Tag Archives: Italian wine

Wine of the week: Banfi Centine Toscana 2017

centine toscanoBanfi’s Centine Toscana remains a Hall of Fame quality $10 red wine

The Centine Toscana ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is Big Wine done right – a varietally correct Italian red made with sangiovese made by Banfi, a $70 million company that sells wine in 85 countries. So it should be no surprise that it’s a $10 Hall of Fame quality wine (as is the white version).

The 2017 Centine Toscana is even a little more Italian, so less ripe fruit than the previous vintage and more earthiness. As always, it’s terroir driven, with slightly tart cherry fruit, a pleasant, chalky finish, and appropriately soft tannins. In other words, it tastes like sangiovese from the Tuscan region of Italy, and not a winemaking-driven product from a marketing company focus group trying to figure out how to make a sort of sweet and very smooth Italian wine.

Pair this with summer barbecue – sausages, of course, but also smoked chicken and burgers. And maybe even pizza on the grill for the adventurous. And if the weather allows it, this is a delicious wine with any red sauce.

Wine and food pairings 3: Bratwurst and sauerkraut

Wisconsin-style bratwurstThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this new, occasional feature. This edition: three wines with Wisconsin-style bratwurst and sauerkraut

There are bratwurst, and then there are local, butcher-shop brats prepared in the Wisconsin bratwurst style. That means brats poached in beer with onions, peppers, garlic, and spices. Yes, you can use grocery store brats, but it’s that much better with the local product. Can I recommend Lake Geneva Country Meats, a long-time pal of the blog?

Since this is a wine blog, I poach the bratwurst in wine instead of beer. Use one-half bottle of a fruity, dry white wine; almost anything but an oak-infused chardonnay will work. The other key? Add a well-drained can of sauerkraut to the poaching liquid after you take the bratwursts out and simmer. I use 69-cent grocery store kraut, which works as well as the more expensive, plastic-bag version. The sauerkraut picks up the flavors from the poaching liquid, and becomes something other than just sauerkraut. Plus, you don’t waste all the flavor in the bratwurst-infused poaching liquid.

A tip o’ the WC’s fedora to Nick Vorpagel at Lake Geneva, the third generation of the family business and a fine wine guy, too. Who else would hold a cava and Wisconsin-style bratwurst tasting? Hence, cava works with this dish, so enjoy the blog’s legendary $7 Cristalino. Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe.

But consider these wines, too:

Falesco Vitiano Bianco 2017 ($12, purchased, 12%): This Italian white is one of the blog’s all-time favorites, and pairs with sausage as if it was made for it. Imported by The Winebow Group.

Foncalieu Le Versant Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): One more $10 French pink that does everything rose is supposed to do. Plus, it doesn’t cost as much as  bottle of white Burgundy. The Foncalieu is crisp, has a hint of red fruit, and ends with a pleasing, almost stony finish. Imported by United Wine & Spirits

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti 2015 ($8, purchased, 13%): This Italian red is usually one of the best of the cheap Chiantis, though I noticed some bottle variation this vintage. Otherwise, competent as always — lots of tart cherry, earthiness, and soft tannins. Imported by TWE Imports

More about wine and food pairings:
Wine and food pairings 2: Roast chicken salad with Chinese noodles
Wine and food pairings 1: Chicken, okra and sausage gumbo
One chicken, five dinners, five wines

Father’s Day wine 2018

Father's Day wine 2018Father’s Day wine 2018: Four wines that offer quality and value — because that’s what Dad taught you

The Father’s Day wine 2018 news releases have been landing in my mailbox for a month or so, and most of them bore me to tears. I mention this not to bash wine marketing again, but to note that the releases don’t understand what Dad wants. It’s not about spending money; it’s about value and pleasure.

Which is the point of this year’s Father’s Day wine 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:

d’Arenberg The Footbolt 2014 ($18, sample, 14.6%): Australian shiraz’s fall from grace should not apply to d’Arenberg, an Aussie producer that makes some of the most interesting red wine in the world. d’Arenberg does it by combining terroir, top quality grapes, and — believe it or not  —  high alcohol in a fresh and intriguing fashion. This is shiraz for people who love wine, and not booze. Highly recommended. Imported by Old Bridge Cellars

Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio 2017 ($15, sample, 13.5%): Prices for this Italian white are all over the place — probably because it’s more than the citrus-flavored tonic water of cheaper pinot grigios. Look for some lemon fruit and minerality, plus something that can only be called character. Imported by HB Wine Merchants

Zolo Signature Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.9%): This Argentine pink reminds me why I love wine — a $10 wine bought with no expectations and that gave me more than a bottle of enjoyment. It’s a syrah blend with lots of just ripe strawberry fruit, but not too heavy, too fruity, or sweet at all. Highly recommended. Imported by Vino del Sol

Gloria Ferrer Brut Rose NV ($25, sample, 12.5%): I drank this at the Friday night reception at this year’s Critic’s Challenge. And then I drank some more. And some more. It’s beautiful, well-made, and delicious — tight bubbles, strawberry aroma, and soft red fruit flavors. Highly recommended.

