Randall Grahm recently. And, ordinarily, I’d slow down. But he keeps making such terrific wine that I’m almost compelled to keep writing nice things.

Take, for example, this syrah (about $20). It tastes almost nothing like any New World  syrah — none of the over-the-top inkiness of Australian shiraz and no overdone California fruit. In fact, it has quite a few French-style syrah elements to it, including a wonderfully funky aroma. And regular readers know that if the Wine Curmudgeon recommend a wine that costs more than $10 or $12, it must be really, really good.

Having said that, don’t drink this if you’re expecting one of those high alcohol, incredibly unsubtle, jammy-to-the-point-of-no-return syrahs. But if you want a deep, dark, rich, well-balanced red wine, drink it with barbecue and grilled steaks.