Tag Archives: holiday wine


New Year’s sparkling wine 2017

New Year's sparkling wine 2017Four New Year’s sparkling wine 2017 recommendations that combine value and quality

Champagne, the sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, has returned to the blog this year for New Year’s sparkling wine 2017. The good news is that I found some that weren’t the same old stuff and are worth drinking. The bad news is that it’s almost impossible to find quality Champagne for less than $35.

Having said that, there is still lots of value in the blog’s New Year’s sparkling wine 2017 suggestions. This includes California bubbly, usually overpriced but where prices have become almost reasonable. That’s because of grocery store wine sales; the competition they offer has lowered prices.

Also handy: The blog’s annual wine gift guidelines and the sparkling wine primer.

Monistrol Seleccion Especial Brut NV ($9, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish sparkler shows cava’s greatness and ability to deliver value. It’s less than $10, and you’d never know tasting it blind. Look for bright red apple fruit, pleasing acidity, and a softish finish.

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut NV ($16, purchased, 12.5%): This California sparkler is one of the world’s great bubbly values — always fresh, always consistent, always enjoyable. Look for lemon and green apple flavors, some stone fruit aromas, and a creamy finish with very tight bubbles. Highly recommended.

Astoria Prosecco NV ($12, sample, 11%): This is one of the best Italian sparkling wines — more than just sweet and soft. Look for lemon and apple fruit, enough sweetness to make you wonder if it is sweet, soft but long-lasting bubbles, and even a sort of minerally finish, which is completely unexpected.

Champagne Collet Brut NV ($39, sample, 12.5%): This is priced like entry-level Champagne, but the quality is much more than that. It’s classic in style, with the brioche aroma, citrus fruit, and a little caramel in the finish. Very well done for the price.

More on New Year’s sparkling wine
New Year’s sparkling wine 2016
New Year’s sparkling wine 2015
New Year’s sparkling wine 2014
Wineof the week: Francois Montand Brut Rose NV
Wine of the week: Juve y Camps Brut Rose NV

Christmas wine 2017

christmas wine 2017Four choices for Christmas wine 2017 to help you enjoy the holiday

Suggestions for Christmas wine 2017, whether for a last minute gift or for a holiday dinner. As always, keep our wine gift giving tips in mind:

Ken Forrester Petit Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 13%): Top-notch South African pink from one of my favorite producers. More in the Loire style, even though it uses Rhone grapes (grenache and a little viognier), so less fruit (unripe strawberry) and more stoniness and minerality. Highly recommended. Imported by USA Wine Imports.

Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet 2013 ($79, purchased, 13%): My favorite white Burgundy, and perhaps my favorite chardonnay in the word. This vintage is more tropical than I expected (lime and almost banana fruit), but still crisp, minerally, and white Burgundy-like. And the oak, with hints of pecan and caramel, is a revelation, a master class in how to age wine. A tip o’ the WC fedora to the Big Guy, who brought it to a recent wine lunch. Highly recommended, and especially as a gift for someone who loves wine. Imported by Vineyard Brands.

Bervini Rose Spumante Extra Dry NV ($18, sample, 11%): Old-fashioned Italian bubbly, the kind we drank in the 1960s and ’70s — more fizzy than sparkling, a touch sweet, and balanced with raspberry fruit. It’s well made and fun to drink, but price might turn some people off. Imported by WineTrees USA.

Silver Totem Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($16, sample, 13.5%): An amazing Washington state red wine that comes from Big Wine producer Banfi, but tastes like Washington state cabernet. Everything is where it is supposed to be — some heft, some rich dark fruit but not too ripe, and enough acidity so the wine is more than smooth. Highly recommended.

