Dallas in August. Hot weather. Glaring sun. So why do so many people insist on drinking heavy red wines?
The Wine Curmudgeon does not know. Instead, I drink wine like the Koster-Wolf (about $10 for a 1-liter bottle) ? light, low in alcohol, lemony, and cheap. Plus, it ?s both food friendly and well-made enough to drink on its own. Think chilled, sitting on a shaded back porch in the evening just before the sun goes down. Or serve it with grilled or boiled seafood.
Trocken is the German designation for a dry wine, but don ?t be confused. It ?s not nearly as dry as Americans are used to. But this doesn ?t mean that it ?s unduly sweet. Rather, it ?s balanced by the acidity in the wine ? as this one is, with the lemony flavor.
Some of the most overpriced wine in the world comes from Bordeaux, thanks to the weak dollar, wine snobs, and speculators. (Yes, people speculate in wine, just like they do real estate and pork bellies). So when the Wine Curmudgeon finds a red Bordeaux that ?s more or less a value, it ?s something to write about.
I found Chateaux La Croix Chantecaille (about $29)when I was putting together a Two Wine Guys event (shameless plug alert) as a birthday present for someone who wanted to do Bordeaux. We did three wines, all terrific, but this was the only one that was worth the money.
The Wine Curmudgeon will not forget the first time he drank this, years ago, when he was just a little cranky and starting out as a professional wine drinker. I bought it by mistake, not realizing there was a difference between petite sirah and syrah. And who says mistakes don ?t pay off?
Very little has changed with this wine over the years. It ?s still cheap, about $10, and still good ? peppery, dark and fruity, but not as showy as shiraz. It ?s like the person who shows up at work every day and does a fine job, but never gets ahead because they don ?t run around high five-ing everyone during meetings.
Drink this with end of summer barbecue, sloppy, tomatoe-y Italian food, and even something as simple as meat loaf.
The Wine Curmudgeon has been looking for a great, cheap Argentine malbec for years. The Yellow + Blue ($10 for a 1-liter box) may be it.
A couple of caveats: Availability could be limited, and there ?s no guarantee that the wine will be around after this vintage. That ?s because it ?s the project of a startup importer called J. Soif, and wine importing is a difficult business. What works one year may not work the next year.
Having said that, the Yellow + Blue is a $10 Hall of Fame candidate that delivers more than $10 worth of wine. It has well-done tannins, something that ?s rare in cheap malbec, and the fruit isn ?t so over the top that it covers everything else else up, another flaw in $10 malbec.
So what about the box? Soif boss Matthew Cain, who has worked for Kermit Lynch, one of the best importers in the world, says his focus is not only on quality wine, but on green wine. Hence organic grapes and the box, called a TetraPak, which is supposed to be less harmful to the environment than a glass bottle.
This is an interesting sales pitch, but the problem with selling wine as environmentally friendly is that most of the wine that makes that claim doesn ?t taste this good. Consumers are stuck with a tradeoff between quality and carbon footprint, and what ?s the point of that? If all I cared about was the environment, I ?d drink boxed Franzia.
The green wine discussion deserves its own post, which I ?ll get to soon. Until then, enjoy the Yellow + Blue.
The Wine Curmudgeon, who comes from a long of retailers, loves to guess the price of wine. And I ?m quite good at it. Drives the wine producers crazy.
So as I sipped this Monterey County sauvignon blanc, I figured it was a $15 or $18 wine. It had classic California sauvignon blanc varietal character ? some grapefruit, but some tropical flavors as well. It had three flavors ? something in the front, middle, and back. Usually, less expensive wine only has one or two flavors.
The third flavor was a long mineral finish. And, though the wine was only bottled in May, it was ready to drink, another good sign.
So when I checked the price, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find a suggested retail of $10.99. This means, when the wine hits store shelves in a month or so, it should be $9 or $10. This is a $10 Hall of Fame candidate. Serve it with shellfish or grilled chicken.
The high temperature here has been 100 degrees or more for most of the past month, which makes the Wine Curmudgeon even crankier than usual. Which is pretty cranky,
So what do I do on a sun-blaring, lawn-scorching Tuesday evening after a long, trying day of dealing with editors? Open a bottle of Cristalino ?s rose (about $8), of course.
First, it ?s cheap, which always cheers me up. Second, it ?s bubbles, which cheers me up even more. Third, it ?s well-made, delicious, cheap bubbles, which cheers me up most of all. The rose is bone dry, refreshing and brisk, with low alcohol, a bit of strawberry and caramel, and lots of fizz. I ?m not exaggerating: It ?s amazing how much better this wine makes me feel.
And I ?m not the only who feels that way. Cristalino sparklers have won just about every award possible from those of us who care about good cheap wine, from my $10 Hall of Fame to the New York Times to the Wine Magazines (as difficult as that is to believe). Drink this well-chilled, and serve it with everything from those Tuesday night leftovers to Indian or Thai (it ?s more than fruity enough for the spice) to big salads.
Carignane is an odd little red grape. It ?s used mostly for blending — in California to produce jug and inexpensive red blends, and in the Rhone region of France, where it ?s the poor cousin of syrah, grenache and mouvedre.
This single-varietal carignane, from Dallas ? Time Ten Cellars ($15), shows the grape off to nice advantage. It has a funky, Rhone-like aroma (wine types call it bacon fat), but plenty of New World style fruitiness, including a big dose of cranberry (something to keep in mind come Thanksgiving). It ?s not especially tannic, and the alcohol is a well-done 13.8 percent. This makes it an ideal red wine for hot summer days and good barbecue, be it pork or smoked chicken.
And don ?t be confused about the grape ?s spelling. It ?s carignan in France and carignane in the U.S.