Tag Archives: French wine

Wine of the week: Chateau de Ribebon 2015

Chateau de RibebonYes, $14 isn’t cheap, but the Chateau de Ribebon still offers value in red Bordeaux

The amazing thing about the $14 Chateau de Ribebon is not that the 2015 vintage has aged well enough to become a wine of the week, but that the current vintage is the 2016. So someone, somewhere, remembers how to make popularly priced wines that will last.

And no mistake. The Chateau de Ribebon ($14, purchased, 13.5%) is what passes for popularly priced red Bordeaux these days. The tariff, combined with ridiculous prices for even the most ordinary French wines from the Bordeaux region, makes this a value. That it costs half as much in France is just something one has to accept.

The Chateau de Ribebon is a traditional red blend, though with more merlot than cabernet sauvignon. Hence, it’s a little softer and a little fruitier (cherries?) than many others, but there are still tannins in the back and it’s nothing like a jumped up New World fruit slurpee.

Pair this with beef, but it’s the sort of wine that would work for coq a vin and even roast chicken.

Imported by Knows Imports

Wine of the week: Domaine de la Sangliere Juliette 2018

Sangliere JulietteForget the back-handed compliments: the Sangliere Juliette is cheap, enjoyable, and well made wine

Two things are worth noting about the Sangliere Juliette, a rose from southern France. First, like so many roses these days, it’s a previous vintage that is still worth drinking. Thank the rose boom for that; not that long ago, previous vintages faded as quickly as snow melts.

Second, cheap wine still sucks, regardless of how well made it actually is. That’s the conclusion of several of the reviewers on CellarTracker, the blog’s unofficial wine inventory app. “OK for $11…” “Typical but nondescript. …”

Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business? What more do wine drinkers want? The Domaine de la Sangliere Juliette 2018 ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is exactly what it is supposed to be – top-notch $11 pink wine to chill, open, and enjoy. When did we get to the point where a wine this well made and this inexpensive isn’t worth drinking? Why must every wine cost $25 or $45 or $65 so it can offer an experience only to be recorded in the most winespeaky of tasting notes?

Look for almost tart strawberry fruit, a mouth feel that is almost austere (there’s hardly any residual sugar to confuse your taste buds), and a clean and kind of stony finish. In other words, the sort of rose to keep on hand when you want a glass or two, or to open for a Labor Day barbecue.

Mini-reviews 136: Four wines you probably don’t want to buy

wine reviews

“Damn, look at that review. The WC is in a foul mood this month.”

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, four wines you probably don’t want to buy, because I’m really, really tired of tasting wine that is so unpleasant.

Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhone 2019 ($15, purchased, 14.5%): This French red used to be one of the most dependable $15 wines in the world. But this vintage is almost undrinkable. That’s not because it’s flawed or off, but because it has been manipulated to taste like it comes from a second-tier producer in Paso Robles – lots of sweet fruit, not a lick of tannins, and this hideous violet candy smell. Imported by Winebow

Avalon Pinot Noir 2018 ($11, sample, 13.5%): This California red is the sort of pinot noir people buy because it’s cheap, and not especially because it tastes like anything. Think grape juice flavored with fake vanilla oak, in case any of you enjoy that.

Jadix Picpoul de Pinet 2019 ($12, purchased, 14.5%): This French white is heavy and hot, and not anything picpoul should be – fruity, tart, and refreshing. Why would anyone make picpoul like this? Imported by Aquitane Wine Company

Montalto Pinot Grigio 2019 ($12, sample, 12%): Someone, somewhere thought that Americans would love sweet Italian pinot grigio, and this is the result. My question? Why — isn’t there enough dry pinot grigio in the world? Imported by Mack & Schuhle

Wine of the week: Domaine de Pouy 2018

domaine de pouyDomaine de Pouy, from Gascony in France, is ideal for late summer and 100-degree temperatures – crisp and refreshing

Gascon white wines are some of the best values in the wine world. But they’ve fallen by the wayside since the end of the recession. There have been importer and distributor problems, as well as price increases for no other reason than all wine should cost more.

But the wines from Gascony in France’s southwest, made with grapes most of us don’t know, may be back in favor. Could it be that those same importers and distributors are looking for cheap, well-made wines to sell during the pandemic? For one thing, I’ve seen several reviews for Gascon whites I don’t know, always a good sign. For another, I was able to buy the Domaine de Pouy after a long absence from this market.

The Domaine de Pouy 2018 ($11, purchased, 10.5%) shows what these wines can be – enjoyable, food friendly, and refreshing. It’s certainly not the best of the bunch, but one of the great strengths of Gascon wine is that even the ordinary ones are better than ordinary. The de Pouy is crisp, with a lemonish, sauvignon blanc character, but it’s not as tart or as sharp as sauvignon blanc. As with all Gascon wines, there’s a bit of white grape flavor that offers balance.

Best yet, the low alcohol makes it ideal for late summer, when the Dallas temperature gets to 100 and stays there. Chill this, and enjoy it with a Friday night takeout dinner.

