Tag Archives: red wine

Wine of the week: Straccali Chianti 2014


Straccali ChiantiThe retail market, despite years of producers wishing otherwise, is still awash in cheap Chianti, the Italian red wine made with sangiovese from the Chianti region of Tuscany. Most of it, save for a couple of brands like Melini, tastes like you’d expect: harsh and bitter, with little reason to drink even though it costs less than $10. 

Add the Straccali Chianti ($8, purchased, 12%) to the first group. It’s not just a better value than the Melini, which I love, but a well-made wine that embarrasses all those $15 grocery store red Italians with their cute names and shiny labels. One of the great questions in Italian wine: Why, if the country’s winemakers can do something like the Straccali Chianti, do they do so many dull, overpriced, Paso Robles-style wines on the theory Americans prefer them? Trust me — we want quality, not marketing.

Look for more depth than the Melini, so that you have to swallow twice to get a hint of everything that’s going on. It’s also less rustic, with black pepper, red cherry, a little more grip, and the acidity that Chianti is famous for. One key to this wine: a touch of merlot is blended with the traditional sangiovese and canaiolo grapes, which rounds out the flavors and mouth feel. Plus, no oak, which lends more freshness than you expect.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to be added to the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this as the weather cools on its own if you want a glass of red, or with pork or beef that will complement the crisp red fruit, as well as red sauce.


Mini-reviews 77: Reinhold Haart, Piccini, Picpoul, Corvina


Reinhold HaartReviews 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.

• Reinhold Haart Riesling 2014 ($35, sample, 7%): Gorgeous, honeyed white wine with sweet lemon fruit — and not the fake Sweet Tart kind common these days — that reminds you how wonderful German riesling can be. This is sweet wine the way it should be, made to be a sweet riesling instead of just being made to be sweet.

• Piccini Memoro Rosso 2014 ($12, sample, 14%): Very ordinary Italian red blend of no particular interest, with that ashy middle that often shows up when too much winemaking is going on. The poorly done oak overshadows too soft red fruit.

• Domaine des Cadastres Picpoul 2014 ($10, sample, 13%): Regular visitors know how much the Wine Curmudgeon appreciates picpoul, a cheap French white. Sadly, this isn’t one of them. Old-fashioned, but not in a good way, made with unripe grapes, almost no fruit flavor, and a too sour taste.

Tenuta Sant’Antonio Corvina 2013 ($10, purchased 13%): One review of this Italian red made with the corvina grape (usually used as for blending) says it has tropical fruit, an interesting way to describe a red wine. Another way is flabby and soft, without any freshness or acidity. Very disappointing given the quality of the producer.

Wine of the week: Pinot Patch 2013


pinot patchRegular visitors here know one of the Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite laments: That it’s almost impossible to find $10 pinot noir that tastes remotely like pinot noir (or $20 or $30 or $40 pinot noir that tastes like pinot noir, but that’s another matter). There are several decent $10 wines that say pinot on the label, but they’re more fruity red blends than anything else.

So I was quite pleased to meet Aaron Inman, whose family owns Romililly Wines, which makes Pinot Patch pinot noir ($11, sample, 13.5%) because that’s one of the reasons for being for the wine — to make a quality, affordable pinot that tastes like pinot. This California red has berry fruit, but not so much that it tastes like a fruity red blend, as well as that hint of earthiness in the aroma that pinot should have. Best yet, the tannins are zingy and not harsh, so that the wine doesn’t remind you of cabernet sauvignon.

Yes, it’s a simple wine, but it doesn’t insult you by pretending to be something that it’s not. In $10 pinot, that’s a victory for the good guys. Drink this with any red meat (burgers on the grill?) and be glad that Inman gave up engineering in favor of winemaking. And check out the picture on the Pinot Patch website of the young Inman and his brother Jesse on their bikes. Those are the kind of people I want making my wine.

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