Tag Archives: malbec

Wine of the week: Vassal de Mercuès 2013

Mercues Le VassalThe Vassal de Mercues, a malbec from Cahors, shows cheap red Bordeaux a thing or two about quality and value

During a recent retail visit in Dallas, the employee who had been mostly ignoring me mentioned that those of us who were old-fashioned enough to prefer French wine to taste like French wine should try red Cahors like the Vassal de Mercures. That suggestion made up for what was otherwise a worthless shopping trip.

That’s because Cahors wines like the Vassal de Mercues ($10, purchased, 13%) are more traditional than today’s red Bordeauxs. They’re made to retain the earthiness and Gallic-icty that many less expensive Bordeauxs have abandoned in their quest to get 92 points. That a wine from Cahors, the original home of malbec, can be more Bordeaux-like than Bordeaux is a another example of why the wine business makes me crazy.

The Vassal de Mercures is a second label from a property owned by the noted Georges Vigouroux, whose cheap wines have appeared many times on the blog. This wine is earthy – almost rustic – and doesn’t overdo the blueberry and black cherry fruit. There is also a little spice, while the tannins, sometimes a problem with cheap wines made in this style, are refined and do what they are supposed to do.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2018 $10 Hall of Fame. This would pair with almost anything from chicken or eggplant parmesan, made with a sturdy red sauce, to simple roasts, whether beef or chicken.

Mini-reviews 93: Barefoot bubbly, red Loire, Ridge, red Cahors

Barefoot bubblyReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month

Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee NV ($10, sample, 11.5%): One of the most frustrating things about reviewing wine is consistency of the product. I’ve written glowing reviews of this wine, but when I tasted the most recent sample, it was almost flat and devoid of flavor and character. Is this a flaw with this specific bottle of wine? Is it a problem with the current “vintage?” Or is it a problem in the supply chain, where the wine sat in a warehouse or delivery truck? I think the last, since I’ve had this problem with sparkling wine from many producers at many prices over the past 18 months. This is one of the disadvantages of non-vintage ones; you don’t know how long it has been sitting and getting worse.

Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Cuvée Alouettes ($17, purchased, 12%): This red wine, from the French region of Loire, is an excellent example of what the Loire can do with cabernet franc – red berry fruit, freshness, graphite, spice, and length. It’s clean through the palate with surprisingly soft tannins. Highly recommended.

Ridge Geyserville 2014 ($35, purchased, 14.5%): This California zinfandel red blend isn’t anywhere near ready to drink, and needs at least another year (if not longer). Until then, look for ripe black fruit and a lot less of the style and elegance that Ridge is known for.

Château Lafleur de Haute-Serre 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): This French red, made with malbec from the Cahors region, is not what I’d hoped given that it’s from Georges Vigouroux, a fine producer. It’s just ordinary, 1970s style wine with too much unripe fruit and a rusticity that isn’t as much charming as annoying.

Mini-reviews 92: 2016 closeout edition

2016 closeout editionReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, the 2016 closeout edition.

Kenwood Jack London Zinfandel 2014 ($25, sample, 14.5%): OK California zinfandel that isn’t what it once was, when it ranked with Ridge for quality. But it fits the parameters for what zinfandel is supposed to taste like today. Lots of sweet black fruit, though a bit of spice and earth on the back.

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013 ($25, sample, 13.5%): Not very interesting Italian red wine without much fruit but with a lot – and I mean a lot – of acidity. It was so out of whack I wondered it was flawed in some way.

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville 2007 ($45, sample, 15.5%): No, not a typo, but a California red that I got as a sample when the blog started and has been sitting the wine fridge since then. It’s made to taste exactly the way it tastes to wow the Winestream Media. In other words, rich, elegant, not quite sweet grape juice with some oak. If you like that style, you’ll love this wine.

Bodegas Salentein Killka Malbec 2014 ($13, sample, 14%): Competent premiumized Argentine red wine, with less fruit than most. But in the end, it’s still sweetish and not very interesting – another in a long line of malbecs made to taste a certain way and do that one thing very well.

Wine of the week: La Moneda Reserva Malbec 2015

La Moneda malbec

The last bottle of La Moneda malbec at this Dallas-area Walmart.

