Wine of the week: Osborne Solaz Cabernet-Tempranillo 2006

image There is a chance this isn ?t the world ?s most perfect cheap wine. But it ?s a very small chance. This Spanish red is $7, and it has body and structure that most $7 wines can only dream of. It has remarkable fruit; usually, cheap wine either has body or fruit, but rarely both.

What ?s even more impressive is that the Solaz is consistent from vintage to vintage, something else that you don ?t see in quality cheap wine. Most good inexpensive wines will have a four-, five-, or six-year run, and then fade from the scene like old ballplayers. That ?s what happened to two of my all-time favorites, Hogue ?s sauvignon blanc and a red blend from France, Jaja de Jau. Great wine, and then not great.

But not the Solaz. How good is it? Even Robert Parker agrees with me, and how often does that happen?

This should please the cabernet drinkers at Thanksgiving dinner. But save it for Saturday night when everyone has gone home and you ?re alone and worn out and you feel like take out pizza. Open the Solaz then, and marvel at how they do it.

Tuesday tidbits 54: Wine and health, boxed wine, Jackson Browne

? Wine and health: Three items to consider ? that a red wine pill may help cut obesity, that a glass of wine may contain dangerous levels of heavy metals, and that wine drinking may prevent dementia. The Wine Curmudgeon notes these not because he believes any of them, but because it ?s interesting that researchers are hopping on the wine bandwagon. I wonder: Is it easier to get grant money for a wine project than for something else?

? Down Under ?s wine in the box: Australia, which popularized the wine box, seems to be losing interest in the product. Its share of the Aussie wine market fell from 60 per cent to 40 per cent in the past decade, thanks to screw cap bottles, cheaper bottled wines, poor margins and heavier taxes. If boxed wine can ?t make in Australia, where it has been immensely popular for almost 40 years, how is it going to make it in the U.S.?

? Jackson Browne wine: The singer-songwriter, apparently, will not be running on empty. (We will now pause while the Wine Curmudgeon apologizes for that last sentence. Sorry.) Browne may turn his California ranch into a winery. The singer says he has the perfect soil and weather conditions to grow grapes.

Thanksgiving wine suggestions

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Wine types love to agonize over Thanksgiving. How can anyone possibly pair wine with a meal that includes so many things that are so different? In other words, wine types agonize too much. Or, as Jacques Pepin, who has cooked for everyone from French presidents to TV audiences, told me: Get a bottle of red and a bottle of white, put them on the table, and let people drink what they want.

In fact, Thanksgiving wine can be that easy. Thanksgiving dinner is supposed to be fun, and not a wine final exam. So when you plan your dinner, plan on serving a couple of different kinds of wine. They don ?t have to be expensive or highly rated. They just have to be enjoyable.

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Times Ten Cellars

image This is one of an occasional series detailing Texas wineries. The complete list is here.

This Dallas winery, soon to add a location in Fort Worth, is the leader in a Texas trend: a winery that is more wine bar than winery. It ?s similar to the brewpub phenomenon that was was popular 15 years ago, but seems (in Texas, anyway) to have more staying power.

It ?s not unusual for a winery to sell the wine it makes. At Times Ten, though, the business is more than tourists passing through for a couple of tastes before going to the next stop. Its customers are people who stop in for a glass or two of wine on their way home from work or who meet for an evening of sipping and chatting.

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Wine review: George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2008

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The good news is that the Duboeuf nouveau has some character this year. It's not the soft, soapy, banana frosting wine that it was last year. There is actually more of a berry aroma, and even some tannins and acid in the back. All told, this vintage is a marked improvement over most of the past several years.

The bad news is the price. The Duboeuf costs as much as $14 in Dallas, and that's silly. Nouveau's entire reason for being is that it's cheap, since it doesn't age. When nouveau starts to cost as much as red wine that has spent six or nine months in oak, there is very little incentive to drink it. The Duboeuf went on sale in Paris today at 6.5 euros, which is a bit more than $8. That's probably closer to the right price.

In fact, this has been a very controversial year for nouveau. There were evens calls to boycott the wine because it isn ?t especially eco-friendly. I mentioned this earlier, but my cohort in regional wine, Dave McIntyre, had an even better take on how silly a boycott was.

Holiday wine schedule

Here ?s what the Wine Curmudgeon will be writing about over the next couple of weeks, so you can keep those holiday shopping lists handy:

? Nov. 24: Thanksgiving wine suggestions (and only one is pinot noir!)

? Nov. 26: Thanksgiving wine of the week, Osborne Solaz.

? Nov. 28: Holiday wine and gift shopping guide.

As always, suggestions, thoughts and comments are welcome.

Wine of the week: Dufouleur Pere & Fils Nuits St. Georges Premier Cru Les Saint Georges 2002

image Regular visitors here know that the Wine Curmudgeon does not put much stock in expensive wine. Even when it ?s worthwhile, these wines often fail the 10 times test: Is a typical $100 wine 10 times better than a typical $10 wine?

This red Burgundy (what the French call pinot noir) is from a 400-year French wine family and it does pass the 10 times test. The 2002 vintage, meanwhile, is one of the best in Burgundy in decades. Even better, the wine is only about $30 (though I can ?t guarantee availability outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth area). This is classic red Burgundy, with zippy tannins and a pleasantly rustic feel and taste. It isn ?t especially fruity, so if you drink a lot of New World pinot noir you may be disappointed. Try it anyway.

I drank most of a bottle of this on the porch, enjoying a pleasant fall afternoon. It will also pair with almost anything you can throw at it for Thanksgiving, and it has lots of aging potential. How often can you say that about a $30 wine?