Tag Archives: Rhone wine

Silly wine descriptions

Wine and food pairings 5: America’s Test Kitchen pizza

America's Test Kitchen pizzaThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with a thin crust America’s Test Kitchen pizza

Pizza is as much a part of the Wine Curmudgeon’s being as wine and the Chicago Cubs. How could it be otherwise, growing up, going to college, and starting my career in the Chicago area?

But leave Chicago, and pizza becomes something to miss. In the three decades I’ve lived in Texas, I’ve had a handful of great pizzas (not including Louie’s, since Lou was from the Chicago area as well). Hence, I usually make my own, and the thin crust America’s Test Kitchen pizza works much better than I hoped.

This recipe, adapted from from ATK’s Christoper Kimball days (and no, we don’t want to go there) is about as close as you can get to top-notch professional pizza in a home oven. Yes, it’s thin crust, but that’s because it’s almost impossible to replicate authentic Chicago-style thick crust at home. And believe me, I’ve tried.

Plus, it takes just one rise by using Rapid Rise yeast; there is a minimal amount of kneading; and no special equipment is required other than a full-size sheet pan. In all, from taking the ingredients out of the cupboard to eating it, the process takes less than 90 minutes – or about as long as it takes pizza delivery on a rainy Friday night.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. These wines will get you started on pairings:

Azul y Garanza Tempranillo 2017 ($10/1-liter, purchased, 13.5%): This vintage of the Spanish red is a little tighter and not as soft as previous vintages; so I enjoyed it more. But there is still lots of cherry fruit balanced by refreshing Spanish acidity, making it’s one of the great values in the world. Imported by Valkyrie Selections

Three Thieves Rose 2017 ($8, purchased, 13%): Never doubt Charleis Bieler, rose maker extraordinaire who contributes to this pink when he isn’t making the Bieler Sabine or the Charles & Charles rose. It’s another terrific value, sitting somewhere between Bota Box and the Charles & Charles — not too heavy, a little tart strawberry fruit, and a clean finish.

Familie Perrin Côtes du Rhône Villages Rouge 2016 ($10, purchased, 12%): This French red Rhone blend is pleasant enough, with dark, Rhone-like fruit (not too ripe berries?), centered around the idea that it’s a value-driven, professionally made wine. Imported by Vineyard Brands

More about wine and food pairings:
• Wine and food pairings 4: Oven-friend chicken and gravy
• Wine and food pairings 3: Bratwurst and sauerkraut
• Wine and food pairings 2: Roast chicken salad with Chinese noodles

 

Wine review: Clos Chanteduc 2013

Clos ChanteducClos Chanteduc, a French red Rhone blend, is the kind of wine that reminds us why we love wine

The Clos Chanteduc is the kind of wine that explains why the Wine Curmudgeon loves wine: It’s not just that its sum is greater than its parts, but that it’s so honest and so direct that when I taste it, I can imagine sitting in the French farmhouse near where the grapes are grown.

Am I being a bit too poetic, especially given how cranky the last 18 months of wine tasting have made me? Nope. That’s the reason for all my waxing – because this wine has nothing to do with the overpriced plonk that I’ve had to plow through to do my job. The Clos Chanteduc ($18, purchased, 13%) is what red wine from France’s Rhone should be:

• Funky, with that appealing rustic aroma, yet also fresh.

• Fruity, with lots of wonderful red grenache fruit, but also earthy – forest floor and mushrooms, from the syrah in the blend.

• Traditional in style, but done with modern winemaking. How else to explain this quality for this old a vintage at this price?

I didn’t know this when I bought the wine, but Clos Chanteduc is owned by cookbook author Patricia Wells and husband Walter. Wells made her name writing about French bistro cooking (I own a couple of her books), and the wine fits that style perfectly. It’s steak frites and roast lamb with potato and tomato gratin and chicken braised in red wine – the sort of food to serve your friends with lots of wine and conversation and hope that dinner never ends.

