The Biscaye Baie is a Gascon white wine that delivers more than $10 worth of value
The wine business has not been kind to France’s Gascon whites, one of the finest values in the world. There have been importer and distributor problems, the 25 percent Trump wine tariff, and the usual sort of availability foolishness. So imagine the Wine Curmudgeon’s euphoria when he found the Biscaye Baie.
Cheap wine gods be praised.
The Biscaye Baie ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is pretty much everything it should be. If it’s not quite up to the quality of the legendary Domaine Tariquet, it tastes like Gascon wine – fresh, white grapey, maybe a little tart, and, as the producer’s tasting note says, “a wine to be enjoyed at all times. …” Or, as my tasting note says, “Not quite Hall of Fame, but still worth buying in quantity.”
The Biscaye Baie isn’t a blend, like so many other Gascon whites – just sauvignon blanc. Hence, it tastes a little more sauvignon blanc-ish than those blended with colombard, since the latter grape tends to take the edge of the sauvignon blanc’s citrusness. But don’t confuse this with a New Zealand sauvignon blanc; it’s not a grapefruit-style wine, but has a sort of vague lemony something or other.
Practically highly recommended, if I did that sort of thing. But I have bought it in quantity, and keep three or four bottles chilled. We’ve reached the 100-degree season in Dallas, and that’s just one more reason to reach for this wine.
This vintage of the Spanish Azul y Garanza tempranillo isn’t as interesting as the past couple, but still delivers quality and value
This is the fourth vintage I’ve tasted of the Azul y Garanaza tempranillo, a Spanish red. And each year has been different from the others. That’s incredibly refreshing in our post-modern, all wine must taste alike world.
This time, the Azul y Garanza tempranillo ($13/1 liter, purchased, 14.1%) is a little more rustic and tannic than past vintages, with less cherry fruit. In this, it’s about the opposite of the first vintage I tasted, the 2016, which was softer and fruitier than I normally like. The Azul probably isn’t Hall of Fame quality this time, like the 2017 and 2018. But, like the 2016, it is perfectly enjoyable to drink.
And it remains a fine value, and not just because it’s a liter, with the extra glass and a half of wine. (And, in four vintages, this is the fourth different price I’ve paid – all bought from stores in Texas).
One other thing: Don’t worry about the 14.1 percent alcohol, which is likely a little sleight of hand to get around the 25 percent Trump wine tariff, which applies to Spanish and French wines less than 14 percent. This “adjustment” is happening quite a bit, and it really doesn’t affect the quality of the wine.
The Matua sauvignon blanc is Big Wine at its best — varietally correct, cheap, and delicious
A blog reader told me that his Costco was selling the Matua sauvingon blanc for $7 a bottle. I told him to buy cases and cases.
That’s because the Matua sauvingon blanc ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is Big Wine at its best — a combination of best practices in mass market winemaking, economies of scale, and supply chain efficiencies. The result, from Treasury Wine Estates, is a wine that is simple but not stupid and tastes like it is supposed to — and which may be the best Big Wine product on the market.
The 2019 vintage, which seems to be current, is even a little more well done than past efforts — and those made the $10 Hall of Fame. Look for not too much New Zealand grapefruit, a noticeable if slight tropical middle, and a long, clean finish.
McGuigan The Plan – an Aussie shiraz that shows sense and sensibility
Australian red wines are infamous for high alcohol, jammy, too ripe fruit, and an absence of balance. So what’s the catch with McGuigan The Plan, which clocks in at an almost unbelievable 12.5 percent alcohol?
Chalk it up to the wonderful unpredictability of wine, where we should regularly discover how little we actually know. McGuigan The Plan ($13, purchased, 12.5%), though it’s from a top producer, is about the last thing one expects from an Australian red made with shiraz – it shows sense and sensibility, to steal a phrase. Yes, it’s rich and fruity, with lots and lots of blackberry. But the wine isn’t hot or sweet, the way some too alcoholic wines can be. Plus, there’s a little spice (and maybe even some pepper) in the middle. And I could swear I tasted a tannin or two. Honest.
In this, McGuigan The Plan is one more reason not to judge a wine before you taste it. It needs food, but with summer burgers or barbecue, that shouldn’t be a problem.
California’s Pedroncelli rose is one of the best pinks from the 2019 vintage – balanced, fruity, and delicious
It’s not easy making quality rose out of the zinfandel grape, and not just because zinfandel tends to make a heavier wine. It’s also because well-made zinfandel roses don’t necessarily taste like the roses most consumers expect – light and fresh and crisp. Which is why the California Pedroncelli rose is worth writing about, for it offers zinfandel’s fruit and spice in a pleasing and enjoyable way.
The Pedroncelli rose ($12, sample, 13.7%) is always top-notch every vintage, but the 2019 is one of the best I have tasted from anywhere this rose season, and certainly and among the best the winery has made in many years. It isn’t especially heavy, and the spice – and even a little pepper – is pleasingly noticeable in the middle, after a burst of zinfandel-ish berry fruit. Plus, the wine finishes cleanly and doesn’t feel syrupy or overdone in the mouth.
Highly recommended and a candidate for the 2021 Hall of Fame. Drink this chilled on on its own, or enjoy it with almost any Fourth of July barbecue.
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.
In other words, buy a bottle of the LAN Rioja Crianza ($12, purchased, 13.5%) and enjoy it for Father’s Day. It’s a step up from something like Aldi’s La Cornada – better grape quality and even a bit of oak. In this, it’s classic crianza from Spain’s Rioja region, the entry level wine made with tempranillo. Look for cinnamon, maybe something orangeish in the aroma, red cherry and berry fruit, and nary a tannin out of place. And the oak doesn’t get in the way, actually adding to the whole.
Highly recommended, and almost certain to appear in the 2021 Hall of Fame. Pair this with almost anything on the grill, be it sausage, burgers, chicken, or pizza.