The Matua Valley sauvingon blanc is grocery store wine with a decided difference — quality and value
One of the most frustrating things about the grocery store Great Wall of Wine is that there isn’t any way to tell quality – almost never an employee to ask and little information other than the foolishness on the back label.
This matters because all of us have to buy wine in a grocery store at one time or another, and some of us do it even more often than that. Which is where the Matua Valley sauvignon blanc comes in.
The Matua Valley sauvignon blanc ($11, sample, 13%) is a Big Wine product that shows what can be done when more effort is put into making the wine than into forming a focus group. At first, it seems like a typical supermarket New Zealand sauvingon blanc with lots of grapefruit in the front. But take another sip, and you can taste the difference – a flash of of tropical fruit in the middle, which is a hallmark of quality sauvignon blancs, plus some minerality in the back. There’s even a hint of structure, something missing from most grocery store wine .
That’s why it’s more interesting than the Monkey Bays of the world, even though the cost is about the same. Pair this with almost any grilled or roast chicken dinner, as well as shrimp marinated in garlic, olive oil, and parsley.
The Spy Valley is annually one of the world’s best sauvignon blancs
The most important thing to know about this vintage of the Spy Valley sauvignon blanc? It cost $16, and I’m writing an entire post about it. How often does that happen on the blog?
But the Spy Valley ($16, purchased, 13%) is no ordinary sauvignon blanc. It’s always among the best in the world, not just in quality and value, but in taking the New Zealand style and adding depth and complexity. This is much, much more than grapefruit first, last, and only, but a wine made for people who want wine, and not just something to drink.
The 2016 vintage of the Spy Valley sauvignon blanc has the grapefruit, of course, as well as a hint of tropical fruit and a minerality that doesn’t seem to have been there in previous vintages. In addition, it’s a very young wine and should get softer and rounder, with more layers of flavor, as it ages over the next couple of years. I’d also suggest letting it breathe for at least 20 minutes; that should help with its youth that it has a screwcap.
Highly recommended. Drink this chilled on its own or with almost anything fish or chicken that is grilled or roasted. I do it with a shrimp boil, and it’s always spot on.
The Crowded House sauvignon blanc shows how New Zealand producers can combine quality and value
New Zealand changed the way we bought and enjoyed sauvignon blanc, and the Crowded House sauvignon blanc is another in a long line of wines that shows how that happened.
Before New Zealand, sauvingon blanc was often cheap and boring, or interesting but either difficult to find or too expensive to be worthwhile. The exceptions, like white Bordeaux and Sancerre from France, were almost geeky at a time when there weren’t a lot of wine geeks.
The New Zealand approach, starting 10 or 15 years ago, focused on affordable quality and an almost grapefruit-like flavor. The latter was especially unique, since traditional sauvignon blanc barely bothered with fruit and was more about minerality. In this, the Kiwi approach was taken to all sorts of extremes.
The Crowded House sauvignon blanc ($12, sample, 13%) is a step up from most grocery store sauvignon blancs, which are mostly about the grapefruit. Here, the citrus is a little more restrained and is complemented by a nice touch of minerality on the back. A dollop of tropical fruit in the middle would have been welcome, but the wine is still enjoyable without it.
Serve the Crowded House sauvignon blanc chilled and on its own for some early spring porch sipping if the weather cooperates, or with grilled seafood or almost any fish or chicken prepared with garlic, olive oil, and parsley.
Who knew this turkey would lend itself to five dinners and five wines?
What do with a 20-pound turkey? Use it to for five dinners paired with five wines
This year, the Wine Curmudgeon’s Thanksgiving turkey weighed 20 pounds. My old pal Jim Serroka, who shares holiday cooking duties with me, wanted lots of turkey for leftovers. Needless to say, we got them – as well as another post in the blog’s wine and food pairings series: One entree that can be turned into five dinners with five wines.
The goal here was to pair quality cheap wine with the leftovers as simply as possible – no wine geek for advice, no examining the turkey’s entrails for wines to drink. My wine and food pairings:
• The Thanksgiving turkey. Roasted with lots of herbs and vegetables, and stuffed with the Kleinpeter family’s traditional chicken cornbread dressing. I picked three wines; two were disappointing, proving that even I can over-think wine and food pairings. But the third was an old pal, the $16 Clos de Gilroy grenache from Bonny Doon. How winemaker Randall Graham gets cherryish fruit, a little earthiness, some white pepper, and a delightful freshness from California grenache is beyond my understanding, but I’m glad he does.
• Turkey rice cake. One of my great cooking discoveries was that rice freezes. Make eight cups in the rice cooker, divide it into 2- or 3-cup packages, freeze, and thaw when necessary. This was chopped leftover turkey, some of the roasted vegetables, and an egg mixed with rice; basically the same thing I did with noodles for the roast chicken post. The wine was a sample, the $25 Markham merlot – dependable and high quality and what California merlot is supposed to taste like – lighter and more approachable than cabernet sauvignon, with dark fruit and subtler tannins. And it didn’t overwhelm the rice cakes.
