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Category Archives: Wine reviews

Four Arrogant Frog wines

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Arrogant fron winesFinding quality cheap wine from France is not as easy as it used to be. The weak dollar is the main reason, but a change in focus for French producers, who price wine to sell to the Chinese because they can’t think of anything else to do, hasn’t helped, either.

Save for exceptions like the Lurton family’s Chateau Bonnet or my beloved Gascony, most cheap French wine knocks off $10 California wine; is junk foisted on U.S. consumers because we’re too American to know better; or is the same as it has been for years, like La Vielle Ferme — OK, but nothing more.

That’s why the Wine Curmudgeon was so excited by the recent Arrogant Frog Twitter tasting, where a dozen wine writers sampled four $10 French wines from the Languedoc in southern France and tweeted with winemaker Jean-Claude Mas. The good news is that the wines — a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, and red blend — offer tremendous value for $10. If they’re not quite French enough in style for me (I would have liked more grip), they’re still well made and well worth buying.

Mas was candid and well-spoken: “You must convince people to buy your wine by being consistent. It’s easy to make great wine one year. Try doing it for 30 years.” Plus, he avoided winespeak, something that rarely happens at these things, and there was nary a mention of brix or canopy management.

A few thoughts about the wines after the jump:

Expensive wine 65: Alain Hudelot-Noellat Chambolle-Musigny 2003

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Alain Hudelot-Noellat Chambolle-MusignyThe Wine Curmudgeon long ago accepted the fact he would never get to taste most of the world’s great wines. Even if I could afford them, what with prices like $500 for a bottle of Cheval Blanc from an ordinary vintage, availability is difficult.

Which is why I’m always grateful when The Big Guy brings a bottle of Burgundy to the house. These French wines — the red is pinot noir and the white is chardonnay — are his favorites, and we always have a terrific time marveling at how well the Burgundians put them together, and always seem to get a whole that is greater than the parts.

The Hudelot-Noellat ($60, purchased, 13%) is no exception. The producer is one of the most respected in the region, one of those family businesses that make Burgundy We tasted it about 18 months ago, and it was still young and lively, with a zingy, almost tangy fruit aroma and a wonderful burst of red fruit (strawberry, as hard as that is to believe) in the middle. He brought another bottle over last month, and the wine had calmed down quite a bit. It’s probably ready to drink; the fruit is starting to become part of the wine, and isn’t something that stands out. It’s a wonder of oak and tannins, a lesson in how to use oak in pinot noir and how to craft tannins that give the wine structure but don’t overwhelm it.

This is an elegant, subtle wine, one that is gone before you notice what has happened, and then you wonder why there isn’t any left. It’s a reminder of just how good red Burgundy can be, and why it’s so expensive.

Mini-reviews 63: Da Vinci, Fetzer, Villa Maria, Santa Cristina

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Mini-reviews 63: Da Vinci, Fetzer, Villa Maria, Santa CristinaReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

Da Vinci Chianti 2011 ($12. sample, 13.5%): Much, much better than the past couple of vintages of this Italian red, with an effort made to make it taste more like Chianti and less like merlot from California. This means less soft fruitiness and more earthiness, plus sangiovese’s tell-tale sour cherry.

Fetzer Gewurztraminer Shaly Loam 2012 ($8, purchased, 12%): This white wine won a platinum at the 2014 Critic’s Challenge, and  if that seems to be a bit of a stretch, it’s still an excellent example of an off-dry gewurtzraminer (though it could be a little more crisp), and especially for the price. Look for apricot fruit and white pepper spice.

Villa Maria Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 ($14, sample, 13%): Surprisingly dull white wine from an otherwise fine New Zealand producer, lacking fruit, crispness, and with a very bitter finish. If it didn’t have a screwcap, I’d think it was corked.

Santa Cristina Cipresseto Rosato ($12, sample, 11%): OK Italian rose made mostly with sangiovese, but nothing special, and especially for $12. Could use a little more interest, be it fruit or elegance or even a little acidity. More thin than anything else.

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