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Category Archives: White wine

Wine of the week: Ocean Blue Chardonnay 2013

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Ocean Blue ChardonnayOne of the most important trends in the wine business is the increase in private label wines, which give retailers an exclusive to sell and a bigger profit margin when they do. The catch is that private label wines, which are sold in only one retailer and can be limited in availability, are too often of indifferent quality.

That’s not the case with the Ocean Blue Chardonnay ($9, purchased, 12.5%), a private label for the Aldi grocery store chain. This New Zealand white is unoaked, which helps to keep the price down and gives it a bright and fresh approach. In addition, there is lots of crisp green apple and a rich mouth feel despite the lack of oak.

In this, it’s not especially subtle, but $10 New Zealand wine has never been famous for being understated. That’s how the country’s sauvignon blanc became famous, after all. And those who need vanilla or toasty and oaky in their chardonnay will probably wonder what it’s doing here.

But those of us who are more open minded about chardonnay will appreciate the wine’s value. Drink this chilled, on its own or with white wine food, and even something with a simple sauce. Grilled chicken breasts with garlic and parsley, perhaps? And hope more private labels approach this level of quality.

Wine of the week: Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco 2011

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Order by noon Monday for holiday delivery for the cheap wine book


Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco Many of us who were liberal arts students in the 1970s spent a lot of time with European history, and one of the things we learned is that national borders were flexible. Unlike the U.S., where we believe in mostly straight lines that are always the same, European borders have changed frequently over the past 500 years. A war, a new ruler, or a dynastic marriage, and part of one country would become part of another without any trouble at all.

What does this have to do with wine? A lot, actually, as only the Wine Curmudgeon would take the time to point out. Northern Italy wasn’t Italian the way we understand it for most of those of 500 years, but part of various German-speaking states, including the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Which means there is a tradition in Northern Italy of wine producers with German-sounding last names making wine with German grapes.

Alois Lageder does it, and so does the Tiefenbrunner family, as the pinot bianco ($15, purchased, 13%) demonstrates. Hence a label that says both pinot bianco and weissburgunder, the grape’s German name (which is pinot blanc in French) on it. Pinot bianco is softer and more floral than pinot grigio, and is much more enjoyable at the lower prices I write about.

This wine is an excellent example of pinot bianco. Look for green apple fruit with an undercurrent of something almost tropical, lots of white flower aromas, and a minerality and acidity that don’t overwhelm the wine the way they can in pinot grigio. That I bought a previous vintage, and paid more than I usually do, attests to the Tiefenbrunner quality. Highly recommended, even at $15.

Wine of the week: Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2011

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Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc This is not the current vintage of South Africa’s Mulderbosch chenin blanc ($12, purchased, 13.5%). In fact, it’s two vintages old; the current is the 2013. But it’s the best I could do in Dallas, where we view chenin blanc as the spawn of the devil and a wine to be ignored at all costs.

Nevertheless, it’s worth reviewing for three reasons: First, because it’s a quality white wine, as almost all Mulderbosch wines are. Second, because there is still a lot of it around, given the way South African wine is viewed by retailers and consumers in this country. Third, because the oh so haute wine bar where I bought it needs to be called out for selling a past vintage at suggested retail when the wine bar almost certainly bought it at a tremendous discount.

The Wine Curmudgeon is a big fan of Mulderbosch, which avoids many of the pitfalls — chasing trends, celebrity wine — that plague other South African producers. Its rose has been in and out of the $10 Hall of Fame (mostly because the price fluctuates), and the chenin is equally as impressive. If nothing else, that a three-year-old wine aged this well speaks volumes about the effort that went into making it.

The Mulderbosch is not fruity, like a California chenin, and it doesn’t have the slate finish that the best French chenins have. Rather, it’s a little rich and leans toward chardonnay, with subtle apple and pear fruit, qualities that almost certainly come from age. It also has an interesting spiciness, as well as a little oak. Given that oak is usually superfluous in this kind of wine, it’s quite well done and adds some heft.

This is real wine — serve it with roasted and grilled chicken, or even main course salads. It deserves more attention and respect than it gets, and especially from a retailer who treats it as a cash cow and not as real wine.

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