Tag Archives: Gascon wine

Wine of the week: Alain Brumont Tannat-Merlot 2015

Brumont tannat-merlotThe Brumont tannat-merlot shows the tannat grape to its best advantage in a delicious $10 wine

During a recent Skype tasting for the American Wine Society, someone asked me about tannat. It’s a red grape, very geeky, best known in South America. When it’s made as a varietal wine, the result is often hard, tannic, and not all that enjoyable. But when it’s blended, like the Brumont tannat-merlot from Gascony in France, it can be a wine of the week.

I’ve tasted three bottles of this vintage of the Brumont Tannat-Merlot ($10, purchased, 13.5%) over the past three years, and each one has been different. Who knew there would be such a variation in bottle age for a $10 wine?

But that’s the tannat at work, and it’s also worth noting that the 2015 is the vintage in most stores. As such, the third  tasting was a delight – some of the tannat’s heartiness was still there, but the rough edges were gone, softened by the merlot. But this is not a soft wine – there’s not any hint of sweetness or too ripe black fruit (blackberry?), and the tannins and acidity remain part of the wine’s still complete structure. Hence, a food wine, and ideal for summer barbecue, burgers, and especially bratwurst.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Kindred Vines

Wine to drink when you’re visiting your mom

wine to drinkFour wines to drink when you’re visiting your mom

I spent a week in Chicago with my mom before Thanksgiving, which brought up the question of wine. I wasn’t where I knew the stores, and I wanted to find wine my mom would enjoy. Because, as noted here many times, what’s the point of sharing wine with someone when you don’t take their tastes into consideration?

My mom’s palate is discriminating, and she looks for value almost as much as I do. She is also open to wines that aren’t mainstream, so lesser known regions and varietals are OK. But the wines had to be well made and taste like they’re supposed to.

The catch: I was limited to grocery stores and one visit to Binny’s, the biggest chain in the area. The grocery store selection wasn’t any better than it is in Dallas (and the pricing was just as screwy), and Binny’s was more expensive than I thought it would be.

In the end, I bought four wines – three from retailers and one at a local restaurant (and, as an added bonus, I know two of the winemakers – always nice to be able to brag to your mother):

Domaine de Pouy ($10): This Gascon white blend is suffering from the same problem as most of the rest – not enough white grapiness and almost too tart. Having said that, it was the least tart of those I’ve tasted this year, and Mom liked it. So a winner all around.

Charles & Charles rose ($12): Mom buys this Washington state pink at her local supermarket, so it was an easy choice. The price was a couple of bucks more than I pay in Dallas, but this rose remains one of the best and most consistent values in the world – rose or otherwise.

Armas de Guerra ($13): I’m not quite sure how this Spanish red, made with the little-known mencia grape, ended up in a supermarket. But I’m glad it did. Its bitter cherry fruit and earthiness made it a terrific match for Mom’s legendary spaghetti and meatballs.

Giesen sauvignon blanc ($10): This New Zealand white was the best of a very mediocre wine list at an otherwise interesting restaurant. Not surprisingly, almost no one else was drinking wine. Don’t the people who run the place see the correlation? The Giesen had more than just grapefruit, with a little tropical in the middle. It was much better than I thought it would be.

Graphic courtesy of Ephemera, using a Creative Commons license

More bad news for cheap wine: Domaine du Tariquet loses U.S. importer

domaine du tariquet
The Domaine du Tariquet Classic may join Osborne Solaz, the Hogue fume blanc, and the black label Jaja de Jau as great cheap wines that aren’t any more.

Buy all the Domaine du Tariquet you can, because there won’t be any more in the U.S. until the holidays — if we’re lucky

Domaine du Tariquet Classic, the Frnech white blend from Gascony that is one of the greatest cheap wines of all time, has lost its U.S. importer. That means no more Tariquet until at least the holidays, says its Dallas distributor – if we’re lucky.

And that’s just the beginning of the bad news: There will be a price increase if and when the wine reappears on U.S. store shelves. Currently, the Classic costs $10 to $12; expect it to cost as much as $15. Which, as much as I love the wine, is probably more than it’s worth. By comparison, the Classic costs €8 (about US$9.34) on Amazon UK and goes for €6.60 (about $US7.70 ) in France.

How did we get to this point? It’s just more of the fun and thrills that are part of the post-modern wine business. The French company that makes more than 800,000 cases of the various Tariquet wines (owned by the Grassa family) had a disagreement with its long-time importer, New York’s Domaine Select Estates, and one thing led to another. These spats are becoming increasingly common in the wine business as it consolidates and readjusts itself. A variety of well-known brands, starting with Santa Margherita in 2015, have also changed or lost importers.

What makes the Tariquet so terrific? Why is it a charter member of the $10 Hall of Fame? First, exceptional value for the price, possible because it comes from a part of the world where land is cheap and where the grapes aren’t well known. Second, its consistency – I’ve never had a bottle that wasn’t worth drinking, and I’ve been drinking it for at least a decade. Third, and I’m quoting the winery website because it’s spot on: “Very refreshing at any time of the day, as an aperitif or with starters, seafood or fish. … Always have a bottle in the fridge door, just in case.”

Which, sadly, I can’t do any more.

More cheap wine news:
Freixenet sold to German bubbly maker
Cheap wine quality sinks to new low
Cheap wine checklist: $82.67 for a case of wine

Wine of the week: Brumont La Gascogne 2016

Brumont La GascogneThe Brumont La Gascogne reminds us how cheap and delicious white wine from France’s Gascon region can be

White wine from the French region of Gascony, like the Brumont La Gascogne, has never caught on with the wine intelligentsia like Sicilian wine did. Which is very good news for those of us looking for quality and value.

