You’ve been moaning and wailing that Americans have abandoned your wines, and you claim to be baffled why. Fortunately, the Wine Curmudgeon is here to explain. Your wines are too often overpriced and of middling quality, and if you want to fix the problem, talk to Chateau Martinon’s Jerome Trolliet. You might learn a thing or two.
That’s because the Chateau Martinon ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is classic white Bordeaux, the kind of wine you made when you were the envy of the wine world, but gave up in favor of chasing trends, raising prices, and courting the Chinese. In this, it tastes like white Bordeaux, and not sauvignon blanc from New Zealand or Chile.
That means more minerality than citrus, but enough lemon-lime citrus to be pleasant, plus a richness many other white Bordeauxs don’t bother with anymore. Credit that to using more semillion than sauvignon blanc in the blend, a not common practice. And that this was a prior vintage just made the Chateau Martinon more interesting. Who knew an $11 wine from the very ordinary Entre-Deux-Mers region would age this well?
Highly recommended, and you should be proud that someone in Bordeaux remembers how to do things the right way.
Wine suggestions for the holiday next week, whether you need to buy a gift or aren’t sure about what to serve family and friends, be it for dinner or just because:
? Sileni Pinot Noir 2013 ($16, sample, 12.5%): This red wine from New Zealand has been winning awards around the world this year, and why not? It tastes like pinot noir, with dark cherry fruit, soft but still noticeable tannins, and no hint that the wine wants to be anything other than pinot noir, like lots of alcohol or over the top jamminess. If it doesn’t taste like red Burgundy, and I don’t know why it should, it tastes like what it is — one of the best pinots at this price from anywhere in the world.
? Grgich Hills Merlot 2010 ($42, sample, 14.8%): Another remarkable effort from Grgich, which has been making this sort of wine for so long we tend to take it for granted. This California red somehow combines high alcohol with style, finesse, and even some earthiness. Look for red fruit and an almost licorice finish. It’s big enough for red meat, but well made enough to enjoy without it.
? Chateau d’Archambeau 2012 ($14, purchased, 12.5%): Just when I’ve given up on finding white Bordeaux that tastes like white Bordeaux — minerality and crispness without an overabundance of citrus fruit — along comes this French white, made with two-thirds sauvignon blanc and one-third semillon. Nicely done, and worth the extra couple of bucks compared to something like Chateau Bonnet. Sip on its own, or with holiday turkey.
? Argyle Brut 2010 ($22, purchased, 12.5%): Argyle always seems to show up in holiday wine roundups here, but there’s a reason for that. It’s one of the best sparkling wines, dollar for dollar, made in the U.S. — about half the price of its California counterparts, and with that much better quality than less expensive California bubblies. Lots of apple fruit, but also some creaminess. Drink for toasting or with almost any food that isn’t prime rib.
? Hacienda Araucano Reserva Carmenere 2013 ($10, sample, 14%): Carmenere is a red grape from Chile that is supposed to vaguely resemble an earthy merlot, but mostly tastes like grocery store merlot. This wine, from the same family that owns Bonnet, is carmenere the way it should be, and especially at this price. Look for black fruit and some grip, a welcome change from all of the flabby carmeneres on the market. Beef wine without a doubt.
? Classic white Bordeaux, made with sauvignon blanc. That means not much fruit and certainly none of that New World grapefruit stuff. That's something one doesn't see enough anymore because too many French producers are on a misguided quest to make their wine taste like it came from somewhere else.
? Clean, crisp, grassy and fresh. Just enough of everything to make it stand out, from aroma to finish, but not too much of anything. And only 12 1/2 percent alcohol.
? A simple wine that proves the adage that simple does not have to mean inadequate.
Serve this chilled on its own, or with almost anything that goes with white wine, whether seafood, chicken. or salads. And it's probably a good match with an uncomplicated cream-style sauce (chicken fried steak or chicken pot pie, for example). Highly recommended and almost certainly in the 2013 $10 Hall of Fame.