Category:Wine reviews

Mini-reviews 115: Rioja, German rose, Youngberg, Umani Rochi

german roseReviews 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: a German rose, plus Oregon pinot noir, a Rioja, and an Italian white for Black Friday 2018

Vallobera Rioja Crianza 2015 ($15, purchased, 14%): Heavy, old-fashioned Spanish red that isn’t very interesting – sweet cherry fruit, not much orange peel or earth, and almost flabby. Very disappointing. Imported by Evaki

Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 11.5%): This German pink is sweet (not quite white zinfandel, but noticeable) and fizzy, with almost crisp cherry fruit. Neither sweet nor fizzy is a bad thing, and there will be people who will like it. But not for anyone expecting a dry rose. Imported by Loosen Bros. USA

Youngberg Hill Pinot Noir Jordan Block 2014 ($49, sample, 14%): This is a well-made wine, and the winemakers apparently accomplished what they were trying to do – an Oregon pinot noir that is heavier and more California in style than Oregon. It doesn’t have any brambly fruit, but more concentrated, rich black fruit.

Umani Rochi Villa Bianchi 2016 ($9, purchased, 12%): This Italian white is not quite $9 worth of wine – very tart (citrus fruit?), too simple, and not crisp or fresh enough to balance the tartness.

Wine of the week: Farnese Fantini Sangiovese 2017

fantini sangioveseThe Fantini sangiovese is another top $10 wine from Italian producer Farnese

Thanksgiving with Italian wine? Why not, and especially if it’s the Farnese Fantini Sangiovese.

I’ve written about Farnese wines several times over the past couple of years, and after tasting this vintage of the Fantini Sangiovese ($10, purchased, 12.5%), it’s easy to see why. This is simple – but not stupid – $10 wine, the kind the we need more of.

This Italian red, made with sangiovese from the Abruzzo region, isn’t Chianti. Rather, it’s softer, less earthy, and more New World in style. This doesn’t mean it isn’t Italian or varietally correct, because it is – cherry fruit, soft tannins, and requisite acidity to balance the fruit and to give it that certain Italian zip. And, since it is lighter and fruitier in style, it would pair with the piles and piles of food on the Thanksgiving table. So yes, a Turkey wine, as well as sausages and red sauce when the leftovers are in packed away in the freezer.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Empson USA

Expensive wine 114: Alberto Nanclares Dandelion Albarino 2016

nanclares dandelion albarinoThe Nanclares Dandelion albarino is not only worth what it costs, buts shows how stunning an albarino can be

The Wine Curmudgeon paid $23 for the Nanclares Dandelion albarino, and I will pay it again. And again. And again. It’s not only worth the money, but it’s one of the best albarinos I’ve ever tasted. It puts most of those $17 and $18 albarinos – which sell only because the grape has become hip and with it – to shame.

The Nanclares Dandelion albarino ($23, purchased, 13..5%) is savory and salty in a way that other albarinos can only dream about, even though that’s one of their reasons for being. The albarino grape, used to make this white wine, is grown in the Rias Baizas in on Spain’s Atlantic coast, and it’s accepted as fact that the location lends an oceany, almost saline flavor to the wine.

Most albarinos, including several highly regarded ones, focus on tart lemon fruit, and the savory character is a second thought. In this wine, though, the lemon fruit is in the background. That means the wine isn’t as tart, and has a much richer mouth feel. In all, more complex, more subtle, and more enjoyable

Highly recommended, and especially for a holiday celebration with shrimp, lobster, and even turkey. This is yet another wine that proves that prices can make a difference when the winemaker makes wine for the consumer and not for scores.

Imported by Llaurador Wines

 

Thanksgiving wine 2018

thanksgiving wine 2018Four Thanksgiving wine 2018 suggestions

The Wine Curmudgeon looks forward to Thanksgiving like no other holiday. When else do families and friends get to share lots of wine and good food without worrying about money, showing off, or big-screen plasma TVs? Instead, it’s about being thankful that we can be together to enjoy the holiday. The blog’s guidelines for holiday wine buying are here.

