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Tag Archives: French wine

Wine of the week: Little James’ Basket Press Red NV

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Little James Basket Press RedThe blog’s seventh annual birthday week begins on Monday, so what better preview for all the fun than Little James’ Basket Press Red ($10, purchased, 13.5%)? This is cheap French red wine that does everything that great cheap wine should do:

 • Varietally correct. This is a red Rhone blend with lots of Rhone-style red fruit, It’s made with grenache, which seems to take on a different life every time I review it. This year, it was sweet cherries, and much less dark than last year. And it’s even different from the review two years ago.

• Tasty. The bottle was empty before dinner was over, which has turned out to be the best way to determine how much I like a wine. It’s not as spicy as years past and the funky aroma is fading, but the tannins and acid still balance the fruit. Think steak frites.

• Unpretentious. That means a screwcap, a clever front label, and a weird tasting note on the back label with the phrase “irresistible crunchy fruit.” I have no idea what that means, but it’s still infinitely better than the usual junk that passes for back label tasting notes.

• Non-vintage. The key to the Little James is a solera, in which old wine is mixed with new wine and vintage doesn’t matter. In fact, for a cheap wine, this often adds complexity that the wine wouldn’t have.

Highly recommended, and certain to return to the $10 Hall of Fame next year. The only drawback? The importer has been sold, and I’ve had difficulty finding the wine in Dallas. Thanks, three-tier system.

Wine of the week: Cave de Lugny La Côte Blanche 2013

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Cave de Lugny La Côte BlancheThe Wine Curmudgeon reviews a proportionally larger share of French wines, and when I look at the numbers — which I do because I don’t want to go too far in any direction — I always wonder if I should try to do fewer French wines. Then I taste something like the Cave de Lugny La Cote Blanche ($10, purchased, 12.5%), and I understand why I do so many cheap French wines.

They’re that good, and especially if they’re from Cave de Lugny, a cooperative in Burgundy that somehow produces affordable red, white, rose and sparkling wines from that very expensive region. Unfortunately, we don’t get enough of them over here, but the Les Charmes is a $10 chardonnay well worth drinking, and the $10 Macon-Villages chardonnay is equally delicious.

The Cote Blanche, which seems to be a World Market private label, is yet another terrific effort from Cave de Lugny. It’s chardonnay from the Macon area of Burgundy, so that means no oak. a mineral finish, and some apple and lemon fruit. But there is also an almost rich mouth feel, which makes the wine more interesting and is not easy to do for $10. It’s a step up from the previously mentioned Macon-Villages — and for the same price.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame. Serve this chilled on its own, or with roast or grilled chicken. It would also do nicely as the wine to cook with and to drink in a dish like braised chicken with mustard and garlic (and I would add lots of sliced onions).

Wine of the week: Moulin de Gassac Guilhem 2013

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Moulin de Gassia GuilhemThe Wine Curmudgeon is a sucker for wines made with less known grapes from less known parts of the world. That’s because the revolution in winemaking and grape growing technology over the past 20 years has allowed these regions to improve quality with grapes that aren’t in great demand. Hence, a much better chance of quality wine for less money.

The Guilhem ($12, purchased, 12.5%) is a case in point. It’s a white blend from a little known part of the Languedoc in southern France, and the Languedoc remains little known itself. The wine is made with grenache blanc, terret blanc, and sauvignon blanc. Those first two grapes are obscure even for wine geeks, and it’s not like this part of France is famous for sauvignon blanc, either.

The result is a Hall of Fame quality wine that is just €5 in France, and yet another example why so much of what we find on the Great Wall of Wine in the grocery store makes me crazy. The Guilhem bears some resemblance to a white Rhone blend, with white fruit aromas and some spiciness. But it’s not oily or heavy, instead featuring red apple crispness — almost juiciness — and just enough minerality to be noticeable. The bottle, chilled, was empty in a half hour, and I was irritated I hadn’t bought two of them.

In this, it’s the kind of wine that demonstrates the advantages of a quality, independent retailer. I bought it from Cody Upton, a long-time pal and one of the most knowledgeable wine people I know. Cody, who is working at Pogo’s in Dallas, asked me how much I wanted to spend — tongue firmly in cheek — and then walked right to this. Does customer service get any better than that?

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