Tag Archives: French wine

Mini-reviews 21: Bin 36, Simmonet-Febrve, Moncontour, Rodney Strong

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.

? Bin 36 Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($16, sample): A good example of what can be done to make affordable California cabernet in the style of Avalon and 337. This is rich and fruit forward, and though there isn’t much more than that, it also isn’t as simple as something like the many popular grocery store cabernets.

? Simonnet-Febvre Chablis 2008 ($20, sample) This French white had lots of acid, but also quite fruity (green apples?) for a Chablis. Though $20 is probably too much to spend on it, it was still quite nice to drink.

? Ch teau Moncontour Vouvray Brut NV ($18, sample): Would that someone in Texas (hint, hint) made bubbly of this quality. This French sparkling wine is made from chenin blanc, and has lots of acid balanced by sweet apple fruit at the back.

? Rodney Strong Pinot Noir 2009 ($18, sample): Another excellent effort from Rodney Strong — varietally correct, with cherry fruit, an almost cola-like aroma, some earthiness and pinot tannins. Given the silly prices for pinot noir, a decent value.

Winebits 163: Organic wine, cheap wine, malbec

? New Zealand group sets organic target: Organic Winegrowers New Zealand wants 20 percent of the country's vineyards to be certified organic by 2020. The 140-member organic group signed a memorandum of understanding last year with New Zealand Wine Growers to work towards organic goals. The amount of vineyard land in New Zealand under organic certification has tripled in the past three years, and about 4.5 percent of vineyard land is certified organic. That compares to 5 percent in California, which is one of the New World leaders in organic wine. Note that the Kiwis want organic vineyards, which is different from organic wine according to U.S. law. No synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides are permitted in organic vineyards.

? French wine values: My pal Dave McIntyre at the Washington Post says France, thanks to an exceptional 2009 vintage, will offer some exceptional "recession buster" wines in 2011. Dave especially likes the Gugial Cotes du Rhone blanc, about $13, and a white from Savoie, Domaine Eugene Carrel Jongieux, about $11. From California, he likes two reds — the 2007 Parducci petite sirah and Liberty School Cuvee, both about $12.

? Not all malbecs are alike: The Wine Curmudgeon is indifferent to much malbec, and Michael Apstein at Wine Review Online, discussing the various regions and styles of malbec that are available today, does a good job of explaining why: "Argentine Malbec satisfies the current thirst in the United States for big, ripe, fruity red wines to accompany the robust flavors found on the plates in fashionably boisterous restaurants. … Hence, there are plenty of Malbecs from Argentina that disappoint with their simplicity and monotonic profile of dark black fruit." But, he says, there are plety of interesting malbecs, from Argentina and elsewhere.

Wine of the week: Mouton Cadet Blanc 2009

A long time ago, before livestock wines and malbecs from Argentina, Americans drank cheap French wine. And one of the most important cheap French wines came from Mouton Cadet. Mouton was part of Le Famille Rothschild, which included Mouton Rothschild, a Bordeaux first growth that was (and still is) one of the great wines of the world. I'm not sure those of us who drank the Cadet understood what that meant, but the label was classy and we were drinking French wine — which was a big deal 30 years ago.

These days, Mouton is not what it used to be. It's still a major brand, but it's just another of many major brands. Much has changed since Mouton's heyday in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the Australians, Chileans and Argentines have mostly replaced the French as the world's source of cheap wine.

In fact, I have been debating whether to review the Cadet for a couple of months, and have always passed. I didn't have the heart to buy the wine, taste it, and discover that another part of my past was gone. Still, when Mouton sent samples this fall, I decided to take a chance.

I'm glad I did. The Cadet ($10, sample) has changed significantly since the old days. It's more fruit forward, with a lemony-grapefruit flavor more reminiscent of Chilean sauvignon blanc than the typical slate and minerality of a white Bordeaux. This change is aimed at the modern American palate, and it pretty much works. I don't know that I like the new style better than the old, but the Cadet offers $10 worth of value. And that's the important thing.

Mini-reviews 19: Contra, William Hill, Beaujolais Nouveau, 181 Merlot

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, a special all red wines edition.

? Bonny Doon Contra 2009 ($14, sample): This Rhone blend is not exactly an upscale version of the old Big House Red, but it’s close enough. Lots of spice and fruit, though it does need food.

? William Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($23, sample): A surprisingly well done and balanced Napa cabernet that is more or less affordable. It’s a step up from more inexpensive cabernets like Avalon and 337, with more body and structure.

