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Category Archives: Wine of the week

Wine of the week: Toad Hollow Chardonnay 2012

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Toad Hollow Chardonnay One of the most difficult things about buying cheap wine is consistency. Given the way the system works, where production costs often matter more than quality, a great $10 wine one vintage is no guarantee of a great $10 wine the next vintage. Right, Meridian?

Fortunately, the Toad Hollow Chardonnay ($12, sample, 13.9%) is usually immune from that process. It has its up and downs since it was first made 20 years ago, but those are more likely vintage differences than pencil pushers squeezing the bottom line. When the wine is right, and the 2012 is the best vintage in several years, un-oaked chardonnay don’t get much better than this, even for wines that cost $15 or $18. It’s even a value at the suggested retail price of $12. If you can find it at $10, which it often is with grocery store discount cards, buy a case.

Look for green apple fruit in the front, a little tropical something or other in the middle, and some stoniness in the back. This is a clean and refreshing wine, without the fake oak used to make so many other wines at this price. But it also has some body, so it’s not as crisp as a sauvignon blanc. Drink the Toad Hollow Chardonnay on its own, or with summer salads, grilled chicken, and the like. If I can find it for $10 in Dallas, it’s a candidate for the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame.

Wine of the week: Chateau Recougne 2009

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Château RecougneThe Chateau Recougne, a French red blend, is an excellent example of the pricing dilemma facing U.S. wine consumers. At $10, this is a Hall of Fame wine, but increase the price by one-third, and it’s not nearly as impressive.

So what did I pay for the Chateau Recougne ($13, purchased, 13%)? One-third more than $10, of course. None of this means that the Recougne, mostly merlot from a lesser part of Bordeaux called Bordeaux Superieur, isn’t well made or enjoyable, because it is and especially for an older wine. There is more oak and fruit (black cherry?) than I expected, but there is also some earthiness and the proper balance between all of the parts. It’s a little New World for my taste, but I enjoyed it and would buy it again.

Which brings us back to price. Does the Chateau Recougne offer one-third more value than the Little James Basket Press or McManis’ gold-medal petite sirah? Not really, and that’s the dilemma: How do we decide what to buy, given the incredible selection of wine to choose from and the lack of information to help us make that decision? The Recougne label isn’t much help, though it looks very French, and since I bought it at a grocery store, there was no one to ask.

My colleagues and I regularly argue about whether Americans buy wine on price; the Recougne seems to be argument that we do. If there’s a similar $10 wine next to it on the shelf, given an equal lack of information, how many of us won’t pay one-third less?

Wine of the week: Bogle Sauvignon Blanc 2012

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Bogle Sauvignon BlancThe Wine Curmudgeon has finally found something wrong with the Bogle sauvignon blanc ($10, purchased, 13.5%). It doesn’t have a screwcap, and it comes in an old-fashioned, heavy bottle. Otherwise, it’s pretty much what a great $10 wine should be:

 • More quality than its $10 price. Classic California sauvignon blanc — grassiness, crisp, and with an almost tropical finish.

• Widely available. My biggest frustration, when I find great cheap wine, is that it’s not for sale in enough places so I can write about it. That’s rarely the case with Bogle, which makes more than 1 million cases annually. It’s in grocery stores (I bought this at Whole Foods, believe it or not), independents, and chain retailers.

• It doesn’t try to be something that it isn’t. This is a problem with wine regardless of price, in which consumers think they’re buying one thing and often get something else, fooled by back label nonsense or a too-cute front label. It’s telling that the three comments I found on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory web app) for this vintage all said the same thing, even though each comment had a different score with it. Which, again, tells us what we need to know about scores.

Serve this chilled, with or without food, and know that wherever you are in the U.S., you’ll be able to buy a bottle of wine that won’t make you wish you had bought something else.

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