Category:Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Alain Brumont Tannat-Merlot 2015

Brumont tannat-merlotThe Brumont tannat-merlot shows the tannat grape to its best advantage in a delicious $10 wine

During a recent Skype tasting for the American Wine Society, someone asked me about tannat. It’s a red grape, very geeky, best known in South America. When it’s made as a varietal wine, the result is often hard, tannic, and not all that enjoyable. But when it’s blended, like the Brumont tannat-merlot from Gascony in France, it can be a wine of the week.

I’ve tasted three bottles of this vintage of the Brumont Tannat-Merlot ($10, purchased, 13.5%) over the past three years, and each one has been different. Who knew there would be such a variation in bottle age for a $10 wine?

But that’s the tannat at work, and it’s also worth noting that the 2015 is the vintage in most stores. As such, the third  tasting was a delight – some of the tannat’s heartiness was still there, but the rough edges were gone, softened by the merlot. But this is not a soft wine – there’s not any hint of sweetness or too ripe black fruit (blackberry?), and the tannins and acidity remain part of the wine’s still complete structure. Hence, a food wine, and ideal for summer barbecue, burgers, and especially bratwurst.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Kindred Vines

Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Blanc 2016

chateau bonnet blancThe Chateau Bonnet Blanc reminds us of the greatness inherent in cheap when the producer truly cares

The greatest testament to Chateau Bonnet’s wines and founder Andre Lurton’s vision is that this bottle of  Chateau Bonnet Blanc was three years old, but still tasted fresh — and may even more interesting than it was when it was released. How often does that happen with $10 wine?

There is a 2018 version, apparently, though it and the 2017 have not made it to Dallas yet. In fact, I’ve resisted buying this vintage for just that reason. How could any $10 wine, even one as well made as the Chateau Bonnet Blanc ($10, purchased, 12.5%) hold up this long?

Oh Wine Curmudgeon of little faith.

Know that this wine is structured, impeccably made, and will pair with anything from greasy takeout to one of those perfectly roasted chickens that the French pride themselves on. Look for some stone fruit backed with a not so tart kind of lemon, and the richness that adding semillon to the blend (55 percent sauvignon blanc) provides.

Highly recommended, and I’m sure – even without tasting them – that the 2017 and 2108 are just as delicious. And toast Andre Lurton, who died this month at the age of 94, for advancing the cause of well-made wine that anyone can afford to buy.

Mini-reviews 121: Even more rose reviews 2019

rose reviews 2019Reviews 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, six rose reviews 2019 in honor of the blog’s 12th annual rose fest.

The 12th annual Memorial Day and rose 2019 post

La Vieille Ferme Rose 2018 ($7, purchased, 13%): This French pink is not what it was in 2017, when it was among the best roses of the season. The 2018 is a little thinner and less interesting, and the fruit doesn’t jump like it did last year — probably from poorer quality grapes. But it’s still dry, still worth $6 or $7, and still worth buying. Imported by Vineyard Brands

La Galope Comté Tolosan Rose ( $10, purchased, 12%): Once again, $10 buys quality rose — this, time from the French region of Gascony. There is a little tart cherry fruit, some flintiness, and it’s fresh, and clean. Highly recommended. Imported by Bridge Imports

Gianni Masciarelli Rosato 2017 ($11, purchased, 12.5%): Beautiful, zesty, and refreshing, this Italian pink shows off montepulciano, not all that common as a rose grape. Highly recommended, and an example of how rose technical quality has improved so dramatically that some older vintages remain delicious. Imported by Vintus

Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French pink, made mostly with grenache, is yummy and delicious — another 2017 that has more than held up (though the 2018 is available in some areas). Surprising structure and depth, with tart strawberry fruit and crisp, fresh, and minerally on the finish. Highly recommended. Imported by Pioneer Wine Co.