Highly recommended. There are a couple of later vintages, and I would assume they are just as delightful.

Imported by Eric Solomon Selections

Mini-reviews 113: Cusumano, Pace Rosanebbia, Torremoron, La Bastide

cusumanoReviews 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

Cusumano Insolia 2016 ($11, purchased, 12.5%): This Sicilian white, made with the native insolia grape, is heavier and more chardonnay like this time, without the freshness and citrus of past vintages. But what do you expect when some PR type describes the wine like this: “… a sensuality that could only be born under the Sicilian sun.” Imported by Terlato

Azienda Agricola Pace Roero Rosanebbia Vino Rosato 2017 ($20, sample, 14%): This Italian pink wine, made with nebbiolo, is rose for people who only drink red wine – hot, tannic, and bitter.

Torremoron Ribera del Duero 2016 ($13, sample, 14%): Well-made Spanish tempranillo from the Ribero del Duero that isn’t too heavy or too rich or too un-tempranillo. It’s the ideal wine for someone who wants something with more heft than Rioja, but doesn’t want to break the bank. Imported by Ole Imports

La Bastide Saint-Dominique Côtes du Rhône 2016 ($18, purchased, 13.5%): A well-made, competent, and enjoyable red blend from France’s Rhone that tastes exactly like it’s supposed to – rich, fruity, a little earth. But it costs $5 more than it’s worth. Imported by Europvin USA

Wine of the week: Ortas Cave de Rasteau Le Grand Jas 2014

Rasteau Le Grand JasThe Ortas Cave de Rasteau Le Grand Jas is Hall of Fame caliber wine, but don’t count on being able to buy it – unless you live in Dallas or Brazil

There are two things to know about the Rasteau Le Grand Jas. First, it’s one of the best cheap reds from the Rhone that I’ve tasted in years, a potential Hall of Fame wine. Second, that you probably can’t buy it.

Which, in my frustration, is why the Rasteau Le Grand Jas ($11, purchased, 13.5%) is the wine of the week. Even though I bought it at a large regional specialty grocer, Wine-Searcher’s exhaustive database says it’s only sold in Brazil.

How is this possible? It’s all about private labels and exclusive brands, the new consumer wine scourge. They have made availability an even bigger problem than it has traditionally been – and it has always been a big problem. Increasingly, just because I buy a wine in Dallas – or you buy one in your part of the country – there’s no guarantee anyone else can buy it in anywhere else unless it’s a Big Wine label.

Hence, the Rasteau Le Grand Jas. It’s an exclusive brand, where the wine is only sold by one retailer in this country (or, in some cases, one retailer in each part of the country). The best-known of these are Trader Joe’s Two-buck Chuck and Costco’s Kirkland private labels; you can’t buy them anywhere else. The idea behind private label and exclusive brand is to offer consumers something they can’t get anywhere else to ensure their loyalty and to enjoy higher profit margins than with national brands like Kendall Jackson or Barefoot.

Private label and its like have become so common in wine that Nielsen wants to track them, but they’re so difficult to identify that the company – which has been tracking retail sales for decades – can’t always tell which wines to count. And, if you look at the Rasteau Le Grand Jas, there’s no indication it’s only sold in the store where I bought it. Or in Brazil.

Compare this to private label peanut butter or ketchup, where it’s obvious what you’re buying. This makes knowing whether I can write about a certain wine even more difficult. How can I tell if it’s exclusive or private or sold throughout the U.S.? One of the only clues for foreign wines is the importer; there are a handful that specialize in private and exclusive labels. But not even the geekiest among us knows all of them. In this case, it’s Sabaca Beverage Group in suburban Chicago (which apparently doesn’t have a website — talk about not attracting attention).

Know, too, that private label and exclusive wines inhabit a very gray area under the three-tier system. In most states, distributors aren’t allowed to offer a wine to just one retailer or restaurant, but must make it available to everyone in their market. So how does Two-buck Chuck end up only in Trader Joe’s? Somehow, all the wine is always sold to Trader Joe’s before anyone else has a chance to buy it. In other words, there’s a gentleman’s agreement, where I won’t complain about your private label if you don’t complain about mine.

