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Tag Archives: cheap wine

Chateau Bonnet Blanc and why scores are useless

winerant

Chateau Bonnet BlancChateau Bonnet is the $10 French wine that is one of the world’s great values and has been in the Hall of Fame since the first ranking in 2007. As such, it has always been varietally correct, impeccably made, an outstanding value, and cheap and delicious. The 2012 Bonnet blanc, which I had with dinner the other night, made me shake my head in amazement. How could a cheap white wine that old still be so enjoyable?

What more could a wine drinker want?

A lot, apparently, if a couple of the scores for the 2012 on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory app) are to be believed. The Chateau Bonnet blanc scored 80 points from someone who said the label was ugly and 83 points from a Norwegian, and that a Norwegian was using points shows how insidious scores have become.

The irony is that the tasting notes for the low scores were quite complimentary. The 80-point mentioned “crisp dry tones and pleasant blend of melon flavours” while the 83 described herbs, minerals, and citrus, and neither noted any off flavors or flaws. Yet, given those scores, the Bonnet blanc was barely an average wine, hardly better than the grocery store plonk I regularly complain about on the blog.

Which it’s not. Those two wine drinkers are allowed to score the wine as low as they like, and they’re allowed to dislike it. That’s not the problem. The problem is consistency; someone else gave the Bonnet blanc a 90, citing minerality and lime zest — mostly the same description as the low scores. Yet a 90 signifies an outstanding wine. How can a wine that three people describe the same way get such different scores?

Because scores are inherently flawed, depending as they do on the subjective judgment of the people giving the scores. If I believed scores and I saw the 80 or the 83, I’d never try the Chateau Bonnet blanc, even if I liked melon flavors or minerals and citrus. Which is the opposite of what scores are supposed to do. And that they now do the opposite of what they’re supposed to do means it’s time — past time, in fact — to find a better way.

For more on wine scores:
Wine scores, and why they don’t work (still)
Wine competitions and wine scores
Great quotes in wine history: Humphrey Bogart

$100 of wine

winereview

$100 worth of wineWhich, as anyone who has been paying attention knows, means not one or two bottles of wine for $100, but $100 of wine — an entire case, plus one, without a crappy label in it. How did I do it?

I wanted to find something from a familiar region, like Spain, that I hadn’t tried before; to try something from a new region, like Portugal, that has been getting good press; and to find wines to drink on a weeknight with a weeknight dinner, which meant low alcohol and, even in winter, rose. All the wines were purchased:

• Four bottles of Rene Barbier, two red and two white — quality $4 wine that I keep around the house for emergencies. Because, as we all know, wine emergencies are all too common.

The 2013 Charles & Charles rose ($10, 12.6%), which has lost some of its fruit over the past nine months and become more interesting in the process. How rose improves with age is something not enough people pay attention to.

Louis Tete Beaujolais-Villages ($11, 12.5%). This was a previous vintage, the 2012, from one of my favorite Beaujolais producers. It had started to fade, but it was still drinkable — a little grapey and soft, but with enough structure so it remained much more than Welch’s.

Cruz de Piedra rose, a pink Spanish garnacha, also a 2012 ($9, 13.5%). Yet another top-notch, value-oriented Spanish wine with lots of berry fruit.

Penelope Sanchez ($11, 13.5%), a delicious and funky Spanish red blend (garnacha and syrah) that might have been my favorite. It was dark and spicy, the sort of wine that is as far removed from the International style of winemaking as possible.

Maybe my favorite U.S. rose, despite its $15 price — the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare (13%). It’s always fresh, it’s always enjoyable, and the berry fruit is always impeccable.

• The Esporao Alandra Branco 2012 ($7, 12.5%) and the Barão de Vila Proeza Dao Tinto 2010 ($9, 13%). a Portuguese white and red. The former showed its age, but still had pear fruit and white pepper; the latter was a wine of the week this month. I’m still skeptical about much of the Portuguese hype, but both these wines demonstrate Portugal’s effort to make better table wine.

Artadi Tempranillo ($14, 14%), This Spanish red combines traditional style with modern winemaking, with more red fruit than I expected, but still identifiable as Spanish.

Wine of the week: Barão de Vila Proeza Dao Tinto 2010

wineofweek

 Proeza Dao TintoPortuguese wine has become chic over the past year or so, which is surprising given that it has been around for hundreds of years. So what’s different this time?

Mostly that quality keeps improving. The Wine Curmudgeon has written about Portuguese wine that isn’t vinho verde off and on over the years, and the only consistent thing has been its inconsistency. The Portuguese are best known for port, the fortified dessert wine, and their table wines, red and white, often seem like afterthoughts. The whites can be thin and acidic, while the reds sometimes have a heavy, ashy feel to them.

The Proeza Dao Tinto ($9, purchased, 13%), though, demonstrates that the country’s winemakers are making impressive progress. It’s a nice little red wine, simple but not stupid, made with touriga nacional, the primary grape used to make port, plus tinta roriz, the country’s equivalent of tempranillo, and alfrocheiro, a blending grape. This combination gives the wine a rich, almost port-like feel, with plum and berry fruit. It’s not as pleasantly tart as a Spanish tempranillo can be, but that’s not a flaw.

A label note, since these terms are so unfamiliar: The producer is Barao de Vila and the wine is called Proeza, and it’s made in the Dao region, north of Lisbon about halfway between the coast and the Spanish border. Tinto, of course, is red. Drink this with traditional red wine food, and it’s also a red wine for summer — low alcohol, lots of fruit, and something that can even be served a little chilled.

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