Tag Archives: wine reviews

Wine of the week: CVNE Rioja Cune Crianza 2014

cune crianzaCVNE’s Cune Crianza is a red Spanish wine that delivers tremendous value and quality

Spanish wine still offers some of the best value in the world. And, whenever the Wine Curmudgeon despairs about the future of cheap wine, I drink something Spanish like CVNE’s Cune Crianza and feel better.

The Cune Crianza ($13, purchased, 13.5%) is everything an inexpensive Spanish Rioja (a red wine made with tempranillo from the Rioja region in northern Spain) should be. It’s varietally correct, with that faint orange peel aroma, not quite ripe cherry fruit, and a bit of earth and a touch of minerality. The touch of oak offers a little vanilla, but it’s in the background and doesn’t take over the wine. In this, there is a tremendous amount of structure for a crianza – the least expensive class of Rioja, and one that sees little of the oak aging that helps to provide structure.

And yes, it’s worth the extra two or three dollars – especially when you consider the alternative is something likes this.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame and the $2019 Cheap Wine of the Year. The past year has not been kind to cheap wine, but the CVNE Cune Crianaza is a reminder about what is possible.

Imported by Europvin

Holiday wine gift guide 2018

holiday wine gift guide 2018The Wine Curmudgeon holiday wine gift guide 2018 — because no one wants to give the wine equivalent of a fruitcake

• Holiday wine trends 2018

How to avoid giving tacky wine gift bags — “for the wine lover on your lists” — or overpriced, celebrity-endorsed wine accessories (because if an A lister likes it, we should buy it)? The Wine Curmudgeon’s holiday wine gift guide out 2018, of course. Because why waste money on bad gifts when you can use it for quality wine?

Keep in mind two must-haves for anyone who drinks wine regularly – the Rabbit wine preserver ($10), cheap and effective, and a top-notch waiter’s corkscrew from Murano ($10). Both have passed the WC’s lengthy, real-life testing process — which means I use them over and over and over. And over.

Plus:

• Kevin Zraly’s new edition of the “Windows on the World” wine course (Sterling Epicure, $18) is probably the best one-volume wine book available. That means it’s worth buying, whether for beginning wine drinker or cranky wine critic. Plus, Zraly’s memoir is scheduled to be published in the next year or so, chronicling his 40 years in the wine business.

Chateau La Tour Carnet ($38) is a red Bordeaux that offers quality but doesn’t cost a fortune, given the prices of red Bordeaux. This French blend, more cabernet sauvignon than merlot, combines modern winemaking with traditional Bordeaux style and terroir. Older vintages like the 2010, which may be more expensive, will especially show that combination. This is the red wine for someone who thinks cabernet begins and ends in the Napa Valley.

The L’Conti Blanquette ($15) is sparkling wine from the Limoux region of France, and tastes nothing like any other French sparkling wine. It’s probably closer to Spanish cava, with lemon and green apple fruit. Plus, you can tell people you tasted a wine made with the mauzac grape. Highly recommended.

• Those who know Italian wine find refosco, a red from northern Italy, to be an acquired tasted. I’ve acquired it, and you’l find quality in refosco from $10 to $20. The Tenuta Luisa ($20) is dark but also bright; a little savory but also a little spicy. It’s more interesting than the less expensive versions, and surprisingly available.

• My new weakness is white wine from Spain’s Basque region made with the hondarrabi zuri grape, most costing around $20. The labels include the phrase “Getariako Txakolina,” which is the name of the region. I haven’t had one yet that wasn’t well-made — almost herbal, with citrus and stone fruit, a little fizz, and some minerality — but not sweet. This is about as far from chardonnay as you can get.

More holiday wine gift guides:
• Holiday wine gift guide 2017
• Holiday wine gift guide 2016
• Holiday wine gift guide 2015

Wine of the week: Feudo Zirtari Bianco 2015

Zirtari BiancoThe Feudo Zirtari Bianco is an astonishing $10 white wine, and especially given how old it is

This Italian white blend from Sicily is not supposed to be this enjoyable. First, it’s too old – who ever heard of a $10 white wine lasting more than a couple of vintages? Second, the producer’s wines are notoriously inconsistent, and my notes are littered with lines like “not as good as the last one.” Nevertheless, the Zirtari Bianco is $10 Hall of Fame quality cheap wine.

Which, of course, is one of the joys of doing this – finding a wine like the Zirtari Bianco ($10, purchased, 13.5%) when I don’t expect to find anything at all. It’s a blend of insolia, a native Sicilian grape, and chardonnay. Hence, the sum is far greater than its parts, given the usual quality of Sicilian chardonnay.

Look for spice (white pepper, nutmeg?), almonds, and pear fruit, which is a surprisingly delicious combination considering the two grapes that have been blended together. Plus, it’s not thin in the mouth or on the finish, which is what usually happens with a three-year-old cheap white wine.

Highly recommended, but there is a conundrum: Should you try to find this vintage, and hope it held up as well as my bottle did? Or should you buy the current vintage and hope that it’s as well made as this one? I don’t have an answer, though it’s almost certainly easier to find the current vintage.

Imported by Santa Margherita USA

Wine to drink when you’re visiting your mom

wine to drinkFour wines to drink when you’re visiting your mom

I spent a week in Chicago with my mom before Thanksgiving, which brought up the question of wine. I wasn’t where I knew the stores, and I wanted to find wine my mom would enjoy. Because, as noted here many times, what’s the point of sharing wine with someone when you don’t take their tastes into consideration?

