Wine of the week: Escudo Rojo 2006

image Availability is the great challenge in the wine business. This is just as true for inexpensive wines as it is for the limited production, big score, highly-rated cult wines that get so much attention.

Which means you should always keep your eye on a couple of readily available wines that can be found in grocery stores that are food friendly and easy to drink. The Escudo Rojo (about $14), a red blend from Chile, is one such wine.

It’s made with carmenere, which has evolved into the national grape of Chile (after winemakers there thought it was merlot for a century or so). Carmenere is a little softer than merlot, and with a little more herbal quality. Blend it with cabernet sauvignon, syrah and cabernet franc, as is done here, and you get a New World, fruit forward style wine that is also balanced. (And, since this is made by a Rothschild company, you also get 12 months of oak.) Serve this with barbecue or hamburgers.

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? Screw tops for Sonoma-Cutrer in Texas: This is not some low-end grocery store wine, either. Sonoma-Cutrer is one of the most popular restaurant brands in the country, and its wines run as much as $65 retail. So why the new enclosures? Winemaker Terry Adams says the Stelvin screwcap makes the wine better than using a cork.

? Another reason why we like Jancis Robinson: Wine writers should be be more humble and honest, the leading English wine critic told an international panel of wine writers and winemakers in Spain. “‘We must always remember that we are parasites on the business of winemaking,” she said. Or, as the Wine Curmudgeon always says, tell people what the wine tastes like and let them make up their own minds, without any gobbledigook or winespeak or any of the other crap that too many of us foist on the public.

? Ingredients on wine labels: This proposal has been kicking around the federal agency that regulates wine sales for a couple of years. Officials want wine labels to include the same things that are on canned goods: serving sizes, calories, carbohydrates, fat, protein and potential allergens on the label. The industry is less than thrilled, citing the usual sorts of issues industries always cite. No word yet on if — or when — the government will rule on this.

The Chateau Pavie controversy

image Dan Peabody, who works for Dallas’ Spirivin Group, pulled the wine out of his carrying case. It was inside a paper bag, so I couldn’t see what it was. He poured a taste.

I smelled. I sipped. I swallowed. John Bookwalter, the winemaker for Washington state’s Bookwalter Winery, looked at me. “What do you think?”

Peabody, Bookwalter and I were at lunch to taste three new Bookwalter releases (which I’ll write about later). But we were also tasting a fourth wine, which the two of them had brought to challenge my palate and tease me a little. I would taste the wine blind and see if I could identify it.

I failed miserably, which was the point.

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Wine review: Rosemount Estate Diamond Label Sauvignon Blanc 2007

image The Australians don’t usually do sauvignon blanc well. The climate is mostly too warm, there isn’t a great demand for it outside of Australia, and the country’s winemakers prefer to spend their time on big red wines.

So the Wine Curmudgeon expected very little from this — and learned, once again, never to assume when it comes to wine. The Rosemount is wonderful $10 wine, an amazing accomplishment. It’s clean and crisp, without any of the flabby character usually associated with warm climate sauvignon blanc.

It’s more California in style than New Zealand, which means tropical flavors as opposed to the big grapefruit that New Zealand is know for. Served chilled, this is a porch sipper as well as an amiable companion for grilled chicken and  shellfish (shrimp on the barbie, perhaps?)

Wine of the week: Macon-Lugny Les Charmes 2006

Wine of the week: Macon-Lugny Les Charmes 2006 I stumbled on this inexpensive white Burgundy during my wine tasting extravaganza last week. The Les Charmes (about $11) is an example of a wine that gets lost in the cracks — a solid value that is overlooked in the rush to find new wines, hipper wines, and trendier wines. Which is too bad, because it’s well worth drinking. (The above link is in French, in case anyone feels adventurous.)

White Burgundy is chardonnay, and in the Macon (a region in Burgundy), this kind of chardonnay isn’t aged in oak. That delivers a crisper, cleaner, more fruit-centered wine than most California chardonnay. Look for green apple, a little lemon, and a refreshing finish. Serve it chilled with main course salads, grilled and roasted chicken, and even as an aperitif.

A day in the life of a wine writer: One lunch, three tastings, and six hours

A day in the life of a wine writer: One lunch, three tastings, and six hours No one ever believes the Wine Curmudgeon when he tells them that wine writing is a lot more than sipping $100 bottles in five-star restaurants in the company of mini-skirted and leather-booted PR women.

It’s work — not mining coal or repairing roofs work, but work nonetheless. Last Thursday, I attended a wine lunch at 12:30 p.m., went to two walk-around tastings, and then did a home wine tasting as one of Two Wine Guys — all in the space of six hours. And I skipped two other events. (One sales rep said skipping them proved I wasn’t manly enough. I think he was joking.) This wasn’t a typical day, but something like it happens a couple of times a year.

Why did I do it? To taste wine that I wouldn’t normally taste, and especially expensive wine. To schmooze with other wine writers, wine executives and wine makers, which is an integral part of doing this job well. And because the point of writing about wine is to drink as much of it as possible.

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