Paul Mas Cote Mas Aurore 2017 ($10/1 liter, purchased, 12.5%): This is more than competent, Provence-style rose (barely ripe red fruit, a hint of garrigue, clean finish) in a liter bottle, so there are two extra glasses. What more do we need? (The 2018 should be available in some areas.) Imported by Espirit du Vin

Castle Rock Pinot Noir Rose 2018 ($10, sample, 13.5%): The kind of California wine that used to be common, but now is but a distant memory — well-made but affordable and decent availability. Look for a little orange zest to go with the barely ripe strawberry fruit.

Memorial Day and rose 2019

Check out these six roses — still cheap and delicious — for the blog’s 12th annual Memorial Day and rose celebration

Rose is officially mainstream after all those years in the wilderness. How else to explain a “dry” Provencal-style rose from E&J Gallo’s Apothic, the brand that all but invented sweet red blends?

So know, as we celebrate the blog’s 12th annual Memorial Day and rose extravaganza, that there is a lot of rose out there looks pink. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to taste like the dry rose we’ve taught the world to love.

In fact, as rose-maker extraordinaire Charles Bieler told me this spring, no-self respecting Big Wine company is going to let rose pass it by. Hence, some of them are making two, three, and even four labels to make sure they don’t miss any of the sales momentum. In this, there’s some talk among wine business types that rose is saving wine from the worst effects of premiumization, and that its popularity is boosting sales that otherwise would be even more flat than they already are.

So yes, there’s lots of plonk out there, which I know because I’ve tasted so much of it. How about thin? How about bitter? How about tannic? How about sweet? To paraphrase Joseph Conrad (though he was probably more of a vodka man): “The horror! The horror!”

But not when it comes to the roses reviewed this post and in tomorrow’s post. These are all cheap, delicious, and rose in style and honesty. What else would you expect from the Wine Curmudgeon?

Prices this year are a touch higher than last year, but there is still plenty of terrific rose for less than $15. Also, don’t overlook the blog’s rose primer, which discusses styles, why rose is dry, how it gets its pink color, and why vintage matters. This year, vintage isn’t quite as important as in the past, and many 2017s should still be wonderful. That’s because technical quality, traditionally a problem with rose, has improved and the wines don’t fall apart like they used to. But still be wary of anything older than two or years, and especially it isn’t pink any more. Brown wine isn’t worth drinking, no matter how little it costs.

For more suggestions, check out the rose category link, which lists 12 years of rose reviews. Today, six standout roses we’ve come to know and appreciate — each highly recommended. Tomorrow, six more roses worth drinking:

Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2018 ($15, sample, 13.5%): The most interesting of Randall Grahm’s California pink of the past several years. It’s more Provence in style, with barley tart strawberry fruit, and even fresher. Honest wine from an honest producer does matter.

Mont Gravet Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French rose is made with cinsault, a terrific grape for pink wine. It’s fresh, bright, and crisp – with more depth than the 2017 and better quality fruit. Plus, the red fruit (berries) taste likes red fruit and not soda pop. Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.

Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 13%): The cabernet sauvingon in the blend gives this Provencal wine a little more structure, depth, and body this year, as well as a little darker flavor (almost blackberry?). As it ages, the caberrnet should go to the back and more red fruit will come to the front. Imported by Bieler et Fils

Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2018 ($12, sample, 13.5%): One of the most consistent and enjoyable California pinks, and also made in a darker style (cranberry, blackberry?) that lots of people try but few succeed with. In this, it tastes like rose and not red wine.

Angels & Cowboys Rose 2018 ($15, purchased, 12.8%): This California effort, always one of my favorites, is much more subtle this vintage, with a wisp of strawberry fruit and not much else. Still enjoyable and interestingly different.

Charles & Charles Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 12.6%): This Washington state rose, from Chalres Bieler and Charles Smith, is fresh and crisp, with tart strawberry and orange fruit and a very clean finish. All in all, another exceptional effort.

More about Memorial Day and rose:
Memorial Day and rose 2018
Memorial Day and rose 2017
Memorial Day and rose 2016
Winecast 36: Charles Bieler
Wine of the week: Ken Forrester Petit Rose 2018

Photo: “Wine o’Clock” by VanessaC (EY) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Wine of the week: Bota Box rose 2018

bota box roseBig Wine delivers price, value and quality with this vintage of the Bota Box rose

Big Wine’s rose offerings have often been indifferent, with little consistency in style and quality, plus more sweetness than dry rose requires. Because, of course, Big Wine. So how has Delicato done so well with the past three vintages of the Bota Box rose, and especially with the 2018?

