Forget about “smooooth:” the Colombo Les Abeilles Blanc is a well-made, terroir-driven French white
Wine Curmudgeon alert: The Colombo Les Abeillles Blanc is not for all tastes – it’s not “smooooth,” it’s made with weird grapes, and it’s most decidedly a product of its terroir. So when you see people saying nasty things about it (some very nasty, in fact), you’ll know why.
And also why the Colombo Les Abeillles Blanc 2016 ($12, purchased, 13%) is the wine of the week. It’s a French white blend from the Rhone made with roussanne, which is sort of known, and clairette, which is barely known at all. As such, it doesn’t taste like chardonnay and it doesn’t taste like the high-score, trophy white Rhone wines that cost $50.
But it does taste like the kind of wine to have for dinner with chicken braised with chickpeas. The wine, despite its age, is still quite fresh. Look for a little petrol aroma, as well as that wonderfully off-center lime-ish roussanne fruit and some peach from the clairette.
The 2017 is the current vintage, which I have not tasted. But if it is as well made as the 2016, all should be well.
The Chateau Bonnet is one of the world’s greatest cheap wines, even if it isn’t cheap any more
Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way: First, availability for the Chateau Bonnet may be hit and miss. Second, the vintages are all over the place. I’ve seen everything from the 2014 to the 2018. Third, the wine isn’t cheap anymore, costing as much as $20 at some retailers.
So what is the Bonnet doing as the wine of the week on the first week of January, when the blog honors the best cheap wine in the world with the Cheap Wine of the Year and the $10 Hall of Fame? Because nothing has changed about the Bonnet since I started the blog in 2007. It’s the same wine (merlot and cabernet sauvignon), made the same way, providing the same quality, and it doesn’t cost that much more to make. In fact, it’s still less than €8 in France.
But the price has almost doubled in the states for no particular reason other than premiumization. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?
I bought the Chateau Bonnet ($15, purchased, 14%) because I missed it. I taste so much junk these days – sweet, flabby, and overpriced – that I was willing to overpay for old time’s sake. And I wasn’t disappointed.
The Bonnet is a French red blend from Bordeaux that tastes like a French red blend from Bordeaux. And how sad is it — and how much does it say about the post-modern wine business – that I have to make that point? Shouldn’t that be the way things are?
Look for a little juicy dark fruit, almost earthy tannins, enough acidity to round it all out, and that certain something that says this is a French wine. Drink this with any red meat, and especially streak frites. If you can find this for less than $15, buy a case. Otherwise, feel free to pay too much knowing it’s probably not worth $20, but that it used to be a hell of a value at $10.
New Year’s sparkling wine 2020 recommendations, because value and quality matter
Once again, the blog focuses on value and quality for New Year’s sparkling wine 2020. Consider these wines for toasting, dinners, or just because you’re in the mood for bubbly. Also handy: The blog’s annual wine gift guidelines and the sparkling wine primer.
• Dutcher Crossing Blanc de Blancs 2016 ($45, sample, 12%): California sparkler is top-notch and, given bubbly prices, a fair value. Look for crisp, green apple-y fruit, with some brioche in the background to remind you this is a high-class wine. Very tight bubbles. Highly recommended.
• Bouvet Brut NV ($12, purchased, 12%): This French sparkler from the Loire does not taste like Champagne. Does it taste like quality bubbly, with tight bubbles,a zingy mouth feel. and lemon apple fruit? Yep. Would that all sparkling wine at this price was this well made. Highly recommended. Imported by Kobrand
• Empire Estate Blanc de Blancs NV ($19, sample, 11.9%): Price may be a problem, but this New York riesling sparkler, made with the charmat method, is quality wine — soft bubbles, some green apple fruit, decent minerality, and a long finish.
• Casteller Cava NV ($12, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish bubbly is among the few remaining great cheap Spanish sparkling wines, which have been devastated by consolidation and premiumization. Apple and pear fruit, tight bubbles, and a marvelous wine all around. Highly recommended. Imported by Ole & Obrigado
Simple? Yes. But isn’t that what the Joseph Drouhin Macon-Villages is supposed to be?
Blame it on the pandemic or the presidential election or even my natural crotchetiness. But the Wine Curmudgeon is getting increasingly cranky when he reads the scores and comments on CellarTracker, the blog’s unofficial wine inventory app. One note for the Drouhin Macon-Village disparaged it for being simple.
