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.
• Domaine Pierre Labet Beaujolais-Villages 2017 ($11, purchased, 12.5%): French red made with gamay that mostly tastes like it should, though I’m surprised it’s not fruitier. It’s not the best example of a Village, but it’s not the worst, either.
• El Circo Volatinero 2018 ($10, purchased, 13.5%): Spanish red made with tempranillo that doesn’t taste especially Spanish or much like tempranillo. It’s bland and boring – dare I say, “Smooth?” Imported by Seaview Imports
• El Terrano Verdejo 2017 ($8, purchased, 13.5%): Another cheap white wine from Whole Foods that isn’t worth even the little it costs. Spanish, but thin and watery lemon fruit, and not much else. Imported by Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits
• Flora & Stone Gewürztraminer NV ($5, purchased, 12%): Aldi private label California white that tastes like gewurtzraminer, but also tastes like it has been sweetened to please a focus group. It mostly tastes like wine, but it could have been so much more enjoyable.
The Wine Curmudgeon holiday wine gift guide 2019 — great wine and even a wine coloring book
The Wine Curmudgeon’s holiday wine gift guide 2019 offers practical, value-oriented, yet still fun gifts. What else would you expect after all these years?
• This year’s collection of wine books was, sadly, a bit pretentious for the blog. But never fear: How about a wine coloring book? When Life Gets Complicated, I Wine ($13), with 12 colored pencils. Take that, wine snobs.
• The Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir 2018 ($29) is the current vintage of one of the best wines I have tasted in almost three decades of doing this. It’s a California wine made with the gamay grape in a region far, far off the tourist track. There usually isn’t much of it, so when I saw it on wine.com, it moved to the top of the holiday wish list. Highly recommended, and marvel at how this wine reflects the berry fruit of the gamay, as well as its terroir.
• Italy’s white wines are too often overlooked, and especially those made with the arneis grape. The Vetti Roero Arneis 2018 ($22) is one such example — almost nutty, with wonderful floral aromas and the soft, citrusy flavors. Drink it on its own, or with holiday seafood or poultry. Highly recommended.
• The Repour Wine Saver ($9 for a 4-pack) is a single-use stopper that preserves leftover wine one bottle at a time. In this, I was surprised at how well it works, and it’s not as expensive as more complicated systems like the VacuVin.
• Wine-Opoly ($21), because why shouldn’t we try to take over the wine world just like Big Wine? No dog or iron playing pieces in this wine-centric version of Monopolyl rather, they are wine bottles.
The La Coeur de la Reine is French red wine made for those of us who want something affordable, fresh and interesting
Last week, as part of some Skype tastings I’m doing for the American Wine Society, someone asked me why I would drink cheap wine, since it isn’t “distinctive.” My answer was two-fold: First, what’s the point of drinking $50 white Burgundy or $75 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon with a Tuesday takeout dinner? Second, I’d argue the point that all cheap wine is bland and boring, using the La Coeur de la Reine as an example.
The La Coeur de la Reine ($10, purchased, 13%) is a French red made with a less common grape from a less common region – gamay from the Loire. If gamay is known at all, it’s for Beaujolais, and it’s not the usual red grape from the Loire. That’s cabernet franc, which is hardly well known itself. Nevertheless, this wine does everything a $10 wine is supposed to do – and then some.
Know that it is about as different as $15 Beaujolais as possible, without any of the annoying banana smoothie flavor that shows up all too often these days. Instead, there is lots of tart berry fruit, a suggestion of baking spice, and an amazing freshness that most wines made with gamay don’t bother with. And it is a food wine in the most wonderful bistro sense, in that it will go with almost anything you have for dinner that isn’t in a cream sauce.
Highly recommended, and almost certain to be included in the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame.
Imported by Valkyrie Selections
The Henry Fessy gamay noir is a quality red at a more than fair price — and just in time for the holidays
The cheap wine gods have taken pity on the Wine Curmudgeon. Maybe it was all the plonk I drank this year, or that I had to write the same things over and over in 2018 – sweet when it’s supposed to be dry, over-ripe with too much alcohol, and not varietally correct. Because the cheap wine gods put the Henry Fessy gamay on a store shelf where I could find it.
