Tag Archives: Cava

Wine of the week: Segura Viudas Brut Rose NV

Segura Viudas Brut RoseThe Segura Viudas Brut Rose can make even a curmudgeon happy.

There are days when even I am worn out by my whining and carping and complaining, about trying to save the wine business from itself, about beating my head against Google’s Internet Iron Curtain. That’s when I buy a bottle of the Segura Viudas brut rose and appreciate some truly great cheap wine.

The Segura Viudas brut rose ($8, purchased, 11.5%) is one of the handful of cheap wines that shows what happens when a producer – even a gigantic one like Segura owner Freixenet – cares more about quality than focus groups. I’ve been drinking this Spanish sparkling wine (as well as the Segura brut) since before I started the blog, and it has never let me down.

It has changed over the years, becoming a touch softer and with less acidity than other cavas, but it remains cava and not some bastardized knockoff. Look for bright red fruit, a rich, bubbly mouth feel, and that particular fresh and minerally cava finish. How this is done for less than $10, when much inferior Prosecco costs $12 and $15, is something that even baffles me – and I’m supposed to know these things.

Highly recommended, and it will take its rightful place in the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame in January. Drink this chilled on its own, or with almost any food imaginable, including big red meat.

Wine of the week: Cristalino Brut Rose NV

How impressive is the Cristalino Brut Rose? It has remained one of the best buys in the wine world despite corporate upset and a lawsuit that forced it to change its name; the arrival of more hip and expensive cavas, the Spanish sparkling wine; and the usual changing of wine tastes.

Somehow, though, the Cristalino Brut Rose ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is still the kind of wine you can buy without a second thought, knowing you’ll get value for money and that it will be fun to drink. I’m convinced that the secret, other than Cristalino’s commitment, is using the trepat grape, which tempers the wine’s fruitiness and adds a layer of Spanishness.

This is a clean and crisp wine with tight bubbles, some cranberry and cherry fruit, and even a little toastiness, which one usually doesn’t get in a $10 bubbly. Drink this chilled on its own, or with almost any kind of meal that isn’t beefy red meat. It’s terrific with takeout Chinese, fried chicken, or hamburgers. Highly recommended, and assured of its place in the $10 Hall of Fame for another year.

Wine of the week: Segura Viudas Gran Cuvee Reserva NV

Segura Viudas Gran Cuvee ReservaGiven Segura Viudas’ $10 Hall of Fame reputation, it’s no surprise that the new Segura Viudas Gran Cuvee Reserva is another top-notch wine.

I say this even though the Gran Cuvee Reserva ($14, purchased, 12%) is the company’s attempt at trading consumers up, and we all know how the Wine Curmudgeon feels about premiumization. And, to make matters worse, it includes a little chardonnay and pinot noir, two grapes that sometimes show up in cava and rarely add much more than a flabby sweetness.

This time, though, the result is a more elegant, Champagne-like cava — which, of course, I should have expected given Segura’s devotion to quality. Look for some crisp apple, tart lemon, and even a hint of berry fruit, as well as a creamy mousse and a bit of yeasty aroma. Plus, it still has all those wonderful tight bubbles.

This is a step up from the regular Segura and well worth the extra three or four dollars. Highly recommended, whether you’re toasting the New Year in a couple of days or you feel like sparkling wine to brighten a gloomy winter’s day. I drank this with my annual holiday gumbo (chicken, sausage, and okra, made in the finest Cajun tradition, including a nutty, chocolate-colored roux) and my only regret was that I didn’t have a second bottle to drink.

new year's sparklng wine 2018

New Year’s sparkling wine 2015

New Year's sparkling wine 2015The Wine Curmudgeon will soon start the second year of his Champagne boycott, and I can’t say I’ve missed spending lots of money for wine that — as terrific as it can be — is almost never a value. With that in mind, here are my annual New Year’s sparkling wine suggestions, focusing on affordable bubbly that also offers value.

Also handy: The blog’s annual wine gift guidelines and the sparkling wine primer.

  • Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee ($10, sample, 11.5%): Every time I taste this California sparkler, and I taste it a couple of times a year, I’m always stunned at how well made it is. Even though it’s charmat, a less sophisticated production method than methode champenoise, the bubbles are still tight and the wine isn’t flabby or too sweet. Look for crisp apple fruit and a little creaminess, and serve well chilled.

Fantinel Prosecco Extra Dry NV ($15, sample, 11.5%): The Champagne boycott has forced me to spend more time with Prosecco, and I’m glad I did, discovering wines that were neither too soft or too simple and demonstrating again one should taste the wine before judging it. The Fantinel, though it’s labeled extra dry, is not appreciably sweeter than many bruts, and it features a flowery aroma and well done tropical fruit.

Mistinguett Cava Brut NV ($12, sample, 12%): Yet another Spanish bubbly that is simple but well-made and well worth the price. It’s got some sort of lemon-lime thing going on, but not too sweet and with a refreshing pop to it. Probably a little more Prosecco like than most cavas, but not unpleasant in the least.

Pierre Boniface Les Rocailles Brut de Savoie NV ($15, purchased, 12%): This cremant from the Savoie region (cremant is French sparkling wine not from Champagne) is made with jacqure, altesse, and chardonnay, so regular visitors know I would like it just for the two odd grapes. But it shows a touch of sweetness, some fresh white fruit, and a very intriguing minerality. It probably needs food, which you can’t say about most bubbly.