My question: What’s wrong with a simple wine? And isn’t a Macon’s reason for being to be simple? It’s not supposed to be white Burgundy, is it?
So drink the Drouhin Macon-Villages 2018 ($13, purchased, 13%) and appreciate that this is an affordable and enjoyable French chardonnay that doesn’t cost $40. There’s a role for simple wine that isn’t stupid – call it the wine that most of us enjoy drinking, regardless of a wine world that increasingly sneers at those of us who aren’t in the 1 percent.
In this, the Drouhin fits the bill. Look for a bit of lemon fruit mixed with green apple, but that isn’t too tart, as some Macons can be. In fact, the fruit is round and fresh, and there is a pleasing mineralty. Do I wish this cost $10, like it did in years past and before the tariff? Yes, but it’s still a value at this price.
Drink this on its own if you want a glass of wine after work, or open it for weeknight roast chicken thighs.
Quality white Burgundy for less than $40? Meet the Michel Sarrazin et Fils Les Grognots
Regular visitors know that white Burgundy, France’s high-end version of chardonnay, is the Wine Curmudgeon’s guilty pleasure. But I get to drink even less of it these days, what with the Trump wine tariff and continually rising prices for all Burgundy. Which is why I was so excited to see the Michel Sarrazin et Fils Les Grognots.
The Big Guy bought a sale bottle of the Michel Sarrazin et Fils Les Grognots 2018 ($32, purchased, 13%) as a Thanksgiving gift, for which I was most grateful. It was all I had hoped for: top-notch white Burgundy, which includes o ak so delicately used that it’s difficult to describe. You know it’s there, but you don’t worry about where it is.
This is a more fresh and fruit-forward white Burgundy than others. Hence, it’s ready to drink now, but should also improve over the next three or four years, as the fruit moves to the background. Look for lemon zest, almost ripe pear fruit, some white pepper, and quite a stony finish.
Highly recommended; even at its normal price, this is what passes for bargain white Burgundy these days. This is holiday wine, perfect with roast turkey. Imported by North Berkeley Imports
The Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with croque monsieur, the French grilled sandwich, and all that leftover holiday turkey.
Tired of seeing all that leftover turkey in the fridge? The Wine Curmudgeon has a plan — variations on the theme of the French croque monsieur, a grilled ham sandwich that bears more than a passing resemblance to the grilled cheese our moms made when we were kids.
In this, once we substitute leftover turkey for the ham, the possibilities are endless. The adventurous among us can go traditional (save for the turkey), making the sandwich with a bechamel sauce. Or, you can go Julia Child, grilling the sandwich in clarified butter and cutting off the crusts. My preference? A turkey Reuben, which uses leftover turkey but also offers a change of pace. How often do Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut show up at Thanksgiving?
• La Vieille Ferme Blanc 2019 ($8, purchased, 13%): This French white blend is much, much better than the old days, with more fruit (pear?) and a very soft finish. In this, it’s a little too soft to be a wine of the week, but it’s certainly worth buying on sale and keeping around the house. Imported by Vineyard Brands
• Herdade do Esporao Alandra 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): This is an old-fashioned, almost rough and tannic, red blend from Portugal. Having said that, its dark fruit and longish finish is oddly pleasing.. Needs food. Imported by NOW Wine Imports
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This month: two reds, a white, and a rose for Black Friday 2020
• La Vieille Ferme Rouge 2019 ($8, purchased, 13%): Long-time reader Rich Liebman always insisted I was too hard on this French red blend, which I’ve been drinking off and on for longer than I care to remember. And he was correct — it’s nowhere near as old-fashioned as it used to be. It’s less harsh, there’s more dark fruit, and there might even be something that could be oak. But I’m still not sure it should be part of my regular wine rotation. Imported by Vineyard Brands
• CK Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($6, sample, 12.6%): This California white is notoriously inconsistent, so the good news is that this vintage tastes like $6 sauvignon blanc — more sauvignon blanc in character (some grass, some citrus fruit) and less cheap tasting.
• Dixie & Bass Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($18, sample, 14.5%): There’s nothing very subtle about this Washington state red. It’s a standard big, fruity (black cherry?), over-the-top cabernet (though it tastes more Lodi than Washington state). If this is your style of wine, it’s a fair value.
• Notre Vue GSM Rose 2019 ($29, sample, 12.7%): This California pink is a pretty, well-made, and enjoyable wine. Look for crisp berryish fruit, and a long, clean, mineral-driven finish. But is really three times better than a top-notch $10 rose?