Category:Wine reviews

Mini-reviews 136: Four wines you probably don’t want to buy

wine reviews

“Damn, look at that review. The WC is in a foul mood this month.”

Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This month, four wines you probably don’t want to buy, because I’m really, really tired of tasting wine that is so unpleasant.

Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhone 2019 ($15, purchased, 14.5%): This French red used to be one of the most dependable $15 wines in the world. But this vintage is almost undrinkable. That’s not because it’s flawed or off, but because it has been manipulated to taste like it comes from a second-tier producer in Paso Robles – lots of sweet fruit, not a lick of tannins, and this hideous violet candy smell. Imported by Winebow

Avalon Pinot Noir 2018 ($11, sample, 13.5%): This California red is the sort of pinot noir people buy because it’s cheap, and not especially because it tastes like anything. Think grape juice flavored with fake vanilla oak, in case any of you enjoy that.

Jadix Picpoul de Pinet 2019 ($12, purchased, 14.5%): This French white is heavy and hot, and not anything picpoul should be – fruity, tart, and refreshing. Why would anyone make picpoul like this? Imported by Aquitane Wine Company

Montalto Pinot Grigio 2019 ($12, sample, 12%): Someone, somewhere thought that Americans would love sweet Italian pinot grigio, and this is the result. My question? Why — isn’t there enough dry pinot grigio in the world? Imported by Mack & Schuhle

Wine of the week: Domaine de Pouy 2018

domaine de pouyDomaine de Pouy, from Gascony in France, is ideal for late summer and 100-degree temperatures – crisp and refreshing

Gascon white wines are some of the best values in the wine world. But they’ve fallen by the wayside since the end of the recession. There have been importer and distributor problems, as well as price increases for no other reason than all wine should cost more.

But the wines from Gascony in France’s southwest, made with grapes most of us don’t know, may be back in favor. Could it be that those same importers and distributors are looking for cheap, well-made wines to sell during the pandemic? For one thing, I’ve seen several reviews for Gascon whites I don’t know, always a good sign. For another, I was able to buy the Domaine de Pouy after a long absence from this market.

The Domaine de Pouy 2018 ($11, purchased, 10.5%) shows what these wines can be – enjoyable, food friendly, and refreshing. It’s certainly not the best of the bunch, but one of the great strengths of Gascon wine is that even the ordinary ones are better than ordinary. The de Pouy is crisp, with a lemonish, sauvignon blanc character, but it’s not as tart or as sharp as sauvignon blanc. As with all Gascon wines, there’s a bit of white grape flavor that offers balance.

Best yet, the low alcohol makes it ideal for late summer, when the Dallas temperature gets to 100 and stays there. Chill this, and enjoy it with a Friday night takeout dinner.

Imported by Fruit of the Vines

Wine of the week: Chateau Belingard Bergerac Rouge 2016

Chateau Belingard BergeracTotal Wine’s Chateau Belingard Bergerac Rouge, a French red blend, offers value where it’s often difficult to find these days

The Wine Curmudgeon’s luck with private labels form Total Wine, the erstwhile national retailer, has been uneven at best. Too many of them, regardless of where in the world the wine is made, taste like they went through the California Big Wine Processing Machine, which churns out all that “smooooothhhhhhhhh” wine.

Fortunately, the Chateau Belingard Bergerac Rouge 2016 ($11, purchased, 13.5%) is a red wine blend that tastes like the region it comes from – Bergerac in southwest France. Yes, it’s a bit too oaky and fruity, but otherwise it speaks to the region and the grapes in the blend. The latter are mostly merlot, but with about one-quarter cabernet sauvignon and decent dollops of cabernet franc and malbec. This results in noticeable, though not unpleasant tannins, as well as dark red berry fruit and a hint of an earthy finish (thanks to the cabernet franc).

Best yet, the price – given similar wines cost $15 to $18 – adds to the value. This is weeknight pizza wine; chill the bottle to 50 or 55 degrees, pour, drink, and enjoy.

Imported by Saranty Imports

Wine of the week: Vinho verde 2020

vinho verde 2020Vinho verde 2020: Producers are taking the fizzy, sort of sweet Portuguese wine more seriously than ever, and we’re the big winners

This year, for vinho verde 2020, I’m writing something I never thought I would write about vinho verde — several of these wines are candidates for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. That’s because the fizzy, sort of sweet Portuguese wine has always been about cheap, and quality often seemed like an accident. This year, though, the four wines I tasted were cheap and well made.

Vinho verde is a Portuguese white wine with a greenish tint that rarely costs more than $8 (the blog’s vinho verde primer is here). It has a slightly sweet lemon lime flavor, low alcohol, and a little fizz — all of which makes it ideal for hot weather. Most of the cheapest wines, like Santola, Famega, Casal Garcia, and Gazela, are made by the same couple of companies but sold under different names to different retailers.

Check out these vinho verde 2020 suggestions:

Broadbent Vinho Verde NV ($9, purchased, 9%): This is the vinho that sets the standard, and the current bottling doesn’t disappoint. Not quite as sweet as last year, with more of a tart, green apple fruitiness.  Imported by Broadbent Selections

Gazela Vinho Verde NV ($8, purchased, 9%): Solid, typical vinho — fizzy lime with a bit of sweetness. If all ordinary vinho was made this well, the wine world would be cheaper and more enjoyable. Imported by Evaton

Aveleda Vinho Verde Fonte 2019 ($10, purchased, 9.5%): Perhaps the best vinho verde I’ve ever tasted — so much more than the usual. There’s a bit of structure, the tartness is fresh and limey, the fizz is legit, and the sweetness is buried in the back. Highly recommended. Imported by Aveleda, Inc.

