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Category Archives: Wine reviews

Mini-reviews 69: Marchesi di Barolo, Bibi Graetz, Clos du Val, Bolla

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wine mini-reviewsReviews 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.

Marchesi di Barolo Barbera Monferrato Maràia 2012 ($10, purchased, 13%): Very nice price for a barbera that is mostly fun to drink. Look for dark berry fruit in this Italian red, plus a little earthiness. But there’s just enough oak to get in the way, and there’s hole in the middle that the oak doesn’t cover up.

Bibi Graetz Casamatta NV ($13, purchased, 12.5%):  Nothing really wrong with this Italian red, made with the soleras method, in which grapes of different vintages are blended. Simple and well-made, with cherry fruit and some acid, but it needs more than just that at this price.

Clos du Val Pinot Noir Carneros 2010 ($32, sample, 13.5%): Nothing at all wrong with this California red wine. It’s almost polite — with proper weight, fruit, tannins, and alcohol. But I want more than polite for $32.

Bolla Soave Classico 2011 ($8, purchased, 12.5%): This Italian white, which is what we drank if we wanted Italian white wine in the 1970s and 1980s, was surprisingly Soave-like given its age. Thin, but varietally correct and still drinkable.

Wine of the week: Lyeth Meritage 2012

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Lyeth MeritageWineries are like rock ‘n roll bands — they come and go for no particular reason, and if you write about wine or drink it, that’s something you need to understand. Just because a winery made a great wine one vintage is no guarantee it will be around to make a great wine five years later.

Which is much of what you need to know about the Lyeth Meritage ($12, purchased, 13.5%). In the 1980s and early 1990s, this was one of the world’s great wine values, and then it disappeared. I had not seen it in 20 years until I was digging through the bottom shelves of a Dallas wine shop a couple of weeks ago, and there it was.

Hence this very unexpected — but very positive — Lyeth Meritage review. A Big Wine company bought the Lyeth name and has been turning out a full line of wine for the past couple of years. They have done an excellent job with the Meritage, a red blend that’s mostly merlot and cabernet sauvignon. And it shows just how good cheap wine can be when the producer cares — terroir, even. Look for sweet Sonoma black fruit, earthiness, and tannins that offer some grip, each part in balance with the other.

Highly recommended; big enough so that it would complement red meat, but not so big you can’t sip it in the evening after work. And if Lyeth can come back, does that mean there’s hope for Rockpile?

$100 of wine

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$100 worth of wineWhich, as anyone who has been paying attention knows, means not one or two bottles of wine for $100, but $100 of wine — an entire case, plus one, without a crappy label in it. How did I do it?

I wanted to find something from a familiar region, like Spain, that I hadn’t tried before; to try something from a new region, like Portugal, that has been getting good press; and to find wines to drink on a weeknight with a weeknight dinner, which meant low alcohol and, even in winter, rose. All the wines were purchased:

• Four bottles of Rene Barbier, two red and two white — quality $4 wine that I keep around the house for emergencies. Because, as we all know, wine emergencies are all too common.

The 2013 Charles & Charles rose ($10, 12.6%), which has lost some of its fruit over the past nine months and become more interesting in the process. How rose improves with age is something not enough people pay attention to.

Louis Tete Beaujolais-Villages ($11, 12.5%). This was a previous vintage, the 2012, from one of my favorite Beaujolais producers. It had started to fade, but it was still drinkable — a little grapey and soft, but with enough structure so it remained much more than Welch’s.

Cruz de Piedra rose, a pink Spanish garnacha, also a 2012 ($9, 13.5%). Yet another top-notch, value-oriented Spanish wine with lots of berry fruit.

Penelope Sanchez ($11, 13.5%), a delicious and funky Spanish red blend (garnacha and syrah) that might have been my favorite. It was dark and spicy, the sort of wine that is as far removed from the International style of winemaking as possible.

Maybe my favorite U.S. rose, despite its $15 price — the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare (13%). It’s always fresh, it’s always enjoyable, and the berry fruit is always impeccable.

• The Esporao Alandra Branco 2012 ($7, 12.5%) and the Barão de Vila Proeza Dao Tinto 2010 ($9, 13%). a Portuguese white and red. The former showed its age, but still had pear fruit and white pepper; the latter was a wine of the week this month. I’m still skeptical about much of the Portuguese hype, but both these wines demonstrate Portugal’s effort to make better table wine.

Artadi Tempranillo ($14, 14%), This Spanish red combines traditional style with modern winemaking, with more red fruit than I expected, but still identifiable as Spanish.

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