Rieslings are among the world ?s great wines, sharing many of the qualities that great wines from other regions of the world have: high prices, long aging, and sublime taste. So why do rieslings have such a poor reputation with U.S. wine drinkers? Which is pretty poor, considering that Nielsen reports that we drink three times more white zinfandel than we do riesling.
There are two main reasons for riesling ?s neglect. Until the past couple of years, most of the riesling for sale in the U.S. was German, and much of that was of indifferent quality. But the quality of riesling that ?s available these days has improved dramatically. We ?re not only getting better German wines, but U.S. riesling can be stunningly good. In fact, riesling from places like New York, Michigan and Washington is one of the best-kept secrets of the wine world.
The other reason? Many rieslings are sweet, and Americans have long been taught that sweet wine means bad wine. Which is our loss, since sweet is not a bad thing with riesling. The sweetness occurs naturally, and not like an added bag of sugar. In this, the sweetness is part of the wine, something that is balanced by the fruitiness and acidity. And not all rieslings are sweet — they come in varying degrees of dryness, and some are as dry as chardonnay. The leading producers, knowing the challenge they face, have started to label riesling by sweetness, so that it ?s easy to tell a dry wine from a sweet one. More, after the jump:
The Wine Curmudgeon read one of those expert prognostications last week, reassuring the wine business that all would be soon be well with the world again. Which, for the wine business, means that consumers will stop buying cheap wine, the world oversupply of grapes will go away, and prices will go up.
To which I offer the House White ($10, purchased) as the wine of the week, from the always reliable Magnificent Wine Company. Note that it was $10, a couple of bucks less than its suggested retail price. Note, too, that it was a 2008 vintage, even though there is a 2009 vintage available. Why does that happen? Because there is so much 2008 left that my local retailer (another many others) isn't stocking the 2009. Yes, the wine business may be improving, but there is still such a glut of wine in warehouses and on shelves that we won't see pre-recession pricing for a very, very long time.
Despite its age — and $10 white wines don't often last this long — the House White is sturdy and worthwhile. It's a blend of mostly chardonnay from Washington state, so look for a lot of stoniness. Though there isn't a lot of fruit left (maybe a little peach), that's not a problem. There are no off flavors, either, something to watch out for in older cheap wines. Drink this chilled for almost any summer white wine opportunity.
Robert Mondavi sold his self-named company to Constellation Brands in 2004, which means that at least a generation of wine drinkers knows Mondavi only as a name on a bottle of wine they see at the grocery store. Such are the vagaries of family businesses.
Enjoy this wine and imagine what could have been. The chardonnay, frankly, stunned the Wine Curmudgeon with its style and complexity. I was expecting a heavy-handed, post-modern approach — too rich, too overdone and too much of everything else. Instead, I found — dare I say — classicism. This is a wine in balance, with acid to offset the wonderful green apple fruit and enough oak to show it's there but not to overwhelm the wine. Drink this on its own with someone you care about or for a special occasion dinner. Highly recommended.
A few thoughts for the wine-loving Dad in your life, and remember the wine gift-giving guidelines. The most important? Buy wine that Dad likes, not wine that you think he should like:
? d'Arenberg The Hermit Crab 2009 ($14, sample): Today's metaphysical wine question: Why does Australia bother with so much of the "wine" that it makes when it can do white Rhone blends like this? Crisp, clean and refreshing, with a bit of lime and peach. May be able to find this for as little as $12.
? Project Paso Red 2009 ($14, sample): Decent value for what it is, with lots of red fruit (though not much to differentiate it from other wines in its class). A good choice if it shows up on a restaurant wine list. And let's not forget the zork closure.
? J Pinot Noir Nicole's Vineyard 2007 ($50, sample): Pricey yes, but top-notch California pinot noir with some earthiness in front, quality black fruit throughout (and not too much of it), and a long, terroir-driven finish. Just a lovely wine.
The Wine Curmudgeon needed two wines to go with the paella he was making (and which didn't turn out well at all, a story for another time). I knew which red I wanted, and which will show up here as a wine of the week one of these days. I wasn't sure about the white; all I knew was that I wanted something that I had not tried before and that it should cost $10.
Which is how the Paso ($10, purchased) ended up in my shopping cart. I didn't know the producer, Bodegas Volver, but I knew the importer, Jorge Ordonez, who was one of the first to being quality Spanish wine to the U.S. The price was right, and the Paso was made with verdejo, which makes seafood-friendly wines that are usually more expensive.
Call it wine-buying roulette, and yet another example of why wine is so much fun. I took a chance and won. The Paso was everything I hoped it would be and a little more — fresh and lively with lots of citrus-style acid and stone fruit flavors. It wasn't as complex as a pricier verdejo, but it wasn't supposed to be.
This is exactly the kind of wine that I wish more California producers appreciated: Well-priced and well-made, and just the thing to drink with dinner when you want wine but don't want to spend a lot of money or endure wine-pairing hell.
Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, a couple of roses to close out rose week.
? Mo t & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Ros 2002 ($80, sample): Classic in style, with lots of acid and fantastic bubbles. Could probably age for a couple of years more to give the fruit a chance to show. A fine gift for someone who appreciates Champagne.
? El Coto Rioja Rosado 2010 ($10, sample): Much more New World than Spanish in style, with lots more fruit (strawberry) than a Spanish rose would have. Having said that, it's still dry and a fine, simple, fresh rose for summer.
? Mart n C dax Albari o 2009 ($15, sample): Spanish white had lemon fruit and was a little fresher than usual, which was welcome. But it's still $2 or $3 more than similar wines.
? Cantina Tollo Pecorino 2009 ($16, purchased): This white was bright and Italian, which means not that much fruit (pears?), balanced acid, and long mineral finish. Highly recommended.
The biggest problem with Friday night's Planet Bordeaux Twitter tasting was that the Wine Curmudgeon couldn't drink the four wines over four nights, one night at a time. It was a shame to have to do them all at the same time.
Planet Bordeaux is a marketing effort to give well-made and well-priced wine from the less famous parts of the French region of Bordeaux exposure they don't normally get. The Twitter tasting was part of that effort; you can follow the tweets here. The tweeters, wine writers and bloggers, seemed impressed with the wines.
Here are my notes on the four wines, which kicks off rose week. The blog will feature the dry pink wine that too many of us don't appreciate, including a rose wine of the week on Wednesday and my annual rose preview on Thursday.
? Dourthe Grand Cuvee 2010 ($12, sample): This white is very New World in style, with grapefruit and pineapple in the middle. Well done; just not especially French.
? Chateau Ballan Larquette Rose 2010 ($16, sample): An interesting wine that divided the tweeters and is difficult to describe. Some said it smelled like tomatoes; others said red fruit. I liked it, but $16 is a problem.
? Chateau Fontenille 2010 ($14, sample): My favorite of the tasting — clean with deep red fruit and almost more red wine than rose. It's available in some markets for $10 a bottle, which makes it highly recommended.