Tag Archives: Italian wine

Wine of the week: Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2016

Masciareli Montepulciano d'AbruzzoThe Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a brilliant, well-made, and delicious $10 Italian red wine

Some things, fortunately, haven’t changed for the worse during the duration. One of them is the Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

I first tasted this wine at the beginning of 2019 and loved it. My notes ask, “Where has this wine been all my life?” But, somehow, I neglected to use it on the blog. So when I saw a bottle of the Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($10, purchased, 13%) on wine.com, I bought it again, and this review is the result.

Wines from Italy’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo region have traditionally been terrific values, and this one is no exception. It tastes Italian and it tastes like the montepulciano grape it is made with (and which is not the same thing as the region). Plus, as the Italian Wine Guy pointed out to me, the producer cares about quality, and isn’t in this to fob off faux Italian wines on an unsuspecting public.

It’s not too much to call this wine brilliant, well-made, and delicious — everything $10 wine should be. The fruit this time wasn’t quite as dark and plummy as it was in 2019 (more tart and zippy, actually), but it was still earthy and still had all that bright Italian acidity. Mushroom ragu, anyone?

Highly recommended, and it should join the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame in January, as well as make the short list for 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Memorial Day and rose 2020

memorial day and roseCheck out these six roses — cheap and delicious — for the blog’s 13th annual Memorial Day and rose celebration

There is lots and lots of quality rose out there at terrific prices as we continue the blog’s 13th annual Memorial Day and rose extravaganza with today’s post. But given the surreal way wine works these days, that’s both good news and bad.

Good because there is lots and lots of rose in the marketplace, keeping prices down. Case in point: I got a California rose sample this month that cost $2 less this year, and it was the exact same wine the producer sent me last year. Yes, a price cut in the wine business – as hard as it is to believe.

Bad because there is lots and lots of rose in the marketplace, much of it unsold from last year. That’s almost unprecedented for rose. But pink wine’s sales have slowed thanks to the general wine sales slowdown and the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t helped. In this, many producers have delayed release of the 2019 until they sell out. Bota Box, whose 3-liter rose is one of the best values in the world, isn’t releasing its 2019 until August. And I haven’t seen the 2019 Angels & Cowboys rose, always well-done, though there is lots of 2018 on store shelves.

Complicating matters is the 25 percent tariff on French and Spanish wine, which accounts for some of the best cheap rose in the world. It’s not so much that the tariff bumped up prices; in fact, I’m surprised so many producers didn’t increase prices more. Rather, importers cut their orders because they were unsure what they could sell given the general slowdown in wine. So there is still lots of great cheap Spanish and French rose, but there isn’t necessarily a lot from each producer.

Not to fear, though: The Wine Curmudgeon has found cheap, delicious, and honest roses (not sweet, not high in alcohol and not tannic). And don’t overlook the blog’s rose primer and the rose category (from the dropdown menu on the lower right), which lists 13 years of rose reviews.

Today, six standout roses – each highly recommended. Tomorrow, six more roses worth writing about:

Bielet Pere et Fils Sabine Rose 2019 ($12, sample, 13%): This French pink is one of the world’s best roses every year, regardless of price. In this vintage, the cabernet sauvignon in the blend gives the wine a little more structure, depth, and body, plus a little darker flavor (blackberry instead of strawberry?). As it ages, the cabernet should go to the back and more red fruit will come to the front. Imported by Bieler et Fils

Santa Julia Organica Rose 2019 ($6/375 ml can, sample, 13%): This is the same high-quality Zuccardi family rose that shows up under a variety of labels – this time, in a half-bottle sized can. Look for some not too ripe berry fruit, a bit of structure, and a fresh finish. Let it open up, and it’s even better in a glass. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

MontGras Rose 2019 ($15, sample, 12.5%): This Chilean pink made with zinfandel is quite fruity, with lots and lots of red berries. But it’s not sweet. Quite interesting, in fact, and perfect for anyone tired of the taut, crisp, Provencal style. Imported by Guarachi Wine Partners

Banfi Centine Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 13%): Banfi’s Italian Centine line offers some of the best cheap wine in the world today, and the rose is no exception. It tastes Italian, with a well-done crispness and soft cherry fruit. A touch short on the finish, but that’s not a problem. Imported by Banfi Vintners

Mont Gravet Rose 2019 ($10, sample, 12%): This French label is all a $10 rose should be — a little bit of not quite ripe berry fruit, crisp, clean and fresh. It’s not fancy or flashy; rather, it’s wine for people who care more about what’s in the bottle than the marketing campaign. (And the 2018 is still yummy, too – I’ve got six bottles in the wine closet). Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.

