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Category Archives: Wine reviews

Mini-reviews 81: Estancia, malbec, Macon, Scarpetta

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estanciaReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

Estancia Pinot Grigo 2014 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): This California white is another example of the deteriorating state of cheap wine. If you drank it when it was released almost a year ago, it had pleasant apple and tropical fruit and was certainly worth what it cost. Drink it almost a year after release, which I did, and the fruit is gone and what’s left is mostly pithy bitterness — the kind of wine people cite when they say they don’t like wine. Even $9 white wine should last 15 or 18 months.

Pascual Toso Malbec 2014 ($8, purchased, 14%): This red is a decent enough grocery store Argentine malbec, without too much jammy berry fruit and a little rusticity for balance, though there is way too much fake oak. It’s not bad, but not as good as it could be.

Louis Jadot Mâcon-Villages 2014 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French white is everything the Estancia isn’t, and offers at least $10 worth of chardonnay. Look for green apple, a nicely rich mouth feel, and short if refreshing finish. It should be in most supermarkets in the country, so you have something to buy if all else fails.

Scarpetta Timido NV ($17, purchased, 12%): This sweetish Italian rose sparkling wine has lots of strawberry and then some more sweetness, just like I remember from the bad old days. You can buy the same quality wine for half the price without any trouble at all.

Wine of the week: Pio Cesare Gavi 2014

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Pio Cesare GaviIn those long ago days before pinot grigio, we drank Soave or maybe Frascati and Gavi when we wanted Italian white wine. Not that we drank much Italian white wine; it was a novelty for a wine drinking culture that assumed all Italian wine was red and came in a wicker-covered bottle.

These days, Italian white wine, mostly pinot grigio, ranks as one of the biggest imports in the country, and wines like the Pio Cesare Gavi ($15, purchased, 12.5%) are something most of us don’t drink. Which is too bad, because the Cesare is well worth drinking, an example of what happens when a top producer puts care and effort into an affordable wine made with a grape, cortese, that is not well regarded.

Look for minerality and a little lemon and dash of herbs in a wine that is so subdued and understated that it takes almost a glass before you understand what is going on. It’s also a stunning value for the price; most quality Gavis cost more than $20, and those at this price are usually too simple for a $15 wine.

Highly recommended, and just the thing for spaghetti with clam sauce with garlic and parsley.

Wine of the week: Argento Malbec 2014

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argento malbecThe Wine Curmudgeon can think of no higher praise for the Argento Malbec: I don’t like malbec, and I would not only buy it, but serve it to my friends.

That’s because the Argento Malbec ($8, sample, 13.5%), an Argentine red, is everything most grocery store wine isn’t: It’s not cloying, it’s not too soft, and it’s not smooth in that mindless way that so much wine in supermarkets is. In fact, grocery store wine has no right to be this well made, based on how much junk I taste every year, and part of me still doesn’t believe it was this good. But sometimes, Big Wine (Argento may be near 1 million cases a year) gets it right.

Look for fresh black fruit, a little spice, and the soft tannins that separate malbec from merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Plus, the almost cherry aroma wasn’t like the Jolly Rancher cherry smell that makes me want to dump other wines down the drain. Pair the Argento malbec with any red meat, and especially a hearty winter stew, as well as sausages with red sauce. Highly recommended, and the perfect wine of the week for the introduction of the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame on Friday.

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