More about Christmas wine:
Christmas wine 2016
Christmas wine 2015
Christmas wine 2014
Expensive wine 101: Franco-Espanolas Bordon Gran Reserva 2005
Expensive wine 104: Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese 2014

Holiday wine gift guide 2017

Who needs to blow $1,500 for something no one needs when you have the Wine Curmudgeon holiday wine gift guide 2017?

holiday wine gift guide 2017Premiumization isn’t just about wine these days. It’s about wine gifts, too. How about $95 for a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne, packaged in a gift box shaped like a lipstick, complete with bright red top? Or the $1,500 Plum wine preservation system? It’s so complicated that I can’t figure out what it does or why I need it.

Never fear. That’s why the Wine Curmudgeon is here. As always, my goal is to offer ideas that are tasteful, affordable, and enjoyable. Because who wants to get a set of beer glass wraps made of leather?

This year, my suggestions are mostly wine, but also keep in mind two must-haves for anyone who drinks wine regularly – the Rabbit wine preserver ($10), cheap and effective, and a top-notch waiter’s corkscrew from Murano ($10).


• Jon Bonne’s new book, “Thee New Wine Rules: A Genuinely Helpful Guide to Everything You Need to Know” (Ten Speed Press, $15). This effort continues the former San Francisco Chronicle wine editor’s attempt to remake how we look at wine. It’s not long, but length isn’t the issue. Rather, it’s the 89 “rules” – practical advice instead of the commandments that we have had to endure for generations. And yes, says Bonne, you can drink rose all year long.

Ridge Lytton Springs 2015 ($40). Dollar for dollar, California’s Ridge may be the best winery in the U.S. The Lytton Springs, one of the winery’s trademark zinfandel blends, shows why – lots of jammy black fruit and sweet oak, but with black pepper, more acidity than the usual flat and flabby zinfandel, and some herbal notes toward the finish. And it’s very young – should last for a decade or more.

Osborne Pedro Ximenez 1827 ($25): This Spanish sherry is dessert wine even for people who don’t like dessert wine – nutty, raisiny, rich and luscious, and one swallow seems to last forever. It may be difficult to find, but is more than worth the effort and more than a fair value. This is a sister product to a very rare Osborne sherry, which was easily the best I have ever tasted. And this one is almost as good.

Jose Zuccardi Malbec 2013 ($45): Argentina’s Zuccardi may be best known for its terrific cheap wine, including some classic $10 roses. This red, which includes a little cabernet sauvignon, takes the winery in a much different direction. It’s part of a decade-long effort to do for malbec what the Italians have done for sangiovese blends – call it a Super Mendoza. It’s not for all tastes – bigger and bolder than I expected. But the winemaking is impeccable.

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc 2014 ($28): This California white wine is made with two grapes rarely used in the U.S., so it’s worthwhile just for that. That it comes from the talented Randall Grahm is another reason to buy it. And that it offers quality – a little pear fruit, some bright acidity – is a third reason.

Holiday wine trends 2017

holiday wine trends 2017We’re willing to spend more money for holiday wine in 2017, but don’t try fobbing us off with overpriced crap

We’re willing to spend more money for holiday wine in 2017, but – and am I the only one surprised by this? – we don’t want to overpay. And, in as good a bit of news as I can imagine for holiday wine trends 2017, the younger among us are willing to buy something that isn’t chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir, and cabernet sauvignon.

“Consumers are ahead of producers in terms of quality, and they catch up to the idea of quality pretty quickly,” says Michael Warner, who owns Dcanter, a wine shop in Washington, D.C. “They’re willing to try something else, something different, but only if the price and quality is right.”

In fact, these younger wine drinkers are fussy about quality and price, and they aren’t willing to be fobbed off on something they consider inferior wine just because it’s different. Which is why I think this is such good news. They want wines from regions and made with grapes that their parents and grandparents aren’t interested in, and that includes wine from eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and the southern Hemisphere.

How prevalent is this attitude? Michael Osborn at Wine.com, the largest Internet wine retailer in the country, says the site now sells wine made from almost 100 varietals. This is much larger than just a few years ago, and includes grapes like albarino, which no one has paid much attention to until the past couple of years. What makes the Wine.com numbers even more relevant? Its customers aren’t as old as the traditional U.S. wine drinker – two-thirds are younger than 50.

