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Category Archives: Wine of the week

Wine of the week: Milagro Vina Fuerte 2011

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Vina fuerteAldi’s Vina Decana, one of the great cheap wines in the 20-plus years I’ve been doing this, has apparently gone, leaving us almost as quickly as it appeared on the grocer’s store shelves. This is not unusual in wine, though I’ve never quite grown used to it. Wine can’t be made like a car, with a new model every year; there are too many vagaries of production, the supply chain, and the three-tier system.

The Decana’s replacement as Aldi’s private label Spanish tempranillo appears to be the Vina Fuerte ($5, purchased, 13%), though it’s from a different part of Spain. The first thing to know about the Fuerte is that it’s a perfectly competent red wine, and maybe even a little more than that, and certainly a value for $5. The problem is that it’s not the Decana, and it suffers by comparison.

Of course, almost any wine — and especially at this price — would. The Fuerte doesn’t have the Decana’s Spanish-style flair, and it’s not the kind of wine that makes you go, “Wow,” after the first sip. Rather, it’s more international in style, softer and with more oak showing, and cherry fruit instead of the Decana’s sour cherry. One plus, though: It does have the hint of orange peel that’s supposed to be there. This is red meat wine, though gentle enough for roast and grilled chicken.

Will I buy this again? Of course. The Fuerte is much better made than most of the boring — and even awful wine — for sale at this price. But I’ll always think of the Decana when I drink it.

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.

Wine of the week: Pennywise Petite Sirah 2012

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Pennywise Petite Sirah 2012The Wine Curmudgeon long ago accepted the fact that petite sirah didn’t taste like petite sirah, that it had been bastardized by Big Wine to taste like a darker fruit version of grocery store merlot on the cheap end and by high-end winemakers to taste like high-alcohol syrah or zinfandel.

So it is with great joy that I can report that the Pennywise ($12, sample, 13.5%), a California red wine, tastes like petite sirah. Really. And for only $12, which means it’s probably closer to $10 at many retailers.

Look for lots of plum, some herbal notes, quietly done fake oak, and even tannins and acidity to round everything out. The latter surprised me even more than the plum, since it seems to be the goal of most large producers to take tannins and acidity out of cheap red wine so as not to offend consumers (and that the wine suffers is just a minor inconvenience). How much did I like this wine? I’m recommending it even though the tasting notes say the finish includes “toasted cedar plank,” which is one of those descriptors that makes most of us reach for a beer.

This is a burger and weeknight pizza wine, in which the wine will do its job and make the food taste better. That’s a fine accomplishment for a $10 red wine. That it’s petite sirah is even better.

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