Call it our good fortune as we celebrate the blog’s 12th annual rose extravaganza. In fact, this version of the Bota Box rose ($16/3-liter box, sample, 11.5%) is the best of the three – more structure, more interest, and more going on than you get in most box wines. And the price is amazing – three liters is four bottles, so this is the equivalent of $4 a bottle.

The 2018 is fruitier than the previous efforts (berries and a little lemon?), as well as crisp and refreshing, just like a dry rose is supposed to be. In this, it’s not just a one-note wine, like last year’s was, and it’s more rounded than the 2016 version. That wine was enjoyable, but not necessarily something you believed in. The 2018 is not just better made with better quality grapes, but you can taste the difference.

Best yet, the Bota Box rose is actually dry. Delicato has resisted the temptation to tart the wine up after it has established a market, something that’s common practice among Big Wine companies. So more good fortune for those of use who care about value and not Instagram posts.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame and the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Wine of the week: Evanta Malbec 2017

evanta malbecAldi’s Evanta malbec is what supermarket private label should be — $10 or $12 worth of wine for $4 of $5

May 22 update: The 2018 version of this is now in more stores, and it was disappointing. It’s much more commercial than the 2017 — soft, very ripe fruit, and missing the acidity of the 2017. It’s still worth $4, but it’s nowhere near as interesting as the 2017.

Is is possible? Has Aldi finally hit the private label jackpot with the $4 Evanta malbec? I think so.

The Evanta malbec ($4, purchased, 12.9%) comes as close to Aldi’s European wines for quality and value as any wine I’ve tasted that the chain sells in the U.S. It’s even on a par with the long gone and much lamented Vina Decana, which is probably the best value/quality wine the discount grocer has offered in this country.

The Evanta malbec is what supermarket private label should be — $10 or $12 worth of wine for $4 of $5. It offers better quality and more varietal character than many Argentine malbecs that cost $15 or $18, and there’s no chocolate cherry fake oak or too ripe fruit in an attempt to appeal to the so-called American palate. Instead, the Evanta has blueberry fruit, almost nuanced oak, and enough acidity so that you can tell it’s malbec and not fruit juice and vodka. Plus, it’s somehow fresh and not cloying, almost impossible to do with a wine at this price.

Highly recommended. This is the kind of wine to buy a case of and keep around the house. I’m going to do that, and I don’t much care for New World malbec. It’s that well made and that much of a value.

Imported by Pampa Beverages

 

Expensive wine 120: Jean et Sébastien Dauvissat Chablis Saint-Pierre 2017

Dauvissat ChablisThe Dauvissat Chablis is chardonnay that shows why that French region makes such terrific white wine

There are very few values left in high-end French wine (to say nothing of not-so-high-end French wine). But you can still find value from Chablis in Burgundy, like the Dauvissat Chablis.

Yes, $27 seems like a lot to pay for value. But the Dauvissat Chablis ($27, purchased, 12%) is the kind of wine that offers more than you expect. Chablis is chardonnay, but chardonnay usually made with little or no oak. Hence, it’s not only much different from New World chardonnay, much of which is dripping with oak, but it’s also much different from other white Burgundies. That means a steely, very mineral quality, with almost no vanilla or toastiness, but a wine that can still be rich and full.

In other words, chardonnay for those of us who appreciate fruit and less winemaking. The Dauvissat Chablis is just that: Fresh and crisp, with lots of tart green apple fruit, lots of that wonderful Chablis minerality, and nary oak anywhere. The wine combines Chablis tradition, so that it’s clean and almost stony, but with more New World-style and less subtle fruit. It’s an impressive combination, and especially at a price that usually buys very ordinary white Burgundy or even less impressive Napa chardonnay.

Highly recommended, and should age for at least a decade. This is just the bottle for anyone who wants a white wine for Mother’s Day that is more than buttery and caramel.

Imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchants