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Category Archives: Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Li Veli Fiano 2013

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 Li Veli Fiano The American fascination with chardonnay has always intrigued the Wine Curmudgeon. Given the hundreds of other white wines in the world, why do we insist on only drinking chardonnay? This is not a knock on the wine, which I love, but if all I drank was one kind of anything, I’d give up drinking.

Which brings us to the Li Veli Fiano ($12, purchased, 12.5%), an Italian white wine from the Puglia region in the country’s boot heel and produced by a company that usually offers value and quality. Best yet, it’s made with the fiano grape, which is not chardonnay but should appeal to those who don’t like to venture too far from it.

Look for white pepper, a hint of nuttiness, and some pear fruit, backed up by lots of freshness and zing — zesty, even. This is not an elegant wine, but it is well structured and offers much more than $12 of value. In this, it’s a  versatile wine, tasty on its own or pairing with almost every white wine dish you can think of — and yes, even a light cream sauce.

Highly recommended, and especially for anyone who wants to throw caution to the wind and drink something other than chardonnay.

Expensive wine 71: Jordan Chardonnay 2012

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jordan chardonnayThe world of California chardonnay has gone in so many directions over the past decade that it’s sometimes difficult to keep track. First, everything was toasty and oaky, then there was the backlash against toasty and oaky, and then there was the backlash against the backlash. Meanwhile, alcohol levels shot up by a point or more, giving us chardonnay that was hot as some zinfandels, close to 15 percent. Except when they weren’t.

Through all of this, a handful of producers ignored the trends and did what they did best. One is the Jordan chardonnay ($30, sample, 13.7%). Vintage after vintage, it’s dependable, well-made, and varietally correct. This, in the hipster world of California chardonnay, is often seen as damning with faint praise.

Which is foolish. What’s wrong with doing something correctly every year? The Jordan is the archetype for California Russian River Valley chardonnay, with green apple fruit, oak more or less in balance, and a rich mouth feel. This vintage is a little less oaky and more crisp, with a bit of apricot in the mix.

The Jordan chardonnay is better with food, and especially with classic chardonnay dishes made with cream sauces. But given the extra acidity in this vintage, don’t shy away from from roasted fish or chicken ballotine. Highly recommended (even for the holiday that must not be named), and regular visitors here know how fussy I am about chardonnay.

Wine of the week: Barão de Vila Proeza Dao Tinto 2010

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 Proeza Dao TintoPortuguese wine has become chic over the past year or so, which is surprising given that it has been around for hundreds of years. So what’s different this time?

Mostly that quality keeps improving. The Wine Curmudgeon has written about Portuguese wine that isn’t vinho verde off and on over the years, and the only consistent thing has been its inconsistency. The Portuguese are best known for port, the fortified dessert wine, and their table wines, red and white, often seem like afterthoughts. The whites can be thin and acidic, while the reds sometimes have a heavy, ashy feel to them.

The Proeza Dao Tinto ($9, purchased, 13%), though, demonstrates that the country’s winemakers are making impressive progress. It’s a nice little red wine, simple but not stupid, made with touriga nacional, the primary grape used to make port, plus tinta roriz, the country’s equivalent of tempranillo, and alfrocheiro, a blending grape. This combination gives the wine a rich, almost port-like feel, with plum and berry fruit. It’s not as pleasantly tart as a Spanish tempranillo can be, but that’s not a flaw.

A label note, since these terms are so unfamiliar: The producer is Barao de Vila and the wine is called Proeza, and it’s made in the Dao region, north of Lisbon about halfway between the coast and the Spanish border. Tinto, of course, is red. Drink this with traditional red wine food, and it’s also a red wine for summer — low alcohol, lots of fruit, and something that can even be served a little chilled.

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