? Georges Dub uf Beaujolais Nouveau 2010 ($8, purchased): Ripe bananas on the nose and a very thin and acidic body. Yet another in a long line of disappointing Nouveaus.

? 181 Merlot 2008 ($15, sample): A merlot from the same company that does the 337 cabernet sauvignon. Offers structure and substance for less than $25, which doesn’t happen often. On the other hand, the tasting notes compare Lodi, where the grapes are from, to merlot’s Garden of Eden in Pomerol, which is a bit much.

Expensive wine 20: Domaine du Vieux T l graphe 2001

Why wine is about more than points, snobs and geeks:

I don't get to see my family more than a couple of times a year; call it one of the vagaries of post-modern life. So when I did get to Chicago earlier this month, my brother sent me an email: Check my cellar, and pick the wine to have with dinner — pot roast with gravy and roasted potatoes and onions. Jim is a wine aficionado of some repute, and among his favorites are the French Cote du Rhones. He considers the best Rhone wines to be tremendous values given the silly prices that high end Bordeaux and Burgundy go for, and he is exactly right.

I picked two: an early '90s Guigal that was starting to show its age, but was still fine, and the Telegraphe ($50, purchased). The Telegraphe is an example of classic Rhone winemaking from the region of Ch teauneuf-du-Pape, and the wine has been a standard for decades. This vintage was no exception. It had everything it was supposed to have — the lead pencil aroma, red fruit, lots of spice and some herbs, and all integrated in a marvelously complex way. The wine was still a bit young, but certainly ready to drink.

But that's not why I'm going to remember the wine, as good as it tasted. I'm going to remember it because Jim brought it and our family shared it. And when someone asks me about what I like about Rhone wines or the Telegraphe, I'll tell them about drinking it with my family. Which is a whole lot more important than the score it got.

Mini-reviews 18: Torino rose, Grgich merlot, Carobelle, Jaja de Jau

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.

? Michel Torino Malbec Ros 2009 ($12, sample): Surprisingly disappointing, given how well-made so many Argentine wines are at this price. There's nothing especially wrong with it; rather, it doesn't deliver anything that most $8 or $10 roses don't.

? Grgich Hills Estate Grown Merlot 2006 ($42, sample): The kind of red wine that helped California establish its reputation as one of the world's great wine regions — and, best yet, it's not overpriced. Holiday gift? It's still young, with cherry fruit in the middle, but a mushroomy nose and lots of finish. Should improve with age.

? Domaine de Carobelle Gigondas 2008 ($20, purchased): A terrific value at $15 and an excellent example of the Rhone's Gigondas region, with dark fruit and pepper. But the weak dollar (or a greedy retailer?) has done this red wine in, given that one can buy really nice wine for $20.

? Le Jaja de Jau 2007 ($11, purchased): This red is New World-style wine wine in Old World clothing, with a lot of fruit and not much subtlety. It's not bad, just not what it was when it was one of the world's great cheap wines (and it's also twice the price).

Chris De Burgh’s wine collection

Dear Mr. De Burgh:

I'll be honest. I'm not a huge fan of your music. It's a little too pop for me, and I'm a punk and New Wave kind of guy (though Working Girl, which featured your hit "Lady in Red," wasn't bad). But, apparently, we have wine in common.

Decanter magazine reports that you are going to sell your wine collection, which contains some of the finest wines in modern history. It includes Lafite 1945, Latour 1961, Mouton 1982, Cheval Blanc 1978, and Margaux and La Mission Haut Brion '61. Your reason? You told the magazine that it would be a "sacrilege" to open the wines and drink them.

That's your privilege, of course, though the Wine Curmudgeon has always been puzzled when people buy wine but don't drink it. Having said that, however, I'd like to offer my help in disposing of your collection.

These are not only exquisite wines (my one and only Cheval Blanc tasting was amazing), but they're wines that 99 percent of wine drinkers will never taste, including those of us who do it professionally. So I have a proposal for you.

The blog's third birthday is next month, and I have a variety of events planned to celebrate. I'll give away some wine, and Sony Music has donated some classical CDs to the cause. The blog has been a huge success since I started it in November 2007, and I always like to thank my visitors and readers for their help. So what about using one of your wines for the party? It doesn't have to be a '45 or '61, or even one of the 1982s. Anything you think is fair will be fine with me.

I can't pay you what it's worth, obviously (one of the things that goes with being a punk and New Wave kind of guy no doubt). But I can offer you some Texas wine in exchange, plus the vast amount of publicity this will bring. I understand you have a new record to promote?

Let me know if we can work something out.

Sincerely,

Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon