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.

Winebits 595: Andre Lurton, ancient yeast, Grocery Outlet

Andre Lurton

Andre Lurton

This week’s wine news: Andre Lurton, one of the leaders in great cheap wine, has died, plus an ancient yeast discovery and wine discounter Grocery Outlet may expand

Andre Lurton: Andre Lurton, whose skill and foresight gave us Chateau Bonnet, one of the world’s greatest cheap wines, has died at 94. The Lurton family are Bordeaux royalty, and their holdings include Cheval Blanc, one of the world’s great estates. But Andre Lurton “specialized in buying properties at their lowest value and nurturing them into valuable wine estates,” starting with the family’s Château Bonnet in 1953. It was in Bordeaux’s Entre-Deux-Mers region, then and now known for mostly poorly made supermarket wine. But Lurton understood how to improve wine quality and maintain the price, and today Chateau Bonnet produces $10 wine that shames almost all the other cheap wine in the world. As one French journalist wrote: “Andre defines himself as a peasant. He loves to count the hours he spent driving a tractor more than he loves to count the chateaus he owns.” What better epitaph could Lurton have?

5,000-year-old yeast: Israeli researchers have made beer using yeast extracted from 5,000-year-old Egyptian clay pots. Key to their work was Israel’s Kadma Winery, which makes wine in clay pots. Said one expert: “We are talking about a real breakthrough here. This is the first time we succeeded in producing ancient alcohol from ancient yeast. In other words, from the original substances from which alcohol was produced. This has never been done before.” And, reportedly, the beer wasn’t bad, either.

More Grocery Outlets? Good news for cheap wine drinkers – Grocery Outlet, the west coast cult discounter, wants to expand to other parts of the U.S. Supermarket News reports that the company wants to raise $100 million through a stock offering to open hundreds of stores adjacent to its locations in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington (it also has stores in Pennsylvania, which has limited supermarket wine sales). Company officials say it could eventually reach 4,800 stores across the country. Grocery Outlet is famous for buying surplus products from wholesalers and manufacturers, including and especially wine, marking it down by as much as 40 to 70 percent.

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.

Rose week giveaway 2019: Luminarc wine glasses

Luminarc wine glassesToday, to celebrate the blog’s 12th rose extravaganza, we’re giving away four Luminarc wine glasses

And the winner is: Seena Spencer, who selected 272; the winning number was 274 (screen shot to the left). Thanks to everyone who participated.


Today, to celebrate the blog’s 12th annual rose extravaganza, we’re giving away four Luminarc wine glasses. The complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the wine glasses.

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.