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Tag Archives: $10 wine

Wine of the week: Bogle Pinot Noir 2013

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bogle pinot noirThe Wine Curmudgeon has probably tasted more poorly-made pinot noir than anyone in the wine business. I mention this not to elicit sympathy (tasting badly made pinot noir still beats working for a living), but to reinforce just how well made the Bogle pinot noir is, and especially for the price. It mostly tastes like pinot noir, and there aren’t many $10 pinots you can say that about.

That’s because most pinot noir that costs less than $20 bares as much resemblance to traditional pinot noir as I do to an editor at the Wine Spectator. It’s too ripe, it’s too fruity, it’s blended with too many other grapes, it’s too tannic, and it’s too alcoholic, and tastes nothing like the traditional description of pinot — elegant and refined. This doesn’t mean many of those aren’t enjoyable; they just don’t taste like pinot noir.

Which the Bogle ($10, purchased, 13.5%) does. It’s not a $100 red Burgundy or $50 Oregon pinot noir, but most of what needs to be there is there: Enough fruit (mostly black), a fresh mouthfeel, and real pinot tannins, which invigorate the wine. It’s not full of the jammy sweet fruit that most pinots at this price opt for, and it’s smooth in the way many consumers like without insulting those of us who want more than smoothness.

The oak — too obviously trying to be chocolate — could be better done, but this is another example of how much Bogle cares about cheap wine and gives those of us who want to drink it value for our money. Highly recommended, and why Bogle has been in the $10 Hall of Fame since I started it.


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Wine of the week: Domaine des Cassagnoles Côtes de Gascogne 2013

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cassagnolesThis white blend from southern France gives the Wine Curmudgeon a chance to do two of his favorite things: Praise the genius of the winemakers in Gascony, who do what so few others in the world seem capable of – make great cheap wine without any embarrassment; and criticize wine scores. Is it any wonder Gascon wine makes me so happy?

This vintage of the Cassagnoles ($10, purchased, 11.5%) has less citrus and more white grapiness than previous years, which is my preferred style. That gives the wine more balance, and it tastes less like sauvignon blanc and more like the intriguing cheap wine that it is. Ah, the wonders of the colombard, ugni blanc, and gros manseng grapes.

Best yet, this style makes the Cassagnoles even more refreshing and fruity, truly a bottle that is empty before you realize you have drunk the whole thing. Highly recommended, and it will return to the $10 Hall of Fame next year. My only regret? That we can’t buy it in the U.S. in the 10-liter box (the equivalent of 13 1/3 bottles) that it is sold in in France.

Yet someone, somehow, managed to give the wine 82 points on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory app), claiming that it was like pinot grigio and didn’t have any taste. If this wine is only worth 82 points, I’ll drink a bottle of overoaked, too alcoholic California chardonnay, which is probably what that person thinks is tasty.

Arsenic and cheap wine

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arsenicDavid K. TeStelle may be a terrific trial attorney, a tremendous human being, and a snappy dresser. But he apparently knows little about logic and even less about wine.

“The lower the price of wine, the more arsenic you are getting,” said TeStelle, one of the lawyers suing Big Wine for knowingly selling arsenic-laced wine in the class action lawsuit that has the wine business all atwitter (pun fully intended).

The Wine Curmudgeon will assume that TeStelle was misquoted or taken out of context, since to assume that all cheap wine is stuffed full of arsenic and that all expensive wine is pure and virginal is silly. Logical fallacies, anyone? Did we stop driving cheap cars because the Yugo was a piece of junk? My Honda Fit certainly isn’t. Are Mercedes and BMW models never recalled?

The testing behind the lawsuit apparently didn’t check the arsenic level in any expensive wine, which takes the rest of the logic out of TeStelle’s argument. Maybe BeverageGrades, the lab that did the testing, didn’t want to to spend the extra money, and it was easier to buy Two-buck Chuck since there are three Trader Joe’s in Denver. Or that the Big Wine companies that make most of the cheap wine in the lawsuit have deeper pockets than a $40 brand that makes 25,000 cases. One can’t get damages out of a company that doesn’t have money to pay for damages.

Besides, and I can’t emphasize this enough, none of my wines — the three dozen or so in the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame — are on the arsenic list. This speaks volumes about the difference in quality in wine, cheap or otherwise, and something that I have repeated and repeated and repeated throughout my wine writing career. It’s not the price that matters — it’s the honesty of the wine. Does the producer care about quality and value, or is it just making wine to make wine? Which is just as true for $100 wine as it is for $10 wine.

That’s something that everyone who is being snarky about the quality of cheap wine in the wake of the lawsuit (including people I like and whose opinions I respect) should remember. Quality, as well as safety, isn’t something that can be measured by price. It’s something that depends on integrity, and no amount of money can guarantee that.

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