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Category Archives: Red wine

Wine of the week: Banfi CollePino 2014

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Banfi CollePino Grocery store wine, and especially grocery store wine from the biggest companies, takes a lot of abuse on the blog (and deservedly so). So when Big Wine does grocery store wine right, it’s worth noting, and that’s why you’re reading about the Banfi CollePino.

Banfi is among the top 20 biggest producers in the U.S. which makes the Banfi CollePino ($9, sample, 13%) all that much more interesting. That’s because it shows what Big Wine can do when it aims for more then technical correctness — that is, boring wine made without any flaws. In this, the CollePino is varietally correct, so that it’s made with sangiovese and tastes like sangiovese, with the telltale tart cherry fruit, a certain freshness, and soft tannins. It’s also worth noting that these wines need some oak to temper the, bu that it it has almost no oak and yet what little oak there is has done its job. This is a testament to Big Wine’s technical ability.

But that may not be the CollePino’s greatest asset. It’s made with a bit of merlot, which softens the sangiovese and produces a wine that’s soft enough so that it won’t scare off the grocery store smooth wine drinkers who are, I assume, its target audience. But those of us who want more than smooth should also be happy, and especially if we drink it with anything with red sauce. Highly recommended, and candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame.

Expensive wine 86: Louis Latour Corton Grand Cru 2004

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Latour Corton Grand CruIt has always been difficult to understand the post-modern French haste to sell their wine birthright to anyone who will pony up too much money for a mediocre product. Why make overpriced plonk to get a high score when you can do it the right way and make something that has amazed the world for centuries?

Case in point is the Latour Corton Grand Cru ($365, sample, 14%), which is everything French wine has been and should be. This is red Burgundy, pinot noir from the Corton section in Burgundy, and any discussion of Corton involves hundreds of years of history and which particular spot on a hill in Corton the grapes came from. If that’s the starting point, why do you need anything else?

I tasted this wine at the Sunday night dinner for Critics Challenge judges, attended by the handful of us who have to stay an extra night. The judges bring wine (I brought some Texas, of course, which was well received), and competition organizer Robert Whitley adds some from his cellar. This came from Robert, and it was the kind of wine that makes you pause after a sip to wonder how it’s possible to make that kind of wine.

The Latour Corton Grand Cru was earthy and dark, but because 2004 was a warm vintage, it also had more red fruit than I expected. Yet those descriptors are almost useless, because this wine won’t be ready to drink for at least five or six years, and probably longer. That means it’s certainly delicious now, but hasn’t aged long enough to bring the whole into focus, and is too young for the various components to have come together. The best analogy I can think of? Marinating a piece of beef or chicken, where the ultimate goal is not to taste the marinade, but to make the beef or chicken taste better.

Highly recommended, and don’t worry too much about the price. That has been skewed by demand in Asia, where a bottle costs more than five times what it costs in Europe. I found this wine for €44 France, about US$60. Not cheap, but more than fair considering what you get.

Mini-reviews 83: Muscadet, Masseria Surani, Toad Hollow, Chateau Ste. Michelle

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muscadetReviews 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.

Domaine de la Quilla Muscadet 2014 ($13, purchased, 12%): Muscadet is under-appreciated in this country, not only because the name is so different but because the style — clean, tart, and lemony without a trace of softness — isn’t popular. This is an excellent example of Muscadet (made with the equally unappreciated melon de bourgone grape in the Loire region of France), though it would be better a couple of bucks cheaper.

Masseria Surani Ares 2012 ($10, purchased, 13%): Not much Italian style in this red blend from the Puglia region in the bootheel; it’s mostly fruit forward (cherry) in the international style. But as Cellar Tracker user Merky_Waters wrote: “This is a nice break from all the California blends on the market. No earth, definitely fruit forward but not too clumsy and not sweet.” Why someone in Puglia would emulate California is a question for another day.

Toad Hollow Rose 2015 ($14, sample, 11.5%): Better than previous vintages and closer to what it was when this California rose was one of the great cheap wines of all time, but still missing something — and the price increase from last year doesn’t help. You can buy much better roses for $4 or $5 less. Looks for lots of strawberry fruit, but not much else.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Pinot Gris 2014 ($11, purchased, 13%): One more in what is getting to be a long line of bitter, not all that pleasant sub-$15 pinot gris from quality producers. I have no idea why this is, but there is no excuse for making wine that tastes this way. The Chateau Ste. Michelle from Washington state has some apple fruit, but that’s not enough to save this white wine.

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