Category:Wine reviews

A peek at the 2006 white Burgundies

image And they’re not bad. They’re probably not as good as the 2002 vintage, which was the best in at least a decade. In fact, tasting the 2006s Monday at a Louis Latour event in Dallas reminded me of just how terrific the 2002s were, and I’m going see if I can still find some.

The 2006s are probably closer to the 2005s in quality, and all we know for certain about 2005 is that the wines are drinking well despite being very young. This is not all that common for the best white Burgundy, which really needs to age for at least 5 to 8 years before it starts showing how good it is.

Ordinarily, wine that needs age is tight when it is young — think of a grapefruit that isn’t quite ready, when it isn’t sweet enough or acidic enough, but just sort of in between. You can tell, if you’ve eaten enough grapefruit, just how good it will be when it is ripe.

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Texas wines worth trying

This is the third of three parts about the state of the Texas wine business. To see part I, an overview of current trends, go here. Part II, a Texas wine of the week, is here.

Is there still Texas wine that doesn’t taste like it is supposed to? Yes. But, increasingly, wine makers are doing the right things and producing products that are varietally correct. This means cabernet sauvignon tastes like cabernet sauvignon, and not a poor imitation.

I tasted a couple of dozen wines at this week’s event, and these were among the most impressive:

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Wine of the week: Llano Estacado Cabernet Sauvignon Cellar Reserve 2005

imageThis is the second of three parts about the state of the Texas wine business. To see part I, an overview of current trends, go here. Part III on Friday will look at some of the state’s best wine.

Texas, as a general rule, doesn’t do cabernet well. It’s too hot in most of the state to grow quality cabernet grapes, and the wine making has been uneven in West Texas, where the climate is more accommodating.

Which is why this cabernet was such a treat when I tasted it this week, at an event hosted by the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas and the state’s Texas wine program.

I didn’t expect what I got. At $17, it offered value, which is not always the case for Texas cabernets. Plus, it was very Texas in style — not as fruity, alcoholic or tannic as a Napa or Sonoma cabernet, but more fruit forward than a red Bordeaux. Serve this at room temperature with grilled steaks or barbecue.

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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).