Category:Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Loredan Gasparini Prosecco

Italian sparkling wines are usually not my first choice. Most of the time, they/re sweeter than I like, without the crisp acidity of champagne or Spanish and New World sparkling wine. But this one is a winner, combining prosecco’s trademark 7-Up fizz with a sturdy backbone.

It’s the finish that makes the difference. Too often, Italian sparkling wines offer an interesting sweet fruitiness in the front, but nothing much after that. Part of that is intentional, especially for less expensive wines, and part of it is the way the wines are made, using the charmat method. That’s why I call it 7-Up fizz, because the taste is so reminiscent of the soft drink.

But the Gasparini (about $14) has a solid, interesting, almost steely finish. There’s actually something there, and not just the sweetness hanging around your mouth like 7-Up on a hot day.This is easily one of the best proseccos I have ever had, and a steal at this price.

Sparkling wine for New Year’s

Keep three things in mind when you're picking sparkling wine and champagne for New Year ?s Eve. 

First, there is plenty of quality wine from places other than France, especially from the New World, Spain and Italy. There is also plenty of quality wine from France that isn't the same old stuff. Please, please try something other than Veuve Clicquot and Nicolas Feuillatte. 

Second, vintage isn't especially important. NV on the label stands for non-vintage ? that is, the grapes used to make the wine come from several years instead of just one. It ?s a common practice, even for the most expensive brands, to ensure quality. 

Third, only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can be called champagne, thanks to a 2005 trade agreement (though some California brands, like Korbel, are grandfathered in). But if the label says methode champenoise or m thode traditionelle, it was made in the Champagne style 

And cost? There is more than acceptable bubbly at almost every price, and even some expensive wines are good values.

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Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Blanc 2006

image Curse the weak dollar. Otherwise, this white blend from Bordeaux would be $8, which it used to be a couple of years ago. Then I’d have a case of it in the wine closet and I’d have no worries about what to drink for dinner when I needed some everyday white wine.

Sadly, however, the Bonnet is $13. It’s still worthwhile — just not a bargain. But the wine is very Bordeaux-like, and in that respect is still a value. There is a  hint of sauvignon blanc citrus, some semillon to take the edge off, and muscadelle for fruitiness. Plus, unusual in a wine at this price (and even more unusual at $8), it has a wonderful mineral finish that hints at what you’ll find in the sauvignon blancs of Sancerre.

Serve this chilled with any kind of seafood (raw oysters or steamed mussels come to mind) or by itself. And keep careful watch, in case your local retailer puts it on sale.

Tale of two wines

On the one hand, at $65, Flora Springs Trilogy 2004, a Bordeaux-style red blend. On the other, Solaz Shiraz Tempranillo 2004, about $8. Which offers more bang for the buck?

This is not as silly a question as it sounds. The price value ratio isn’t considered nearly enough in assessing wine. That’s one of the problems with scores, which don’t allow for quality based on price. No one is arguing that the Flora Springs isn’t a well-made wine, because it is. It was a bit young, and to my mind had too much acid (though not everyone who tasted this with me agreed). But it was, save for the acid, integrated and  complex, full of lots of dark Napa fruit and even some cocoa. It wasn’t especially subtle, but this kind of wine isn’t supposed to be.

The question, then: Is it eight times better than the Solaz? The answer is no.

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Holiday wine suggestions

A few thoughts for next week:

? For whites, consider Alsace. These wines — mostly pinot gris, riesling and gew rztraminer — are versatile, pairing with fish and chicken as well as lighter meat like pork. They aren’t the value they were a year or 18 months ago, thanks to the weak dollar, but they’re still fairly priced. Try Willm Gew rztraminer Reserve 2006 ($18), which is a touch sweet with apricot fruitiness on the front and had Alsace minerality in the back.

? Spanish reds. Regular visitors to this space know how much the Wine Curmudgeon likes Rioja, where you can still buy top-level wine for $30 or less. Look for Montecillo reservas ($15) or gran reservas ($25-$30), made by one of the true originals in the wine business, Maria Martinez Sierra. The classic pairing is game, but it also works with beef and cheese.

? Sparkling. Lindauer Brut NV ($11) is New Zealand’s best-selling bubbly, which is just another example of the country’s wine acumen. It ?s softer than a French champagne, though still not sweet. Why this wine isn’t more easily available baffles me.

Wine of the week: Tamas Estates Pinot Grigio 2005

This is a long-time favorite (it used to have another name and another label), but one that doesn’t seem to be available when I want to buy it. It’s a $13 California wine with Italian-style minerality — the flinty quality that in poorly-made pinot grigios tastes like turpentine. But it also has lots of California citrus fruitiness. This is an excellent wine to serve as an aperitif during the holiday season, or with Christmas dinner leftovers.

 

Yes, alcohol makes a difference

imageHad crab cakes — special crab cakes, made with fresh blue crab from the Gulf of Mexico from an old friend of the family — on Saturday night, so I opened a bottle of Shannon Ridge sauvignon blanc ($16). Drank one glass, and opened something else.

This is not my annual plea for winemakers to cut back on alcohol content (I’ll save that for the spring). Rather, it’s an example of why I need to make that plea. This wine is 14.1 percent alcohol — 1.1 points higher than Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc, 1.3 points higher than Bogle sauvignon blanc, and 2.1 points higher than Chateau Bonnet blanc. And that’s almost three times the alcohol content in a similar serving of beer.

The Shannon was not fresh or vibrant or lively, all trademarks of sauvignon blanc. It was not food friendly, and if we had sipped it with the crab cakes, we never would have tasted the crab.

It did not taste like sauvignon blanc. There was almost no fruit and very little acidity — just an overwhelming heaviness that made me think the wine was spoiled or that it had been aged in oak for 24 months. But it was not spoiled and it was aged six months in stainless steel. The only explanation was the high alcohol, which robbed the wine of of its character.

Why make sauvignon blanc that doesn’t taste like sauvignon blanc?