The Sunshine Bay sauvignon blanc may be a one-note wine, but it’s well made and a value at $7
The 2017 vintage of this wine was one more Aldi private label disappointment. But one of the many wonderful things about wine — like baseball — is that there is always the next vintage. And the 2018 Sunshine Bay sauvignon blanc is everything the other one wasn’t.
Don’t expect this New Zealand white to mimic a stunning Sancerre or the craftsmanship and terroir of New Zealand’s Spy Valley. Rather, the Sunshine Bay sauvignon blanc ($7, purchased, 13%) is a one-note New Zealand sauvignon blanc. But it’s a very well done New Zealand sauvignon blanc — grapefruit, but not too nuch; a hint of minerality on the black, and clean and crisp throughout. It’s not insipid, it’s not stupid, and it doesn’t have a trace of residual sugar, the way too many California sauvignon blancs are selling themselves these days.
In this, it’s one more reason to taste the wine before you judge it. And, as opposed to the 2017, it’s a big step up from most other $7 supermarket Kiwi sauvignon blancs.
The Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with a traditional Louisiana-style shrimp boil.
My adventures in south Louisiana as a young newspaperman taught me more about the world than I will ever be able to explain. Like a shrimp boil.
I’m 23 years old and the only thing I know about shrimp is that they’re served only on special occasions, maybe once a year. And that they’re boiled in salted water, and if they taste rubbery and bland, that’s OK, because they’re served only on special occasions. And then another reporter took me to Gino’s in Houma, La.
It was a revelation. This was food, and not Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. This was not something for a special occasion, but something people ate regularly. It opened my mind to the idea of food that wasn’t what I grew up with, and that opened my mind to the idea of other cultures, and that made it possible to open my mind to wine. And I’m not the only one who experienced this kind of revelation: The same thing happened to Julia Child when she went to a boil at Emeril Lagasse’s house.
There are really only two rules for a shrimp boil. Everything else is a suggestion, and any recipe is just a guideline. First, use shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico and avoid imported shrimp at all costs. The latter have as much flavor as Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. Second, use the boxed pouch seasoning called crab boil from Zatarain’s or Louisiana Fish Fry. And make sure the boxes are nowhere near their expiration date; otherwise, all their flavor is gone. Both companies make other styles of seasoning, but this is the easiest to use. And the less said about Old Bay (which is mostly celery salt), the better.
• St. Hilaire Crémant de Limoux Brut NV ($13, purchased, 12%): This French sparkling wine from the Languedoc, mostly chardonnay but also chenin blanc and mauzac, is crisp and bubbly, with pear and apple fruit. Exactly what the shrimp needs. Highly recommended. Imported by Esprit du Vin
• Celler de Capçanes Mas Donís Rosato 2018 ($11, purchased, 13%): This Spanish pink is a little soften than I expected, but that’s because it’s made with garnacha. But it’s still well worth drinking — fresh, ripe red fruit (cherry?), and an almost stony finish. Imported by European Cellars
• Hay Maker Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($10, sample, 12.5%): The marketing on this Big Wine brand from New Zealand is more than a little goofy –“hand crafted goodness,” whatever that means. But the wine itself is spot on — New Zealand citrus, but not overdone; a little something else in the middle to soften the citrus; and a clean and refreshing finish. Imported by Accolade Wines North America
The Villa Maria sauvignon blanc remains classic New Zealand white wine — and a more than fair value
When the blog was new, so was New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and the Villa Maria was among the best – and it cost just $10.
Those days are gone. New Zealand is acknowledged as the leader in sauvignon blanc, and even the French copy the style – lots of citrus, usually grapefruit, and little else for wines costing less than $15. But the Villa Maria remains consistent, quality wine. And if it isn’t $10 any more, it does offer more for your dollar than the shelves and shelves of cheaper monkey-labeled, bay-themed bottles.
The Villa Maria sauvignon blanc ($12, purchased, 12.5%) offers classic Kiwi style, sitting just a notch below the two I think are the best, Jules Taylor and Spy Valley. Yes, there is lots of grapefruit (more white than red), but the wine also has the three flavors all well-made wine should have regardless of price – the grapefruit in the front, some sort of white stone fruit in the middle, and a refreshing, clean stony finish.
Highly recommended, and a bargain for anything less than $13.
I spent a week in Chicago with my mom before Thanksgiving, which brought up the question of wine. I wasn’t where I knew the stores, and I wanted to find wine my mom would enjoy. Because, as noted here many times, what’s the point of sharing wine with someone when you don’t take their tastes into consideration?
My mom’s palate is discriminating, and she looks for value almost as much as I do. She is also open to wines that aren’t mainstream, so lesser known regions and varietals are OK. But the wines had to be well made and taste like they’re supposed to.
The catch: I was limited to grocery stores and one visit to Binny’s, the biggest chain in the area. The grocery store selection wasn’t any better than it is in Dallas (and the pricing was just as screwy), and Binny’s was more expensive than I thought it would be.
