Tag Archives: wine of the week

Wine of the week: Cantia Cellaro Luma Grillo 2017

luma grilloThe 2017 version of the Luma grillo, an Italian white, is just as enjoyable and as delicious as the 2016 – and that’s saying something

Vintage difference is a good thing. What isn’t good is inconsistency from vintage to vintage, when quality appears and disappears seemingly at random. This is something that happens to wine at every price, a function of our post-modern wine world and its focus on price instead of value. So when you find a wine that shows vintage differences, but doesn’t show inconsistency, buy as much of it as possible. Which is the case with the Luma grillo.

The Luma grillo ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is a Sicilian white, and grillo is one of my favorite grapes. Grillo is a Sicilian specialty, and offers a welcome change from chardonnay and sauvignon blanc – not as rich as the former and not as tart at the latter. This vintage shows lemon and green apple fruit, and even some almond and spice. It’s exactly what grillo should taste like – balanced, interesting, and light but food friendly.

Highly recommended. This is a Hall of Fame wine and a candidate for the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year, assuming availability isn’t a problem like it was with the equally wonderful 2016.

Imported by Gonzalez Bypass

 

Wine of the week: Avignonesi Cantaloro Rosso 2016

The Italian Avignonesi Cantaloro red blend is full of surprises, which makes it that much more enjoyable

The one thing about wine that bears repeating – and I repeat it here and to myself regularly – is that wine should always be surprising. If it’s not, then something is wrong. Case in point? The Avignonesi Cantaloro.

This is an Italian red wine, a blend from Tuscany, that tasted nothing like I expected. For one thing, it was heavier the mouth and had more ripe fruit than I thought it would, since it was an Italian red made mostly with sangovese. But know this, too: The wine was enjoyable and still tasted Italian – a wonderful surprise.

The Avignonesi Cantaloro ($12, purchased, 14%) displays the fresher New World style that’s not uncommon in many Tuscan red blends. But the style is more restrained, and it has retained some Italian herbalness, a touch of earthiness and enough acidity to balance the riper fruit.

It was so enjoyable that I wasn’t even annoyed to find out that the producer describes the wine as smooth. In fact, it’s not, and it does need food. It’s a bit heavy for porch sipping, but pair it with sausages or red sauce as the weather cools, and you’ll enjoy the combination.

Imported by Tabaccaia USA

Wine review: Antoine Delaune Chardonnay 2018

Antoine Delaune chardonnayThe French Antoine Delaune chardonnay is a $6 Aldi white that hints at what the discount grocer can accomplish with its wine

Aldi, the discount grocer, has never seemed to be able to deliver cheap wine quality in its U.S. stores the way it does in Europe. There have been exceptions, but for the most part the wines have been Winking Owl and its ilk. So where does the French Antoine Delaune chardonnay fit into this?

Hopefully, it’s the beginning of Aldi’s commitment to better quality cheap wine — a good thing, since the chain will open a store near my mom in the spring, and we know the trouble she has buying quality cheap wine. The Antoine Delaune chardonnay ($6, purchased, 13%) is a sign that Aldi is focusing more on selling competent and professional wine that you can buy, drink, and not worry about.

This is not to say it’s white Burgundy, the epitome of French chardonnay. But it does taste like chardonnay (some green apple); mostly tastes like it came from France (none of that California slickness); and is clean and fresh without a hint of residual sugar. It’s not even especially thin, which is usually what happens at this price.

And it’s not quite a wine of the week. It’s not stupid, but it is a little too  simple and straightforward and the lesser quality of the grapes does show. Plus, you’ll need to open the screwcap 10 or 15 minutes before you drink it, since the wine needs to breathe.

Mostly, the Antoine Delaune chardonnay is worth $6. That’s an accomplishment these days; I recently tasted a $20 chardonnay that was too precious for words, tasting more like non-alcoholic wine than anything.

Imported by Prestige Beverage Group

Wine of the week: Tiamo Rose NV

Tiamo roseHow do you make quality, affordable canned wine? Check out the Tiamo rose

A restaurant trade magazine review of the Tiamo rose, an Italian pink, called it a “serious wine in a can.” Frankly, I can think of no higher praise.

Too much canned wine, as I’ve discovered over the past couple of years, is made to be sold in a can, and not made to be wine. The Tiamo, from the always top-notch Winesellers, Ltd., in suburban Chicago, is wine that happens to come in a can instead of a bottle. And boy, can you can taste the difference.

That means you can take the Tiamo rose ($5/375 ml can, purchased, 12%) on a picnic, to the beach, or on a camping trip and not worry that it will taste like like cherry Kool-Aid or watery and bitter lemonade. Frankly, it’s also wine you can drink at home. Open the fridge, pop open the top, pour it in a glass, and not know the difference. In other words, just the wine for the upcoming Labor Day weekend, whether you’re on the road or staying on the back porch.

