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Category Archives: French wine

Wine of the week: Hugel Gentil “Hugel” 2013

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Hugel GentilWhen I started doing this, Alsatian wine was one of the world’s great values and the Hugel Gentil was $10 Hall of Fame quality wine. Then the euro gained in value against the dollar, the Alsatians didn’t try told the line on price, and that was that. There were still nice wines, but didn’t offer the value they once had.

Fast forward to 2016, when wine value is going to hell in a handbasket. The Hugel Gentil ($13, purchased, 12.5%) is about the same price it was five or six years ago, but given how much junk is out there at $13, it has become a value once again. Which pleased the Wine Curmudgeon, not only because I like the wine but because it once helped someone who didn’t drink much wine impress several business colleagues when she picked it off a confusing wine list.

In this, the Hugel Gentil is an old standby that remains all that it should be — a soft, enjoyable, riesiing-ish blend that is made with riesling as well as most of the white grapes grown in the Alsace region of France. It’s not sweet, but it is comfortable and easy, with ripe white fruit and and a flowery aroma. It’s the kind of wine that fits nicely between all the sweet riesling with cute labels that give riesling a bad name and those gorgeous German rieslings that we can’t afford to buy.

Drink this chilled on its own, or pair with with almost any grilled or sauteed fish.

Mini-reviews 82: Mateus, Kermit Lynch, Muga, Yealands

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Kermit lynchReviews 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.

Mateus Rose NV ($5, purchased, 11%): I don’t remember this wine, popular when I was in high school, tasting like raspberry 7 Up. But that was a long time ago. The wine has been repackaged since then, so that it’s in a clear glass bottle instead of the traditional green and doesn’t look quite the same as it did. And maybe it did taste like raspberry 7 Up all those years ago, which isn’t offensive — just odd.

Chateau Graville-Lacoste Graves 2014 ($20, purchased, 12%): The legendary Kermit Lynch imports this French white Bordeaux, and it’s another example why you should buy any wine that has Lynch’s name on it. Look for freshness, minerality, and a clean sort of citrus flavor. Well worth every penny of the $20 it cost.

Muga Rioja Reserva 2011 ($23, purchased, 13%): This Spanish tempranillo blend from one of my favorite producers was much lusher and fruitier than I expected, without as much of the tart cherry acidity and herbal appeal that I like about wines from the Rioja region. Having said that, it’s well worth drinking, and should age for close to forever. As it does, the fruit and oak will probably give way to more traditional flavors.

• Peter Yealands Pinot Gris 2014 ($12, purchased, 13%): Why grocery store wine makes me crazy. Yealands is a respected New Zealand producer, and this white should have been delicious. But the bottle I bought was a previous vintage that was bitter and pithy on the back, and much of the fruit, freshness and crispness — hallmarks of pinot gris — were gone. Who knows how long it was sitting and baking in some warehouse? Did anyone at Kroger care?

Expensive wine 83: Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2011

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Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte BlancIs any wine worth $100 a bottle? That’s the question the Wine Curmudgeon has been agonizing over since I started this wine thing all those years ago, and I still don’t know that I have an answer. But I do know how much fun it was to taste the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2011 ($100, sample, 13%) to try to find the answer.

The Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc is a beautiful wine, a white Bordeaux that takes what most of us know about that blend and says, “Close your eyes, taste this, and don’t say anything quite yet.” There is so much going on, so many layers of flavor — lemon, honey, almonds, spring flowers, peaches, minerality — that I don’t even know where to start to describe it. It’s also very young; the layers overlap and nudge each other, each vying for attention. Eventually — two years? three? four ? — they’ll start to blend, and the wine will be that much more impressive.

Finally, a word about oak. Regular visitors here know how I feel, that oak should be part of the wine and not its reason for being. Also, white Bordeaux, given that it’s made with sauvignon blanc, is difficult to oak well. The Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc turns all of that on its head, and the oak is another layer that adds quality, flavor, and complexity — and it too, will eventually blend into the whole.

Highly recommended, and a wonderful gift for anyone who loves and cares about wine. And if you do taste it, let me know if it answers the $100 question.

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