• Turkey sausage okra gumbo. I’ve been making this with leftover Thanksgiving turkey since I moved to Dallas, so long ago the city had two newspapers. It’s more or less the classic recipe – make the roux, add chopped onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic, stir, add the stock, stir, add the okra, let it simmer, and finish with the sausage and turkey. And no tomatoes – absolutely, positively no tomatoes. The wine was an $8 Rivarey Crianza, a tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain. It was simple and fruity, but with enough structure and backbone for the dark, smoky gumbo.
• Baked turkey Reubens. This is a Siegel family tradition; my Dad made these when I was a kid using Pepperidge Farm brown and serve rolls and leftover Thanksgiving turkey. It’s sliced turkey breast, quality Swiss cheese, canned and drained sauerkraut, and my Dad’s thousand island dressing (his secret ingredient was lime juice). Make the sandwich, wrap in foil, and bake until crusty. And what better wine than rose? The Ned, a $12 New Zealand pink wine, did the trick, and it will be even better in six months. This was a 2016, and had only been in the bottle for six or eight weeks.
• Turkey torte. This sort of baked Spanish-style omelette is usually made with potatoes, but turkey (with sauteed onions and peppers) works well, too. I drank a bottle of cava, a $10 Spanish sparkler called – believe it or not – Lady of Spain. The wine has been inconsistent, but this bottle was very cava-like, with tight bubbles and lemon fruit. And, of course, Spanish wine with a Spanish dish, one of the ways to make pairings work with less trouble.
Reviews 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.
• Tenuta Guado Al Tasso Vermentino 2015 ($25, sample, 12.5%): This Italian white wine from the Antinori family has an almost creamy texture to go with its varietal lemon fruit and minerality. Very nicely done, and a step up from most $15 and $20 vermentinos.
• Saint-Cosme Cotes du Rhone 2015 ($15, purchased, 14%): A disappointing vintage from what may be my favorite $15 wine. There is little more here than rich, dark berry fruit – no earthiness, no interest, and no reason think it’s from the Rhone. Maybe it needs more time in the bottle?
• Sunshine Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($6, purchased, 12.5%): Tastes almost exactly like most Big Wine New Zealand sauvignon blancs (lots of grapefruit and some freshness, but nothing special), and yet costs half as much. Go figure.
Reviews 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, meh wine — four wines you probably won’t want to buy.
• Lindemans Bin 85 Pinot Grigio 2015 ($6, sample, 12.5%): $6 worth of pinot grigio in the cheap Italian style, more tonic water than anything else. It’s certainly drinkable for people who like this sort of thing, and in its own way an honest wine. But you can do much better for not much more money.
• Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($18, sample, 13.5%): Nicely done California white, as always, with varietal grassy character. But not for $18 (after a price increase from last year), and it’s not twice as enjoyable as a quality $10 sauvignon blanc or white Bordeaux.
• Camino del Peregrino Albariño 2015 ($5, purchased, 12.5%): Spanish white is almost varietally correct, but there is almost nothing going on save some tart lemon. Certainly drinkable, but probably not worth buying again, even for $5.
• Sauvignon Republic Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($8, sample, 12.5%): Thinnish, simple, $8 grocery store white from New Zealand that is OK as long as you don’t have to pay any more for it. This is what’s left after the recession-induced collapse of the high quality Republic of Sauvignon Blanc label, and it’s not nearly the same thing.
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.
? Mateus Rose NV ($5, purchased, 11%): I don’t remember this wine, popular when I was in high school, tasting like raspberry 7 Up. But that was a long time ago. The wine has been repackaged since then, so that it’s in a clear glass bottle instead of the traditional green and doesn’t look quite the same as it did. And maybe it did taste like raspberry 7 Up all those years ago, which isn’t offensive — just odd.
? Chateau Graville-Lacoste Graves 2014 ($20, purchased, 12%): The legendary Kermit Lynch imports this French white Bordeaux, and it’s another example why you should buy any wine that has Lynch’s name on it. Look for freshness, minerality, and a clean sort of citrus flavor. Well worth every penny of the $20 it cost.
? Muga Rioja Reserva 2011 ($23, purchased, 13%): This Spanish tempranillo blend from one of my favorite producers was much lusher and fruitier than I expected, without as much of the tart cherry acidity and herbal appeal that I like about wines from the Rioja region. Having said that, it’s well worth drinking, and should age for close to forever. As it does, the fruit and oak will probably give way to more traditional flavors.
?Peter Yealands Pinot Gris 2014 ($12, purchased, 13%): Why grocery store wine makes me crazy. Yealands is a respected New Zealand producer, and this white should have been delicious. But the bottle I bought was a previous vintage that was bitter and pithy on the back, and much of the fruit, freshness and crispness — hallmarks of pinot gris — were gone. Who knows how long it was sitting and baking in some warehouse? Did anyone at Kroger care?