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Category Archives: White wine

Wine of the week: Li Veli Fiano 2013

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 Li Veli Fiano The American fascination with chardonnay has always intrigued the Wine Curmudgeon. Given the hundreds of other white wines in the world, why do we insist on only drinking chardonnay? This is not a knock on the wine, which I love, but if all I drank was one kind of anything, I’d give up drinking.

Which brings us to the Li Veli Fiano ($12, purchased, 12.5%), an Italian white wine from the Puglia region in the country’s boot heel and produced by a company that usually offers value and quality. Best yet, it’s made with the fiano grape, which is not chardonnay but should appeal to those who don’t like to venture too far from it.

Look for white pepper, a hint of nuttiness, and some pear fruit, backed up by lots of freshness and zing — zesty, even. This is not an elegant wine, but it is well structured and offers much more than $12 of value. In this, it’s a  versatile wine, tasty on its own or pairing with almost every white wine dish you can think of — and yes, even a light cream sauce.

Highly recommended, and especially for anyone who wants to throw caution to the wind and drink something other than chardonnay.

Expensive wine 71: Jordan Chardonnay 2012

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jordan chardonnayThe world of California chardonnay has gone in so many directions over the past decade that it’s sometimes difficult to keep track. First, everything was toasty and oaky, then there was the backlash against toasty and oaky, and then there was the backlash against the backlash. Meanwhile, alcohol levels shot up by a point or more, giving us chardonnay that was hot as some zinfandels, close to 15 percent. Except when they weren’t.

Through all of this, a handful of producers ignored the trends and did what they did best. One is the Jordan chardonnay ($30, sample, 13.7%). Vintage after vintage, it’s dependable, well-made, and varietally correct. This, in the hipster world of California chardonnay, is often seen as damning with faint praise.

Which is foolish. What’s wrong with doing something correctly every year? The Jordan is the archetype for California Russian River Valley chardonnay, with green apple fruit, oak more or less in balance, and a rich mouth feel. This vintage is a little less oaky and more crisp, with a bit of apricot in the mix.

The Jordan chardonnay is better with food, and especially with classic chardonnay dishes made with cream sauces. But given the extra acidity in this vintage, don’t shy away from from roasted fish or chicken ballotine. Highly recommended (even for the holiday that must not be named), and regular visitors here know how fussy I am about chardonnay.

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.

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