Imported by Fruit of the Vines

Wine of the week: Chateau Belingard Bergerac Rouge 2016

Chateau Belingard BergeracTotal Wine’s Chateau Belingard Bergerac Rouge, a French red blend, offers value where it’s often difficult to find these days

The Wine Curmudgeon’s luck with private labels form Total Wine, the erstwhile national retailer, has been uneven at best. Too many of them, regardless of where in the world the wine is made, taste like they went through the California Big Wine Processing Machine, which churns out all that “smooooothhhhhhhhh” wine.

Fortunately, the Chateau Belingard Bergerac Rouge 2016 ($11, purchased, 13.5%) is a red wine blend that tastes like the region it comes from – Bergerac in southwest France. Yes, it’s a bit too oaky and fruity, but otherwise it speaks to the region and the grapes in the blend. The latter are mostly merlot, but with about one-quarter cabernet sauvignon and decent dollops of cabernet franc and malbec. This results in noticeable, though not unpleasant tannins, as well as dark red berry fruit and a hint of an earthy finish (thanks to the cabernet franc).

Best yet, the price – given similar wines cost $15 to $18 – adds to the value. This is weeknight pizza wine; chill the bottle to 50 or 55 degrees, pour, drink, and enjoy.

Imported by Saranty Imports

Expensive wine 135: Domaine Louis Michel Chablis Butteaux Premier Cru 2015

Louis Michel Chablis ButteauxThe Louis Michel Chablis Butteaux doesn’t taste like other Chablis, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing

This is not the kind of Chablis that many of us expect – minerally, taut, and steely. Instead, the Louis Michel Chablis Butteaux is rich and full, much softer than I usually want from Chablis. And that difference is just another part of the joy of wine.

How different is the Louis Michel Chablis Butteaux 2015 ($30, purchased, 13%)? The winery’s website lists scores from five major international critics for this vintage of its chardonnay from the Chablis region of France’s Burgundy. Each score is different, and the two French scores are the lowest. That five people who taste this kind of wine for a living disagree about its quality (even allowing for the inefficiency of scores) speaks volumes about how unique this wine is.

Because it is. My tasting notes are just as perplexed: “Softer, less traditional style of Chablis, with less minerality and more ripe apple fruit. And what is it in there that almost tastes like oak?” Because this Chablis doesn’t see oak (and most, in fact, don’t).

So what’s going on here? Chalk it up to what the late and much missed Diane Teitelbaum told me years ago: Wine is not supposed to taste the same. It’s supposed to be different – otherwise, what’s the point? This producer, in this part of Chablis with this terroir, doesn’t make wine that tastes like the wine that other producers make in other parts of Chablis, with different terroir.

This difference is not about good or bad; this is a high quality wine that will probably benefit from another couple of years in the bottle. It’s just different, and that’s something I have learned to appreciate.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

Pricing note: Price is suggested retail or actual purchase price before the October 2019 tariff

Winebits 657: Expensive wine, phylloxera, French wine

This week’s wine news: The Wine Curmudgeon isn’t the only one thinks expensive wine is too expensive. Plus, we may be close to a victory over phylloxera, wine’s greatest scourge, and the trials of French wine in the pandemic era

phylloxeraToo pricey: David Morrison, writing on the Wine Gourd, doesn’t mince words: Prices for high-quality wines “are outrageous compared to what they were half a century ago, relatively speaking. Put another way, high-quality wine is much less affordable these days.” His result is based on a study published earlier this year, which found that high-quality wine prices are much more expensive than what their inflation-adjusted prices should be. Apologists for expensive wine (for all wine princes, in fact) always cite inflation as the culprit, so it’s good to see two reports that show them to be wrong. In fact, inflation is rarely the issue; if I was up to it, I would do a post detailing how technology and supply chain efficiencies have wrung inflation out of much of the way wine is priced. Rather, the cause is premiumization and the idea that all wine should cost more because it should. When wine is touted as an investment like real estate, diamonds, and gold, instead of something to drink, how can we expect rational pricing?

An end to phylloxera? Phylloxera is a louse that sucks the sap out of the roots of grape vines, which kills the wines. An infestation at the turn of the 20th century almost destroyed the French wine industry, and the louse still wreaks havoc on vineyards in the 21st century. It’s resistant to pesticides, and the only way to prevent it is to graft non-vinifera rootstock onto vinifera vines (vinifera is the species for the European wine grapes that make the world’s best wines, like merlot and chardonnay). Now, though, scientists may be one step closer to eradicating phylloexera after identifying its genome – the bug’s complete set of DNA. The research could eventually lead to resistant rootstocks, eliminating the need for costly grafting.

Wine woes in France: The French wine market has collapsed, with the Trump tariff and the pandemic playing key roles. This piece from the New York Times tells the story all too well: “And so some of the succulent and subtle white wine for which this region is famous, nurtured on the stony, sunbathed Alsace slopes, will wind up as hand sanitizer.” One Alsatian producer is dumping one-third of its production – almost unprecedented. The story reminds us wine is made by people, some of whose families have been doing it for hundreds of years, and that trade wars have consequences that we may not consider.

Photo courtesy of Helena Lopes, using a Creative Commons license