The La Moneda malbec delivers $7 worth of quality, but it’s not worth driving an hour back and forth in Black Friday weekend traffic

There are two things to know about the Chilean La Moneda malbec, the “world’s greatest cheap wine.” First, many people who buy it won’t like it – it’s missing the sweet fruit they’ve come to expect from wine at this price. Barefoot it ain’t. Second, it’s a nice enough wine, but probably not worth the trouble I went to to buy it, which included an hour drive to Walmart and back during Dallas’ Black Friday weekend.

Having said that, the La Moneda malbec ($7, purchased, 13.5%) offers value for its price – and it’s important to note it’s only available at some Walmarts. Look for an enticing blueberry aroma and a straightforward, if simple, approach. It’s more tart than an Argentine malbec, but there is pleasant black fruit. On the other hand, the finish is a touch thin and could probably use some sort of oak to balance the tartness. But I enjoyed the wine, and it’s easily wine of the week quality, though not quite worthy of the $10 Hall of Fame.

The La Moneda malbec doesn’t have the cloying, heavy dark fruit that so many cheap wines have and that many people who buy it will expect. Its absence, though, probably explains why the wine won the best varietal red for less than £15 (about US$20) award at the Decanter competition.

I’ve judged similar competitions, where the wines are judged by price, and most of the cheap reds taste the same regardless of varietal – waterfalls of sweet fruit gushing into your mouth, coating your tongue, and leaving you gasping for water. So when a wine doesn’t do that, like the La Moneda malbec, it’s time to reach for the superlatives. Call it winning by contrast – the more tart the wine, the better medal you’re going to give it.

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

Wine of the week: Domaine du Théron Prestige 2011

Domaine du Théron  PrestigeAn inexpensive French malbec that is somehow fruity and earthy

One reason so little malbec is reviewed on the blog is that the cheap stuff, full of fakey sweet black fruit, isn’t worth reviewing, and the expensive stuff often isn’t worth the price. So when the PR type swore to me that the French Domaine du Theron was a malbec worth reviewing, I accepted the challenge.

She was right. The Domaine du Therom Prestige ($15, sample, 13%), from the Cahors region in southwestern France, combines malbec’s varietal fruitiness with a certain French style. Call it terroir and be glad: It’s a delicious red wine where there’s just enough funky woodsy character to play off the traditional malbec fruit (blueberry? black cherry?) so that the latter doesn’t overwhelm the former.

It’s also a surprisingly rich wine that will age over the next three to five years, getting a little leaner as it gets older but without losing all the fruit. How often can we say that about a $15 wine? And it’s worth noting that this is a $15 wine that is worth $15, unlike the premiumized junk being foisted off on us by so many others.

This is red meat wine – roast lamb, smoked duck, even a pot roast as the weather cools off. It offers an intriguing contrast to the best made fruit forward Argentine malbecs, showing the differences between New World and Old World styles.

Mini-reviews 81: Estancia, malbec, Macon, Scarpetta

estanciaReviews 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.

? Estancia Pinot Grigo 2014 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): This California white is another example of the deteriorating state of cheap wine. If you drank it when it was released almost a year ago, it had pleasant apple and tropical fruit and was certainly worth what it cost. Drink it almost a year after release, which I did, and the fruit is gone and what’s left is mostly pithy bitterness — the kind of wine people cite when they say they don’t like wine. Even $9 white wine should last 15 or 18 months.

? Pascual Toso Malbec 2014 ($8, purchased, 14%): This red is a decent enough grocery store Argentine malbec, without too much jammy berry fruit and a little rusticity for balance, though there is way too much fake oak. It’s not bad, but not as good as it could be.

? Louis Jadot M con-Villages 2014 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French white is everything the Estancia isn’t, and offers at least $10 worth of chardonnay. Look for green apple, a nicely rich mouth feel, and short if refreshing finish. It should be in most supermarkets in the country, so you have something to buy if all else fails.

? Scarpetta Timido NV ($17, purchased, 12%): This sweetish Italian rose sparkling wine has lots of strawberry and then some more sweetness, just like I remember from the bad old days. You can buy the same quality wine for half the price without any trouble at all.