The new vintage of the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year shows the Chateau La Graviere Blanc at its $10 best
What does the Chateau La Graviere Blanc, the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year, do for an encore? Produce another interesting, value-driven wine in the new vintage.
The Chateau La Graviere Blanc ($10, purchased, 13%), a French white blend from Bordeaux, has been one of the joys of my wine drinking over the past couple of years. It has remained high-quality $10 wine at a time when too much of the wine world cares more about adding sugar and raising prices.
The 2018 version of the Chateau La Graviere Blanc is richer and heavier than the 2017, thanks to the semillon blended with the sauvignon blanc. But know that neither is a bad thing; it shows off the wine’s terroir and reminds us that vintage differences can make a wine more interesting.
Look for some citrus and an almost California aroma of grassiness. There is lots of minerality, which is what a white Bordeaux should have, and the fullness in the mouth moves toward a long and clean finish. This is a food wine, but you can also chill and sip it when you want a glass of after work.
Highly recommended, and it will return to the $10 Hall of Fame in 2020.
The Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with a traditional Louisiana-style shrimp boil.
My adventures in south Louisiana as a young newspaperman taught me more about the world than I will ever be able to explain. Like a shrimp boil.
I’m 23 years old and the only thing I know about shrimp is that they’re served only on special occasions, maybe once a year. And that they’re boiled in salted water, and if they taste rubbery and bland, that’s OK, because they’re served only on special occasions. And then another reporter took me to Gino’s in Houma, La.
It was a revelation. This was food, and not Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. This was not something for a special occasion, but something people ate regularly. It opened my mind to the idea of food that wasn’t what I grew up with, and that opened my mind to the idea of other cultures, and that made it possible to open my mind to wine. And I’m not the only one who experienced this kind of revelation: The same thing happened to Julia Child when she went to a boil at Emeril Lagasse’s house.
There are really only two rules for a shrimp boil. Everything else is a suggestion, and any recipe is just a guideline. First, use shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico and avoid imported shrimp at all costs. The latter have as much flavor as Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. Second, use the boxed pouch seasoning called crab boil from Zatarain’s or Louisiana Fish Fry. And make sure the boxes are nowhere near their expiration date; otherwise, all their flavor is gone. Both companies make other styles of seasoning, but this is the easiest to use. And the less said about Old Bay (which is mostly celery salt), the better.
• St. Hilaire Crémant de Limoux Brut NV ($13, purchased, 12%): This French sparkling wine from the Languedoc, mostly chardonnay but also chenin blanc and mauzac, is crisp and bubbly, with pear and apple fruit. Exactly what the shrimp needs. Highly recommended. Imported by Esprit du Vin
• Celler de Capçanes Mas Donís Rosato 2018 ($11, purchased, 13%): This Spanish pink is a little soften than I expected, but that’s because it’s made with garnacha. But it’s still well worth drinking — fresh, ripe red fruit (cherry?), and an almost stony finish. Imported by European Cellars
• Hay Maker Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($10, sample, 12.5%): The marketing on this Big Wine brand from New Zealand is more than a little goofy –“hand crafted goodness,” whatever that means. But the wine itself is spot on — New Zealand citrus, but not overdone; a little something else in the middle to soften the citrus; and a clean and refreshing finish. Imported by Accolade Wines North America
The Domaine des Corbillieres sauvignon blanc that reminds us that the varietal doesn’t have to taste like grapefruit on steroids.
The Domaine des Corbillieres sauvignon comes from another of those century-old, family-owned French producers; their wines used to be common on U.S. store shelves, but seem to be disappearing as importers and distributors consolidate. Which is a shame, because this sauvignon blanc from the Touraine region of the Loire speaks to place and varietal.
Touraine isn’t as well known for sauvignon blanc as nearby Sancerre, but that has nothing to do with quality. The Domaine des Corbillieres sauvignon ($13, purchased, 13%) is fuller and fruitier and not as flinty as a Sancerre. This is neither good nor bad, just different. What matters is that the wine focuses on something other than piercing citrus fruit — some grassiness, maybe some soft lemon and green apple, and a long and clean stony finish.
Highly recommended. This is a perfect weeknight wine, and especially for summer. It’s food friendly in that it will pair with almost anything except red meat, be it vegetable salads (couscous, chickpeas and herbs, perhaps?) or grilled chicken. Plus, it’s light enough so you don’t have to worry about waking up in the morning.
The Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet is young white Burgundy in all its glory
Wine is known for making food taste better, but it can also improve the ambiance of a meal. This has little do with the alcohol; rather, it’s about the quality of the wine and how its enjoyment makes everything else seem better. Which is exactly what the Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet did recently.
