Category:Wine reviews

Pink wine for Valentine’s Day

image The Wine Curmudgeon, not surprisingly, does not acknowledge Valentine’s Day. But since so many people do, including newspaper editors (who help pay the Wine Curmudgeon’s bills), it was only sensible to write something..

The article is not about pairing wine and chocolate. This has not only been done to death, but isn’t especially true. Inexpensive cabernet sauvignon doesn ?t do chocolate very well, no matter how good the wine writer is. And anyone who pairs $50 cabernet with chocolate is missing the point of $50 cabernet.

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.

What about $6 wine?

image One of the things that I always tell my students (or anyone else, for that matter) is never to judge wine before you’ve tasted it. There might be many reasons to be skeptical — price, alcohol content, the grapes it’s made with, producer — but none of that matters until you take the first sip.

So what did I do when I received samples of BV’s Century Cellars line? Stuck it in the back of the wine closet, figuring it couldn’t be any good because it only cost $6 a bottle.

Shows how much I know.

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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 review: Republic of Sauvignon Marlborough 2007

image One of the great joys of drinking wine is tasting something that you think you know and discovering that the current vintage is a lot better. That’s the case with this wine, which is more than decent to begin with.

The Republic of Sauvignon Blanc Cellars is a negociant that sells sauvignon blancs from California, South Africa, and New Zealand. As noted, they’re usually fine wines, if a bit pricey for me at $18.

So, when I tasted this the other night, I expected New Zealand grapefruit and an acceptable finish. I got that, and a lot more. There is a bit of pineapple tucked in behind the grapefruit, which offers a wonderful contrast to the latter’s acidity. And the finish, if not Sancerre-like, offers better minerality than in previous years.

You can drink this on its own (something that can’t be said for a lot of New Zealand sauvignon blancs) or with shellfish or anything with garlic. This is value for price, even at $18.

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 review: Viu Manent Reserva Carmenere 2005

Carmenere is the national grape of Chile, but unlike tempranillo (Spain) and malbec (Argentina), you don’t see much of it, even in Chile. This is too bad, because in the right hands, it makes top-flight wine.

Such as this one. I had my doubts before I tasted it, despite Vii Manent’s reputation for producing top-notch quality, inexpensive wine. Carmenere can be that difficult to work with. But I should have trusted the winery, because this wine is not only amazingly well-made, but quite a value at $14. It’s rich and dark, with more plummy and mocha flavors than the dark fruits of merlot or cabernet. Plus, the tannins — that harshness in the back — were so smooth that I almost missed them. It’s a welcome respite from much of the too jammy, over the top New World red wine that I have to taste.

How much did I like it? I’d not only buy it, but I’d buy more than one bottle at a time.