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Mini-reviews 66: Les Griottes, Ecco Domani, Rios de Chile, Rauzan Despagne

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wine reviews ecco domaniReviews 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.

• Pierre-Marie Chermette Les Griottes 2013 ($19, purchased, 12%): Very pretty rose form Beaujolais made with gamay that has cranberry fruit and a hint of gamay’s grapiness. The catch, of course, is that it’s twice the price of a quality $10 rose without being anywhere close to twice as good. Hence, almost no reason to buy it.

Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio 2013 ($12, sample, 12.5%): This Italian white, one of the leading grocery store pinot grigios, is neither good nor bad. It just is — traditional tonic water flavor blended with a sweet pear middle. Which is why it sells millions of cases. It’s overpriced at $12, but you’ll probably be able to find it for as little as $8 if you really want to.

Rios de Chile Pinot Noir Reserva 2011 ($12, sample, 13.5%): Another competent, well-priced Chilean pinot noir that doesn’t have much to do with red Burgundy, but tastes more like pinot noir than its American cousins, the Mark Wests of the world. Simple but enjoyable, with some spice and berry fruit.

Château Rauzan Despagne Grand Réserve 2011 ($10, purchased, 13.5%): Professional, French red blend from Bordeaux that is mostly merlot, with berry fruit and some earthiness. It’s a little thin through the middle, but that may be the wine getting old.

Christopher Kimball: “Wine is too hard”

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christopher kimball wineGood news for those of us who care about wine. The past decade’s enthusiasm for food and home cooking, which has given us the slow food, local food, and the farm to table movements, as well as consumers paying attention to how their food is made, could soon come to wine.

“Someone needs to come along and make wine simple,” says Christopher Kimball, the proprietor of the America’s Test Kitchen empire, which includes TV and radio shows, cookbooks, and Cook’s Illustrated magazine. He’ll be in Dallas on Oct. 29 with the America’s Test Kitchen road show, part of a fall tour that would wear out a rock star.

“The problem,” says Kimball, “is that wine is too complicated. But someone will probably come along and fix that.”

His perspective is worth paying attention to, if only because Kimball is an intelligent and successful food person who says he was always confused by wine. Are you listening, Winestream Media?

“Wine is where cooking was in Julia’s era,” says Kimball, who was friends with Julia Child, the U.S. cooking icon. “It’s a hobby. If you tried to make one of Julia’s recipes, it could hard and complicated. That’s where wine is. It’s confusing and incredibly complex. Beer is simple. Wine isn’t. There are scores and terms and regions to learn. Does the difference between Bordeaux and Burgundy really matter to most people?”

Hmmm. We’ve heard that before, haven’t we?

But Kimball, who finally got a handle on wine by forgetting the complicated stuff and focusing on what he wanted to drink, says wine is on the cusp of where food and cooking was at the end of the 20th century. That’s when the Food Network, a renewed interest in quality ingredients, and more people with more time to cook, made extra virgin olive oil — which almost no store carried when I started working in the newspaper business — a household staple and things like kale and quinoa started showing up in the most unlikely places.

The catch, Kimball says, “is that someone needs to come along and make wine simple in the way wine is simple for the French. You have it with every meal, like bread, and there are only two kinds, good and bad.” But he expects that to happen sooner, rather than later.

The Wine Curmudgeon is working for sooner.

For more on wine and America’s Test Kitchen:
America’s Test Kitchen finally figures out wine
America’s Test Kitchen and wine gadgets

Wine of the week: Moulin de Gassac Guilhem 2013

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Moulin de Gassia GuilhemThe Wine Curmudgeon is a sucker for wines made with less known grapes from less known parts of the world. That’s because the revolution in winemaking and grape growing technology over the past 20 years has allowed these regions to improve quality with grapes that aren’t in great demand. Hence, a much better chance of quality wine for less money.

The Guilhem ($12, purchased, 12.5%) is a case in point. It’s a white blend from a little known part of the Languedoc in southern France, and the Languedoc remains little known itself. The wine is made with grenache blanc, terret blanc, and sauvignon blanc. Those first two grapes are obscure even for wine geeks, and it’s not like this part of France is famous for sauvignon blanc, either.

The result is a Hall of Fame quality wine that is just €5 in France, and yet another example why so much of what we find on the Great Wall of Wine in the grocery store makes me crazy. The Guilhem bears some resemblance to a white Rhone blend, with white fruit aromas and some spiciness. But it’s not oily or heavy, instead featuring red apple crispness — almost juiciness — and just enough minerality to be noticeable. The bottle, chilled, was empty in a half hour, and I was irritated I hadn’t bought two of them.

In this, it’s the kind of wine that demonstrates the advantages of a quality, independent retailer. I bought it from Cody Upton, a long-time pal and one of the most knowledgeable wine people I know. Cody, who is working at Pogo’s in Dallas, asked me how much I wanted to spend — tongue firmly in cheek — and then walked right to this. Does customer service get any better than that?

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