More about New Year’s sparkling wine:
New Year ?s sparkling wine 2014
New Year ?s sparkling wine 2013
New Year ?s sparkling wine 2012
Wine of the week: Astoria Prosecco NV
Wine of the week: Casteller Cava NV

Wine of the week: Casteller Cava NV

casteller cavaSomehow, despite the Wine Curmudgeon’s passion for cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, and several reviews of the Casteller rose cava, I have neglected to review the Casteller brut. What better time time to rectify this than for Thanksgiving?

The Casteller cava ($10, purchased, 11.5%) does everything sparkling wine is supposed to do, regardless of price. It has tight bubbles that sparkle up from the bottom of the glass; a vague notion of the toast that is part of Champagne’s appeal; and crisp, fresh, sweet lemon fruit. In this, it’s not exactly soft like some Proseccos or sweet sparklers, but more fruit forward, and certainly not unpleasant.

And, for your $10, you can buy four bottles the Casteller cava instead of one bottle of very ordinary Champagne. Highly recommended, and almost certain to enter the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame in six weeks. Chill this and serve it with Thanksgiving dinner, on its own, or any time you feel like something bubbly. Which, as regular visitors here know, is any time at all.

Celebrating without Champagne

champagneEven before the Champagne business adopted Stormtrooper 101 as its business model, its product was too expensive for almost all of us who buy wine. A decent bottle costs at least $30, and it’s probably closer to $40 by the time you find something interesting. So what’s a wine drinker to do who wants to celebrate with sparkling wine, but doesn’t want to buy Champagne?

Consider these alternatives (and if you’re confused, check out the blog’s sparkling wine FAQ):

Look elsewhere in France: Champagne isn’t the only part of the country that produces sparkling wine, and the values elsewhere can sometimes be astounding. These wines, called cremant, include Louis Bouillot Brut Rose ($18, purchased, 12%). The Bouillot is from Burgundy, where there is no question of quality, and it’s made with the same kinds of grapes as Champagne. Look for tight bubbles, a little caramel, and muted strawberry fruit. Highly recommended.

Go domestic: Big Wine comes through here, with Domaine Ste. Michelle from Washington state (the same company that does table wine as Chateau Ste. Michelle). These sparklers are made in the Champagne style, so that the second fermentation is in the bottle, cost about $12, and are available in what seems like every grocery store in the country. If they aren’t complex wines, they usually deliver more than $12 worth of value.

Spend a couple of dollars more for a better quality Prosecco: The surge in Prosecco’s popularity means a lot of ordinary wine is selling for $15, which can make it difficult to find value. Still, it’s out there, like the Valdo Prosecco Brut ($11, sample, 11%). It was much better than I expected, with more depth and character, a touch of yeast, and some sweet lemon fruit.

Cava is your friend: Regular visitors know how the Wine Curmudgeon feels about cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, but it’s worth repeating — it may be the best wine value in the world. The Casa Pedro Domecq Cava Gran Campo Viejo Brut Reserva ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is a serious cava, with lots of apple fruit and lots of bubbles, and it will be gone before you know it.

wine closures

Winebits 392: Wine closures, cava, women winemakers

wine closures ? Bring on the screwcaps: Mike Veseth at the Wine Economist offers one of the best analyses of the state of the wine closures, noting that the number of wineries that used corks, synthetic corks, and screwcaps isn’t as important as the size of the winieres. This is something that the cork people ignore in their quest to convince us that 19th century technology is still relevant. In other words, the next time you see something from a cork producer talking about how many wineries use natural cork, know that about half the wine in the U.S. has a synthetic cork. The post also includes this great quote from Australian wine guru Hugh Johnson: “I am faintly irritated now when I come to open a bottle of wine and find I need a corkscrew. ? Who knew a wine guru would sound like the Wine Curmudgeon?

? Bring on the cava: Shocking news for the wine business, of course, because this is mostly cheap wine, but nothing that those of us who don’t pay attention already know: Cava sales are soaring, up by 4.6 percent last year. By comparison, overall wine sales were mostly flat in 2014. The top cava brand, black bottle Freixenet, is the country’s best-selling imported sparkling brand as well, even beating all those moscatos.

? Update: Bring on the women: Apparently, I’m not the only one who found flaws in this study. I wonder: What’s going on with people who publish studies with serious errors?

Women winemakers, woefully underrepresented in the male-dominated wine business, make the best wine, despite accounting for only about 10 percent of winemakers. That’s the conclusion of a sort of study from Gabriel Froymovich at consultancy Vineyard Financial Associates, who says “I have often lamented the under-representation of women in this business.” This would be huge news and worth its own blog post, save for the methodology, which is why I call it a sort of study. Froymovich equates price with quality, and we know what a swamp that is — and only does so because using scores would be too much work, he says. This not only assumes that higher priced wine is better, which no one has ever demonstrated to be true, but that it doesn’t require skill to make cheap wine. Somehow, I think Jenn Wall at Barefoot would argue that point. Note, too, that the Wine Curmudgeon has advocated for women winemakers for more than a decade, so my problems with the study are not the results, but that better math wasn’t used to get them.

Image courtesy of Wine Anorak, using a Creative Commons license