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Tag Archives: malbec

Mini-reviews 81: Estancia, malbec, Macon, Scarpetta

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estanciaReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

Estancia Pinot Grigo 2014 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): This California white is another example of the deteriorating state of cheap wine. If you drank it when it was released almost a year ago, it had pleasant apple and tropical fruit and was certainly worth what it cost. Drink it almost a year after release, which I did, and the fruit is gone and what’s left is mostly pithy bitterness — the kind of wine people cite when they say they don’t like wine. Even $9 white wine should last 15 or 18 months.

Pascual Toso Malbec 2014 ($8, purchased, 14%): This red is a decent enough grocery store Argentine malbec, without too much jammy berry fruit and a little rusticity for balance, though there is way too much fake oak. It’s not bad, but not as good as it could be.

Louis Jadot Mâcon-Villages 2014 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French white is everything the Estancia isn’t, and offers at least $10 worth of chardonnay. Look for green apple, a nicely rich mouth feel, and short if refreshing finish. It should be in most supermarkets in the country, so you have something to buy if all else fails.

Scarpetta Timido NV ($17, purchased, 12%): This sweetish Italian rose sparkling wine has lots of strawberry and then some more sweetness, just like I remember from the bad old days. You can buy the same quality wine for half the price without any trouble at all.

Wine of the week: Argento Malbec 2014

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argento malbecThe Wine Curmudgeon can think of no higher praise for the Argento Malbec: I don’t like malbec, and I would not only buy it, but serve it to my friends.

That’s because the Argento Malbec ($8, sample, 13.5%), an Argentine red, is everything most grocery store wine isn’t: It’s not cloying, it’s not too soft, and it’s not smooth in that mindless way that so much wine in supermarkets is. In fact, grocery store wine has no right to be this well made, based on how much junk I taste every year, and part of me still doesn’t believe it was this good. But sometimes, Big Wine (Argento may be near 1 million cases a year) gets it right.

Look for fresh black fruit, a little spice, and the soft tannins that separate malbec from merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Plus, the almost cherry aroma wasn’t like the Jolly Rancher cherry smell that makes me want to dump other wines down the drain. Pair the Argento malbec with any red meat, and especially a hearty winter stew, as well as sausages with red sauce. Highly recommended, and the perfect wine of the week for the introduction of the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame on Friday.

Wine of the week: Casillero del Diablo Malbec Reserva 2013

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Casillero del Diablo malbecChilean malbec is a wine oxymoron. The Argentines make malbec, not the Chileans, so what’s the point of something like the Casillero del Diablo malbec? In addition, the Casillero del Diablo brand, made by Concha y Toro, is often undistinguished grocery store stuff, another reason to wonder about the quality of the malbec.

Which is why the first rule of wine writing is to taste the wine before you judge it. The Casillero del Diablo malbec ($9, sample, 13.5%) is much more than it should be, a value quality red that can often be found for a couple of bucks less than the suggested price. Look for some grip, where the wine has staying power in your mouth and not just gobs of fruit. In fact, there isn’t too much black fruit (plums? black cherries?), making this more like an older style of French malbec than a 21st century Argentine one. The oak is muted, and if the middle isn’t very full, it’s not short and offensive, either. The finish has what wine geeks like to call chewy tannins — not overdone, but almost meaty.

Pair this with any red meat, be it hamburgers or something a little more sophisticated, and it would go well with sausages, too. And remember, as you drink it, that tasting wine is the most important — and only — way to assess quality.

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