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Category Archives: $10 wine

Wine review: Rene Barbier Mediterranean White NV

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Wine review: rene barbier Mediterranean white NVThe Wine Curmudgeon’s enthusiasm for cava, the sparkling wine from Spain, is well known. It’s cheap and well made — no doubt much of the wine world shakes its head and sighs every time I recite its wonders. But how can I help myself? It’s $10. And it tastes like this. And this. And this.

So what does this have to do with the Barbier ($5, purchased, 11.5%), a white blend from Spain? It’s made with the same grapes that cava is made from, and tastes mostly like cava without the bubbles — some lemon with a bit of tartness (like a lemon square minus the sugar?). It’s not as well done as most cavas and it won’t win any awards, and when I tell people how much I like it, they shake their head and sigh yet again. But it’s clean and refreshing and it doesn’t have any flaws, and it only costs $5. How many other wines at that price can you say that about?

Serve this well chilled (an ice cube never hurts it), and drink it with almost anything that isn’t red meat. And, if and when winter ever ends, this is the kind of wine that makes porch sipping such a pleasure.

Finally, a sad note: Rene Barbier also makes an excellent $5 rose, and I just tasted it again — fruitier than other Spanish roses, but well-made and a step up from the white. So, of course, because the wine business works this way, the rose is being phased out. No more will be made after this year. Which means that if you see it in a store, buy a case, because you won’t be able to buy it again.

Wine of the week: Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc 2013

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Wine of the week: Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc 2013Whenever the Wine Curmudgeon gets depressed about the quality of cheap California wine, Joel Gott’s wines always cheer me up. Gott not only makes impressive cheap wine, but he is passionate and committed about it, and believes that consumers deserve the best value possible for their money. Would that more California producers felt that way.

Case in point is the 2013 sauvignon blanc ($12, purchased, 13.9%). This is top-of-the line California sauvignon blanc, comparable to wines that cost as much as $10 more. Look for citrus (lemon and not grapefruit) and trademark California grassiness (the smell of a freshly cut lawn) in the front, but also some tropical fruit (melon?) in the middle, a quality most of the people who make cheap wine don’t bother with.

It’s not quite as impressive as the 2012, but that may be because it had just been bottled when I tasted it. Regardless, and assuming I can find it later this year for $10, it’s a candidate for the 2015 Hall of Fame.

Pair the sauvignon blanc, chilled, with grilled seafood or roast chicken, or drink on its own. And, when you do, toast someone who understands that most of us want quality wine we can afford to drink every day, and who makes wine for that purpose.

Wine of the week: Le Coq Rouge 2012

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Le Coq Rouge The Le Coq Rouge is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge wine before you taste it. Because it offers plenty of reasons to do just that:

• Cutesy label. How many chickens, birds, and assorted fowl have we endured over the years?

• Odd Rolling Stones referece in marketing material, because Coq Rouge means Red Rooster in French, and the Stones covered Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster.”

• Descriptors that bear no relationship to the wine, including “a lovely mix of chocolate and vanilla” and “wooded notes” — whatever that is.

Chalk it up to French marketing envy, under the mistaken impression that American consumers need that kind of foolishness. What does matter is the wine’s pedigree and what’s in the bottle, and both are impressive.

The Le Coq Rouge ($10, sample, 13.5%) is from the company run by Sacha Lichine, whose father was the legendary Alexis Lichine, one of the men who gets credit for introducing Americans to wine. The wine is mostly grenache, with enough red fruit to be pleasant but not so much as to confuse it with other, more over the top critter wines. It also has a bit of a back and soft tannins; in this, it’s a more modern version of another red blend from southern France, La Vielle Ferme, but more consistent and better made.

A tip ‘o the Curmudgeon’s fedora to Chris Keel at Put a Cork in It, who did a tasting with this wine when I did a cheap wine book signing at his store last month and put me on to the Coq Rouge. Because, otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered, despite my best intentions.

 

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