The Big Guy wanted to have wine with lunch, which meant we had to eat at the blog’s unofficial BYOB restaurant. The catch, as we discussed on the drive there, was that the food had been ordinary lately and the service worse. It’s not asking too much to be greeted politely at a restaurant, is it? And especially when you eat there as often as we do?
Not to worry, The Big Guy told me. I have some Puligny, and all will be well. And he was exactly correct – the Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet ($50, purchased, 13.5%) smoothed out all the rough edges, and I remember the wine much more than I remember the rest of the lunch.
The Clerc is the kind of wine that reminds us why French wine is French wine, if only because the estate dates to the 16th century. The wine itself — chardonnay from the Puligny-Montrachet region of Burgundy is young. The term is “nerovisite” – sort of like a teenager who can’t sit still. As such, it should open and become more elegant and richer as it ages over the next decade. Now, though, it’s delightful – lots of fruity acidity (crisp pear, pleasantly tart pineapple?); full through the middle; and lots and lots of the wonderful Puligny minerality on the finish.
Highly recommended, and just the gift for Father’s Day if Dad wants something other than a big, red, and fruit bomb-y wine.
If anything, the four wines that were sold in the U.S. before the producer lost its importer in 2018 are even a little better than before. The white blend and the rose were always top notch, but the chardonnay and the sauvignon blanc – often inconsistent – are much improved.
Here’s a look at each of the wines, made in France’s Gascony region. There’s also a new one, a sweetish, riesling-style white. The wines are imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons; all are highly recommended:
• Domaine Tariquet Classic 2018 ($10, sample, 10.5%): Fresh, crisp, and low in alcohol – how often does that happen? This vintage’s fruit is a little more lemon-lime than white grapey, but that’s just the wine geek in me. Buy a couple of cases of this white blend, keep them chilled, and enjoy.
• Domaine Tariquet Chardonnay 2018 ($10, sample, 12.5%): This was probably the best of the three whites, which is saying something since it was usually boring and could even be a little off. But this vintage was crisp and aromatic, with almost green apple and a little tropical fruit. If anything, it sort of tasted like chardonnay from France’s Macon, which is always a touchstone of inexpensive quality.
• Domaine Tariquet Sauvignon 2018 ($10, sample, 11.5%): Much better than past vintages, which tended to taste like New Zealand kockoffs. This time, though, the wine had a bit of a grassy aroma, not too much citrus, and a certain Gascon fruitiness.
• Domaine Tariquet Rose 2018 ($10, sample, 12.5%): This pink wine is dry but not Provencal in style. Look for darker fruit, less zippiness on the finish, and a little heft in the mouth. But it’s not heavy so that it’s a rose for red wine drinkers, and so sits somewhere between the Bieler Provencal rose and the Charles & Charles from Washington state.
• Domaine Tariquet Les Premières Grives 2018 ($17, sample, 11.5%): Professionally sweet, with an almost honeyed finish and mostly balanced. It’s a different and interesting wine, in the style of a German just-sweet riesling like a kabinett. The only question: Is it worth $17?
The Brumont tannat-merlot shows the tannat grape to its best advantage in a delicious $10 wine
During a recent Skype tasting for the American Wine Society, someone asked me about tannat. It’s a red grape, very geeky, best known in South America. When it’s made as a varietal wine, the result is often hard, tannic, and not all that enjoyable. But when it’s blended, like the Brumont tannat-merlot from Gascony in France, it can be a wine of the week.
I’ve tasted three bottles of this vintage of the Brumont Tannat-Merlot ($10, purchased, 13.5%) over the past three years, and each one has been different. Who knew there would be such a variation in bottle age for a $10 wine?
But that’s the tannat at work, and it’s also worth noting that the 2015 is the vintage in most stores. As such, the third tasting was a delight – some of the tannat’s heartiness was still there, but the rough edges were gone, softened by the merlot. But this is not a soft wine – there’s not any hint of sweetness or too ripe black fruit (blackberry?), and the tannins and acidity remain part of the wine’s still complete structure. Hence, a food wine, and ideal for summer barbecue, burgers, and especially bratwurst.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame.
The Chateau Bonnet Blanc reminds us of the greatness inherent in cheap when the producer truly cares
The greatest testament to Chateau Bonnet’s wines and founder Andre Lurton’s vision is that this bottle of Chateau Bonnet Blanc was three years old, but still tasted fresh — and may even more interesting than it was when it was released. How often does that happen with $10 wine?
There is a 2018 version, apparently, though it and the 2017 have not made it to Dallas yet. In fact, I’ve resisted buying this vintage for just that reason. How could any $10 wine, even one as well made as the Chateau Bonnet Blanc ($10, purchased, 12.5%) hold up this long?
Highly recommended, and I’m sure – even without tasting them – that the 2017 and 2108 are just as delicious. And toast Andre Lurton, who died this month at the age of 94, for advancing the cause of well-made wine that anyone can afford to buy.