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Category Archives: Wine of the week

Wine of the week: Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2013

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Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2009This South African white is one of the world’s great cheap wines. So why did I have to taste it in a restaurant in San Diego, instead of buying it in a store in Dallas?

You know the reason for that: the three tier-system.

But the Wine Curmudgeon will not let that deter him from his life’s work. What’s a constitutionally-protected regulatory system when terrific cheap wine is at stake?

Because the Ken Forrester ($10, purchased, 13%) is terrific – a surprisingly rich mouth feel given this is $10 chenin blanc, plus green apple fruit, a tiny hint of honey in the middle, and even some minerality on the finish. In this, it’s the kind of chenin — not sweet, not syrupy, not a sauvignon blanc knockoff, but with character and interest — that makes me wonder why the grape isn’t more popular. I rarely quote producer websites, but this is spot on: “Perfect everyday drinking wine.”

Especially if you live in the ninth largest city in the country where 100-degree summer days cry out for this kind of wine. Or, as several of my colleagues said when we bought the wine in San Diego, “What do you mean, you can’t buy this in Dallas?” Which, come to think of it, has always been a problem.

Highly recommended, but since it’s not for sale in Dallas, it can’t be in the $10 Hall of Fame. Unless I change the rules, but I don’t run that kind of Hall of Fame.

 

Wine of the week: Guy Saget Pinot Noir La Petite Perriere 2012

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guy saget pinot noirRegular visitors here know how difficult it is to find affordable pinot noir that tastes like pinot noir, even if you’re willing to spend as much as $20. The weak dollar is one reason, but quality Oregon and California pinots are equally as pricey. It’s just the way pinot is — the cheap stuff, even if it’s worth drinking, doesn’t taste like pinot, and the expensive stuff, even if it tastes like pinot, is priced beyond all but five percent of us.

That’s why I tried the Saget pinot noir ($13, sample, 12.5%), even though my hunch was that it would be difficult to find unless you lived in a big city with a top-notch independent wine shop. But the Wine Curmudgeon was that desperate.

The good news is that the wine is well worth looking for. The Saget is labeled French, which means the grapes to make it came from all over the country. This has not been a common practice for quality wines, but is becoming more common after the European Union relaxed appellation rules. The result is a delightful and refreshing pinot, with red berry fruit and a hint of tannins and oak. In one respect, it’s almost Beaujolais in style, but without the grapiness. What I liked best is that it tastes more or less like inexpensive Oregon pinot, when there was inexpensive Oregon pinot.

The Saget is light enough for summer and simple dinners anytime of year, but pinot enough to be enjoyable. Highly recommended, and I hope you can find it. There’s a retail location widget on the importer’s website, and that’s the first place to look.

Wine of the week: Sara Bee Moscato NV

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sara bee moscato Sweet wine is not easy to review, and this doesn’t even take into account that a lot of sweet wine isn’t worth reviewing — poorly made, sweeter than Coke, and as cynical as a carnival barker. Many of the Wine Curmudgeon’s readers — half? more? — will skip this review in annoyance and some will even cancel their email subscription in disgust.

But let it not be said that I am easily intimidated.

The Italian Sara Bee Moscato ($7, purchased, 5.5%) is one of the best sweet wines I’ve tasted in years, and especially at this price. Yes, it’s sweet — probably somewhere around a high-end soft drink like Jones Soda — but there is plenty of orange fruit aroma, common to the moscato grape, apricot, some wonderful “fermentato,” which translates into light, fun bubbles, and even a bit of crispness (usually missing in most sweet wines at this price).

I drank it with some delicately-spiced Indian takeout, and the sweetness correctly played off the spice. It would also work as a dessert wine; something with chocolate, perhaps? Sweet wine drinkers, of course, won’t bother with any of that. Chill it well, add an ice cube or two if you want, and enjoy.

So what’s the catch? The Sara Bee is made by Santero, a dependable producer of grocery-store priced Italian sparkling wine, but this is a private label for the Trader Joe’s chain. This means two things: Trying to get information about the wine is almost impossible, since Trader Joe’s doesn’t like to return phone calls, and you can’t buy it anywhere else. If you’re in a state without a Trader Joe’s or one that doesn’t sell wine — in New York and Pennsylvania, for instance — you’re out of luck.

This is a $10 Hall of Fame wine, but because of the availability problems, I probably won’t add it next year. But if you have $7, are near a Trader Joe’s that sells wine, and are curious about the Sara Bee, don’t hesitate to try it.

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