The Henry Fessy gamay noir ($12, purchased, 12.5%) is the kind of red wine that used to be relatively easy to find but is a rarity in our Big Wine, sweet and smooth 21st century world. This French red is delicious, but more importantly, it’s varietally correct: It’s made with the gamay grape, so that means not quite tart berry fruit instead of the flabby softness that is all too common in cheap Beaujolais. Plus, there is a bit of zip, a lick of baking spice, and refreshing tannins. Missing is any hint of focus-group inspired smoothness or of residual sugar hiding behind fake oak and handfuls of added acidity.
This wine tastes like it should cost $17 or $18 instead of $12 (and I bought it on sale for $10). So what’s going on here? First, gamay isn’t a grape that gets much respect, even in France, and that tends to lower the price. Second, it’s not an appellation wine, but a vin de France, where the grapes came from anywhere in the country and which also lowers the price. Third, the producer is known for quality, high-end Beaujolais, so we get the expertise without the cost.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame and Cheap Wine of the Year. This is the kind of wine to buy by the case and drink when you want a glass of quality at a more than fair price.
Imported by Louis Latour
The Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais reminds us wine doesn’t have to be pumped full of sugar or sieved through a focus group
A long time ago, in what seems like a galaxy far, far away, we drank Beaujolais. The French red was cheap, tasted like wine, and was usually well made at time when it was difficult to find well-made cheap wine. Today, Beaujolais is mostly forgotten, shunted aside in favor of cute labels, bundles of sugar, and focus groups. But after drinking the Domaine Dupeuble, I want my Beaujolais back.
The Domaine Dupeuble ($15, purchased, 13.5%) is everything a weeknight wine should be – clean, fresh, enjoyable, and food friendly. Look for soft berry fruit with a hint of spice and incredibly subtle tannins. But, somehow, it also has an earthiness and heft that requires food.
Yes, it’s a simple wine, but Beaujolais is supposed to be simple. Otherwise, it would be Grand Cru red Burgundy, made with pinot noir and not gamay, and cost hundreds of dollars. Or, to quote the wine’s importer, the legendary Kermit Lynch: “Multi-layered layers of sublime simplicity. …”
And yes, I would prefer to spend less than $15 for a weeknight wine. But given the junk that is out there these days – soon to be the subject of a long and detailed rant – spending $15 every once in a while keeps me from throwing my keyboard at the office window and screaming like Charlton Heston at the end of “Planet of the Apes.”
Highly recommended. Chill this a little as summer ends, and drink it on the porch by itself or with almost anything you can think of for dinner. Sip slowly, close your eyes, and enjoy.
Imported by Kermit Lynch
Here is why the Wine Curmudgeon loves wine. I was cutting through the wine department at my local Whole Foods, on my way to somewhere else, when I saw the La Clotiere on display. The label was unimpressive, it was stacked with a bunch of other $10 wines, and there was absolutely no reason to stop and look at it.
So of course I did, and the result was a Wine of the Week and an almost certain new member of the $10 Hall of Fame. Highly recommended, though availability may be a problem if there are no Whole Foods in your area.
This is cheap wine as it should be — professionally made, balanced, and with low alcohol. It comes from the Loire region of France and is made with gamay, which is not as odd as it sounds (though we don't see many of those wines in this country). But it has very little to do with $10 gamay from Beaujolais, where the wines are often very fruity, don't have much in the way of tannins, and are much simpler than this.
The La Clotiere ($9, purchased) is a surprisingly un-simple wine. There is red fruit in the front, a bit of a middle, and a mineral-like finish common to red wines from the Loire. I chilled it, because that's what I do with $10 Beaujolais, but that made the wine worse. Serve this at room temperature with any simple, middle-of-the-week dinner, and it would also be perfect for French Bistro night (steak frites, anyone?)