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Tag Archives: Italian wine

New Year’s sparkling wine 2014

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New Year's sparkling wine 2014The Wine Curmudgeon won’t be drinking Champagne on Wednesday night or Thursday; the Champagne trade association has taken wine lawsuit foolishness past the point where it’s silly, turning it into a free speech issue. This is the Champagne Jayne case, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago and which has made an Internet splash in the week or so leading up to New Year’s.

The trade group is suing Champagne Jayne, an Australian wine writer named Jayne Powell, because she also writes about other sparkling wine. Her name, says the group, violates the EU’s trade agreement with Australia and if she is going to write about cava or Prosecco, she can’t call herself Champagne Jayne. And the French wonder why they have so many public relations problems.

Fortunately, there’s little need to drink Champagne for New Year’s anymore, given the revolution in sparkling wine. Yes, it may be the best bubbly in the world, but it’s priced out of reach for most of us and the alternatives are better than ever. Hence this year’s recommendations, after the jump, focus on those affordable sparklers that don’t offend the First Amendment.

Lamberti Rose Spumante Extra Dry NV ($12, sample, 11.5%): Fresh and  floral, with red fruit and surprisingly bubbly, this pink Italian is not too sweet or too fizzy. It was a revelation, given how crummy so many cheap spumantes can be.

J Brut Rose NV ($38, sample, 12.5%): This is always one of my favorite California sparklers, and this edition is one of the best in years. There are layers of flavor, with yeastiness, strawberry fruit, and minerality. Given how overpriced so many $40 Champagnes are, this is a steal.

Mas Fi Brut Natura Reserva NV ($10, sample, 11.5%): This Spanish wine is more dry and more elegant than many cavas, thanks to a slightly different winemaking process. Look for more white fruits than apple flavors (a welcome change), and a very long finish. Yet another example of how far cava has come.

Trump Winery Sparkling Blanc de Blanc 2009 ($24, sample, 12%): The former Kluge winery in Virginia makes some of the best sparkling wine in the U.S., and it’s even available in states other than Virginia. This is a chardonnay-based wine, with crisp green apple fruit and more richness than I expected.

How serious am I about my Champagne boycott? I have a $150 sample of Champagne in the wine closet that I’m not going to drink.

More about New Year’s sparkling wine:
Wine terms: Champagne and sparkling wine
New Year’s sparkling wine 2013
New Year’s sparkling wine 2012
Wine of the week: Castillo Perelada Brut Reserva NV
Wine of the week: Adami Prosecco Brut Garbèl NV

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.

Wine of the week: Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco 2011

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Order by noon Monday for holiday delivery for the cheap wine book


Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco Many of us who were liberal arts students in the 1970s spent a lot of time with European history, and one of the things we learned is that national borders were flexible. Unlike the U.S., where we believe in mostly straight lines that are always the same, European borders have changed frequently over the past 500 years. A war, a new ruler, or a dynastic marriage, and part of one country would become part of another without any trouble at all.

What does this have to do with wine? A lot, actually, as only the Wine Curmudgeon would take the time to point out. Northern Italy wasn’t Italian the way we understand it for most of those of 500 years, but part of various German-speaking states, including the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Which means there is a tradition in Northern Italy of wine producers with German-sounding last names making wine with German grapes.

Alois Lageder does it, and so does the Tiefenbrunner family, as the pinot bianco ($15, purchased, 13%) demonstrates. Hence a label that says both pinot bianco and weissburgunder, the grape’s German name (which is pinot blanc in French) on it. Pinot bianco is softer and more floral than pinot grigio, and is much more enjoyable at the lower prices I write about.

This wine is an excellent example of pinot bianco. Look for green apple fruit with an undercurrent of something almost tropical, lots of white flower aromas, and a minerality and acidity that don’t overwhelm the wine the way they can in pinot grigio. That I bought a previous vintage, and paid more than I usually do, attests to the Tiefenbrunner quality. Highly recommended, even at $15.

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