Tag Archives: Italian wine

Mini-reviews 121: Even more rose reviews 2019

rose reviews 2019Reviews 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. This month, six rose reviews 2019 in honor of the blog’s 12th annual rose fest.

The 12th annual Memorial Day and rose 2019 post

La Vieille Ferme Rose 2018 ($7, purchased, 13%): This French pink is not what it was in 2017, when it was among the best roses of the season. The 2018 is a little thinner and less interesting, and the fruit doesn’t jump like it did last year — probably from poorer quality grapes. But it’s still dry, still worth $6 or $7, and still worth buying. Imported by Vineyard Brands

La Galope Comté Tolosan Rose ( $10, purchased, 12%): Once again, $10 buys quality rose — this, time from the French region of Gascony. There is a little tart cherry fruit, some flintiness, and it’s fresh, and clean. Highly recommended. Imported by Bridge Imports

Gianni Masciarelli Rosato 2017 ($11, purchased, 12.5%): Beautiful, zesty, and refreshing, this Italian pink shows off montepulciano, not all that common as a rose grape. Highly recommended, and an example of how rose technical quality has improved so dramatically that some older vintages remain delicious. Imported by Vintus

Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French pink, made mostly with grenache, is yummy and delicious — another 2017 that has more than held up (though the 2018 is available in some areas). Surprising structure and depth, with tart strawberry fruit and crisp, fresh, and minerally on the finish. Highly recommended. Imported by Pioneer Wine Co.

Paul Mas Cote Mas Aurore 2017 ($10/1 liter, purchased, 12.5%): This is more than competent, Provence-style rose (barely ripe red fruit, a hint of garrigue, clean finish) in a liter bottle, so there are two extra glasses. What more do we need? (The 2018 should be available in some areas.) Imported by Espirit du Vin

Castle Rock Pinot Noir Rose 2018 ($10, sample, 13.5%): The kind of California wine that used to be common, but now is but a distant memory — well-made but affordable and decent availability. Look for a little orange zest to go with the barely ripe strawberry fruit.

Mini-reviews 120: Four red wines from around the world

red wineReviews 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. This month, four red wines from around the world.

District 7 Pinot Noir 2017 ($20, sample, 13.5%): This is top-notch red wine from the Monterey region of California, where it’s a little cooler and where pinot noir can be more pinot noir-ish because it’s cooler. Look for an earthy beginning, refined tannins, and delicious and correct cherry fruit. The price isn’t great, but that’s what quality introductory pinot noir costs these days.

Domaine de Colette Beaujolais-Villages 2017 ($17, purchased, 12.5%): This is a very nicely done French red wine made with the gamay grape from the region of Beaujolais. It has structure and body, not always easy to do when working with gamay, but also offers gamay character — some soft cherry. Let it sit open for at least 30 minutes. Highly recommended. Imported by Charles Neal Selections

Castello di Magione Umbria 2017 ($15, purchased, 13%): This Italian red wine made with sangiovese is earthy and tart, which is normally what I like. But it tastes like something is missing, and for $15 I don’t want to have to figure out what that is. Imported by Margaux and Associates

Oak Ridge Winery OZV 2017 ($13, sample, 14%): This professionally made red blend from Lodi in California tastes exactly like it came from Lodi: Lots of sweet dark fruit, lots of oak, and not much in the way of tannins. If you appreciate this style of wine, then you’ll enjoy this.

Wine of the week: Farnese Fantini Trebbiano 2017

fantini trebbianoThe Fantini trebbiano is an $8 Italian white wine that’s perfect for keeping around the house

The Wine Curmudgeon has been looking for a white wine to keep around the house for a couple of years, since the new owner of the company that makes the Rene Babier white turned it into Spanish lemonade and the legendary Domaine du Tariquet lost its U.S. importer. The Fantini trebbiano may do the trick

The Fantini trebbiano ($8, purchased, $12) is an Italian white wine from the Abruzzi region in the east on the Adriatic coast. It’s made with trebbiano, the Italain version of ugni blanc, which is one of the grapes used in the Tariquet. As such, it produces a tart (lemon-lime-ish?) wine, and one that is clean, simple, and enjoyable. What more can you ask for at this price?

In this, the Fantini trebbiano is the white version of the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines that also offer varietal character at a fair price. These are basic, every day wines, the kind you drink when you want a glass when you get home from work or need something with takeout pizza or weeknight hamburgers. This is a very European approach to wine, where we don’t plan the meal so that it complements the wine, but we drink the wine because we’re eating dinner and glass of wine sounds good.

Imported by Empson USA

Wine for people who don’t drink much wine

people who don't drink much wineThree wines that offer quality and value when you’re serving wine to people who don’t drink much wine

The Wine Curmudgeon has entertained twice in the last month where the guests weren’t professional wine drinkers. That is, they were people who fit the profile of the typical U.S. wine drinker – someone who drinks a bottle of month and isn’t interested in the stuff that keeps wine geeks up at night.

The challenge then: How you buy wine to serve with dinner for people who don’t drink much wine? The goal is to pour something interesting that isn’t stupid or insipid, but won’t intimidate your guests. The key: Keep in mind that you want to serve wine other people will like, and not what you think they should like.

A few suggestions and guidelines:

• Try to stay away from tannins and their bitterness, which may be the most off-putting part of wine for those who don’t drink much of it. But what if you want to serve red wine? Then look for something made with sangiovese, gamay, or tempranillo, like the Capezzana Monna Nera 2016 ($10, purchased, 13.5%). This Italian blend is mostly sangiovese – fresh and well-made with soft cherry fruit. Imported by MW Imports.

