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Tag Archives: chardonnay

Four Arrogant Frog wines

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Arrogant fron winesFinding quality cheap wine from France is not as easy as it used to be. The weak dollar is the main reason, but a change in focus for French producers, who price wine to sell to the Chinese because they can’t think of anything else to do, hasn’t helped, either.

Save for exceptions like the Lurton family’s Chateau Bonnet or my beloved Gascony, most cheap French wine knocks off $10 California wine; is junk foisted on U.S. consumers because we’re too American to know better; or is the same as it has been for years, like La Vielle Ferme — OK, but nothing more.

That’s why the Wine Curmudgeon was so excited by the recent Arrogant Frog Twitter tasting, where a dozen wine writers sampled four $10 French wines from the Languedoc in southern France and tweeted with winemaker Jean-Claude Mas. The good news is that the wines — a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, and red blend — offer tremendous value for $10. If they’re not quite French enough in style for me (I would have liked more grip), they’re still well made and well worth buying.

Mas was candid and well-spoken: “You must convince people to buy your wine by being consistent. It’s easy to make great wine one year. Try doing it for 30 years.” Plus, he avoided winespeak, something that rarely happens at these things, and there was nary a mention of brix or canopy management.

A few thoughts about the wines after the jump:

Mini-reviews 62: Hot to Trot, Sauzet, Dr. Pauly, Chateau St. Jean

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Mini-reviews 62: Hot to Trot, Sauzet, Dr. Pauly, Chateau St. JeanReviews 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.

14 Hands Hot to Trot Red 2012 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): The problem with this red blend is not that it’s very ordinary and slightly sweet (probably somewhere around E&J Gallo’s Apothic), but that it doesn’t say, on either front or back label, that it isn’t dry. As has been noted many times here and elsewhere, producers have an obligation to share that information. Otherwise, dry red drinkers will buy something they don’t want and sweet red drinkers will pass it by. The Wine Curmudgeon expects more from 14 Hands than this kind of winery sleight of hand.

Etienne Sauzet Bourgogne Blanc 2012 ($43, purchased, 12.5%): Impeccable white Burgundy (chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France) from one of my favorite producers. Layers and layers of complexity, just like much more expensive wines from specific appellations within Burgundy. Still young, and I could have held on to it for six months or more. Some oak when first opened, but the wine eventually evens out to become a traditional Sauzet with white pepper and green apple fruit. Very reasonably priced considering the quality. Highly recommended.

Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Bernkasteler Badstube am Doctorberg Riesling Kabinett 2010 ($27, purchased, 7.5%): Gorgeous German riesling, rich and full, with honey, lemon, and minerality — exactly the way it should be, as anyone who appreciates this kind of wine can attest. Yes, it’s sweet, but it’s supposed to be; in fact, it’s surprisingly heavy and needs food (tuna steaks, perhaps?). Highly recommended.

Chateau St. Jean Fumé Blanc 2012 ($12, sample, 13.5%): California sauvignon blanc is flabby, heavy, and without any sort of style or grace, to say nothing of fruit. This used to be one of those wines that you could always count on; now it’s stuff sold at the grocery store.

Wine of the week: Toad Hollow Chardonnay 2012

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Toad Hollow Chardonnay One of the most difficult things about buying cheap wine is consistency. Given the way the system works, where production costs often matter more than quality, a great $10 wine one vintage is no guarantee of a great $10 wine the next vintage. Right, Meridian?

Fortunately, the Toad Hollow Chardonnay ($12, sample, 13.9%) is usually immune from that process. It has its up and downs since it was first made 20 years ago, but those are more likely vintage differences than pencil pushers squeezing the bottom line. When the wine is right, and the 2012 is the best vintage in several years, un-oaked chardonnay don’t get much better than this, even for wines that cost $15 or $18. It’s even a value at the suggested retail price of $12. If you can find it at $10, which it often is with grocery store discount cards, buy a case.

Look for green apple fruit in the front, a little tropical something or other in the middle, and some stoniness in the back. This is a clean and refreshing wine, without the fake oak used to make so many other wines at this price. But it also has some body, so it’s not as crisp as a sauvignon blanc. Drink the Toad Hollow Chardonnay on its own, or with summer salads, grilled chicken, and the like. If I can find it for $10 in Dallas, it’s a candidate for the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame.

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