Several other trends after talking to a variety of retailers about holiday wine 2017:

• The most popular price this holiday season? The range from $15 to $25, as consumers don’t mind spending money to buy a better bottle of wine. The catch, though, is that they will only pay if it’s a better bottle. We’re not trading up just to trade up.

• Rose remains popular, with sales continuing to increase everywhere, including Wine.com. So do pinot noir and sweet red blends.

• Champage is regaining some of its popularity, but Prosecco – the Italian sparkler that’s about one-third the price and a little sweeter – remains the best-selling bubbly category in the country.

• One reason younger wine drinkers opt for non-traditional wines is value. Customers at New Orleans’ Pearl Wine Co. love a South African cinsault blend, says owner Leora Madden, because it offers so much more value than the $12 price. At Dcanter, says Warner, someone who wants to buy a red Bordeaux will leave with a red from the much less known and much less pricey Cahors region.

Winebits 516: Thanksgiving 2017 wine suggestions from around the Internet

Thanksgiving 2017 wineThis week’s wine news: Thanksgiving 2017 wine suggestions from around the Internet

Four rules: The always dependable Eric Asimov at the New York Times reminds his readers that “If the food is good and the company convivial, you cannot go wrong with the wine. If the food is bad and the company annoying, wine can only help.” Which I like a lot. Most of the wines in the piece aren’t easy to find, though the quality is up to Asimov’s usual standards. The Dibon rose cava, about $15, comes from one of my favorite producers.

Sparing no expense: Katie Kelly Bell at Forbes isn’t worried about your wine budget – only one wine less than $10, and more that are difficult to find. Still, how can anyone argue with a list that includes one of the great California sparkling wines, the J Cuvee 20.

Five rules: The equally dependable Elin McCoy does Asimov one rule better, and includes this key: “But take a deep breath—and relax.” The highlight of her five recommendations is the $16 Pierre Chermette Beaujolais, which I’m going to see if I can find in Dallas.

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

Father's Day wine 2014

Father’s Day wine 2017

Father's day wine 2017This year, as we ponder the wine to buy Dad for Father’s Day, I’m struck that so many people will assume Dad wants only big, manly wines. Because he is, after all, Dad.

Oh ye of little faith. Dad may like many styles of wine, and limiting him just because he is Dad does both of you a disservice. Wine is not a pair of cuff links, after all. The great joy of wine is that there are so many different kinds available, and Dad may want a change.

Hence the blog’s Father’s Day wine 2017 post. Keep the blog’s wine gift-giving guidelines in mind throughout the process: Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.

This year’s Father’s Day wine suggestions:

Leese-Fitch Firehouse Red 2015 ($12, sample, 13.5%): This California red blend a Big Wine company shows that it’s possible to combine margins with enjoyable wine. There’s a touch too much smoothness (leave the merlot out of the blend next time) among the black fruit, but it also has soft tannins and enough acidity for all for the fruit.

Domaine des Cassagnoles Côtes de Gascogne 2016 ($10, sample, 12%): This white blend from France’s Gascony is consistently excellent the wine. There is more lime citrus than the white grapeiness I prefer, but it remains fresh, clean and enjoyable.

Vilarnau Cava Brut Reserva NV ($15, sample, 11.5%): Very well done Spanish sparkling wine made with the traditional cava blend that gives it depth and apple and lemon fruit. It’s not as tart as many cheaper cavas.

Georges Vigouroux Pigmentum Rose 2016 ($10, purchased, 13%): Yet another well crafted, solidly made French rose, this time with malbec. Much fruitier (ripe strawberry?) than the previous vintage, but still fresh and clean.

More Father’s Day wine:
Father’s Day wine 2016
Father’s Day wine 2015
Father’s Day wine 2014