• Chardonnay, and especially cheap ones with too much fake oak, can make typical wine drinkers grimace. So can overly tart sauvignon blanc. Hence, chenin blanc like the Ken Forester petit 2017 ($11, purchased, 13.5%). This South African white is a long-time favorite, offering crisp white fruit and a refreshing finish. Imported by USA Wine Imports

• One of the best things about the rose boom? It’s ideal for situations like this. The Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12%) is a French pink, almost tart and strawberry, and a tad better made than most at this price. Imported by Pioneer Wine Co.

Wine of the week: Melini Chianti Borghi d’Elsa 2017

melini chiantiThe 2017 vintage of the Melini Chianti is as different as it is unexpected

Something odd is going on the current vintage of the Melini Chianti, an almost always dependable $6 red wine. Either the wine is genuinely softer and fruitier, or someone dumped many bags of sugar into the barrels.

The Wine Curmudgeon prefers to think it’s the former. If there is added sugar in a cheap wine as venerable as the Melini Chianti ($6, purchased, 13%), then it’s time to go back to sports writing. And who wants to do that?

Because this Italian red, made with sangiovese from the Chianti region of Tuscany, is much rounder and less sour than it has been for years, with a sort of sweet cherry fruit and a kind of forest floor finish where it didn’t have much of a finish at all before. It’s about as far from the simple, tight-cornered, and tart cherry Melini as possible.

It still mostly tastes like Chianti, but more of a New World version. Again, I don’t know that this is a bad thing as much as it is unexpected. And the Melini still pairs with the usual sorts of red sauces, takeout pizza, and the like.

So chalk the change up to a vintage difference, and hope for the best next time.

Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons

Mini-reviews 177: Total Wine and Aldi private label, plus a gruner veltliner

Total WineReviews 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.

Palma Real Verdejo 2017 ($10, purchased, 12%): This Spanish white blend is a Total Wine private label that tastes like it’s supposed to — tart and lemony, simple but not stupid. It looks to be some sort of knockoff of the Marques de Cacera verdejo, but is better made and more enjoyable. Highly recommended.

Provinco Bianco Grande Alberone 2017 ($9, purchased, 13%): This Italian white blend, which includes chardonnay, is more Aldi private label plonk. There is little varietal character, save for some chardonnay mouthfeel. Otherwise, it’s thin and bitter.

Weingut Berger Grüner Veltliner 2017 ($12/1 liter, purchased, 12%): Yet another Wine Curmudgeon attempt to understand why so many wine hipsters recommend gruner veltliner, an Austrian white. As my pal Jim Serroka said, and he doesn’t pay much attention to wine, “it’s thin and watery.” Look for a little citrus fruit and not much else.

Familia Bastida Tempranillo 2016 ($10, purchased, 13.5%): Another top-quality Total Wine private label – a Spanish tempranillo that is varietally correct with soft cherry fruit, a hint of spice, not too much oak, and all surprisingly integrated.

A tale of two Italian wines, one of which tastes like it came from New Zealand

Italian winesTwo Italian wines from a Big Wine company, but only one of them tastes like it came from Italy

This is where we are in the wine business in 2019 – two Italian wines from the same Big Wine company, one of which is varietally correct, terroir-driven, and a pleasure to drink, while the other tastes like it was put together by a marketing company and is about as Italian as a pair of panty hose. Why does anyone think this will advance the cause of wine?

The wines are from Zonin1821, which owns nine Italian producers (as well as one of the best wineries in the U.S., Barboursville Vineyards in Virginia). Zonin1821 is best known for its $13 Zonin Prosecco, a pleasant enough bottle for a $13 Prosecco. But many of its wines are interesting and well worth drinking, and there are many worse Big Wine companies.

The insolia white wine ($14, sample, 12.5%), made by Zonin1821’s Feudo Principi di Butera subsidiary in Sicily, is Big Wine done right. The insolia grape is native to Sicily, and it’s not necessarily easy to work with. But the Butera is all should be – tart green apple fruit, lots of spice and almond, an almost stony finish and even some green herbs. It’s Hall of Fame quality, a white wine that is neither chardonnay nor sauvignon blanc and a reminder of how much value Sicilian wines can deliver. This is seafood wine – risotto with shrimp, perhaps?

Which brings us to the panty hose. The second wine is a sauvignon blanc from Zonin1821’s Ca Bolani in northern Italy’s Fruili region. Italian sauvignon blanc has long taken a back seat to pinot grigio, which probably explains why the Ca Bolani ($14, sample, 12.5%) tastes the way it does. Or, as a friend said when she drank it, “Why did you open this wine? You know I don’t like New Zealand sauvignon blanc.”

Which is exactly what it tastes likes – big, huge smacking gobs of grapefruit. It’s a well made wine, and there is even a little something trying to peek out from behind the grapefruit. And $14 isn’t a bad price. But none of that really matters, since it raises a larger question: Why would I want to buy Italian sauvignon blanc that tastes like it came from New Zealand? Isn’t that what New Zealand sauvignon blanc is for? Shouldn’t Italian wine taste like it came from Italy?

Apparently not. These days, the goal seems to be to make all wine taste the same, so it will be easier to market. Because Big Wine. Hopefully, no one at Butera will realize this and turn the insolia into Paso Robles chardonnay. Because then I would have another reason to worry about the future of the wine business.