Tag Archives: wine reviews

Wine of the week: Cave de Lugny Macon-Villages 2009

Wine of the week: Cave de Lugny Macon-Villages 2009The French may have many faults as a wine-producing nation, be it genuflecting in Robert Parker’s direction or refusing to acknowledge the 21st century. But they still make the world’s best chardonnay — even grocery store chardonnay.

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.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s cava adventure, part II

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:

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Wine of the week: Segura Viudas Aria Estate Brut NV

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.

Mini-reviews 21: Bin 36, Simmonet-Febrve, Moncontour, Rodney Strong

Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

? Bin 36 Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($16, sample): A good example of what can be done to make affordable California cabernet in the style of Avalon and 337. This is rich and fruit forward, and though there isn’t much more than that, it also isn’t as simple as something like the many popular grocery store cabernets.

? Simonnet-Febvre Chablis 2008 ($20, sample) This French white had lots of acid, but also quite fruity (green apples?) for a Chablis. Though $20 is probably too much to spend on it, it was still quite nice to drink.

? Ch teau Moncontour Vouvray Brut NV ($18, sample): Would that someone in Texas (hint, hint) made bubbly of this quality. This French sparkling wine is made from chenin blanc, and has lots of acid balanced by sweet apple fruit at the back.

? Rodney Strong Pinot Noir 2009 ($18, sample): Another excellent effort from Rodney Strong — varietally correct, with cherry fruit, an almost cola-like aroma, some earthiness and pinot tannins. Given the silly prices for pinot noir, a decent value.

Wine of the week: Douro Altano 2008

The first time I tasted this wine, a Portuguese red blend, it was from the 2003 vintage and it was an outstanding $7 wine — almost $10 Hall of Fame worthy. The next vintage, the 2005, was less than impressive, overripe and flabby. The 2006 was better than the 2005, but not as good as the 2003.

This inconsistency has driven the Wine Curmudgeon crazy, since I really want to like the wine. As noted, there just aren’t that many nifty $10 reds out there these says. So when the 2008 was up to the 2003’s standards, I was ecstatic. This version of the Altano ($10, sample) manages to combine an Old World sturdiness with bright, dark fruit (prune-like, if that’s possible). It’s not especially tannic or acidic, but this doesn’t seem to be a problem. Pair it with any weeknight red wine dish, like meatloaf or stuffed bell peppers.

So why was this vintage so much better than the others? I checked with the producer’s Dallas representative, and he didn’t mince words. There were a variety of problems with the way the wine was made, like hiring port winemakers to make table wine. These problems, he says, have been fixed by the label’s new owners, and the ’08 was made by winemakers who specialize in table wine. Which is good news, and I’m looking forward to the next vintage.

Expensive wine 22: Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve 2007

Columbia Crest is known, if it’s known at all, as a grocery store wine producer. As such, there are probably more than a few people looking at the headline and wondering what the Wine Curmudgeon is babbling about.

In fact, many mass market wineries make super-premium wines. Beringer does a well-regarded $100 cabernet sauvignon as well as $7 white zinfandel, and another Columbia Crest wine, a reserve cabernet, was the Wine Spectator’s top label in 2009. And Columbia Crest is owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle of $8 riesling fame.

So you shouldn’t be surprised that the Walter Clore ($30, sample) is a top-notch red blend (cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc). Look for red berry New World fruit, but tastefully done, with the requisite acids and tannins to complement the fruit. It is far from one-dimensional, as too many red wines at this price can be that have either too much fruit or too much alcohol. All in all, very impressive and another example of how well-made Washington state red wine can be.

Pair this with traditional red wine meals — prime rib, steak, and the like. I had it with pot roast and spaetzle, and it actually worked better than a much more expensive Sonoma cabernet. It would also make a fine gift for red wine devotees, what with the Holiday That Must Not be Named coming up.

Wine of the week: Kanonkop Kadette 2008

South African red wine has always baffled the Wine Curmudgeon. Its shiraz is often little more than an Australian knockoff, and its signature grape, pinotage, is, to be polite, an acquired taste. There is also the infamous burnt rubber aroma, which shows up in many of the red wines.

So I did not have high hopes for the Kadette ($15, sample), a blend of pinotage, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. Nevertheless, it was easily the best pinotage I have ever had — and this is not damning with faint praise.

There is juicy New World berry fruit, but not overdone or too sweet as is the case with many California red wines at this price. Plus, moderate alcohol and soft tannins make it that much more interesting. The pinotage adds to the wine and doesn't overwhelm it; if I had tasted the Kadette blind, I'd have said it was a California Bordeaux-style blend. And no burnt rubber anywhere at all.

Serve the wine with pot roast and mashed potatoes, a rich, wintery and saucy meat lasagna, or even eggplant parmesan. The Kadette is a tremendous value.