Tag Archives: wine of the week

Wine of the week: Banfi Centine Toscana 2017

centine toscanoBanfi’s Centine Toscana remains a Hall of Fame quality $10 red wine

The Centine Toscana ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is Big Wine done right – a varietally correct Italian red made with sangiovese made by Banfi, a $70 million company that sells wine in 85 countries. So it should be no surprise that it’s a $10 Hall of Fame quality wine (as is the white version).

The 2017 Centine Toscana is even a little more Italian, so less ripe fruit than the previous vintage and more earthiness. As always, it’s terroir driven, with slightly tart cherry fruit, a pleasant, chalky finish, and appropriately soft tannins. In other words, it tastes like sangiovese from the Tuscan region of Italy, and not a winemaking-driven product from a marketing company focus group trying to figure out how to make a sort of sweet and very smooth Italian wine.

Pair this with summer barbecue – sausages, of course, but also smoked chicken and burgers. And maybe even pizza on the grill for the adventurous. And if the weather allows it, this is a delicious wine with any red sauce.

Wine of the week: CK Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc 2017

CK Mondavi sauvignon blancThe CK Mondavi sauvignon blanc, a long-time grocery store staple, is easily the cheap wine find of 2018

The CK Mondavi sauvignon blanc ($7, sample, 12.6%) is a grocery store wine that I have been trying to use as a wine of the week for years. But it has never quite been up to the challenge.

Until this vintage. Somehow, despite all the horrific cheap wine news this summer, the CK Mondavi sauvignon blanc is well-made, varietally correct, and worth more than $7. Score a victory for value and quality in these dark, dismal times.

There is nothing fancy about this California white wine, which is made by the other Mondavis – the company started by Robert’s brother Peter and run by Peter Jr. Look for lots and lots of white grapefruit, with maybe a certain something or other that tastes sort of pleasant in the back.

But it’s crisp and refreshing and delivers infinitely more value than many wines that cost two or three times as much. In this, it’s easily the cheap wine find of 2018; drink it well chilled on its own or with salads, chicken, and other warm weather food.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame, but with this caveat: Quality control has been so slipshod for so many cheap wines this vintage that I can’t guarantee that the bottle you buy will taste like the bottle I got as a sample. But at $7, it’s worth the try.

Comte de Galeran

Wine of the week: Comte de Galeran Blanquette de Limoux Brut NV

Comte de GaleranCelebrate the Fourth of July and our French allies with the Comte de Galeran sparkling wine

How to explain all the joys of sparkling wine, from cava and Prosecco to Champagne to everything else? In this case, the everything else includes the Comte de Galeran, an intriguing bubbly from the French region of Limoux.

The Comte de Galeran ($15, sample, 12.5%) is made using the ancient methode ancestrale, which locals claim predates Champagne’s methode champenois. The differences are subtle; more important is the mauzac grape used in Limoux. It offers some of chardonnay’s green apple fruit, but it’s not as crisp and can be almost honeyed.

That’s why the Comte de Galeran seems to taste like chenin blanc or chardonnay before the mauzac makes itself known. It’s just not the hint of sweetness, but a little spiciness, and which adds complexity missing from most bubbly at this price. There are also lots and lots of tight and refreshing bubbles.

I drank this with nachos with jalapenos, and it was a spot on pairing. Highly recommended, and just the kind of wine to pop for the Fourth of July. After all, without the French, we might well be spelling favorite as favourite.

Imported by Wines with Conviction

Silly wine descriptions

Wine of the week: Cellers Unio Clos de Nit 2012

cellers unio clos de nitThe Cellers Unio Clos de Nit shows why Spanish wine offers the best value in the world

Don’t let the age of of the Cellers Unio Clos de Nit discourage you. First, it’s Spanish, and it’s made to hold up. Second, it’s from a top-notch importer, another sign the wine will age well. Third, there are more current vintages, and all should be enjoyable.

In fact, the Cellers Union Clos de Nit ($11, sample, 13.5%) is the sort of Spanish wine that shows why Spanish wine offers the best value in the world. It’s a garnacha blend that is neither too ripe, too hot, nor too over the top. This probably explains why its scores are so low – mid-80s in the couple of places I checked.

That the wine was so terroir driven shouldn’t have surprised me, since it’s Spanish and from the Montsant region in Catalonia, where terroir remains important. Given that the samples I’ve been tasting for the past three or four months have been just the opposite, I’ve come to expect the worst. But the Cellers Unio Close de Nit was nothing like that. It has an earthy, almost plummy aroma, followed by garnacha’s red fruit jamminess and a soft but pleasing finish.

This is summer cookout and barbecue wine, as well as something to keep around the house when you want a glass of red. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.

vinho verde review 2017

Wine of the week: Vinho verde 2018

vinho verde 2018Vinho verde 2018: Drink the Broadbent, but pass the rest unless you want sugar and cheap fizz

The Wine Curmudgeon has been a long-time supporter of vinho verde, the Portuguese white wine with a greenish tint. It’s cheap and ideal for hot weather: A slightly sweet lemon lime flavor, low alcohol, and a little fizz. So imagine my disappointment when five of the six wines I tasted for the vinho verde 2018 review were almost uniformly awful.

