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Tag Archives: French wine

Wine of the week: JCB No. 21 Brut Cremant NV

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 JCB No. 21The Wine Curmudgeon is not drinking Champagne for this New Year’s; the First Amendment is more important. But that doesn’t mean I can’t drink terrific French sparkling wine.

The JCB No. 21 ($15, sample, 12%) is a cremant, a sparkling wine from a part of France that isn’t Champagne. In this case, it’s Burgundy, which means it’s made with the same grapes, from a similar part of France in terms of terroir, as Champagne — and at one-third the price.

Look for a nutty aroma, lots of crisp green apple fruit mixed with something like peach, the tight, firm bubbles that I love, and even some minerality. All in all, a much better wine that it has a right to be, and perfect for this holiday. In fact, I tasted it last month at the memorial service for my friend Diane Teitelbaum, and it was a fitting wine for Diane — lots of quality at a very good price.

One note: Prices for the JCB No. 21 are all over the place, with some as high as $25. It’s not quite that good, but if you can find it around $15, it’s an excellent value.

Mini-reviews 68: La Scolca, Vina Decana, Santi, picpoul

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wine reviews picpoulReviews 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.

La Scolca Gavi Black Label 2012 ($45, sample, 12%): Some producers still make wine that needs to age, and this Italian white is a prime example. Drink it now, it’s a well-made wine, but nothing special, and certainly not for the price. Let it sit for a couple of years, and based on past experience, it will blossom with white flowers and spice.

Vina Decana Reserva 2009 ($7, purchased, 13%): Not the legendary $5 Decana that has all but disappeared from Aldi , but its more expensive sibling ($2 being more expensive for an Aldi wine). This Spanish red is a reserva, which means oak aging and more complexity. But not appreciably better than the $5 version, thanks to too much cabernet sauvignon and merlot in the blend. But it’s hard to beat the price.

Santi Valpolicella Classico Superiore Solane 2011 ($16, sample, 13.5%): Delicious Italian red with every note in the right place — red fruit, richness, and acidity. The catch? That $16 is a lot to pay for Valpolicella, no matter how tasty.

Moulin de Gassac Picpoul de Pinet ($10, sample, 13%): French white made with the picpoul grape is mostly on target, and price is fair, but it’s not quite it could be. This won’t stop you from enjoying its tart lemon fruit and touch of minerality, though.

Beaujolais Nouveau and the crisis in French wine

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Beaujolais NouveauGeorges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 ($8, purchased, 12%)

Thorin Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 ($8, purchased, 11-14%)

These Beaujolais Nouveaus were two of the worst professionally-made wines I’ve tasted in 25 years, practically undrinkable and as bad as some of the amateur regional plonk I endured in the local wine movement’s early days. The Duboeuf, from one of France’s major producers, was thin, watery, and almost devoid of fruit save for the faint taste of overripe bananas. The Thorin was even more offensive — more thin, more watery, and without any fruit at all. The Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red, which I tasted with the nouveaus because I was afraid this would happen, cost a dollar less and was of a quality the nouveaus could only dream about.

Beaujolais Nouveau hasn’t been good for a while, but these wines were past even that. That anyone would have made them, let alone sell them, is an embarrassment to wine and to the glory that is French wine. More, after the jump:

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