Tag Archives: French wine

Mini-reviews 126: White Burgundy, albarino, Estancia, petit verdot

white burgundyReviews 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.

Jean-Jacques Vincent Bourgogne Blanc 2017 ($20, purchased, 13%): This is the second time I bought this chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France, which shows that even those of us who do this for a living make mistakes. Bland, boring, and overpriced. Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons

Raimat Saira Albarino 2016 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This Spanish white is cheaply made, watery, and doesn’t much taste like albarino. It apparently exists for no other reason than to cost $10. Imported by Aveniu Brands

Estancia Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($8, purchased, 13.5%): Estancia was once a dependable cheap wine producer. Now, it’s just another Big Wine brand. This California white is green and unripe and tastes very little like sauvignon blanc.

Cameron Hughes ‘Lot 638’ Petit Verdot 2016 ($15, sample, 14.4%): VinePair’s reviewer loved this Washington state red wine, raving about its “concentrated dark-berry fruit, especially blackberry and black currant.” That’s the exact reason I didn’t care for it – too ripe and too overdone, especially given the grapes involved.

Photo: “Lancers” by Rochelle Ramos is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Rose 2018

chateau bonnet roseThe Chateau Bonnet rose comes from one of the world’s best cheap wine producers – and may disappear if the 25 percent wine tariff takes effect

What better way to say goodbye to all of the wonderful cheap wine we may lose in the wake of the U.S.-European Union trade war than with the Chateau Bonnet rose?

The Chateau Bonnet rose ($11, purchased, 13%) will be much missed. It’s the quintessential $10 wine – well-made, consistent from vintage to vintage, and speaks to terroir. In this, it’s a blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, so it’s a little fuller than a Provencal rose, rounder and not quite as zesty. This is neither good nor bad; just different, since these grapes come from Bordeaux and not Provence.

Look for red fruit (ripe-ish cherries?), but the wine also has rose’s lift and freshness. It’s not a heavy rose, like those made for red wine drinkers in California, but one with its own style. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame.

A word about prices: The price of the Bonnet wines has been going up for the past couple of years, mostly because all Bordeaux has become more expensive regardless of quality. The red blend has been closer to $16 than $10 for a while, and the white is closer to $15 in some parts of the country. The rose was $10 was last vintage, but may be as much $13 depending on where you live.

If you can find this wine (or any of the Bonnets) for less than $13, buy as much as you can. These will almost certainly be tariff casualties, since there is little reason to expect consumers to pay $17 for a $10 wine. Hence, once the current inventory is gone, it’s likely that little will be imported to the U.S.

Imported by Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits

Expensive wine 125: Two Bruno Paillard Champagnes

bruno paillard champagneYes, they cost a lot of money. But these two Bruno Paillard Champagnes show that not all expensive wine is overpriced

Champagne long ago stopped being priced reasonably, its cost hostage to the Champagne business’ hubris and demand from Asia. Even a very ordinary bottle, barely worth drinking, can cost $40. So when I tasted two Bruno Paillard Champagnes last week, offering finesse and elegance at a fair price, it was time to write a blog post

The Extra Brut Premiere Cuvee NV ($50, sample, 12%) and the Extra Brut Premiere Cuvee Rose NV ($60, sample, 12%) are reminders that expensive wine does not have to be overpriced. (Quick note: Only sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne. See the blog’s Champagne and sparkling wine primer.)

Neither is cheap, but both offer quality comparable to more costlier bottles – and, frankly, they’re much more interesting. One reason? Paillard blends old wine saved for the purpose into the current wine, giving them an almost honeycomb character. Plus, this is a family business that does things its way.

The Premiere Cuvee is not quite grower Champagne, but it’s not the same $45 bottle sitting on liquor store shelves, either. Look for a light, fresh approach to the wine, minus the yeasty character so many other wines strive for. There is crisp apple and even some lemon fruit, courtesy of the chardonnay in the blend (even though the wine is about 45 percent pinot noir).

The rose is even more appealing (which, given the price, should tell you how much I enjoyed it). Again, even though there is probably more pinot noir in the blend, there is enough chardonnay to make it much fresher than you think it whould be. The cherry fruit is complex – something deeper and more subtle than the usual produce department cherry flavor. Highly recommended.

Imported by Serendipity Wine Imports

Wine of the week: Calvet Blanc Reserve 2018

The Calvet Blanc white Bordeaux is fresh, modern, and a very fair value

A long time ago, in a wine world far, far away, most quality wine shops sold cheap and enjoyable white Bordeaux. You could even find it in supermarkets. The reason that it was so inexpensive and plentiful is that French producers made too much of it, even for a wine drinking country like France.

The difference between then and today? Premiumization. There is still too much white Bordeaux in the world, but since it’s less expensive, we see less of it. Because the wine business has to sell us $15 wine that’s much less interesting.

So when the Wine Curmudgeon finds something like the Calvet Blanc ($11, purchased, 11.5%), he buys it. It’s more modern in style than white Bordeaux from the old days, made entirely of sauvingon blanc (so no semillon, which was quite common then).

The Calvet Blanc is a little more New Zealand in style than I like, with more grapefruit than the subtler lemon and lime. And there isn’t a lot of the traditional minerality. But it’s not simple or dull, the grapefruit isn’t over the top, there’s a little grassyness to add interest, and the finish is long, clean, and stony. In all, the wine is more than drinkable and a very fair value.

Imported by Calvet USA

Wine of the week: Chateau La Graviere Blanc 2018

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.

Imported by Luneau USA

Silly wine descriptions

Wine and food pairings 6: Louisiana-style shrimp boil

shrimp boilThe 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.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. No red wine with a shrimp boil — there’s no way to get the flavors right:

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

More about wine and food pairings:
• Wine and food pairings 5: America’s Test Kitchen pizza
• Wine and food pairings 4: Oven-friend chicken and gravy
• Wine and food pairings 3: Bratwurst and sauerkraut

Wine of the week: Domaine des Corbillieres Sauvignon 2018

TDomaine des Corbilliereshe 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.

Imported by Wines with Conviction