Sicilian wine prices have gone up, even for cheap wines, and quality has become maddeningly inconsistent. That’s what happens when you’re noticed by the Winestream Media. But Gascon wine, mostly made with grapes that the wine geeks consider inferior, is still $10 and delicious.

Like the Brumont La Gascogne ($10, purchased, 12.5%). It’s made with sauvignon blanc and gros manseng; the latter is grown only in parts of Gascony and even there is used in a variety of different ways. In this case, its softer stone fruit flavors play off the citrus in the sauvignon blanc, and the wine is refreshing without being too tart. Gros manseng also helps give the wine the wonderful Gascon white grape juice flavor that I like so much, though it’s not as pronounced as it is in a couple of others.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this chilled on its own if you want a respite from wintry red wines, or pair it with roast or grilled chicken. It would also work as the wine in chicken braised in white wine.

Imported by Kindred Vines

Labor Day wine 2017

labor day wine 2017Four refreshing wines to enjoy for Labor Day wine 2017

Labor Day means the end of summer, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of hot summer weather. So look for wine that takes the edge of the heat, suitable for porch sitting, picnics, and barbecues. In other words, light wines in warmer weather.

These four bottles should get you started when it comes to Labor Day wine 2017:

Le Pillon Gascogne 2016 ($9, purchased, 11.5%): This white wine from the French region of Gascony is a private label from Whole Foods, and tastes almost exactly like the legendary Domaine du Tariquet – some white grapiness and citrus. Highly recommended, assuming you can find it.

Tenuta Sant’Antonio Scaia Rosato 2015 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): Italian pink wine from one of that country’s most intriguing producers – the wines are cheap and tasty, and use a glass stopper for the bottle. Look for almost floral aromas and crisp raspberry fruit. Also highly recommended, and also may be hard to find.

Coastal Cove Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($7, purchased, 12%): This Aldi private label is about as well made as $7 New Zealand sauvignon blanc gets. It’s clean and fresh with sweet lemon fruit, plus a pleasing tropical note in the middle to balance the lemon.

Cantina Vignaioli Barbera d’Alba 2014 ($15, purchased, 14%): This Italian red is earthy and almost funky, showing exactly what varietal means for the barbera grape in Piedmont. Look for dark berry fruit (blackberry, black cherry?) and spice as well as just enough Italian-style acidity to make the whole thing work. Highly recommended.

For more on Labor Day wine:
Labor Day wine 2016
Labor Day wine 2015
Labor Day wine 2014

Wine of the week: Domaine du Tariquet Classic 2015

domaine du tariquetThis vintage of the legendary Domaine du Tariquet may be the best yet

How enjoyable is this year’s Domaine du Tariquet? It may be the best bottle ever of the Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite Gascon white blend, and that’s saying something since I’ve waxed eloquent about it for eight vintages.

What makes the Domaine du Tariquet ($10, purchased, 10.5%) a great cheap wine? First, it’s simple but not stupid, with every flavor where it should be. The 2015 has the white grapiness I like, but also some lemon and lime that adds a little interest. That’s the biggest difference between this vintage and the others, which didn’t have as much citrus.

Second, ugni blanc, colombard, and gros manseng, three of the four grapes in the wine (sauvignon blanc is the other, and lends the extra citrus). What better way to irritate a wine snob than to mention your $10 white Gascon blend with ugni blanc? Let them find that in a $200, 92-point red something or other with its leather and cigar box aromas.

Third, it’s refreshing and fun to drink, and shows off its low alcohol. Fourth, it doesn’t require points or a wine app or an expert or special equipment to drink. You buy it, chill it, twist off the screwcap, and enjoy it. What more does an everyday bottle of wine need to be?

Highly recommended, and it will return to the $10 Hall of Fame in 2017.

Labor Day wine 2016

Labor Day wine 2016Four refreshing wines to enjoy for Labor Day

Labor Day means three things: The beginning of the end of the Texas summer (which wasn’t too bad this year, save for one week); the annual the Kerrville Fall Music Festival; and a chance to remind wine drinkers that warmer weather means lighter wines. Hence Labor Day wine 2016.

This is a notion that wine drinkers are happily embracing, if my email is any indication – the idea that heavy, alcoholic, and tannic wines don’t go with 90 degree temperatures. Rather, the goal is wine that is refreshing, since you’re likely to drink it outdoors at a picnic or barbecue. Plus, these wines should be food friendly, because you’re probably going to drink them with a holiday dinner or lunch.

These four bottles of Labor Day wine 2016 (Google overlord alert) should help you find something lighter and fresher for the holiday:

Domaine Guillaman 2015 ($9, purchased, 11.5%): This white Gascon blend (including, oddly enough, chardonnay) is remarkably consistent from year to year. More toward the sauvignon blanc style of white Gascon blends, it’s ideal for chilling and porch drinking.

Moulin de Gassac rose 2015 ($10, purchased, 12%): This French pink wine shows why rose is such a terrific value – not too much red fruit, crisp, fresh, and lively. And it will pair with almost anything at a Labor Day barbecue.

Gran Baron Cava Brut NV ($10, purchased, 11.5%): Simple but value-oriented Spanish sparkling wine with lots of tight bubbles and apple and citrus fruit. Probably somewhere between Cristalino and Segura Viudas in quality, and its probably a little softer than I like.

Catena Malbec 2013 ($24, sample, 13.5%): One of the best Argentine malbecs I’ve ever had. The black fruit (blueberries?) doesn’t overwhelm the wine, and it remains balanced, not too heavy or cloying, and surprisingly enjoyable. Red meat wine, and especially pork barbecue. The price may be problematic, though it’s probably worth this much.

For more on Labor Day wine:
Labor Day wine 2015
Labor Day wine 2014
Labor Day wine 2013
Porch wine for the long, hot summer