What, you don ?t think wine and Father ?s Day are a good fit? Then you don ?t know all of the dads that I know, since they find wine a fine gift at any time. Whatever you do, though, keep our wine gift-giving guidelines in mind — “Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.”
These suggestions should get you started:
? Hey Mambo Sultry Red ($12, sample): Red California table wine that deserves better than its hokey back label. Simple, basic, and fulfilling, with enough black fruit to be noticeable, but not so much that it tastes like a juice box. Pair with grilled sausages, and don ?t be afraid to chill it a little.
? Bodega Amalaya Tinto ($17, sample): Much better than than I thought it would be, with sweet cherry fruit that was more bright than stewed (which can be a problem with Argentine malbecs). It was still soft, but pleasantly so. A terrific barbecue wine.
? Lucien Albrecht Cremant d ?Alsace Brut Rose NV ($17, sample): The decline in the euro means this sparkling wine may return to more affordable territory, which is worth waiting for. Crisp and bubbly and refreshing, with subtle cranberry and cherry fruit and just the thing for a hot summer Sunday.
? Reading a wine label: The great Tim McNally offers a wine label reading primer, and it's as good anything I have seen. "Who can read this damn thing and make any sense of it at all? Long words, abbreviations, references to places no one ever heard of, and not a mention at all as to what grapes are in the bottle," he writes. "The world ?s worst wine labels, when it comes to disclosing information, are from … the United States. … Our labels tell us practically nothing. Conversely, when you know what to look for on some other country ?s wine labels, you will learn just about everything you need to know about the wine except what it smells and tastes like, which are subjective anyway."
? More than malbec: Dave McIntyre takes a look at Argentina and discovers there is more to the country's wines than the tidal wave of malbec washing up on our shores. "Think fresh, elegant cabernet sauvignon," Dave writes, "plummy, earthy syrah; and juicy bonarda. Most exciting may be Argentina ?s pinot noir. …" It's a well-thought out look at Argentina, and though some of the wines are pricey, Dave finds some great bargains, including a $13 pinot from Nieto Senetiner that I will look for and review here.
? Cava sales soaring: How well is cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, doing in the world marketplace? Consider that export sales are at an all-time high. The Spanish sold 12.7 million cases of cava to the rest of us in 2011, 2 percent more than in 2010. The reasons for this are obvious: Tremendous marketing, great prices and even better value, and quality that has to be tasted to be believed. Right, $10 Hall of Fame? Most impressively, the Spanish are breaking down the wine snob barrier that has always held cava back — the idea that sparkling wine that doesn't come from Champagne (and is cheap) isn't worth drinking.
This wine is why the Wine Curmudgeon loves his job.
It was a sample, and the only the only thing I knew about it was that it cost $9 and came from Patagonia, which is the Argentine wine region that isn't Mendoza. I had no expectations; Patagonian wines aren't common, and the guy who gave me the sample knew nothing else about the wine. Plus the winery web site didn't work, and there were few references to the wine elsewhere in the cyber-ether.
And what did I find? Wine of the Week delight. Hall of Fame bliss. This may be the best $10 red I've tasted since the demise of the much beloved Solaz. The Picada is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, and pinot noir (yes, Argentine pinot) and the result is balance between acid, fruit and tannin in a way that almost never happens with wine at this price. Yes, it's fruity, but the fruit isn't sweetish or heavy, like most $10 Mendoza wines. Which is the reason I don't drink most $10 malbecs and malbec blends.
Yes, the Picada is a little thin in the middle, but that's because I'm looking for something to complain about. And, believe it or not, there is a white blend that was almost as tasty, and a malbec that was somewhere between the white and the red blends. Drink this if you want a glass of red wine but don't want to be overwhelmed by fruit, acid, alcohol or tannims; it will pair with almost any red wine kind of food. Highly recommended.
? Argentina ahead of Chile: Argentina exported more wine to the U.S. in 2010 than arch-rival Chile, which may have been the first time that has ever happened. Argentina ranks fourth, behind Italy, France and Australia, as a supplier of wine to the U.S. market. The two countries have been fighting for several years to see which would be the biggest exporter to the U.S. market, and it has turned into a point of national wine pride.
? Gruet says it didn’t do anything wrong: The story is more than a bit confusing, but the gist is this: When Laurent Gruet, whose family owns New Mexico’s Gruet Winey, bid for Texas’ bankrupt Cap*Rock Winery last year, Laurent wasn’t acting for the winery. Hence, neither he nor the winery is responsible for damages in a lawsuit relating to the failed bid. And, for good measure, the company that owns Gruet, which is controlled by the Gruet family, says Laurent “lacked the requisite mental capacity ? to bid for Cap*Rock.
? Everything you ever wanted to know about corks: The article in Practical Winery & Vineyard is quite technical, complete with diagrams of molecules, but the language isn’t too difficult and it’s easily the best piece I’ve ever seen on the difference between corks, screwcaps, and artificial corks. Plus, authors Carlos Macku, Ph.D., and Kyle Reed, Ph.D., from the department of technical services at Cork Supply in Benicia, Calif., threw in some some academic humor: “Wine packaging (probably one of the most challenging of all food barriers) has certainly evolved from the days when the product was transported, stored, and sold in Egyptian amphorae or medieval wooden barrels.”
Finding a quality $10 malbec is difficult; finding a quality $10 torrontes makes the malbec search seem easy. That's because torrontes, which is malbec's white grape counterpart in Argentina, is in short supply. The best torrontes grapes are used to make pricey wines, and even some of the least of the grapes end up in those pricey wines.
Fortunately, Argentine producer Fincas Ferrer has found a way around this problem. The Accordeon ($10, sample) is not only one of the best-made torrontes I've had, but it's a steal at this price. I tasted the wine at a lunch with winemaker Miquel Salarich and several other Dallas wine writers, and we took turns asking Salarich if this wine was really only $10. He just smiled and said yes.
Torrontes, when it is done well, should be floral and fruity. Sometimes, the wine is off-dry, with a hint of sweetness, but this is often used to mask the wine's faults. The Accordeon is bone dry, though still low in alcohol, and it has peach fruit and an almost riesling-like oiliness (which is a good thing) as well as a classic peach pit finish. It's just not a simple, fruity white wine; there's much more to it than that.
Drink this wine chilled on its own, or with any kind of spicy food. Highly recommended, and almost certain to show up in the 2011 $10 Wine Hall of Fame.