Faisao Vinho Verde NV ($5/1-liter bottle, purchased, 10%): Is this the best vinho verde on the list? Nope. Is it the best value? Probably, since it’s quality wine (sour lime fruit, fizzy, with just enough of an idea of sweetness) that comes in a liter bottle. Keep well chilled. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

For more about vinho verde:
Vinho verde review 2019
Vinho verde review 2018
Vinho verde review 2017

Expensive wine 135: Domaine Louis Michel Chablis Butteaux Premier Cru 2015

Louis Michel Chablis ButteauxThe Louis Michel Chablis Butteaux doesn’t taste like other Chablis, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing

This is not the kind of Chablis that many of us expect – minerally, taut, and steely. Instead, the Louis Michel Chablis Butteaux is rich and full, much softer than I usually want from Chablis. And that difference is just another part of the joy of wine.

How different is the Louis Michel Chablis Butteaux 2015 ($30, purchased, 13%)? The winery’s website lists scores from five major international critics for this vintage of its chardonnay from the Chablis region of France’s Burgundy. Each score is different, and the two French scores are the lowest. That five people who taste this kind of wine for a living disagree about its quality (even allowing for the inefficiency of scores) speaks volumes about how unique this wine is.

Because it is. My tasting notes are just as perplexed: “Softer, less traditional style of Chablis, with less minerality and more ripe apple fruit. And what is it in there that almost tastes like oak?” Because this Chablis doesn’t see oak (and most, in fact, don’t).

So what’s going on here? Chalk it up to what the late and much missed Diane Teitelbaum told me years ago: Wine is not supposed to taste the same. It’s supposed to be different – otherwise, what’s the point? This producer, in this part of Chablis with this terroir, doesn’t make wine that tastes like the wine that other producers make in other parts of Chablis, with different terroir.

This difference is not about good or bad; this is a high quality wine that will probably benefit from another couple of years in the bottle. It’s just different, and that’s something I have learned to appreciate.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

Pricing note: Price is suggested retail or actual purchase price before the October 2019 tariff

Wine of the week: Evanta Malbec 2018

evanta malbecReconsidering the 2018 Evanta malbec: A year in the bottle made it much more enjoyable

The Evanta malbec, a red Argentine Aldi private label, has one of those weird cheap wine stories that make it so difficult to decipher cheap wine. The 2017 was terrific – $5 wine that tasted like it cost twice as much. In an addendum to that post, I noted that the 2018 wasn’t quite as well done – softer and less interesting.

So why did the 2018 Evanta Malbec ($5, purchased, 13.9%) taste almost like the 2017 when I bought it last month? Who knows? Maybe it was the extra year in the bottle that took off the soft edges and made it more appealing. Maybe it was bottle variation, when every bottle doesn’t taste the same. This is a common problem with cheap wines made in mass quantities.

Regardless, the 2018 is well worth buying. It’s not quite as structured as the 2017, but it’s still difficult to beat for $5: There are more tannins and acidity than in most cheap malbecs, which tend to leave those out in favor of lots of soft fruit to make it “smoooothhhhhh. …” The berry fruit isn’t overdone and there’s not a hint of sweetness anywhere. No wonder it has been mostly sold out at my local Aldi since the pandemic started.

Imported by Pampa Beverages

Barefoot wine review 2020: Rose and riesling

Barefoot wine review 2019

Barefoot wine (again): Value or just cheap?
Barefoot wine: Why it’s so popular

Barefoot wine review 2020: Get ready for a dose of sweetness with the rose and riesling — but at least the front labels let you know what’s coming

Call it knowing your audience: The Barefoot wine review 2020 bottles don’t pretend to be something they aren’t. Looking for a dry, tart, Provencal- style rose? Then don’t buy the Barefoot rose, which says “Delightfully sweet” on the front label. Want a nuanced, oily, off-dry riesling? Then don’t buy the Barefoot riesling, which says “Refreshingly sweet” on the front label.

Which, frankly, is a much welcome development in this, the blog’s 13th Barefoot review. Few things are more annoying than Big Wine — or smaller wine, for that matter — claiming a wine is dry when it tastes like sweet tea. Barefoot, the best-selling wine brand in the country (depending on whose statistics you believe) has the courage of its convictions. And good for it.

The Barefoot wine review 2020 features the non-vintage rose ($5, purchased, 10%) and the non-vintage riesling ($5, purchased, 8%). Both are California appellation. The sweetness is obvious, and especially in the riesling. In the rose, it tries to hide in the background — and then you swallow, and it hits you.

The rose tastes of strawberry fruit, and has lots of acidity in an attempt to balance the sweetness. Which doesn’t exactly work — just sort of offers a counterpoint. The riesling smells like oranges (perhaps some muscat in the blend?) and then the candied sweetness hits and covers up what little fruit flavor (apricot?) was there. A smidgen of acidity is around somewhere, sort of like the cool of a summer morning before it gets hot, and then the  like the coolishness, the wine gets sweet again.

In this, these wines deliver what the front labels promise, though the back labels are marketing hurly burly — “smooth, crisp finish” and “hint of jasmine and honey.” But if you want a $5 sweet wine that is cheap and sweet, then the rose and the riesling fill the bill.

Blog associate editor Churro contributed to this post

More Barefoot wine reviews:
Barefoot wine review 2019
Barefoot wine review 2018
Barefoot wine review 2017