So here’s what you need to know about the Rasteau Le Grand Jas, in case you’re in Dallas or Brazil: It’s a grenache blend that speaks to the Rhone, with grip and punch and terroir, as well as black pepper and deep, dark black fruit. Highly recommended, and just the wine for fall beef and chicken braises.

Mini-reviews 102: Saint-Cosme, verdejo, rose, Prosecco

saint-cosmeReviews 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.

Saint-Cosme Côtes du Rhône 2016 ($14, purchased, 14%): Second ordinary vintage in a row of one of my favorite French reds. This one, too, doesn’t have enough grip (though there is more than in the 2015). It has quality Rhone cherry fruit and some pepper, but the middle is shallow. Maybe bottle age will help. Imported by Winebow.

Real Compania de Vinos Verdejo 2014 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This Spanish white is tired and worn out, with a little spice but not much else and none of verdejo’s wonderful fresh character. Beware older vintages of wine you’ve never heard of from producers you don’t know. Imported by Quintessential.

Vignerons de Tavel Le Rosé des Acanthes 2016 ($7.50, purchased, 13%): This French pink isn’t especially crisp, the cherry fruit isn’t all there, and it’s a little stemmy. Having said that, it’s perfectly acceptable for the price. More important, this is the sort of ordinary rose we never saw when pink wasn’t popular. Now, these kinds of wines are all over the place. Imported by Fruit of the Vines.

Cecilia Beretta Prosecco Brut Millesimato 2015 ($15, purchased, 11%): This Italian sparkler is bland and inoffensive, but sufficiently bubbly – about what I have come to expect from Trader Joe’s wines. Imported by Latitude Wines.

Wine of the week: Château La Tour Beraud Blanc 2015

beraud blancThe Château La Tour Beraud Blanc is a touch pricey, but still a fine white Rhone value

Know first that a couple of years ago, the Chateau La Tour Beraud Blanc would have been $9 or $10 and been in the $10 Hall of Fame. But the P word has kicked its price up, and so I can’t wax quite as poetic about it as I would have.

Still, the Beraud Blanc ($13, purchased, 13.5%) is a value, and especially for white wines from the Rhone region of France. That’s an area where quality has always been iffy for less expensive wines, and premiumization has made the situation that much worse.

This is a delightful, fresh, and zippy white blend (mostly grenache blanc, but also roussanne and marsanne), with juicy, soft lemon fruit – a white Rhone blend the way it should be, without any off-putting oiliness or that uncomfortable heaviness in the back. All in all, I’m glad I bought it, even though it was one-sixth of the cost of my $83 case of wine.

Yes, a Thanksgiving wine, but also something that will pair nicely with all that leftover turkey over the next week.

Wine of the week: Saint-Cosme Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2012

rhone_sud_saint_cosme_cotes_du_rhone_rouge_2012The Wine Curmudgeon has long been a fan of Saint-Cosme’s cheapest wines, the wonderfully-named Little James Basket Press red and white (and I can’t believe I haven’t done the white as a wine of the week yet). So I had high expectations when I stepped up a notch to the winery’s basic Cotes du Rhone red ($13, purchased, 14.5%).

These hopes were not disappointed. The rouge, made of syrah, was full of dark fruit (currants?), some earthiness and even a touch of licorice, which seemed like a lot to get from something at this price. Best yet, the high alcohol — about a point more than I expected — doesn’t get in the way of the wine. The higher alcohol seems natural, and not forced on it to get more fruit flavor and higher scores, as often happens in California. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the tasting notes are almost apologetic about alcohol level.

Highly recommended, and another example of what a French wine can be that hasn’t sold its birthright to the International Style of Winemaking. This is a winter wine for stews and soups and strong cheeses after tramping snow and ice off at the front door.