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Category Archives: Wine reviews

Mini-reviews 71: Vin Vault, Rueda, Arido, Avalon

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vin vaultReviews 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.

Vin Vault Pinot Noir 2013 ($20 for 3-liter box, sample, 13%): This California red, part of E&J Gallo’s assault on the booming box wine business, offers much more than $5 a bottle worth of value (since a 3-liter box equals four bottles). Look for red fruit and soft tannins, though it tastes more like a red blend than pinot noir (and my guess is that it has been blended with lots of grenache or syrah). Still, it’s pleasant drinking and a huge step up from most $5 pinot noir.

Marqués de Cáceres Rueda 2013 ($8, purchased, 12.5%): This version of the Spanish white from one of Spain’s biggest producers is made with the verdejo grape. It’s much more balanced than previous vintages — the lemon fruit is more rounded and it’s less harsh. A steal at this price, though it’s still a simple wine, and its tartness may put some people off.

Árido Malbec 2013 ($10, sample, 13.7%): Just another Argentine grocery store malbec with lots and lots of sweet red fruit, some tannins that don’t really fit with the sweet fruit, and not much else. It’s an example of why I liked this malbec so much.

Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($10, sample, 13.9%): This California red is not the old $10 Napa Avalon cabernet, one of the great cheap wines of all time and which now costs as much as $18. But it’s professionally made, if hardly complex, and mostly a value with soft tannins, black fruit, a little mouth feel, and some acid to round it out. If you’re in a grocery store and need a red wine for dinner, this will be fine.

 

Wine of the week: Trivento Malbec 2013

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trivento malbecIt’s not so much that the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t like malbec; rather, it’s that most malbec tastes like it’s made from the same recipe, regardless of who makes it or where it’s from — too much sweet red fruit and without any tannins or crispness, as boring as it can be. So when I tasted the Trivento malbec, I didn’t expect much.

Silly me. What’s the first rule of wine writing? Taste the wine before you judge it, and the Trivento ($9, sample, 14%) was a revelation, everything that most malbec isn’t — surprising depth and structure, and especially for an Argentine malbec at this price. I guess I forgot how much I liked it last time.

The red fruit (cherry?) was more juicy than soft, and the wine wasn’t flabby at all. I can’t remember the last time I wrote that about this kind of wine. In addition, there was varietal character, with sweet tannins and some heft at the back. Tasting this, it’s easy to see why malbec is supposed to be a beef wine, which isn’t true of most of that I taste, which is more suited to ice cubes.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2016 Hall of Fame. The Trivento malbec was so much more interesting than most of the malbec on grocery store shelves that it makes me wonder why more producers don’t try this approach.

 

Wine of the week: Château Martinon 2011

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Château MartinonDear Bordeaux wine wise guys:

You’ve been moaning and wailing that Americans have abandoned your wines, and you claim to be baffled why. Fortunately, the Wine Curmudgeon is here to explain. Your wines are too often overpriced and of middling quality, and if you want to fix the problem, talk to Chateau Martinon’s Jerome Trolliet. You might learn a thing or two.

That’s because the Chateau Martinon ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is classic white Bordeaux, the kind of wine you made when you were the envy of the wine world, but gave up in favor of chasing trends, raising prices, and courting the Chinese. In this, it tastes like white Bordeaux, and not sauvignon blanc from New Zealand or Chile.

That means more minerality than citrus, but enough lemon-lime citrus to be pleasant, plus a richness many other white Bordeauxs don’t bother with anymore. Credit that to using more semillion than sauvignon blanc in the blend, a not common practice. And that this was a prior vintage just made the Chateau Martinon more interesting. Who knew an $11 wine from the very ordinary Entre-Deux-Mers region would age this well?

Highly recommended, and you should be proud that someone in Bordeaux remembers how to do things the right way.

Your pal,
The Wine Curmudgeon

 

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