More Father’s Day wine:

Father’s Day wine 2017
Father’s Day wine 2016
Father’s Day wine 2015
Expensive wine 106: Graham’s 20-year-Tawny Port

Mini-reviews 107: Big Smooth, malbec, Rioja, Sicily

Big smoothReviews 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.

Big Smooth Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($17, sample, 14.5%): Much winemaking and craftsmanship went into this California red to make it taste like a cherry Tootise Pop. If that’s what you want your wine to taste like, then it’s worth $17. Otherwise, taste and be amazed at the post-modern marketing cynicism that also went into it.

Casillero del Diablo Malbec 2016 ($12, sample, 13.5%): This Chilean red speaks to terroir and varietal character, and is about more than the jammy black fruit of similarly-priced Argentine malbecs. Having said that, it’s not a value this price – a little thin and tart. But if you find it for $8 at the grocery store and you need a bottle of wine for dinner, you won’t be disappointed. Imported by Excelsior Wine

Bagordi Rioja Navardia 2016 ($13, sample, 14%): Nothing special about this Spanish red – just a full-bodied (heavier, more red fruit) and not especially varietal tempranillo made with organic grapes. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Cantina Cellaro Luma 2016 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Sicilian red, made with the nero d’avola grape, was either oxidized (doubtful, given the vintage) or so extracted and so overripe that it was about as Sicilian as my Honda. Imported by Gonzalez Bypass

Wine of the week: Rocca di Montemassi Le Focaie 2016

The Rocca di Montemassi Le Focaie is $10 Italian red wine you can buy and enjoy without a touch of worry

Why is it that I can pick a bottle of an Italian Tuscan red blend off the shelf blind and know there is a good chance it will be worth drinking? Because it has happened time and time again, as it happened again with the Montemassi Le Focaie.

There are probably a couple of reasons. First, wines like the Montemassi Le Focaie ($10, purchased, 13%) aren’t made to get scores. They’re part of Italy’s wine drinking culture, where people expect to find quality cheap wine to have with dinner. So someone makes it. Sadly, we’re still not at that point in the U.S. – from either the consumer or producer’s point of view.

Second, I buy many of these wines at an independent retailer, where the idea is to carry something that’s not going to be on the grocery store Great Wall of Wine. Hence, more of an emphasis on quality, like the Montemassi Le Focaie.

This wine, made with sangoviese, is a little rounder than many cheap Chiantis – it’s not quite as tart, and the cherry fruit, both aroma and flavor) is softer and more ripe.  But it still tastes like sangiovese, and it tastes like it comes from Italy. It is, truly, the kind of wine to open for dinner without a touch of worry.

Imported by Zonin USA

Wine of the week: Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2016

Tiefenbrunner pinot grigioThe Tiefenbrunner pinot grigio demonstrates that not all of this kind of Italian white wine has to be bland and boring

The Wine Curmudgeon’s long-standing antipathy for pinot grigio is rooted in sampling too many bottles of the Italian white wine that were overpriced, tasted like club soda, or both. So when I can rave about something like the Tiefenbrunner pinot grigo, more the better.

That’s because the Tiefenbrunner pinot grigio ($14, purchased, 13%) is more than another wine made for focus groups, bereft of flavor and character. It speaks to where it’s from in northern Italy, as well as to a grape that can make aromatic and subtly fruity wine if someone takes the time and trouble to do so.

Which is what happened here. Look for almost floral aromas, plus a little citurs that might seem more likely in an Oregon pinot gris. It’s not quite stone fruit when you taste it – more pear-like. One reason the flavor is so difficult to describe is that pinot grigio rarely tastes like this. Plus, it retains the hint of minerality that even the most bland of its brethren always seem to have.

Highly recommended (and it was a huge hit with my El Centro students). Pair this with almost anything spring related, and especially salads and shellfish.

Wine of the week: Coltibuono Chianti Cetamura 2015

Coltibuono ChiantiThe Coltibuono Chianti is one more Italian red that combines quality and value for $10

One of the most surprising things about cheap wine in the second decade of the 21st century is how much quality Chianti exists for $10 or less. Maybe it’s because Chianti is passé among the wine geeks, given the popularity of pricey Super Tuscans. Maybe there’s so much of it that supply keeps prices down. And maybe it’s because so many Chianti producers are happy to make great $10 wine.

Regardless, the Coltibuono Chianti ($10, purchased, 13%) is one more terrific value. This Italian red wine, made with the sangiovese grape from the Chianti region of Tuscany, is more old fashioned than some of the others. That means it’s a little more rustic and earthy. Which, of course, isn’t a problem, but part of Chianti’s terroir. So no, it’s not like this.

Look for Chianti’s traditional tart, slightly cherry taste, a clean finish, and those wonderful red fruit aromas that make me think of sausage and garlic. There’s even a little baking spice somewhere in the mix.

Bring on the red sauce, especially as winter hangs around in much of the country.

Imported by Coltibuono USA