In the end, I bought four wines – three from retailers and one at a local restaurant (and, as an added bonus, I know two of the winemakers – always nice to be able to brag to your mother):
• Domaine de Pouy ($10): This Gascon white blend is suffering from the same problem as most of the rest – not enough white grapiness and almost too tart. Having said that, it was the least tart of those I’ve tasted this year, and Mom liked it. So a winner all around.
• Charles & Charles rose ($12): Mom buys this Washington state pink at her local supermarket, so it was an easy choice. The price was a couple of bucks more than I pay in Dallas, but this rose remains one of the best and most consistent values in the world – rose or otherwise.
• Armas de Guerra ($13): I’m not quite sure how this Spanish red, made with the little-known mencia grape, ended up in a supermarket. But I’m glad it did. Its bitter cherry fruit and earthiness made it a terrific match for Mom’s legendary spaghetti and meatballs.
• Giesen sauvignon blanc ($10): This New Zealand white was the best of a very mediocre wine list at an otherwise interesting restaurant. Not surprisingly, almost no one else was drinking wine. Don’t the people who run the place see the correlation? The Giesen had more than just grapefruit, with a little tropical in the middle. It was much better than I thought it would be.
Graphic courtesy of Ephemera, using a Creative Commons license
Reviews 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.
• Sunshine Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($7, purchased, 12.4%): This is how dedicated the Wine Curmudgeon is – I still buy Aldi wine even though I haven’t tasted one worth recommending in years. This New Zealand white is another disappointment, no different than any $7 grocery store Kiwi Zealand sauvignon blanc — almost raw grapefruit flavor and nothing else.
• Muga Rosado 2017: ($15, purchased, 13.5%): One of the drawbacks to the rose boom – this Spanish pink increased in price by one-third. This vintage is much better than 2016, with clean and refreshing berry fruit and that wonderful rose mouth feel. But $15 – and as much as $18 elsewhere – is a lot of money to pay for $12 of quality. Imported by Fine Estates from Spain
• Zonin Dos Almas Brut NV ($12, sample, 12%): This Argentine bubbly is too soft and too sweet for brut. Plus, it’s decidedly dull, with simple structure and bubbles. There are dozens of sparkling wines in the world that cost less and taste better. Imported by Zonin USA
Believe it or not, the Matua pinot noir is quality and value from Big Wine. Maybe there’s hope for the wine business after all
It’s understandable if any you reading this are convinced the Wine Curmudgeon has moved on to legal weed. Frankly, I’m as surprised as you are. How could Treasury Wine Estates, the No. 4 wine producer in the world, make the Matua pinot noir, which is varietally correct, shows a bit of terroir, and doesn’t cost $18? The wine world just doesn’t work that way these days.
But all of that is true. Somehow, the same multi-national that has given us zombie labels and the “we’ll make it just a little bit sweeter” 19 Crimes red blend has also given us the New Zealand Matua pinot noir ($13, sample, 12.5%). Maybe there’s hope for the wine business after all.
This wine is a stunner. It’s pinot noir in the New World style, so not earthy or funky. But it doesn’t have the overripe fruit, too much oak, or harsh, cheap, cabernet-like tannins of many so-called New World pinots. In this, it tastes like pinot noir from New Zealand, with zingy berry fruit, an almost silky mouth feel, and a clean and refreshing finish.
Highly recommended — plus, it should be in a lot of grocery stores. Drink this on its own or with burgers, takeout pizza, and even roast chicken.
Four value and quality-oriented bottles to enjoy for Labor Day wine 2018
What’s a Labor Day wine? Wine that takes the edge of the heat (it will be mid-90s in Dallas, fairly normal), suitable for porch sitting, picnics, and barbecues. In other words, light wines for warm weather.
These four bottles are fine start as part of Labor Day wine 2018:
• La Fiera Pinot Grigio 2017 ($10, purchased, 12%): This Italian white wine is almost always worth drinking, a step up from grocery store pinot grigio (a little lemon fruit to go with the tonic water). This vintage is certainly that, and almost Hall of Fame quality. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.
• Matua Pinot Noir Rose 2017 ($12, sample, 13%): Big Wine at its best — Fresh and tart berry fruit, plus a crispness I didn’t expect from a company that is one of the largest in the world. If not a little choppy in the back, it’s a candidate for the Hall of Fame. Imported by TWE Imports
• Moulin de Canhaut 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): This French red Bordeaux is everything cheap French wine should be — simple but not stupid, earthy, and just enough tart black fruit. It’s also an example of how screwed up the wine business is, that someone would send me a sample of a wine that may not be available in the U.S.
• Naveran Brut Rosado 2016 ($15, sample, 12%): This Spanish bubbly is one of the world’s great sparkling wines, a cava that compares favorablly to wines costing two and three times as much. Clean and bright, with more citrus than berry flavors. Highly recommended.