2006 Bordeaux

image What struck the Wine Curmudgeon during the massive Bordeaux tasting in Dallas last month was not the quality, which was mostly excellent, or the prices, which were mostly expensive. It ?s that almost 100 chateaux were represented, including some big names that one would think wouldn ?t have to do these things. But producers from Margaux, Saint-Julien and Sauternes were there, just like those from lesser appellations like Pessac-Leogan and Listrac-Medoc.

But that ?s the way the wine world is these days. Even some of Bordeaux ?s big names have to hustle to make a living.

It ?s no surprise about the quality or the prices because this was Bordeaux, and that ?s the way things always are with Bordeaux. What ?s funny is that so many people I talked to were so surprised about the quality. Apparently, unless one of the Wine Magazines anoints the vintage as Best of The Century, which didn ?t happen with 2006, it ?s not going to be any good. Think that way if you want, but I prefer to taste the wine first.

The 2006 wines that I tasted were approachable, even though young, and seemed sturdy enough to get better over time. What more can a wine drinker ask? (With the caveat, of course, that this is Bordeaux, and no one can really tell anything for at least another five years.)

After the jump, a few highlights from the tasting:

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Wine review: Corbett Canyon Merlot NV

image Ultra-cheap wine presents a dilemma. At what point is the wine so cheap that quality doesn ?t matter and that it becomes nothing more than an alcohol delivery system, devoid of any pleasure except for the buzz that it provides?

That ?s why the Wine Curmudgeon is so hard on these wines, which can roughly be defined as those that cost less than $6 a bottle. Cheap whiskey is for getting drunk. Wine ? even inexpensive wine — is for enjoyment.

Which is why I was intrigued by the Corbett Canyon, which won the Best of Class for Merlots below $15 at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The competition included some perfectly acceptable wines, including Red Truck, Cycles Gladiator, Mondavi Private Selection and Wente. The Corbett Canyon is $10 for a 3-liter box, or about $2.50 a bottle.

It ?s certainly worth that, and even a bit more. Don ?t expect a lot of depth or sophistication, and if this wine saw any oak it was a passing glance. But the Corbett Canyon tastes like merlot, and it ?s not too jammy or fruity in the way other cheap merlots are. The tannins are even pleasant. Drink it on its own or with any red wine foods.

The biggest problem is the box. It ?s not easy to get the spigot out of the side of the box, and, if you ?re not careful, the spigot leaks. Make sure to turn the knob hard to the left to shut off the flow.

Valentine’s Day wine update

Just in case you missed my suggestions (and my take on the holiday), as well as some other thoughts floating around the cyber ether:

? The strangest bit of Valentine ?s Day advice I ?ve ever seen: ?The new Valentine's menu is heart-shaped hamburgers any style. The bubbly is beer. ?

? If you insist on pairing wine with chocolate (and I ?m sorry, Gil.)

? A solid, always classy suggestion from Dave McIntyre.

? Sandra Silfven ?s take ? bubbly and more bubbly.

French pinot noir scandal

image Or, what happens when the wine you ?re drinking isn ?t made from the grapes that are listed on the label.

French authorities say that millions of gallons of wine from southern France were fraudulently sold as pinot noir and exported to the U.S. over the last four years. This comes from Decanter, the British wine magazine, which reports that the non-pinot pinot was sold by winemakers and cooperatives in the Languedoc region to the Ducasse negociant firm, which in turn sold the wine to distributor Sieur d'Arques for sale in the U.S. The authorities aren ?t sure where in that chain the fraud occurred, and they aren ?t sure which wines in the U.S., if any, contain the fake pinot.

Why does this matter? Because inexpensive pinot noir from the south of France has become quite popular in the U.S. this decade, with labels like Red Bicyclette, Lulu B., Fat Bastard, and French Maid producing pinot for $10 or $12 a bottle. Again, there is no indication at this time that any of these wines have the fake pinot.

That price is one-half to one-third the price of most of the least expensive pinots made in Burgundy and California. In fact, a southern French pinot style has emerged in the last seven or eight years, distinctly different from those in Burgundy and California ? it ?s juicier, fruiter and less sophisticated.

After the jump, comment from some of those producers and details about how the fraud could have happened:

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Wine of the week: Tormaresca Neprica 2007

image And it ?s just as wonderful as last year, when the Neprica was the third best read post on the blog. And, in even better news, it ?s apparently more widely available this year. (Thanks to Kathleen Talbert at Talbert Communications for tracking down availability.)

Why is this wine so wonderful? It ?s cheap ? list is $12, so it ?s probably $10.99 or less at most stores. It ?s well made, with typical Italian acidity and sour cherry fruit. It ?s food friendly, pairing with anything from red sauce to sausages and grilled peppers and onions. Plus, it ?s made with some interesting grapes, including the Italian varietals negroamaro and primitivo. The world does not revolve around cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

And why is the Neprica more available this year? Because, apparently, so many people asked about it. This is an example of consumers convincing retailers they should actually stock something more interesting than the usual bottles they stick on the shelves. A tip o ? the wine glass to everyone who asked about it. You made a difference.

Tuesday wine bits 64: Wine web awards, Las Rocas, Aussie wildfires

? American Wine Blog Awards: There was some doubt this year whether the awards would happen, but apparently they ?re on (with sponsors, even). I don ?t mention this so you can support the Wine Curmudgeon, since I don ?t think I was nominated — I ?m too shy to nominate himself. I mention this because the awards are a terrific way to see who is doing good wine writing on the Internet (or bad writing, as the case may be). In addition, if wine blogging is to advance in the world, we need to take it seriously, and these awards are one of doing that.

? Gallo buys Las Rocas: This is big news, and probably even more shocking than it is big. Las Rocas is a well respected Spanish label. Its $12 garnacha, with the makes a lot of best cheap wine lists). It was imported by the even more well respected Eric Solomon, who is one of the top names in Spanish wine. I don ?t know anyone in the business who isn ?t shocked that Solomon sold the brand. Whatever the reason, expect to see more sales like this as the recession deepens. Big producers like Gallo have the deep pockets to pick up labels if the owner needs cash.

? Wildfires scorch Aussie wine country: As if the Australians didn ?t have enough problems, the wildfires that devastated the country and killed more than 180 people last week also destroyed vineyards and wineries, especially in the Yarra Valley. The Yarra is one of the most important regions in southeastern Australia.

Valentine’s Day wine

image Wine writers hate Valentine ?s Day, and this includes many who aren ?t as cranky as the Wine Curmudgeon. We hate it because it ?s annoyingly difficult to pair wine with the holiday ?s basic food group, chocolate. As my pal Gil Kulers always says, ?Chocolate and wine go together as well as the Hatfields and the McCoys at a Sunday barbecue. ?

And we hate it because no one believes us when we say things like that. Or point out that it ?s kind of silly to pair $50 cabernet sauvignon with $2 chocolate. (And this doesn ?t take into account whether Valentine ?s Day is a legitimate holiday that deserves wine suggestions.)

A less conscientious wine writer than the Wine Curmudgeon, in fact, wouldn ?t even bother with Valentine ?s Day. He or she would make a snotty comment, maybe link to someone else ?s suggestions, and then talk about how wonderful they are.

I, of course, will soldier on. After the jump, some wines for Valentine ?s Day that have nothing to do with chocolate.

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