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Tag Archives: French wine

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:

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.

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