Charles & Charles Rose 2019 ($12, sample, 11.4%): Winemakers Charles Bieler and Charles Smith combine on this Washington state rose, which shows up on this list every year. The 2019 is stunning – low alcohol, bone dry, with pleasingly crisp and tart strawberry fruit.

More about Memorial Day and rose:
• Memorial Day and rose 2019
• Memorial Day and rose 2018
• Memorial Day and rose 2017
• Will the 2020 rose season survive the coronavirus pandemic?
• Wine of the week: La Vieille Ferme Rose 2019

Photo: “Rose tasting 2012” by WineCoMN is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Mother's Day wine

Mother’s Day wine 2020

mother's day wine 2020Four suggestions — rose, white, red, and sparkling — for Mother’s Day wine 2020

Mother’s Day wine 2020: This year.s version, the 14th annual, finds us in a different place than ever before. But the premise hasn’t  changed — We’re looking for value and quality, and we want to buy Mom something she will enjoy and not something we think she should drink.

These Mother’s Day wine 2020 suggestions should get you started:

La Playa Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($9, purchased, 13%): Supermarket Chilean white  sauvignon blanc at a fair price (lots of citrus and not much else); given how inconsistent these wines have become it offers value. Imported by Cabernet Corporation

CVNE Via Real Rosado 2019 ($12, sample, 12.5%): The white viura grape, part of the blend for this Spanish pink from a top producer,  adds a little lemon something or other to the tempranillo’s cherry fruit. It’s both welcome and interesting and a well-made wine. Highly recommended. Imported by Arano LLC

F. B. Schönleber Riesling Extra Brut 2013 ($22, sample, 13%): German sparkling isn’t common in the U.S., and this bubbly makes me wish that wasn’t the case. It’s a delicious, dry and minerally sparkling that exceeded all expectations. Highly recommended. Imported by Angels’ Share Wine Imports

Masseria Li Veli Primonero 2017 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): This Italian red, made with the negroamaro grape, has earth, dark black fruit and very Italian in structure and acidity. Fire up the social distancing barbecue. Imported by Li Veli USA

Photo:“Contest18A Mother” by FolsomNatural is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

More about Mother’s Day wine:
Mother’s Day wine 2019
Mother’s Day wine 2018
Mother’s Day wine 2017
Wine of the week: MAN Chenin Blanc 2018

Wine of the week: Tiamo Pinot Grigio NV

tiamo pinot grigioYes, the Tiamo pinot grigio comes in a can – but it’s still top-notch cheap wine

Canned wine, for all its success in the U.S., has been held back by two things: canned formats are confusing, and the price too often reflects convenience and not quality. That’s where the Tiamo pinot grigio comes in.

The Tiamo pinot grigio ($5/375 ml can, sample, 12%) does what most other canned wines don’t: It tastes like the grape it’s made from, the quality matches the price, and it’s wine and not a sugared up canned beverage for the beach. In this, it could be the best canned wine I’ve tasted save for the Tiamo grillo, which is no longer available.

And it’s one of the best pinot grigios I’ve tasted in a while, canned or otherwise. This Italian white wine is crisp and clean, but it’s missing the tonic water finish that passes for varietal character in other cheap pinot grigios. Best yet, it has actual fruit flavors — some not quite ripe stone fruit that isn’t cloying or overdone. And at $5 for the equivalent of a half bottle, it offers plenty of value.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. This is back porch wine for Mother’s Day in the age of social distancing, and it wouldn’t be bad for an indoor campout, either.

Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Mini-reviews 132: Ava Grace, Tasca D’Almerita, River Road, Chateau Malescasse

ava graceReviews 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.

Ava Grace Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): Light, almost riesling-y sauvignon blanc from California. It’s not bad if you prefer a less intense style, and it’s a fair value; it just tastes like there is a lot of winemaking going on in an attempt to make it less varietal.

Tasca D’Almerita Nero d’Avola 2016 ($20, sample, 13.5%): Premiumized Italian red from Sicily made in an international style, which means it doesn’t taste like nero d’avola and it’s not very interesting. Imported by Winebow

River Road Family Stephanie’s Cuvée Pinot Noir 2017 ($30, sample, 14.3%): Classic, post-modern cocktail party California pinot noir – heavyish, with lots of cherry fruit, almost no tannins, and only a hint of pinot noir character.

Château Malescasse 2016 ($25, sample, 14.5%): There are two ways to look at this French red Bordeaux blend. First, as a French wine that tastes French, with herbal notes, currant fruit, and that French mouth feel. Second, as an every day style of French wine that costs $25. Imported by Austruy Family Vineyard Import

Did the Mafia take over one of Italy’s best cheap wine producers?

mafiaItalian anti-Mafia police raid Sicily’s Feudo Arancio in corruption probe

Feudo Arancia, whose wines have appeared on the blog more than once, may have been taken over by the Mafia. So say Italian police officials, whose financial police seized more than €70m (US$76 million) in assets from the Sicilian winery last week.

Details are still unclear, and it has been difficult to get anyone to talk about what has happened. I’ll update the post if I find out more.

Here’s what we know: The financial police, acting on a request from an anti-Mafia prosecutor in Trentino, seized 900 hectares of vineyards (about 2,200 acres) and several buildings at Feudo Arancio. Police say a Mafia group in Sicily was using Arancio to launder money; four people are reportedly being investigated.

Feudo Arancio is owned Trentino’s Groupo Mezzacorona, one of Italy’s biggest producers and whose $8 pinot grigio is ubiquitous in the U.S.. Mezzacorona executives have “strongly rejected the allegations.”

Feudo Arancio’s wines aren’t as consistently good as Falesco, but they’re worth the $10 they cost more often than not. I’ve reviewed three of them over the years, and the whites seem to be more interesting.

This Italian news report (use Google translate to make sense of it) reads like a pulp novel, complete with references to “men of honor,” the Cosa Nostra, “fugitive bosses,” and “a classic of fixing.”

The charges, if true, seem quite odd. A winery doesn’t appear to be the best place to launder money. It’s not a cash business, like a casino; cash flow, again, is limited; and there are extensive legal reporting requirements because alcohol is involved. But, given the success Italian police have had over the past couple of decades in combating the Mafia, this might have been the best the Mafia could do (assuming the charges are true).

Mini-reviews 130: Savoie rose, Cusumano, Grand Louis, A to Z Bubbles

savoie roseReviews 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 de la Rosière Rose 2018 ($13, purchased, 12%): Intriguing pink from the Savoie region in eastern France near Switzerland. There are green herbs, oddly enough, with a little red fruit and some spice. Made mostly with gamay, with some pinot noir and mondeuse, a local grape. Imported by Wines with Conviction

Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2018 ($11, purchased, 13.5%): This Sicilian red, once a great cheap wine, is fine for what it is, but there are plenty of $8 and $10 simple Italian reds that more or less taste like this – almost unripe dark fruit and lots of acidity. Imported by Terlato Wines International

Grand Louis Rouge 2016 ($11, purchased, 12.5%): This red Bordeaux blend (more merlot than cabernet sauvignon) is old-fashioned, but not in a good way — tart and and not very ripe fruit. Imported by Laird & Company

A to Z Wineworks Rose Bubbles ($16, sample, 12.5%): Surprisingly disappointing spritzy rose from an otherwise reliable producer. It approaches white zinfandel sweet, without anything to balance the sweetness. And the price is problematic.