The Wine Curmudgeon does not approve of exclamation marks. If Hemingway didn’t need them, no one else does either. Which should give everyone an idea about the quality of this wine, since it has five exclamation points in its name.
The Est ($9, purchased) is a white blend of trebbiano, malvasia and roscetto (yet another obscure Italian grape, something that it seems all interesting Italian wines must have). In less capable hands, that grape combination can produce a wine that is all sweet and fruity. But Falesco, the producer behind Est, is one of the most capable hands in the world, and the Est lives up to Falesco’s long-standing tradition of cheap and well-made wine.
Look for a lemon/lime zest sort of flavor, more structure than a $9 wine should have, and some spice on the finish. Drink this chilled on its own, or with anything resembling fish. This wine would make even tuna casserole, made with cream of mushroom soup, taste better. And look for this in the 2012 $10 Hall of Fame, with Falesco’s Vitiano wines.
Gavi is one of those mysterious Italian wines that is made with one of those mysterious Italian grapes, the cortese. It's a white wine that comes from the Gavi region in a corner of Piedmont, there isn't a whole lot of it, what there is usually doesn't make it to the middle of the country, and it's often quite pricey. If I see Gavi at all, it's on restaurant wine lists, and even then it usually takes a back seat to the Super Tuscans and the rest of the publicity hounds.
So when I found the Araldica ($14, purchased) at a Dallas shop that specializes in Italian wine, and at a price about two-thirds of what most quality Gavis cost, I bought it. And I'm glad I did. The Araldica was much better than I had any right to expect, especially for the price. It had a bit of spice and some lemon fruit, and though it wasn't very sophisticated — no sun-drenched Italian beaches, which is what a great Gavi brings to mind — it was fresh and clean.
I took it to dinner with a wine rep friend of mine, and it was much better than the tired, chain-style Italian food that the restaurant served. Serve the Araldica with any seafood and especially shellfish, and I'm going to buy another bottle to have with spaghetti with clam sauce.
Here is why the Wine Curmudgeon loves wine. I was cutting through the wine department at my local Whole Foods, on my way to somewhere else, when I saw the La Clotiere on display. The label was unimpressive, it was stacked with a bunch of other $10 wines, and there was absolutely no reason to stop and look at it.
So of course I did, and the result was a Wine of the Week and an almost certain new member of the $10 Hall of Fame. Highly recommended, though availability may be a problem if there are no Whole Foods in your area.
This is cheap wine as it should be — professionally made, balanced, and with low alcohol. It comes from the Loire region of France and is made with gamay, which is not as odd as it sounds (though we don't see many of those wines in this country). But it has very little to do with $10 gamay from Beaujolais, where the wines are often very fruity, don't have much in the way of tannins, and are much simpler than this.
The La Clotiere ($9, purchased) is a surprisingly un-simple wine. There is red fruit in the front, a bit of a middle, and a mineral-like finish common to red wines from the Loire. I chilled it, because that's what I do with $10 Beaujolais, but that made the wine worse. Serve this at room temperature with any simple, middle-of-the-week dinner, and it would also be perfect for French Bistro night (steak frites, anyone?)
The Wine Curmudgeon's feelings about expensive California cabernet sauvignon are well known: Over-oaked, over-extracted, over-ripe and over-priced.
And then I tasted the Chalk Hill ($50, sample) and marvelled again at what talented winemakers can do with quality grapes. It's certainly Sonoma County wine, with black fruit and moderate (for Sonoma, anyway) 14.5 percent alcohol.
But there was an angularity to it that was quite appealing, some edges and rough spots that one normally doesn't find in these kinds of lush, ripe wines. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was an herbal character, which is a mark of red Bordeaux. But even the impression of herbal is more than one gets in most wines of this style.
Very nicely done, and even a value as these things go. It would make a fine gift for The Holiday that Must not be Named, or as the center piece for a classic red wine dinner.
The Cave de Lugny ($11, purchased) is just such a wine. It’s almost unoaked, with some green apple and citrus at the front. If the mineral finish is a bit thin, it’s not unpleasant like so many California grocery store chardonnays, which reek of fake oak and other winemaker manipulation. I stumbled across this while looking for something to have on hand in case Icepocalypse: The Sequel kept me from wine shopping, and snapped it up. Cave de Lugny has a fine reputation as a grocery-store Burgundy producer (I especially like the Les Charmes, though it’s not $11 any more), and one could do a lot worse than this wine. Which, sadly, I have.
Drink this chilled on its own, with leftovers if you’re cleaning out the refrigerator after the power goes out, or for Chinese takeout. Assuming you can get to the restaurant for takeout in between the winter storms.
This is the second of two parts about cava, the Spanish sparkling wine — reviews of many of the cavas I tasted. The first part, an overview of cava, posted Feb. 3.
Mini-reviews of some of the cavas that I tasted during my Spanish adventure. Full disclaimer: The trip was paid for by cava producer Segura Viudas, which is part of one of the largest cava companies in the world. But no quid pro quo was part of the trip, and I have not agreed to write anything in exchange for being invited. The reviews, after the jump:
Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, is a conundrum. It's significantly less expensive than champagne, the French sparkling wine, which immediately makes it suspect among the Winestream Media. Their thinking, of course, is that something that isn't pricey can't be any good. Yet there is a not a thing wrong with cava, most of which deliver quality and value for around $10.
So, as a public service, the Wine Curmudgeon offers the Aria (sample, $13), since it is actually a little more than $10. (There are cavas that cost $20 and more, though they are rarely available in the U.S. I'll review several for those who are curious when I wrap up my Spain trip, paid for by Segura Viudas, later this week.)
The Aria is a little richer and more full bodied than basic cavas like Cristalino and Freixenet, and is probably a little closer in style to champagne. But it's still cava, with the typical fresh, clean lingering finish, a minimum of fruit, and a notable absence of yeast and oak. In all, a lot of wine for not a lot of money.
Serve this chilled on its own, or with most white wine dishes. It would also work with cold plates — Iberian ham, corned beef on rye, and the like.