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Category Archives: Wine reviews

Barefoot wine review 2015

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Barefoot wine revie 2015How is Barefoot the best-selling wine brand in the country, and perhaps the only wine costing less than $10 to thrive during premiumization? Because Barefoot is wine for people who don’t drink wine, and this year’s labels are excellent examples of that approach. And if the chardonnay was a touch sweet, the cabernet sauvignon was pleasant enough to drink again.

In this, it’s not so much that the cabernet ($6, purchased, 13.5%) and the chardonnay ($6, purchased, 13%) are simple, but that there is a method to their simplicity — sophisticated winemaking is used to get them to taste the way they do. Each wine emphasizes its fruit while pushing the stuff casual wine drinkers don’t like, the tannins and acid, to the background. The result? A soft, fruit-forward wine made for someone who buys Barefoot to have a glass or two in the evening, re-cork what’s left, and then drink again the next night. Frankly, that’s an impressive achievement for a $6 wine.

The cabernet, with an Argentine appellation but no vintage, was more enjoyable than the chardonnay, with a surprising amount of cabernet character, juicy dark berry fruit, almost no acidity, and enough tannins so that I noticed them but not so noticeable as to bother the brand’s target demographic. This is a red wine that is smooth and easy drinking, two terms that make wine geeks cringe but that are perfectly understandable to the people who buy Barefoot, and are the reasons they buy it.

The chardonnay tasted much like Cupcake’s chardonnay — not quite sugary, but sweet enough to linger on the tongue, plus caramel fake oak and lots and lots of green apple fruit. There was almost no acidity, and the sweetness helped mask a bitterness on the finish (probably from tannins from grape seeds and stems). That Barefoot delivers the same wine as Cupcake for half the price speaks volumes about how smart Barefoot parent E&J Gallo is. This wine is also non-vintage, and the grapes are from California.

More Barefoot wine reviews:
Barefoot wine review 2014
Barefoot wine review 2013
Barefoot wine review 2012

Wine of the week: Scaia Garganega Chardonnay 2013

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Scaia Garganega ChardonnayIn the Winestream Media’s version of the world, the only odd grapes that matter come from countries that don’t make enough wine to matter, but are sold in Manhattan. If odd grapes are used in something that’s actually on store shelves, the wine gets 87 points, like the Scaia Garganega Chardonnay.

Which demonstrates two things — the uselessness of scores, and the idea that we should not be afraid to try something that isn’t what we usually drink. The main reason I bought this was wine was because it was an odd blend, and as the Italian Wine Guy has said more than once, the Wine Curmudgeon never met a grape he didn’t want to try. Especially it costs $10.

The Scaia Garganega Chardonnay ($10, purchased, 12.5%), an Italian white blend, speaks to all of those points. It will never get a 90-plus score because it’s a cheap white, and because the chardonnay is blended with the grape used to make Soave, an Italian white that is too often indifferently made. Besides, any self-respecting Winestream Media type would gag at the thought of chardonnay blended with garganega.

All of which is just wine writing foolishiness. The Scaia Garganega Chardonnay features the best of each grape — crispness and acidity from the garganega and a bit of richness and tropical fruit from the chardonnay. It’s a combination that’s to be much appreciated on a hot summer day, either on its own or with any kind of seafood. It’s also the kind of wine to keep on hand if you want a glass with dinner

Highly recommended, and a candidate (almost certain to be included) for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame.

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Celebrating without Champagne

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champagneEven before the Champagne business adopted Stormtrooper 101 as its business model, its product was too expensive for almost all of us who buy wine. A decent bottle costs at least $30, and it’s probably closer to $40 by the time you find something interesting. So what’s a wine drinker to do who wants to celebrate with sparkling wine, but doesn’t want to buy Champagne?

Consider these alternatives (and if you’re confused, check out the blog’s sparkling wine FAQ):

• Look elsewhere in France: Champagne isn’t the only part of the country that produces sparkling wine, and the values elsewhere can sometimes be astounding. These wines, called cremant, include Louis Bouillot Brut Rose ($18, purchased, 12%). The Bouillot is from Burgundy, where there is no question of quality, and it’s made with the same kinds of grapes as Champagne. Look for tight bubbles, a little caramel, and muted strawberry fruit. Highly recommended.

• Go domestic: Big Wine comes through here, with Domaine Ste. Michelle from Washington state (the same company that does table wine as Chateau Ste. Michelle). These sparklers are made in the Champagne style, so that the second fermentation is in the bottle, cost about $12, and are available in what seems like every grocery store in the country. If they aren’t complex wines, they usually deliver more than $12 worth of value.

• Spend a couple of dollars more for a better quality Prosecco: The surge in Prosecco’s popularity means a lot of ordinary wine is selling for $15, which can make it difficult to find value. Still, it’s out there, like the Valdo Prosecco Brut ($11, sample, 11%). It was much better than I expected, with more depth and character, a touch of yeast, and some sweet lemon fruit.

• Cava is your friend: Regular visitors know how the Wine Curmudgeon feels about cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, but it’s worth repeating — it may be the best wine value in the world. The Casa Pedro Domecq Cava Gran Campo Viejo Brut Reserva ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is a serious cava, with lots of apple fruit and lots of bubbles, and it will be gone before you know it.

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