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Category Archives: Red wine

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.

 

Wine of the week: Rene Barbier Red NV

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Rene Barbier RedThe Wine Curmudgeon has tasted some 15,000 wines since starting the blog seven years ago, and perhaps the biggest surprise was tasting the Rene Barber red 18 months ago. Somehow, a soft, fruity Spanish blend that was made for ice cubes and people who didn’t like red wine had turned into a $10 Hall of Fame effort.

The good news — the amazing news — is that 18 months later, the Barbier ($6, purchased, 13.5%) is still a terrific value, even at a higher price. The difference between this style and the previous, I’ve been told, is more merlot. How Spanish merlot can make that much difference is beyond me, but who am I to question the results?

Look for red fruit; a beginning, middle, and end; and even some tannins. It doesn’t taste New World, with a little darkness, but don’t expect something very Spanish like Aldi’s Vina Decana. And people who don’t like red wine may well still enjoy it. In this, the Barbier shows how Big Wine can uses its resources to make something that doesn’t insult our intelligence, either in quality or price.

One caveat: NV means non-vintage, so there’s no guarantee the next bottling will taste like this one. These kinds of wine are made to hit a certain price, and if better grapes are too expensive, the producer almost always switches to less expensive grapes, and the wine suffers in quality.

My lunch with Randall Grahm, part II

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Randall Grahm, part IIThis is the second of two parts detailing my recent chat with Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm. Today, reviews of the wine we tasted. Part I — Grahm on wine, winemaking, and the post-modern wine world.

My Boony Doon moment came during the 2011 Le Cigare Blanc. I said I liked it a lot, and Grahm smiled and offered that it would be even better when he added picpoul to the blend, which is currently grenache blanc and roussanne. Which demonstrates his creativity and passion, but also what Grahm admits may be a less than consumer-centric approach to winemaking. It’s not as if wine drinkers are clamoring for a $25 white blend made with three grapes they’ve never heard of.

But how dull the world would be if all we drank were chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. Which, of course, is part of Grahm’s reason for being, and why so many of us appreciate what he does. After the jump, the eight wines and cider we tasted (all were samples):

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