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.
• OZV Red 2017 ($13, sample, 14%): Yes, way too much fake vanilla and way too much berry fruit without anything in the back, like tannins or a finish. So hardly balanced. But all things considered, it’s more than drinkable – and if you like this style, it’s a fine value.
• Domaines Ott By.Ott Rose 2019 ($25, purchased, 13.5%): French rose that tastes more California than Provencal and comes in a heavy bottle with these winemaker notes: “Lovely pink hue with glistening golden highlights.” Ouch. This much money should buy a much better bottle of wine. Imported by Maison Marques & Domaines USA
The Balnea verdejo is a stunning wine, one of the best of its type I’ve tasted in years
Verdejo is a common Spanish white grape used to make lots and lots of wine, most of it OK and some even more than OK. But the Wine Curmudgeon had not tasted a verdejo as decidedly uncommon as the Balnea verdejo in a long time – if ever.
The Balnea Verdejo ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is a stunning wine, somehow layered and almost nuanced – but costing nothing more than a bottle of very ordinary supermarket plonk that tastes sweet and syrupy. A wine of this quality at this price, and especially these days, is nearly unprecedented.
Look for almost candied lemon fruit, although the Balnea is not a sweet wine; an almost flinty minerality; and a fullness in the mouth that is rare in verdejo at any price, given how simple most of the wines are and how tart lemon fruit is their reason for being.
Father’s Day wine 2020: Four wines to make Dad proud
Pandemic got you down? Worried about more wine tariffs? Tired of buying overpriced but not very good wine? Then check out the blog’s Father’s Day wine 2020, where we allow for all of that. Just keep the blog’s wine gift-giving guidelines in mind throughout the process: Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.
Father’s Day wine 2020 suggestions:
• Pedroncelli Friends.red 2018 ($11, sample, 14.2%): This red blend from one of my favorite producers is what all inexpensive California wine should aspire to — soft but not sappy, fruity but not syrupy (dark berries?), balanced and enjoyable. There’s even a tannin wandering around the back. Highly recommended.
• Vinha do Cais da Ribeira Douro 2018 ($9, purchased, 12.5%): Rustic Portuguese white blend, mostly available at Total Wine, that has a touch of citrus and a little minerality. Be better at $7, but still a fair value. Imported by Middlesex Wine & Spirits
• Bodegas Olivares Rosado 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): Grenache-based Spanish pink that combines the grape’s red fruit with long acidity and even a touch of minerality. Much more interesting that it should be and highly recommended.
• Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux Brut Rosé 2017 ($15, purchased, 12.5%): Bright, fresh, and fruity sparkling (lots of red fruit) from Bordeaux, and the bubbles are zippy, too.. Not particularly subtle, and you won’t find any brioche or biscuit. But why would you need to?
The Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvee Balthazar, an Alsatian white, offers terroir and varietal character at a more than a fair price
One reason why the Wine Curmudgeon buys so much wine to review is that too many of the samples I get taste like bowdlerized plonk. And yes, if you don’t know bowdlerized, click the link. It’s worth knowing. Those wines are the reason why I bought the Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvee Balthazar.
Best yet, this is an Alsatian wine that’s actually affordable. Producers in this part of France used to export great cheap whites (remember when the Hugel Gentil cost $10 and not $16?), but prices started going up before the recession, when all “high-end” French wine became more expensive.
So don’t miss the chance to buy the Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvee Balthazar ($13, purchased, 13%). Riesling is the most common Alsatian white, but the region makes excellent pinot blanc, too. These wines are drier, but not especially rich or tart. The Albrecht pinot blanc offers pear fruit, a fresh and appealing body, and a long, stony finish. The bottle was gone much too quickly.
Highly recommended. Pair this with any summer salad or grilled seafood or chicken.
Imported by Foley Family Artisan Imports & Spirits
The Torres Verdeo offers a welcome and refreshing take on Spanish verdejo
The Wine Curmudgeon hasn’t been able to visit his local shops as much as usual during the duration, which means I’ve been buying more from national wine retailers. That also means I’ve had to drink more Big Wine products than usual, and many of them have been as expected. On the other hand, there have been a variety of pleasant surprises, including the Torres verdeo.
The Spanish white comes from a branch of the Torres family, which has been making wine in Spain for five generations and 150 years. It’s best known for Sangre de Toro, a supermarket red wine that comes with a plastic bull. The Torres Verdeo ($11, purchased, 13%) costs three or four dollars more, but it also tastes like this part of the family wants to do something a little different than make supermarket red wine.
The wine is made with the verdejo grape, which can be turned into into quality cheap wine but can also be tart or bitter or both. In this, the Torres verdeo is a step up, much better than I expected (and this comes from someone who has bought and enjoyed cases and cases of the Sangre de Toro). It’s almost layered, so that the lime flavors aren’t quite as limey as in less well made versions, and there seems to be the taste of some kind of stone fruit. Plus, the wine shows an almost nutty oiliness that rarely shows up in wines of this price.
If not highly recommended, certainly worth trying, and I will taste a second bottle to see if this is a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame.
Four suggestions — rose, white, red, and sparkling — for Mother’s Day wine 2020
Mother’s Day wine 2020: This year.s version, the 14th annual, finds us in a different place than ever before. But the premise hasn’t changed — We’re looking for value and quality, and we want to buy Mom something she will enjoy and not something we think she should drink.
These Mother’s Day wine 2020 suggestions should get you started:
• La Playa Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($9, purchased, 13%): Supermarket Chilean white sauvignon blanc at a fair price (lots of citrus and not much else); given how inconsistent these wines have become it offers value. Imported by Cabernet Corporation
• CVNE Via Real Rosado 2019 ($12, sample, 12.5%): The white viura grape, part of the blend for this Spanish pink from a top producer, adds a little lemon something or other to the tempranillo’s cherry fruit. It’s both welcome and interesting and a well-made wine. Highly recommended. Imported by Arano LLC
• F. B. Schönleber Riesling Extra Brut 2013 ($22, sample, 13%): German sparkling isn’t common in the U.S., and this bubbly makes me wish that wasn’t the case. It’s a delicious, dry and minerally sparkling that exceeded all expectations. Highly recommended. Imported by Angels’ Share Wine Imports
• Masseria Li Veli Primonero 2017 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): This Italian red, made with the negroamaro grape, has earth, dark black fruit and very Italian in structure and acidity. Fire up the social distancing barbecue. Imported by Li Veli USA
Yes, the Tiamo pinot grigio comes in a can – but it’s still top-notch cheap wine
Canned wine, for all its success in the U.S., has been held back by two things: canned formats are confusing, and the price too often reflects convenience and not quality. That’s where the Tiamo pinot grigio comes in.
The Tiamo pinot grigio ($5/375 ml can, sample, 12%) does what most other canned wines don’t: It tastes like the grape it’s made from, the quality matches the price, and it’s wine and not a sugared up canned beverage for the beach. In this, it could be the best canned wine I’ve tasted save for the Tiamo grillo, which is no longer available.
And it’s one of the best pinot grigios I’ve tasted in a while, canned or otherwise. This Italian white wine is crisp and clean, but it’s missing the tonic water finish that passes for varietal character in other cheap pinot grigios. Best yet, it has actual fruit flavors — some not quite ripe stone fruit that isn’t cloying or overdone. And at $5 for the equivalent of a half bottle, it offers plenty of value.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. This is back porch wine for Mother’s Day in the age of social distancing, and it wouldn’t be bad for an indoor campout, either.