This year’s Thanksgiving wine 2018 suggestions should get you started:

Toscolo Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2016 ($14, purchased, 12.5%): Another winner from the Italian Wine Guy. This white, made with the vernaccia grape, is delightful, if a little simple. Look for peach fruit, some almond spice. and white flowers. A turkey wine par excellence. Imported by Empson USA

Fantini Farnese Rosato 2017 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Italian pink wine, part of the always reliable Fantini brand, is a little darker than other roses (black cherry fruit?), but still fresh and delicious. Highly recommended — all $10 rose should be this well made. Imported by Empson USA

Domaine de L’Ameillaud Côtes du Rhône 2015 ($17, purchased, 13%): This French red blend (a little more than half grenache) is competent, professional, and well-made, showing how round and interesting this kind of wine can be. Look for black fruit and soft tannins – another excellent turkey wine. Imported by Dionysus Imports

Carpenè Malvolti Rosé Cuvée Brut ($17, sample, 12%): Nicely done Italian rose sparkling that’s not Prosecco, so it’s a little sturdier in style and bubbles, without Prosecco’s softness. Plus, there is nice pinot noir fruit (cherry and strawberry?). Imported by Angelini Wine

More about Thanksgiving wine:
Thanksgiving wine 2017
Thanksgiving wine 2016
Thanksgiving wine 2015
Wine of the week: Feudo Arancio Stemmari Grillo 2017
Expensive wine 113: Justin Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Wine of the week: Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco 2017

Lageder pinot biancoThe Lageder pinot bianco is well worth the extra couple of dollars that it costs

What better question for the wine of the week during the blog’s 11th annual Birthday Week: How does one know when spending more than $10 on a wine in this age of crappy $15 wine isn’t a waste of money? When the wine is something like the Lageder pinot bianco.

So know the producer. The Lageder pinot bianco ( $13, purchased, 13%) comes from one of the best small wineries in Italy – a 200-year-old family business tucked away on Italy’s northern border between Switzerland and Austria. I’ve written about the Lageder wines many times. All have been worth spending the extra three for four dollars for, including and especially the pinot grigio.

The pinot bianco is no exception. Look for bright, fresh lime and green apple fruit with an almost floral aroma. In this, the wine may be more like an Oregon pinot blanc, since white wine fruit flavors tend to be subdued in Italian wine. The finish is clean and long, not quite stony but still satisfying. It’s an approachable and enjoyable wine, either on its own or with roast chicken or grilled fish. And it would be terrific for Thanksgiving – a lighter style to go with all that food.

Wine of the week: Tenuta Caparzo Sangiovese 2015

Tenuta Caparzo sangioveseThe Tenuta Caparzo sangiovese fills in the boxes on the cheap wine checklist

Let’s pull out the cheap wine checklist for the Tenuta Caparzo sangiovese:

• Made in southern France, Italy, or Spain? Check.

• Not made with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or chardonnay? Check.

• An importer who specializes in quality and value? Check.

In other words, the Italian Tenuta Caparzo sangiovese ($12, purchased, 13.5%) is exactly what a weeknight wine should be — well-priced and professionally made, and it tastes like the grape that it’s made from and the region where the grape is grown.

Sigh. Why do we need a checklist to find wines like this?

This red from Tuscany in northern Italy is softer than a Chianti, though it’s made with the same grape. That’s a style choice (something to do with Italy’s zany appellation laws?), but it doesn’t make the wine too flabby. Look for red fruit, mostly ripe cherry, a burst of Tuscan acidity, and a little earth and spice.

Is this the best wine ever made? Or even the best cheap wine? No, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s enough to be fairly priced and enjoyable to drink on a cold Tuesday night when you’re home late and dinner is takeout pizza.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

Wine of the week: Feudo Arancio Stemmari Grillo 2017

Stemmari grilloThis vintage of the Stemmari grillo reminds us how terrific cheap Sicilian wine can be

About a decade ago, Sicily was home to some of the world’s best – and least known – cheap wine. But then the wine geeks discovered the Italian island, prices went up, and quality suffered. Case in point is the Stemmari grillo, which alternates between terrific and not worth drinking as often as a wine judge spits.

The 2017 version of the Stemmari grillo ($10, purchased, 13%) is back to terrific. As my notes say: “Much better than expected, and especially after the past several vintages.” In fact, I bought this white wine, made with the grillo grape, because I have to buy lots of bad wine to find something worth writing about.

What makes this version of the Stemmari grillo so much more interesting? It tastes like grillo, for one thing – spicy (white pepper?), with some sort of lemony apple flavor (or apple-y lemon, if you prefer), and it’s dry and clean and almost minerally. When the wine is off, it’s sort of oxidized – heavy and brandyish and about as refreshing as a kick in the head.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame. Just make sure you buy this vintage, and not one of the previous two or three. Chill and drink on its on, or pair with almost anything Mediterranean that comes from the sea. And it wouldn’t be bad with humms, pita breads, and a bulgur salad, either.

Imported by Prestige Wine Imports