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Cupcake wine review 2014

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Cupcake wine review 2014Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($9, purchased, 13.5%)

Cupcake Pinot Grigio 2013 ($9, purchased, 12.5%)

Whenever the Wine Curmudgeon reviews Cupcake wines, I always end up writing as much about the brand and the company that owns Cupcake as I do about the wines. That’s because Cupcake may be the most fascinating wine brand in the world today, where what’s in the bottle doesn’t matter nearly as much as how the wine is marketed. It’s genius, actually, all those red velvet cake descriptors propelling the brand to national awareness without any help from the Winestream Media or scores.

Who else would have the nerve to market a wine called Chloe, with a suggested price of $17, targeting “weddings, birthdays and other celebratory gatherings” without any hint of what it tastes like? Or that calling it Chloe has more than a little to do with the name’s popularity for baby girls over the past decade?

Which doesn’t mean Cupcake wines are bad. They inhabit the region between the boring grocery store stuff and the best cheap wine. In this, think of the chain restaurant business, where Cupcake is an upscale steakhouse like Capital Grille or Fleming’s, and the rest of it is Red Lobster and Texas Roadhouse. The food is better at the former, but in the end it’s still chain food, and these wines, no matter how much Cupcake dresses them up, are still chain wines.

The cabernet, from California, is full, fruity, and almost balanced, with soft tannins, cherry fruit, and an odd sort of chocolate flavor. It’s not quite sweet, though the residual sugar is higher than in most red wines. It’s much better than I expected it to be, and certainly drinkable. If you’re going to make a focus group wine, this is the way to do it.

The Italian-made pinot grigio, on the other hand, is surprisingly disappointing, given how easy it is to make cheap, palatable pinot grigio. It’s oddly disjointed, with a dollop of sweet white fruit in the middle, a quality that doesn’t go with its traditional, Italian-style quinine approach that makes up the rest of the wine and is so popular among women of a certain age. My guess is that the dollop is there to sweeten the wine in line with Cupcake’s flavor profile, a winemaking trick that is cheaper or easier or more legal than adding sugar.

So one yes and one no. Assuming, of course, you can’t find a better $10 wine, which isn’t all that difficult. The labels just aren’t as much fun to read.

For more on Cupcake wine:
Cupcake wine review 2013
Cupcake wine review 2012

Mini-reviews 57: Bonterra, Carlos Pulenta, Da Luca, Tormaresca

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Mini-reviews 57: Bonterra, Carlos Pulenta, Da Luca, TormarescaReviews 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.

Bonterra Zinfandel 2011 ($16, sample, 14.5%): More old-style zinfandel than new, with brambly black fruit and alcohol in balance instead of a fruit-infused cocktail that makes you reach for a glass of water after a sip and a half. Another winner in my recent zinfandel streak, and a treat to drink.

Carlos Pulenta Malbec Tomero 2011 ($15, sample, 14%): Fairly-priced Argentine red that doesn’t have too much black fruit — which means it’s drinkable and not syrupy — and somehow manages to be mostly balanced. A very pleasant surprise.

Da Luca Pinot Grigio 2012 ($13, sample, 12%): Disjointed pinot grigio with requisite tonic water at back but also weird fruit in the middle, almost tropical. Not much better than grocery store pinot grigio but at almost twice the price.

Tormaresca Chardonnay 2012 ($9, purchased, 12%): How the mighty have fallen. This white, like the Tormaresca Neprica, used to be value-priced quality wine. Now, it has just one note — lots of what tastes like cheap fake oak, with very little fruit or interest. Very disappointing.

Mini-reviews 55: The nothing really wrong with it, but … edition

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Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another — in this case, because there’s nothing really wrong with them, but you can do better. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

Clos du Bois Pinot Grigio 2012 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): This California white is just another pinot grigio, without any redeeming features other than that it’s cheap and inoffensive. Nothing really wrong with it, but there are lots of other wines that offer more for the price.

Haury & Schaeffer Grenache 2012 ($10, sample, 14%): French red tastes like it came from California — all fruit and not much else. Nothing really wrong with it, but not sure what the point of it is since there are already hundreds of wines just like it.

Bolla Prosecco Extra Dry NV ($12, sample, 11%): Italian sparkling wine took me back to a 1970s wedding, when the bubbly was sweetish, didn’t bubble much, and tasted a lot like 7-Up. Nothing really wrong with it, if that’s what you’re looking for — and many people are.

Reata Chardonnay 2012 ($20, sample, 14.3%): Early 2000s-style California white wine with a national forest full of oak and more alcohol than it needs, but nothing really wrong with it for people who still like that sort of thing.

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