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Tag Archives: Rene Barbier

Wine to drink when the power goes out, 2014 edition

winereview
three cheap wines

The Wine Curmudgeon has entirely too much experience cooking like this.

Who knew, after last December’s ice storm and four days without power, that the Wine Curmudgeon would get to do it again — and only nine months later? Ain’t electricity deregulation grand, TXU?

We lost power for 2 1/2 days at the beginning of October after 30 minutes of rain and high winds. The difference this time is that temperatures were in the 70s and 80s and not the 20s and 30s. Hence, when it was time to eat dinner, I felt like drinking wine (though I had to use ice cubes for the white instead of leaving it on the kitchen table to chill).

The wine, in fact, was one of the highlights of the blackout (along with the Dallas Public Library, where my branch — despite the outages and years of draconian budget cuts by the shysters who run the city — somehow had electricity and Internet service). Otherwise, the Wine Curmudgeon was even more cranky and irritable than normal; I’m tired of losing electricity the way the rest of the United States gets an annual vacation.

So what did I drink?

Rene Barbier Mediterranean White NV ($4, purchased,  11.5%): My favorite cheap white wine was a godsend. When the power went off on Thursday afternoon, I screwed open a bottle, dropped in some ice, and tried to convince myself the lights would be back on that evening. The Spanish Barbier is made with the same grapes as cava and has many of the same flavors, though more lemon than apple. Very dry, very crisp, and always a terrific value.

Cote Mas Blanc Mediterrannee 2012 ($10 for a 1-liter bottle, sample, 12.5%): This French white blend of grenache blanc, vermentino, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc was almost $10 Hall of Fame quality. It really doesn’t need the chardonnay, which I assume was added to make it softer and more appealing to the mythical U.S. consumer who is supposed to need those things. Having said that, the first two grapes give it freshness and white fruit, and that’s really all it needs. Especially tasty with takeout from Cowboy Chicken, where they did yeoman duty dealing with the outage.

Cote Mas Rouge Intense Mediterrannee 2012 ($10 for a 1-liter bottle, sample, 13.5%): This red, like the Cote Mas white, comes from Paul Mas, who knows a thing or two about quality cheap wine. Again, my only complaint is that there is merlot and syrah, neither of which does much except make the wine more chalky. Trust me — a red from southern France with grenache, carignan, and cinsault can be delicious without any help, as we have learned with this style of red blend in Texas. But the wine is still enjoyable, with lots of dark fruit and soft tannins.

Know what I was glad I didn’t have drink? The $3 wines I tasted at the end of September. Talk about adding insult to injury.

Wine review: Rene Barbier Mediterranean White NV

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Wine review: rene barbier Mediterranean white NVThe Wine Curmudgeon’s enthusiasm for cava, the sparkling wine from Spain, is well known. It’s cheap and well made — no doubt much of the wine world shakes its head and sighs every time I recite its wonders. But how can I help myself? It’s $10. And it tastes like this. And this. And this.

So what does this have to do with the Barbier ($5, purchased, 11.5%), a white blend from Spain? It’s made with the same grapes that cava is made from, and tastes mostly like cava without the bubbles — some lemon with a bit of tartness (like a lemon square minus the sugar?). It’s not as well done as most cavas and it won’t win any awards, and when I tell people how much I like it, they shake their head and sigh yet again. But it’s clean and refreshing and it doesn’t have any flaws, and it only costs $5. How many other wines at that price can you say that about?

Serve this well chilled (an ice cube never hurts it), and drink it with almost anything that isn’t red meat. And, if and when winter ever ends, this is the kind of wine that makes porch sipping such a pleasure.

Finally, a sad note: Rene Barbier also makes an excellent $5 rose, and I just tasted it again — fruitier than other Spanish roses, but well-made and a step up from the white. So, of course, because the wine business works this way, the rose is being phased out. No more will be made after this year. Which means that if you see it in a store, buy a case, because you won’t be able to buy it again.

Wine of the week: Rene Barbier Red NV

wineofweek

Rene Barbier RedThe Wine Curmudgeon has tasted some 15,000 wines since starting the blog seven years ago, and perhaps the biggest surprise was tasting the Rene Barber red 18 months ago. Somehow, a soft, fruity Spanish blend that was made for ice cubes and people who didn’t like red wine had turned into a $10 Hall of Fame effort.

The good news — the amazing news — is that 18 months later, the Barbier ($6, purchased, 13.5%) is still a terrific value, even at a higher price. The difference between this style and the previous, I’ve been told, is more merlot. How Spanish merlot can make that much difference is beyond me, but who am I to question the results?

Look for red fruit; a beginning, middle, and end; and even some tannins. It doesn’t taste New World, with a little darkness, but don’t expect something very Spanish like Aldi’s Vina Decana. And people who don’t like red wine may well still enjoy it. In this, the Barbier shows how Big Wine can uses its resources to make something that doesn’t insult our intelligence, either in quality or price.

One caveat: NV means non-vintage, so there’s no guarantee the next bottling will taste like this one. These kinds of wine are made to hit a certain price, and if better grapes are too expensive, the producer almost always switches to less expensive grapes, and the wine suffers in quality.

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