The Tiamo is slightly fizzy, with some floral aromas and almost red plum fruit. It’s balanced, as all rose should be, is bone dry, and has a surprisingly long finish. The price works out to $10 a bottle, which is a fair value. One key to that, given the inflated prices of many canned wines, is that it’s non-vintage; that is, the grapes used to make it come from several vintages. This keeps the price down, and vintage doesn’t really matter any way. It’s a canned win, after all – who is going to age it?

Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Wine of the week: Chateau La Graviere Blanc 2018

The new vintage of the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year shows the Chateau La Graviere Blanc at its $10 best

What does the Chateau La Graviere Blanc, the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year, do for an encore? Produce another interesting, value-driven wine in the new vintage.

The Chateau La Graviere Blanc ($10, purchased, 13%), a French white blend from Bordeaux, has been one of the joys of my wine drinking over the past couple of years. It has remained high-quality $10 wine at a time when too much of the wine world cares more about adding sugar and raising prices.

The 2018 version of the Chateau La Graviere Blanc is richer and heavier than the 2017, thanks to the semillon blended with the sauvignon blanc. But know that neither is a bad thing; it shows off the wine’s terroir and reminds us that vintage differences can make a wine more interesting.

Look for some citrus and an almost California aroma of grassiness. There is lots of minerality, which is what a white Bordeaux should have, and the fullness in the mouth moves toward a long and clean finish. This is a food wine, but you can also chill and sip it when you want a glass of after work.

Highly recommended, and it will return to the $10 Hall of Fame in 2020.

Imported by Luneau USA

Wine of the week: Stephen Vincent Crimson 2016

Stephen Vincent CrimsonThe Stephen Vincent Crimson is an excellent example of that vanishing California breed, a well-made and enjoyable cheap red wine

Call this wine of the week, the Stephen Vincent Crimson, a bit of serendipity – a $12 California red wine that doesn’t taste like it has been tarted up, dumbed down, or manipulated to please a focus group.

The Stephen Vincent Crimson ($12, purchased, 13.9%) is a red field blend (mostly petite sirah this vintage), which means it’s made with whatever grapes are available that year. The 2016 offers ripe cherry aromas and lots of dark berry flavors, but finishes bone dry.

That it was dry was actually surprising, since the fruit was so ripe and because so many sweet reds pass themselves off as dry these days. In fact, I kept swallowing, over and over, figuring that the cotton candy sign of residual sugar would eventually show up in the back of my mouth.

But it never did. And that that’s a sign of how well made the Stephen Vincent Crimson is. In addition, most wines of this style and at this price wouldn’t bother with tannins or acidity. But there are tannins, are soft but noticeable, and the acidity is just below the surface, tempering the fruit.

This is an excellent example of that vanishing California breed, a well-made and enjoyable cheap red wine (and you can even drink it slightly chilled). Pair this with barbecue as summer winds down, or even something a little spicy, like pork chops tandoori. That’s what I did, and it was one of this summer’s great wine dinners.

Wine of the week: Scaia Garganega Chardonnay 2018

Scaia Garganega ChardonnayThe Scaia garganega chardonnay is an Italian white blend that pairs the unlikeliest of grapes to produce a terrific wine

Buy this wine.

There’s no better way to describe how terrific the current vintage is of the Scaia Garganega Chardonnay ($12, sample, 12.5%). This Italian white blend is made with two of the unlikeliest grapes possible – garganega, a grape usually used to make tanker trucks of barely drinkable Soave, and chardonnay, hardly the most Italian of grapes.

But it works. It worked for the 2017 wine. It worked for the 2016 wine. It worked for the 2015 wine.

And it works in this, the 2018. Somehow, the Scaia garganega chardonnay tastes better than the sum of its parts. Look for a bit of citrus (lime?), but not as tart as previous years, and some pineapple from the chardonnay that softens the garganega. The wine smells fresh and flowery, and the finish is clean and crisp and a bit stony. Somehow, there aren’t the off notes typical of poorly-made Italian chardonnay. Even more surprising, there is none of the cheap, almost tinny quality too often found in poorly-made Soave.

Highly recommended, and certain to return to the $10 Hall of Fame in 2020. It’s also a leading contender for the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Chill this, and drink it on its own or with anything that isn’t red meat. It’s also worth noting that the 2018 is difficult to find; my local retailer still has cases of the 2017. (A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to Katherine Jarvis at Jarvis Communications, who found a sample for me). But not to worry if you can’t find the 2018. The 2017 is still delicious, and the Scaia garganega chardonnay ages better than a $10 wine should, getting softer and more interesting.

Imported by Dalla Terra