Long-time favorite La Vieille Ferme rose reminds us how great cheap wine can be — and what better time to be reminded?
The wine world is in trouble, and it’s not just the coronavirus pandemic. Sales are down, the European tariff is still with us, and younger consumers are drinking something else. How to solve the problem? Make more wines like the La Vieille Ferme rose.
What better way to remember why we love wine than to open a bottle of the new vintage of the La Vieille Ferme rose ($10, purchased, 13%)? There are few better ways to improve the irritations caused by a stay at home order than sipping this French pink wine. Sip and savor, close your eyes, and remind yourself that this too will end. You’ll be surprised at how well that will work.
Look for minerality and barely ripe strawberry fruit, as well as the freshness that should be an integral part of all roses. And marvel at the price – this wine can still be found for as little as $8, despite the 25 percent tariff.
In fact, the point with the La Vieille Ferme rose is just not that it’s worth drinking or that it offers value. Lots of wines do that. Rather, since the producer decided to improve quality four years ago, the wine has remained a well-made, quality cheap pink. That just doesn’t happen much in post-modern wine, where it’s easier to let quality slip, ride the wave, and make up the difference with a cute label or fancy marketing (and especially for rose).
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. (And a tip of the WC’s fedora to everyone who has noticed that I regularly mis-type “LaVieille.” I’ve quadruple-checked the spelling this time, and I think they are all correct.)
Do you get the idea this producer knows a thing or two about great cheap wine?
The Alain Brumont rose ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is pink wine from France’s Gascony, and we all know how much the Wine Curmudgeon likes Gascon wine. Even more impressive, the Brumont is made with tannat, syrah, and merlot. If anyone had told me a wine made with those three grapes could be so fresh, they would have gotten one of my looks.
But the Brumont is fresh and interesting. It’s more fruity than most Provencal and Spanish roses (cherry, strawberry?) and more New World in style, thanks to those three red grapes. But it’s not heavy, it’s not overdone, and it’s cloying. Somehow, it’s clean and brisk, as rose should be.
Highly recommended, and just the thing for Christmas dinner for people who aren’t sure what to drink, who may not like wine, and for everyone who wants something different.
• Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc CNW 2017 ($15, sample, 12.5%): This California white is exceptional, but I have no idea how much it costs — prices range from $10 to $17. It’s just not well-made and varietally correct chenin (crisp, with lime and tropical fruit, but it’s a wonderful food wine. If you can find it for $15 or less, buy several.
• Juvé y Camps Brut Rose NV ($18, sample, 12.5%): This pink Spanish sparkler is a perennial favorite — always professional and enjoyable. This version is more cava-like (even though it’s made from pinot noir), so more tart red fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Winebow
• Bonny Doon Clos de Gilroy 2018 ($16, purchased, 14%): This California red from Randall Grahm isn’t as grenache-y as past vintages — so less jammy fruit and more spice. It’s different and interesting, and a fine food wine. Plus, probably still a touch young.
Fire up the grill and break out the Labor Day 2019 wine
Enjoy Labor Day 2019 with four wines that focus on value and quality
It has been a mild summer in Dallas — lots of rain in June, an unseasonably cool day in July, and no 100 degree days until July 30. Having said that, Labor Day means cooler weather sooner rather than later, so let’s celebrate with Labor Day wine 2019.
• Bonny Doon Malvasia Bianca 2018 ($18, purchased, 13.5%): This California white is nothing if not interesting, as well as a terrific food wine: Flavors of orange, lime, and then more orange. This means it’s varietally correct, and there is freshness and a very zippy acidity.
• Sierra Cantabria Rosado 2018 ($12, purchased, 13%): This Spanish pink, made from tempranillo in the Rioja region, does all it should for the price — a little orangish red fruit, some stoniness on the back, and crisp throughout. Imported by Fine Estates from Spain
•Ludovicus Garnacha 2015 ($12, sample, 14%): It’s amazing that this Spanish red has aged this well, given the grape and the cost. Rich and full, easy tannins, lots of dark fruit (cherry? blackberry?), and surprisingly clean and un-cloying for a garnacha. Needs food — Labor Day barbecue, anyone?. Imported by Ole Wine Imports
• La Granja 360 Brut NV ($6, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish bubbly from Trader Joe’s is pleasant and sweetish, more like Prosecco than Cava. That means softer fruit (less tart green apple and more red delicious) and a much softer mouth feel. But the bubbles are tight, and you can do a lot worse for $6. Imported by Evaki
So know, as we celebrate the blog’s 12th annual Memorial Day and rose extravaganza, that there is a lot of rose out there looks pink. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to taste like the dry rose we’ve taught the world to love.
In fact, as rose-maker extraordinaire Charles Bieler told me this spring, no-self respecting Big Wine company is going to let rose pass it by. Hence, some of them are making two, three, and even four labels to make sure they don’t miss any of the sales momentum. In this, there’s some talk among wine business types that rose is saving wine from the worst effects of premiumization, and that its popularity is boosting sales that otherwise would be even more flat than they already are.
