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Category Archives: Italian wine

Wine of the week: Melini Chianti Borghi d’Elsa 2013

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Melini ChiantiThis summer, the Wine Curmudgeon attended a big-time Italian trade tasting, which included five Chiantis from the Melini producer. None of them cost more than $25 or $30, which is saying something for big-time Italian trade tastings.

All of which means that the 300-year-old Melini knows a thing or two about making quality cheap wine, and the Borghi d’Elsa ($7, purchased, 13%) amply demonstrates this expertise. It’s a red wine made with sangiovese from the Chianti region of Italy, and every time I taste it, I’m surprised by how well done it is. Look for berry fruit, more black than red, clean and fresh, and just enough character — some tannins and earthiness — to let you know this is wine from Italy. It’s a simple wine, but as I have noted before, simple does not have to mean stupid.

The other that impresses me about the Melini Chianti? The company doesn’t waste money on the bottle, which is lightweight and without much of a punt. Would that other cheap wine producers did the same thing.

This is winter red sauce wine, and braised pot roast wouldn’t be so bad, either. If it’s not quite a $10 Hall of Fame wine, it’s still better than most of the $10 wine on store shelves, and shows just how much great cheap wine there is in the world.

Wine of the week: Planeta La Segreta Bianco 2012

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 Planeta La Segreta What makes a great cheap wine? First, more quality than the cost. Second, consistency from vintage to vintage, so that quality doesn’t suffer to keep the price down. Third, terroir — does the wine taste like where it came from?

Which is why Sicilian wine has been seen so many times on the blog over the past several years, and why the Segreta red and white blends from La Planeta have so often been part of that. This vintage of the Bianco ($8, purchased, 12.5%) is no exception — it has everything a great cheap wine should have:

• The cost/quality ratio should embarrass other regions (are you listening, California?), with top-notch fruit and professional winemaking that uses the fruit to its best advantage. That means no tricks like fake oak to cover up a flaw.

• This wine, though it doesn’t taste exactly the same as the 2010, is of the same high quality.

• And it does taste of Sicily, with white fruit and citrus, thanks to the island’s grecancio grape, which is half the blend. If this vintage is not as rich as the 2010, it’s fresher and a little more food friendly. It’s grilled seafood and chicken wine, as well as hummus and pitas

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame. I should also note the screwcap, and the very well done back label, which includes the phrase “a great everyday wine.” Would that others were so direct about the wine they make, and not try to convince us that their grocery store merlot is one of the great wines of the world.

Wine of the week: Astoria Prosecco NV

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Astoria ProseccoThe Wine Curmudgeon, slowly but surely, is understanding Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine. First, because I’m making an effort to appreciate it, and not to dismiss Prosecco because it doesn’t taste the way I want it to taste. Second, because Prosecco winemaking has improved, so the wines are not just sweet and fizzy; also, that it’s possible to find these better quality wines on store shelves because the wine has improved so much.

Case in point is the Astoria ($13, sample, 11%), one of the best Proseccos I’ve had in a long while. It wasn’t just sweet, which made it wine and not the product of a focus group. In fact, it was interesting, with all sorts of things going on, and that’s not something I usually get to write when I write about Prosecco.

Look for lemon and apple fruit, enough sweetness to make you wonder if it is sweet, and soft but long-lasting bubbles. Another problem with too many Proseccos is that the bubbles are sometimes like a flat soft drink. There is even a sort of minerally finish, which is again unexpected. Highly recommended, and the kind of wine to keep on hand as the holidays approach. This would pair well with Thanksgiving — light enough for a long meal, but well made enough so that it complements and doesn’t overwhelm the food.

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