Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, the Black Friday 2016 roundup: Wines not to buy.
• Little Black Dress Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($8, sample, 13.5%): Sometimes, this supermarket California red wine wins gold medals at prestigious competitions. Sometimes, it’s undrinkable, which is the case here. Horribly overcooked, with the classic and very rarely seen anymore taste and aroma of stewed tomatoes.
• The Federalist Zinfandel 2014 ($23, sample, 14.5%): The nicest thing I can say about this California red is that it’s not hot. Otherwise, it’s sadly predictable — massive sweet black fruit, nary a tannin in sight, and one more example where the marketing is better than the quality of the wine. The Bogle zinfandel is twice as good for half the price.
• Cave de Lugny Les Tuiles 2014 ($13, purchased, 13.5%): Cave de Lugny usually makes the best, affordable white Burgundy in the world. Not this time: Unripe and stemmy, without any chardonnay varietal character. And a couple of dollars more than the previous vintage, adding insult to injury.
Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. For January, four French wines:
? Macon-Villages Les Tuiles 2013 ($10, purchased,13%): This chardonnay from the Macon region of Burgundy is another winner from Cave de Lugny, which specializes in quality cheap wine from that part of France. This is a richer, less crisp style, but still with green apple, and even though the wine doesn’t have any oak.
? Ch teau Jacquet Blanc 2013 ($11, purchased,12%): Nothing special about this white Bordeaux, made of sauvignon blanc and semillon. It’s sort of jumbled together, without enough minerality and some sort of citrus and honey combination.
? Ch teau Rauzan Despagne Reserve 2013: ($13, purchased,12%): Overpriced white being sold in Dallas as a private label that doesn’t especially taste white Bordeaux, with too much citrus and sweet fruit. Very disappointing.
? Hugel Riesling 2012: ($20, sample,12%): This Alsatian white comes from one of the region’s finest producers, and it’s impeccable — some oiliness, pear fruit, and minerality, as well as bone dry. But for all of its quality, it doesn’t come close to delivering value for $20. This is the problem the French wine business faces that few people want to admit.
The Wine Curmudgeon reviews a proportionally larger share of French wines, and when I look at the numbers — which I do because I don’t want to go too far in any direction — I always wonder if I should try to do fewer French wines. Then I taste something like the Cave de Lugny La Cote Blanche ($10, purchased, 12.5%), and I understand why I do so many cheap French wines.
They’re that good, and especially if they’re from Cave de Lugny, a cooperative in Burgundy that somehow produces affordable red, white, rose and sparkling wines from that very expensive region. Unfortunately, we don’t get enough of them over here, but the Les Charmes is a $10 chardonnay well worth drinking, and the $10 Macon-Villages chardonnay is equally delicious.
The Cote Blanche, which seems to be a World Market private label, is yet another terrific effort from Cave de Lugny. It’s chardonnay from the Macon area of Burgundy, so that means no oak. a mineral finish, and some apple and lemon fruit. But there is also an almost rich mouth feel, which makes the wine more interesting and is not easy to do for $10. It’s a step up from the previously mentioned Macon-Villages — and for the same price.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame. Serve this chilled on its own, or with roast or grilled chicken. It would also do nicely as the wine to cook with and to drink in a dish like braised chicken with mustard and garlic (and I would add lots of sliced onions).
One of the most amazing things about the Golden Age of Cheap Wine is that it’s amazing despite the dollar’s weakness against the euro. Its decline, dating to the beginning of this century, has increased the price of European goods by as much as 20 percent, and cheap wine has mostly followed suit.
Case in point are the French wines from Cave de Lugny, a growers’ cooperative in the Macon region in Burgundy, which makes some of the best grocery store whites in the world. The catch, thanks to the weak dollar, is that they aren’t priced like grocery store wines these days, costing $15 or more. Which is why I haven’t reviewed a Cave de Lugny wine in three years.
Which is also why the Wine Curmudgeon was so excited to see Lugny’s Macon-Villages ($10, purchased, 13%) at this price. And, frankly, I should have bought more than one bottle. It’s a chardonnay that is always dependable and always varietally correct, made in the traditional Macon style — no oak. That means some lemon and green apple fruit, lots of crispness, and a very clean finish that hints at the minerality of a more complex wine.
Serve this chilled with almost any white wine dish. And if you see other Lugny wines, like the Les Charmes, for $10 or so, don’t hesitate to buy it. You can enjoy it while pondering the mysteries of exchange rates and international banking.
? What’s in a private label? We’ve had discussion here over the years about the difference between national brands and store brands and private labels. This article, from an Alabama newspaper, is a sound, easy-to-follow explanation of private label and who makes the wine for retailers like Walgreen’s, Wal-Mart, and Costco. And, notes wine columnist Pat Kettles, Dollar General is going to have to find someone to make the wine it wants to sell.
? When critics collide: Eric Asimov in the New York Times has the story of two influential critics and their reaction to Chateau Pavie, a hip and with-it red Bordeaux blend that is usually well received. Robert Parker calls the 2010 Pavie brilliant, while John Gilman calls it, believe it not, bad and unpleasant. Which is, of course, one of the great things about wine, that two such reputable critics can completely disagree. The Wine Curmudgeon has actually tasted Pavie, and while it wasn’t the 2010, I can see where Gilman was coming from. Which means I can also see where Parker was coming from.
? Love that cheap wine: Decanter, the British wine magazine, has released its annual wine awards. Many of the award winners will be difficult to find in the U.S. or too expensive or both, but one of them is a favorite around here — the French chardonnay, Cave de Lugny, which sells for abut $10 in the U.S. It was not only the least expensive among the top 10 chardonnays, but it shared the list with some high-dollar white Burgundies from Montrachet and Chabilis and an $80 Aussie label.
The French may have many faults as a wine-producing nation, be it genuflecting in Robert Parker’s direction or refusing to acknowledge the 21st century. But they still make the world’s best chardonnay — even grocery store chardonnay.
The Cave de Lugny ($11, purchased) is just such a wine. It’s almost unoaked, with some green apple and citrus at the front. If the mineral finish is a bit thin, it’s not unpleasant like so many California grocery store chardonnays, which reek of fake oak and other winemaker manipulation. I stumbled across this while looking for something to have on hand in case Icepocalypse: The Sequel kept me from wine shopping, and snapped it up. Cave de Lugny has a fine reputation as a grocery-store Burgundy producer (I especially like the Les Charmes, though it’s not $11 any more), and one could do a lot worse than this wine. Which, sadly, I have.
Drink this chilled on its own, with leftovers if you’re cleaning out the refrigerator after the power goes out, or for Chinese takeout. Assuming you can get to the restaurant for takeout in between the winter storms.