So yes, there’s lots of plonk out there, which I know because I’ve tasted so much of it. How about thin? How about bitter? How about tannic? How about sweet? To paraphrase Joseph Conrad (though he was probably more of a vodka man): “The horror! The horror!”
But not when it comes to the roses reviewed this post and in tomorrow’s post. These are all cheap, delicious, and rose in style and honesty. What else would you expect from the Wine Curmudgeon?
Prices this year are a touch higher than last year, but there is still plenty of terrific rose for less than $15. Also, don’t overlook the blog’s rose primer, which discusses styles, why rose is dry, how it gets its pink color, and why vintage matters. This year, vintage isn’t quite as important as in the past, and many 2017s should still be wonderful. That’s because technical quality, traditionally a problem with rose, has improved and the wines don’t fall apart like they used to. But still be wary of anything older than two or years, and especially it isn’t pink any more. Brown wine isn’t worth drinking, no matter how little it costs.
For more suggestions, check out the rose category link, which lists 12 years of rose reviews. Today, six standout roses we’ve come to know and appreciate — each highly recommended. Tomorrow, six more roses worth drinking:
• Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2018 ($15, sample, 13.5%): The most interesting of Randall Grahm’s California pink of the past several years. It’s more Provence in style, with barley tart strawberry fruit, and even fresher. Honest wine from an honest producer does matter.
• Mont Gravet Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French rose is made with cinsault, a terrific grape for pink wine. It’s fresh, bright, and crisp – with more depth than the 2017 and better quality fruit. Plus, the red fruit (berries) taste likes red fruit and not soda pop. Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.
• Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 13%): The cabernet sauvingon in the blend gives this Provencal wine a little more structure, depth, and body this year, as well as a little darker flavor (almost blackberry?). As it ages, the caberrnet should go to the back and more red fruit will come to the front. Imported by Bieler et Fils
• Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2018 ($12, sample, 13.5%): One of the most consistent and enjoyable California pinks, and also made in a darker style (cranberry, blackberry?) that lots of people try but few succeed with. In this, it tastes like rose and not red wine.
• Angels & Cowboys Rose 2018 ($15, purchased, 12.8%): This California effort, always one of my favorites, is much more subtle this vintage, with a wisp of strawberry fruit and not much else. Still enjoyable and interestingly different.
• Charles & Charles Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 12.6%): This Washington state rose, from Chalres Bieler and Charles Smith, is fresh and crisp, with tart strawberry and orange fruit and a very clean finish. All in all, another exceptional effort.
Three wines that offer quality and value when you’re serving wine to people who don’t drink much wine
The Wine Curmudgeon has entertained twice in the last month where the guests weren’t professional wine drinkers. That is, they were people who fit the profile of the typical U.S. wine drinker – someone who drinks a bottle of month and isn’t interested in the stuff that keeps wine geeks up at night.
The challenge then: How you buy wine to serve with dinner for people who don’t drink much wine? The goal is to pour something interesting that isn’t stupid or insipid, but won’t intimidate your guests. The key: Keep in mind that you want to serve wine other people will like, and not what you think they should like.
A few suggestions and guidelines:
• Try to stay away from tannins and their bitterness, which may be the most off-putting part of wine for those who don’t drink much of it. But what if you want to serve red wine? Then look for something made with sangiovese, gamay, or tempranillo, like the Capezzana Monna Nera 2016 ($10, purchased, 13.5%). This Italian blend is mostly sangiovese – fresh and well-made with soft cherry fruit. Imported by MW Imports.
• Chardonnay, and especially cheap ones with too much fake oak, can make typical wine drinkers grimace. So can overly tart sauvignon blanc. Hence, chenin blanc like the Ken Forester petit 2017 ($11, purchased, 13.5%). This South African white is a long-time favorite, offering crisp white fruit and a refreshing finish. Imported by USA Wine Imports
• One of the best things about the rose boom? It’s ideal for situations like this. The Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12%) is a French pink, almost tart and strawberry, and a tad better made than most at this price. Imported by Pioneer Wine Co.
Charles Bieler, right, and his father Philippe. They’re a long way from the pink Cadillac.
Charles Bieler is one of the best rose maker in the world; more importantly, he is one of the reasons the rose boom exists. For which we are all most grateful.
Charles Bieler was between jobs in the late 1990s when his father suggested Charles help sell the family rose in the U.S. Charles took up the challenge, painted a Cadillac pink, and traveled the country to convince retailers and restaurants to sell dry pink wine. As Charles says, that was at a time when everyone thought rose was sweet, and he truly wondered if dry rose had a future in the U.S.
Which, of course, it did. We talk about the rose boom, the pink Cadillac trip, and the challenges facing rose today — with advice on how to find the best cheap pink.