Sept. 2, 2011 update: Tasted the 2010 at The Esquire in San Antonio, where it was surreal to see Tariquet on the wine list, and for only $21. The wine was everything it should be. There was a bit of grapey fruit, lots of citrus, and that wonderful, fresh, clean style. And it paired well with fried dill pickles.
The good news: This is still great cheap wine, and a member of the $10 Hall of Fame.
The bad news: The 2009 isn’t as interesting as the 2007 and 2008. I’m not sure if it’s because the vintage was lacking or if the 2009 is too old. As wonderful as the Tariquet is, it’s not made to age more than a year or two; hopefully, the 2010 will be here soon. There’s less green apple and more grapiness in the 2009 than in other vintages.
Having said all of that, the Tariquet ($10, purchased) shows what can be done when a producer cares about making quality cheap wine. It’s a white blend composed of ugni blanc and colombard, two grapes held in lesser repute most everywhere else in the world. But in Gascony, where the Tariquet is made, they are as important as chardonnay is elsewhere, and it shows in the wine. And the winery has been around since the late 17th century, so the winemakers know a thing or two about what they’re doing.
Don’t fear, regular visitors. That’s not one bottle of wine, but the result of a recent Wine Curmudgeon shopping expedition — 13 bottles, only two of which cost more than $16. And there wasn’t a stinker in the bunch.
The occasion for this spree? A chance to shop at Spec’s, probably the best liquor retailer in Texas. Spec’s doesn’t have any stores in Dallas, but I was in Austin for a wedding and Spec’s has several stores there. So that gave me a chance to check out Spec’s vast inventory (at 80,000 square feet, it’s bigger than most grocery stores) and its very competitive pricing. I was not disappointed.
Want to buy Mom wine for Mother's Day? Or serve something she'll enjoy for brunch? The Wine Curmudgeon is ready, willing, and able. Keep in mind our wine gift-giving guidelines ("Don't buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like"), as well as these suggestions:
? Naked Grape Pinot Grigio 2009 ($8, sample): Pleasant pinot grigio, which isn't easy to do for less than $10. This California white has more lemon fruit than Italian versions, and is missing the off-flavors that frequently crop up.
? Robert Mondavi Private Selection Meritage 2009 ($11, sample): All in all, a well made $11 red blend. It has California-style black fruit, but not overdone, plus better balanced tannins than one usually finds at this price. There is even oak for people who like that sort of thing.
? Benessere Sangiovese 2007 ($28, sample): Very nicely made, with proper tannins and acid (though not as much red fruit as I expected), but with the usual sort of quality to price problem that crops up with Napa wines. How many quality Chiantis can one get for less than this?
? Ch teau Tour Coutelin 2007 ($20, purchased): Well-done left-bank Bordeaux with much welcome earthiness, though more red fruit than I expected. Probably 5 or 6 Euros in France, which would make it a fine deal.
? Faiveley Bourgogne Blanc 2008 ($20, sample): Solid, dependable basic chardonnay from Burgundy (green apples and a bit of citrus), but which is clobbered by the weak dollar. Have you noticed a theme in this post?
? The one thing I didn't like about the Villa Maria ($13, sample): It's not $9 any more. Stupid weak dollar.
? Best thing about the wine besides the taste: The screwcap, of course.
? So what did it taste like? It didn't has much grapefruit as most New Zealand wines, but you could still taste citrus. The middle was a bit short and without any New Zealand-like tropical flavors, but there was a very long mineral finish. In some respects, it was more French in style.
? What do you pair this with? The web site suggests green bean and potato salad, which must be a New Zealand thing. Otherwise, almost any shellfish, grilled or roast chicken and the Wine Curmudgeon's favorite, spaghetti with clam sauce (though I use canned clams).
? What's with this bullit-style layout for the wine of the week? Trying something different. Not sure that it would work every week, but it was fun to do this time.
Sometimes, wine doesn't taste the way we want it to taste. When the Wine Curmudgeon first tried the Ipsum, a Spanish white blend, two years ago, it was a revelation — fruit forward in a New World style, but crisp and with lots of minerality. It was a sure thing Hall of Fame selection.
The 2010 vintage, sadly, is not up to that standard. The Ipsum ($10, purchased) is still a more than adequate wine, and there is still lots of tropical fruit. You could do a whole lot worse, and the Wine Curmudgeon has. But the extra something that pushed previous vintages over the top is gone. The minerality isn't there, and this year's wine doesn't have the freshness and clarity that the others did.
How does this happen? Who knows? The winemaker had an off day, the weather didn't cooperate, the grapes weren't up to snuff. So drink this, well chilled, with seafood or grilled chicken, and hope that the 2011 Ipsum returns to its previous standard.
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.
? Shoofly The Freckle 2008 ($14, sample): This Australian white Rhone blend is starting to show its age, but does have pleasant honey floral aroma, sweet apple fruit at the back, and a peach pit finish.
? Stag's Leap Artemis 2003 ($40, sample): This is classic and elegant Napa cabernet sauvignon at a time when consumers expect trendy and pushy Napa cabernet. That those consumers don't appreciate it is their loss.
? Bella Sera Pinot Grigio 2009 ($8, sample): Simple, decent, and surprisingly pleasant Italian white wine. This won't offend anyone, which is saying a lot for pinot grigio at this price.