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Category Archives: Wine of the week

Wine of the week: Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red NV

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Rene Barbier Mediterranean RedThe Wine Curmudgeon has pretty much had it with the wine business over the last three or four months, as regular visitors here probably noticed the moaning and complaining. The cranky meter has been turned up to 11, but why not? Most of the samples since April have been insipid and flabby, and were so overpriced they wouldn’t have been worth buying even if they had been drinkable. I’ve dumped more wine down the drain since Tax Day than I usually do in two years.

Fortunately, there is the Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red ($5, purchased, 12.5%), the merlot and tempranillo blend from Spain that has had a well-deserved spot in the $10 Hall of Fame for several years. How a very cheap wine offers so much that wines costing three or four times more don’t have speaks to the cynicism and tomfoolery that is dominating the wine business these days.

Look for red fruit that tastes like wine, and not cherry cough syrup or Hawaiian Punch; soft but noticeable tannins, which so many of these wines have abandoned in their quest to cram in as much sweet fruit as possible; and a finish that is neither bitter, green, nor annoying. It’s a wonder of winemaking in the post-modern world, and it’s one I appreciate so much that I bought a case. I use it to wash out the taste of the more expensive samples.

Serve the Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red whenever you want a glass after work (it has a screwcap now) or with any sort of summer red wine dinner. And don’t be afraid to chill it, which doesn’t dull the wine at all.

Vinho verde review 2015

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vinho verde review 2015There is good news for the vinho verde review 2015, a welcome development after last year’s vinho verde oddness that included expensive vinho verde of surprisingly poor quality. Each of the four wines I tasted were well made and worth buying, and three of them surpassed expectations.

Vinho verde is the cheap Portuguese white wine with a little fizz and a greenish tint, sometimes slightly sweet and perfect for summer.  Our vinho verde primer is here; these wines will get you started. If the prices seem high, I bought three at Whole Foods, which isn’t shy about markups, so they’re probably a couple of bucks less elsewhere.

Broadbent Vinho Verde NV ($8, purchased, 9%): Maybe the best vinho verde I’ve ever tasted, in that it tastes like wine and not a fizzy wine cooler. Look for almost apple aromas, apple and lime fruit, and a stony finish. Highly recommended.

Santola Vinho Rose NV ($8, purchased, 11%): This pink vinho, made with red grapes, was much better than it should have been — not sweet, and with a strawberry-lemon flavor. That it doesn’t have much going on after the fruit and a sort of a bitter finish isn’t necessarily a problem.

Famega Vinho Verde NV ($6, purchased, 10.5%): One of the biggest producers offers a wine that is more sour this year and less fruity, but with decent enough fizz. It was a step up from the usual slightly sweet version.

Santola Vinho Verde NV ($8, purchased, 9%): This is the other big producer, called Sonalto in some parts of the country, and known for its crab label. This year’s effort was typical — fresh, spritzy, a touch of lime, and a hint of sweetness.

For more on vinho verde:
Vinho verde review 2014
Vinho verde review 2013
Vinho verde review 2012

Wine of the week: Shannon Ridge Wrangler Red 2012

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shannon ridge wrangler redThere are a variety of red blends from California, usually older vintages from smaller wineries, that you won’t find unless you dig through the bottom shelves at your local retailer. The Wine Curmudgeon, who is infamous for this sort of behavior, found the Clayhouse, Josh Cellars, and Stephen Vincent reds this way.

My most recent shelf digging turned up the Shannon Ridge Wrangler Red ($14, purchased, 13.9%), a blend from from Lake County, a region probably better known for its whites. Nevertheless, the red — a combination of zinfandel, syrah, petite sirah, and cabernet sauvignon — was more than up to the standards set by the region’s whites. It had a most welcome freshness, without any of the cloying fruit that dominates so many of these kinds of wines.

Look for red fruit (cherries and raspberries?), but much more than fruit, including a surprising depth from the cabernet that most winemakers don’t bother with when they make this style of red blend. The oak was a little top heavy, but given the wine’s age, it didn’t get in the way and even sort of faded as the bottle emptied. Drink this with any summer barbecue; it’s the kind of wine to sip while you’re grilling burgers and getting ready for Fourth of July fireworks.

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