My mom’s palate is discriminating, and she looks for value almost as much as I do. She is also open to wines that aren’t mainstream, so lesser known regions and varietals are OK. But the wines had to be well made and taste like they’re supposed to.

The catch: I was limited to grocery stores and one visit to Binny’s, the biggest chain in the area. The grocery store selection wasn’t any better than it is in Dallas (and the pricing was just as screwy), and Binny’s was more expensive than I thought it would be.

In the end, I bought four wines – three from retailers and one at a local restaurant (and, as an added bonus, I know two of the winemakers – always nice to be able to brag to your mother):

Domaine de Pouy ($10): This Gascon white blend is suffering from the same problem as most of the rest – not enough white grapiness and almost too tart. Having said that, it was the least tart of those I’ve tasted this year, and Mom liked it. So a winner all around.

Charles & Charles rose ($12): Mom buys this Washington state pink at her local supermarket, so it was an easy choice. The price was a couple of bucks more than I pay in Dallas, but this rose remains one of the best and most consistent values in the world – rose or otherwise.

Armas de Guerra ($13): I’m not quite sure how this Spanish red, made with the little-known mencia grape, ended up in a supermarket. But I’m glad it did. Its bitter cherry fruit and earthiness made it a terrific match for Mom’s legendary spaghetti and meatballs.

Giesen sauvignon blanc ($10): This New Zealand white was the best of a very mediocre wine list at an otherwise interesting restaurant. Not surprisingly, almost no one else was drinking wine. Don’t the people who run the place see the correlation? The Giesen had more than just grapefruit, with a little tropical in the middle. It was much better than I thought it would be.

Graphic courtesy of Ephemera, using a Creative Commons license

Mini-reviews 115: Rioja, German rose, Youngberg, Umani Rochi

german roseReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This month: a German rose, plus Oregon pinot noir, a Rioja, and an Italian white for Black Friday 2018

Vallobera Rioja Crianza 2015 ($15, purchased, 14%): Heavy, old-fashioned Spanish red that isn’t very interesting – sweet cherry fruit, not much orange peel or earth, and almost flabby. Very disappointing. Imported by Evaki

Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 11.5%): This German pink is sweet (not quite white zinfandel, but noticeable) and fizzy, with almost crisp cherry fruit. Neither sweet nor fizzy is a bad thing, and there will be people who will like it. But not for anyone expecting a dry rose. Imported by Loosen Bros. USA

Youngberg Hill Pinot Noir Jordan Block 2014 ($49, sample, 14%): This is a well-made wine, and the winemakers apparently accomplished what they were trying to do – an Oregon pinot noir that is heavier and more California in style than Oregon. It doesn’t have any brambly fruit, but more concentrated, rich black fruit.

Umani Rochi Villa Bianchi 2016 ($9, purchased, 12%): This Italian white is not quite $9 worth of wine – very tart (citrus fruit?), too simple, and not crisp or fresh enough to balance the tartness.

Wine of the week: Farnese Fantini Sangiovese 2017

fantini sangioveseThe Fantini sangiovese is another top $10 wine from Italian producer Farnese

Thanksgiving with Italian wine? Why not, and especially if it’s the Farnese Fantini Sangiovese.

I’ve written about Farnese wines several times over the past couple of years, and after tasting this vintage of the Fantini Sangiovese ($10, purchased, 12.5%), it’s easy to see why. This is simple – but not stupid – $10 wine, the kind the we need more of.

This Italian red, made with sangiovese from the Abruzzo region, isn’t Chianti. Rather, it’s softer, less earthy, and more New World in style. This doesn’t mean it isn’t Italian or varietally correct, because it is – cherry fruit, soft tannins, and requisite acidity to balance the fruit and to give it that certain Italian zip. And, since it is lighter and fruitier in style, it would pair with the piles and piles of food on the Thanksgiving table. So yes, a Turkey wine, as well as sausages and red sauce when the leftovers are in packed away in the freezer.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Empson USA

Expensive wine 114: Alberto Nanclares Dandelion Albarino 2016

nanclares dandelion albarinoThe Nanclares Dandelion albarino is not only worth what it costs, buts shows how stunning an albarino can be

The Wine Curmudgeon paid $23 for the Nanclares Dandelion albarino, and I will pay it again. And again. And again. It’s not only worth the money, but it’s one of the best albarinos I’ve ever tasted. It puts most of those $17 and $18 albarinos – which sell only because the grape has become hip and with it – to shame.

The Nanclares Dandelion albarino ($23, purchased, 13..5%) is savory and salty in a way that other albarinos can only dream about, even though that’s one of their reasons for being. The albarino grape, used to make this white wine, is grown in the Rias Baizas in on Spain’s Atlantic coast, and it’s accepted as fact that the location lends an oceany, almost saline flavor to the wine.

Most albarinos, including several highly regarded ones, focus on tart lemon fruit, and the savory character is a second thought. In this wine, though, the lemon fruit is in the background. That means the wine isn’t as tart, and has a much richer mouth feel. In all, more complex, more subtle, and more enjoyable

Highly recommended, and especially for a holiday celebration with shrimp, lobster, and even turkey. This is yet another wine that proves that prices can make a difference when the winemaker makes wine for the consumer and not for scores.

Imported by Llaurador Wines