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Category Archives: White wine

Wine of the week: Hess Sauvignon Blanc Select 2014

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hess sauvignon blancThe knock against Big Wine is that it can’t make terroir-driven wines, because the formula that has given us better quality at lower prices works against that style. But that’s not necessarily true, and we have the Hess sauvignon blanc to prove the point.

Hess is among the 30 biggest producers in the U.S. and it sells six brands besides its namesake. So why is the Hess sauvignon blanc ($11, sample, 13.5%) a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame (since it’s probably $9.99 in many places)? Because not everyone in Big Wine uses the same formula, or any formula at all.

The Hess sauvignon blanc is a tremendous value, given that most sauvignon blanc at this price tastes like it came off an assembly line — a requisite amount of grapefruit, a hint of something tropical, and not much of a finish. This wine is the just the opposite. It shouts of the grassy aroma and flavor that defines California sauvignon blanc, and those are followed by some lemon fruit and a stony finish. Plus, it’s fresh and crisp, two of the qualities that make sauvignon blanc so attractive.

Highly recommended — wine from a producer that cares about quality, its customers, and charging a fair price for its products. Drink this chilled on its own, or with grilled or roasted chicken.

Wine of the week: Guy Saget La Petite Perriere Sauvignon Blanc 2014

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sagetThe crisis in the French wine business — too much overpriced wine, and too often crappy and overpriced wine — doesn’t apply to everyone in France. A variety of producers, who focus on the wine and not what the marketing department tells them to make, deliver quality and value. Guy Saget, whose family business dates to Napoleon and the French Revolution, is an excellent example.

The winery, like many of the best French producers, combines tradition and post-modern winemaking to make wine that actually tastes like wine and not grape juice with alcohol. The sauvignon blanc ($13, sample, 12.5%) demonstrates how successfully they do this. For one thing, it’s varietally correct — French sauvignon blanc that tastes like it came from France, with just enough citrus to be noticeable, but mostly minerality and a pleasing green quality that the tasting notes call fern.

For another, the grapes come from throughout France and not just the Loire, which lowers the price by about a third without substantially reducing quality. This is an everyday practice in California (see the Joel Gott sauvignon blanc), but isn’t nearly as common in France, where centuries of tradition make it more difficult to do.

Highly recommended, and especially for past vintages, which cost as little as $10. Serve this chilled with almost any summer salad, grilled chicken, or boiled seafood.

Wine of the week: Bodegas La Cana Rías Baixas 2013

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La Cana Rias BaixasJust when the Wine Curmudgeon thinks he has squeezed every last penny of value out of Spanish wine, he finds something like the La Cana Rías Baixas.

Call it one more amazing wine in what seems to be a never ending succession of amazing Spanish wines. The La Cana ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is made with albarino, fast becoming the hipsters’ favorite Spanish white grape. Do not hold that against the wine, though. Somehow, and for just $10, it shows off albarino’s varietal citrus fruit in the front (a lemon-limey thing?), tropical fruit in the middle, a long finish, and even a bit of the salty tang that legend says comes from the grapes being grown so close to the sea in the Rias Baixas region in Galicia on the northwest coast.

The La Cana could use a little more acidity to balance the tropical fruit, but then it would cost $18 and would be the hipsters’ much beloved Paco and Lola albarino. Which is a nice wine, but why pay $18 when you can pay $10?

Highly recommended, and almost certain for inclusion in the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. This is seafood wine, and especially boiled seafood (shrimp or crawfish) on the back porch as the weather warms up. And oysters and mussels wouldn’t be a bad choice, either.

 

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