Category Archives: Wine reviews

Mini-reviews 78: White Rioja, Peter Zemmer, Benoit Gautier, Mouton Cadet


white RiojaReviews 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.

Dinastía Vivanco Rioja Blanco 2013 ($11, sample, 13.5%): Pleasant enough white Spanish blend from the Rioja region, with some white fruit and a hint of orange. We don’t see white Rioja much in the U.S., but the novelty isn’t enough of a reason to buy it and there are better wines for the same price.

Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio 2014 ($16, sample, 13.5%): Premiumization rears its ugly head. This Italian white isn’t appreciably better than any $8 grocery store pinot grigio, with the same bitter finish, tonic water taste profile, and little noticeable fruit.

Benoit Gautier Vouvray 2013 ($13, sample, 12%): There were once a host of $10 well made and slightly sweet chenin blancs from the Vouvray region of France, but many of them aren’t as well made any more and aren’t $10, either. The Gautier almost fits the bill as one of the former, but there isn’t enough white fruit or acidity to back up the sweetness.

Mouton Cadet Rose 2014 ($11, purchased, 13.5%): This French pink wine from the Bordeaux region is bitter, without much fruit, not very interesting, and very disappointing. It’s the kind of wine people drink and then switch to sweet tea.

Wine of the week: Saint-Cosme Côtes du Rhône 2013


Saint-Cosme Cotes du RhoneDespite all the doom and gloom in the wine business, with prices rising and quality vanishing, there are still producers who care. And France’s Saint-Cosme is one of the best.

Its Little James Basket Press red and white blends from the Rhone are terrific examples of $10 wine, and the Saint-Cosme Cotes du Rhone red ($15, purchased, 13.5%) is a step up, a lesson in how to provide varietal character, terroir, and value. Or, as I wrote in my notes: “What a red Rhone blend at this price should taste like, and why can’t anyone else do this?”

Look for deep red fruit from the syrah and a little licorice, but more subtle than usual and almost tight; that is, where you think there should be more fruit flavor but it’s hiding but will come out as the wine ages. This Sainte-Cosme is earthy but not off-putting, and speaks to the traditional Rhone style where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Highly recommended. Pair this with any fall stew or meat dish as the weather gets cooler. And know that someone, for all the focus groups and private labels, still cares. Writes Sainte-Cosme’s Louis Barroul: “It is my pleasure to offer every year a wine of this quality at a reasonable level of price. This is what French wine means: bottle a bit of spirit even at an affordable price.”

Wine of the week: Felluga Pinot Grigio 2014


felluga pinot grigioMichele Pasqua, the winemaker for Italy’s Marco Felluga, is passionate about Italian pinot grigio. “Most Americans don’t know what pinot grigio tastes like,” he says, “because 85 percent of the pinot grigio they taste is not pinot grigio.” 

His example? The Felluga pinot grigio ($15, sample, 13%), which is mostly everything that the tonic water pinot grigios that are so popular in the U.S. aren’t. For one thing, it has fruit — lemon, and some lemon peel on the finish and just not the sort of almost minerality that is one of grocery store pinot grigio’s reason for being. For another, it smells good, as un-wine as that sounds, with an enticing, flowery aroma. This is wine, and not something devised to sell to American women of a certain demographic.

And, yes, it’s worth the couple of extra bucks. Chill this and drink it on its own, and you’ll smile at how much you enjoy it. It’s also a food wine; pair it with anything grilled that would pair with white wine — shrimp would be terrific, as would chicken thighs marinated in herbs, garlic, and olive oil.

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