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Tag Archives: French wine

Ask the WC 7: Winespeak, availability, Bordeaux

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winespeakBecause the customers always have wine questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. Ask me a wine-related question by clicking here.

Wine Curmudgeon:
You use the term structure for wine, which sounds like a lot of jargon to me. What does structure mean?
Confused by language

Dear Confused:
Think of a wine’s structure like the structure of a house. A house has to have a foundation, a floor, and a roof. Leave one of those things out, and you don’t have much of a house. A wine, regardless of price, needs structure, too, and that includes tannins, fruit, and acidity in the proper proportions. Leave one of those out, and it’s like a house without a crappy roof — livable, but why would you want to?

Hey Curmudge:
Where do you buy your wine? I know you try to find wines that are available, but how do you do it?
Curious consumer

Dear Curious:
I’m one of the few wine writers in the country who buys wine to review, and it’s probably more than half the wines I do. The rest come from samples that producers send, and that number has fallen significantly since the recession. I shop for wine at least once a week in two or three places. I go to grocery stores like Kroger and Albertson’s, independent wine shops (Jimmy’s and Pogo’s are two of the best), chain wine shops (we have Spec’s and Total Wine in Dallas), and specialty stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and World Market. That way, I can compare prices, see who has what, and talk to retailers and customers. I enjoy this, not only because it’s part of a job that I like, but because I come from a long line of retailers, and learned to appreciate this stuff when I was a kid.

Jeff:
I have tried a few red Bordeauxs, and most are not very good in the $10-$20 range. I like many California cabernet sauvignons and red blends, and am not put off by the “earthiness” of French wines. But most of the Bordeauxs I’ve tried are just harsh and bitter. Any suggestions for reasonably priced Bordeaux would be appreciated.
Searching for French value

Dear Searching:
You aren’t alone — Bordeaux has priced most wine drinkers out of its market, whether from greed, infatuation with China, or French stubbornness. It’s almost impossible to find quality red Bordeaux for less than $20 a bottle, as you note (Chateau Bonnet and one or two others being the exception). Instead, we get poorly made wine, whether with unripe grapes or raw tannins — just like the bad old days. Ironically, we talked about this in my El Centro class last week, that the wines that most Americans used to drink to learn about wine are now too expensive for most Americans to drink.

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 6: Box wine, wine closeouts, open wine
Ask the WC 5: Getting drunk, restaurant wine, wine reviews
Ask the WC 4: Green wine, screwcaps, mold

Wine of the week: Domaine des Cassagnoles Côtes de Gascogne 2013

wineofweek

cassagnolesThis white blend from southern France gives the Wine Curmudgeon a chance to do two of his favorite things: Praise the genius of the winemakers in Gascony, who do what so few others in the world seem capable of – make great cheap wine without any embarrassment; and criticize wine scores. Is it any wonder Gascon wine makes me so happy?

This vintage of the Cassagnoles ($10, purchased, 11.5%) has less citrus and more white grapiness than previous years, which is my preferred style. That gives the wine more balance, and it tastes less like sauvignon blanc and more like the intriguing cheap wine that it is. Ah, the wonders of the colombard, ugni blanc, and gros manseng grapes.

Best yet, this style makes the Cassagnoles even more refreshing and fruity, truly a bottle that is empty before you realize you have drunk the whole thing. Highly recommended, and it will return to the $10 Hall of Fame next year. My only regret? That we can’t buy it in the U.S. in the 10-liter box (the equivalent of 13 1/3 bottles) that it is sold in in France.

Yet someone, somehow, managed to give the wine 82 points on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory app), claiming that it was like pinot grigio and didn’t have any taste. If this wine is only worth 82 points, I’ll drink a bottle of overoaked, too alcoholic California chardonnay, which is probably what that person thinks is tasty.

Mini-reviews 70: Ponzi, white Rhone, lemberger, pinot blanc

winereview

wine reviews PonziReviews 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.

Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Gris 2014 ($17, sample, 13.2%): Needs more time in the bottle, but when this Oregon white is ready in a couple of months, it should be classic, elegant Oregon pinot gris — fresh tropical fruit, rich mouth feel, and long finish.

• Dauvergne-Ranvier Côtes du Rhône Vin Gourmand 2012 ($15, purchased, 13.5%): Uninspired white French blend that was overpriced and lacking in anything to make it interesting. A hint of viognier (peach?) and not much else. We do this kind of wine much better in Texas.

Weingut Schnaitmann Lemberger 2012 ($15, sample, 13%): Unfortunately for those of us who like lemberger, a red grape that’s hard to find, this isn’t the answer. There’s lots of red fruit, but this German wine is disjointed and needs something more than just the fruit.

Rudi Wiest Dry Pinot Blanc 2012 ($12, sample, 12%): This German white was delightful, with candied lime fruit, fizzy acidity, and just a touch sweet. It was everything I hope it would be; the catch being that availability is limited.

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