The Little James Basket Press White is consistent, quality $10 wine in a world where that’s not easy to find
The Wine Curmudgeon is very confused: Why is the Little James Basket Press White still a Hall of Fame quality wine, while the red version tastes soft and flabby? One would think that the same producer – and a top-notch producer at that – wouldn’t do something that silly.
But that’s the case. The Little James Basket Press White ($10, purchased, 13%) is everything the red isn’t: A fresh and lively blend (sauvingon blanc and viognier), with green apple and lime fruit tempered by the viognier’s apricot. There’s even a little spice, though I’m not sure where it comes from. In all, exactly the kind of $10 wine that used to be easy to find and isn’t anymore.
When I bought the Little James Basket Press White at one of Dallas’ biggest independent retailers, I asked the long-time sales guy the same question: Why is this made like wine while the red is made to appeal to people who don’t like wine? He shook his head, muttered something about the wine business and Millennials, and told me not to buy the red because I was exactly right.
Highly recommended, as always, and sure to return to the Hall of Fame next year. Drink this slightly chilled on its own, or with any weeknight white wine dinner, be it takeout Chinese or grilled chicken breasts.
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.
• 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.
The 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.