I was warned, though. When I bought the wines, the saleswoman told me the producers had softened them — winespeak for removing the acidity and adding sweetness. And, boy, was she correct. The wines weren’t quite in white zinfandel territory, but they’re getting there. Call this one more victory for focus-group produced wine, which assumes U.S. wine drinkers don’t like anything but sugar.

Our vinho verde primer is here. Most of the cheaper wines, like Famega, Casal Garcia, and Gazela, are made by the same couple of companies but sold under different names to different retailers. These vinho verde 2018 suggestions will get you started:

Broadbent Vinho Verde NV ($7.50, purchased, 9%): Just about the only vinho verde that tasted like wine — a tinge of sweetness instead of a mouth full of sugar, plus acidity to balance the sweetness. It also had a full mouth feel and some structure, while the fizziness was pleasantly in the background.

Gazela Vinho Verde NV ($5, purchased, 9%): Tasted like 7-Up mixed with grain alcohol, but with too much sugar and not enough alcohol.

Casal Garcia Vinho Verde NV ($5, purchased, 9.5%): Noticeably sweet, but other than that, sort of what vinho verde is supposed to taste like. Other than the Broadbent, the best of a bad lot. For what that’s worth.

Famega Vinho Verde 2017 ($6.50, purchased, 10.5%): Not quite as sweet as the Gazela, but sweet enough. Otherwise, mostly vinho verde.

Aveleda Vinho Verde 2017 ($6.50, purchased, 9.5%): Almost smelled like a rotten egg, which usually comes from too much sulfur to the wine. This is a wine flaw, not common much these days, and shouldn’t have happened here.

Gazela Vinho Verde Rose NV ($4.50, purchased, 9.5%) Sweet cherry-flavored Alka-Seltzer.

For more about vinho verde:
Vinho verde review 2017
Vinho verde review 2016
Vinho verde review 2015

Wine of the week: Bogle Pinot Noir 2015

bogle pinot noirThe Bogle pinot noir is, as always, $10 Hall of Fame wine. The same can’t be said for the label’s cabernet sauvignon

How amazing is the Bogle pinot noir ($10, sample, 13.5%)? It mostly tastes like pinot noir. This is unheard of in a $10 wine, and it’s not all that common for pinot noir that costs as much as $30, either. That Bogle can do it speaks to the producer’s emphasis on quality and value.

That’s the good news. The bad news, and it pains me to write this, is that the 2015 Bogle cabernet sauvignon ($10, sample, 13.5%) is as disappointing as the pinot noir is not. The cabernet is soft, flabby, and bereft of almost any varietal character. In this, it’s another example of winemaking by focus group; someone, somewhere, decided that U.S. wine drinkers don’t want tannins or spice or pepper or earth or anything that adds interest to cabernet. Instead, all we want is great gobs of gushy fruit, so any number of red wines that were once worth buying aren’t (like this one and this one). I never thought to add a Bogle wine to that list.

Regular visitors here know of my respect – almost reverence – for Bogle. That is borne out in the pinot noir ($10, sample, 13.5%), which is as subtle and elegant as a $10 pinot noir is going to get. Look for cherry fruit, some peppery spice, a little foresty something or other, and oak that is there to be barely noticed. Again, all qualities I rarely seen on wines at this price.

Hopefully, the decision makers at Bogle will realize wine drinkers prefer wines like the pinot and will return the cabernet to its former style. That, more than anything, is why I included it in this review. Because it’s easy to buy cheap wine; it’s much more difficult to buy cheap wine that reminds us why we love wine.

Wine of the week: Domaine de Beauregard Muscadet 2016

Beauregard MuscadetThe Domaine de Beauregard Muscadet is cheap, enjoyable French white wine as summer arrives

The irony of today’s wine world of plenty is that the plenty for most of us is plenty of chardonnay, plenty of sauvignon blanc, and plenty of pinot grigio. If we want something else white, and we don’t have a quality local retailer, we’re stuck. Because wines like the Beauregard Muscadet are worth drinking.

The Domaine de Beauregard Muscadet ($10, purchased, 12%) is from the French region of Muscadet de Sevre-et-Maine and made with the wonderfully named melon de bourgogne grape. It’s an unpretentious, weeknight dinner kind of wine that the French have been drinking for a couple of centuries, but that has not received the attention it deserves in the U.S. Because, of course, we have chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and pinot grigio.

The Beauregard Muscadet is everything this kind of wine should be – an almost floral aroma, a little lemon fruit, a softish middle, and some minerality on the finish. It’s an ideal warm weather and porch wine to chill and enjoy – lighter, lower in alcohol, and incredibly versatile. Drink it on its own, or with almost any summer dinner – roasted chicken breasts and couscous, for one, or even crabcakes.

In this, it’s $10 wine that won’t win any awards, but will make the people who buy it quite happy. And that should be the goal for every wine, shouldn’t it?

Imported by Weygant-Metzler