Tag Archives: holiday wine

Cheap holiday wine

cheap holiday wine

“Yes, but where did they hide the alcohol percentage?”

The Wine Curmudgeon was in august company earlier this month, helping several of the top restaurant wine people in Dallas pick cheap holiday wine for The Dallas Morning News’ regular wine feature. It was a fascinating experience, and not just because we found some terrific wine for the paper’s readers. Rather, I got to see wine from a different perspective — those who buy wine for restaurants, and where the cost of the wine isn’t as important as to them as it is to me.

Among the highlights of the tasting, which looked at wines costing less than $13 or so:

• The best wine of the tasting? A long-time member of the $10 Hall of Fame, the Chateau Bonnet white. The best red was also French, the Jaboulet Parallèle 45 Rhone blend, and which tasted fresher and more interesting than the last time I had it.

• How much terrible cheap wine is there in the world? So much that even I was surprised, and I probably taste more crappy wine than almost anyone. Too many of the wines were embarrassments — no varietal character, fruitiness verging on sweetness for wines that weren’t supposed to be sweet, and flaws like unripe fruit and off aromas.

• Availability reared its ugly head more than once. One wine we wanted to recommend, the Zestos rose, didn’t make the final cut because the only Dallas retailer that carried it out was almost sold out. This, said several panelists, happens more often than not, depriving readers of quality wine. Also, there were too many old and worn out wines in the tasting, because Dallas retailers leave them on the shelf instead of dumping them for newer and fresher vintages.

• The restaurant perspective was fascinating. I evaluate wines by price — is there value for money? Hence, I don’t treat a $5 wine the same as I do a $50 wine; I expect more of the latter. The restaurant perspective, if not exactly the opposite, is about quality. Is it a quality wine to serve to their guests? If so, then they decide if it’s worth the money.

Finally, a tip o’ the WC’s fedora to my pal Tina Danze, who oversees the tastings, for asking me to participate. It was much fun, and I was flattered she wanted my cheap wine experience on the same panel with people like Paul Botamer, the wine director for Fearings at Dallas’ Ritz-Carlton.

Thanksgiving wine 2015


thanksgiving wineThis year’s “Why did they bother?” Thanksgiving wine press release offered two roses, costing $65 and $100, as the perfect holiday wines. We’ll ignore for the moment that the point of rose is to cost much less than that; rather, why would anyone need or want to pay that much money for wine for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is the greatest wine holiday in the world because it isn’t about money or showing off, but because it’s about being thankful that we can be together to enjoy the food and the wine.

Needless to say, my suggestions for Thanksgiving wine cost much less and almost certainly offer more value. Guidelines for holiday wine buying are here.

King Estate Pinot Noir 2013 ($26, sample, 13.5%): I tasted this Oregon red at an American Wine Society dinner, where we also had a $160 California red. Guess which one I liked best? This is is not to take anything away from the California red, but to note the King Estate’s quality and value, and especially for pinot noir — lighter but with a touch of earthiness, cherry and raspberry fruit, and a wonderful food wine. Highly recommended.

Pierre Sparr Crémant d’Alsace Brut Réserve NV ($18, sample, 12.5%): Sophisticated sparkling wine from France’s Alsace that got better the longer it sat in the glass, and which surprised me with its terroir and sophistication. Look for stoniness and minerality with ripe white fruit.

Bonny Doon Le Pousseur 2013 ($26, sample, 13,5%): This California red is my favorite Randall Grahm wine, not necessarily because it’s better than any of the others, but because of what it is — syrah that somehow combines New World terroir with old world style. Lots of black fruit, soft tannins, and that wonderful bacon fat and earthy aroma that makes syrah so enjoyable.

• Domaine Fazi Île De Beauté 2014 ($10, purchased, 11.5%): A Corsican rose made with a grape blend that includes sciaccarellu, the best known red on the French island. Maybe a  touch thin on the back, but an otherwise more than acceptable rose with a little tart red fruit and that Mediterranean herbal aroma known as garrigue. And yes, I’d take 10 bottles of this over any $100 rose.

Muga Rioja Blanco 2014 ($13, sample, 13%): Spanish white made with mostly viura has some oak, tropical fruit, and refreshing acidity, and why the Spanish don’t bother with chardonnay. Muga is one of my favorite Spanish producers, and almost everything it makes is affordable, well-done, and worth drinking.

More about Thanksgiving wine:
• Thanksgiving wine 2014

Thanksgiving wine 2013
Thanksgiving wine 2012


Labor Day wine 2015

Labor Day wine

Bring on the wine for some Labor Day porch sitting.

Four wines to enjoy for Labor Day weekend, as well as the Wine Curmudgeon’s annual appearance at the Kerrville Fall Music Festival to talk about Texas wine (and to hear live music in a most amazing setting) and my more than annual reminder: If your state makes wine, it’s about time to try it, or to buy another bottle if you’ve found one you like. Because drinking local matters more than ever.

Labor Day wines should be lighter, since the weather is warmer; refreshing, since you’re likely to enjoy them outdoors at a picnic or barbecue; and food friendly, because you’re probably going to drink them with a holiday dinner or lunch:

López de Haro Rosado 2014 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): I bought this wine at an iffy retailer where most of the rose was overpriced or of questionable quality, and it didn’t disappoint. In other words, always trust in Spain. Look for red fruit, an undercurrent of minerality, and $10 worth of value.

Garafoli Guelfo Verde 2013 ($10, purchased, 11.5%): This Italian white is fizzy — or frizzante, as the Italians call it. Hence, it comes with a soft drink bottle cap closure. Slightly sweet, but pleasantly so, with some lemon fruit. Serve chilled.

Famillie Perrin Côtes du Rhône Villages 2012 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): French red blend with grenache, syrah, and mouvedre Solid, varietally correct Cotes du Rhone with more black fruit than i expected, some earthiness, and black pepper. Very food friendly.

Trivento Chardonnay Amado Sur 2014 ($15, sample, 13.5%): This Argentine white blend is surprisingly crisp for a wine that is 70 percent chardonnay, but somehow has more pinot grigio qualities than either chardonnay or viognier, the third grape in the blend. Having said that, well done, mostly a value, and quite food friendly.

For more on Labor Day wine:
Labor Day wine 2014 
Labor Day wine 2013
Labor Day wine 2012
Wine terms: Porch wine

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