Tag Archives: Spanish wine

Mini-reviews 78: White Rioja, Peter Zemmer, Benoit Gautier, Mouton Cadet


white RiojaReviews 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.

Dinastía Vivanco Rioja Blanco 2013 ($11, sample, 13.5%): Pleasant enough white Spanish blend from the Rioja region, with some white fruit and a hint of orange. We don’t see white Rioja much in the U.S., but the novelty isn’t enough of a reason to buy it and there are better wines for the same price.

Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio 2014 ($16, sample, 13.5%): Premiumization rears its ugly head. This Italian white isn’t appreciably better than any $8 grocery store pinot grigio, with the same bitter finish, tonic water taste profile, and little noticeable fruit.

Benoit Gautier Vouvray 2013 ($13, sample, 12%): There were once a host of $10 well made and slightly sweet chenin blancs from the Vouvray region of France, but many of them aren’t as well made any more and aren’t $10, either. The Gautier almost fits the bill as one of the former, but there isn’t enough white fruit or acidity to back up the sweetness.

Mouton Cadet Rose 2014 ($11, purchased, 13.5%): This French pink wine from the Bordeaux region is bitter, without much fruit, not very interesting, and very disappointing. It’s the kind of wine people drink and then switch to sweet tea.

Wine of the week: Honoro Vera Monastrell 2013


Honoro Vera MonastrellBuy this wine. The Honoro Vera Monastrell is that cheap and that well made — what else needs to be said? In this, it not only reaffirms that Spanish wine offers the best value in the world today, but that it’s possible for a producer to make honest wine and to respect its customers.

Monastrell is the Spanish name for the French mourvedre (though there is some dispute), and is mostly used in red blends. The Honoro Vera ($9, sample, 14%), from the fourth-generation Gil family, shows how to do it as a varietal, focusing on its earthy, almost gamey flavor. But don’t let that scare you off, for there is plenty of blueberry fruit and almost spicy tannins. It’s difficult to believe that a wine made with this grape at this price can be this enjoyable. I drank it with chicken breasts roasted with olive oil and herbs, and the pairing was spot on.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to enter the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. I have written this a lot this year, as wine prices have gone up and quality has gone down, but this wine restores my faith in the wine business. I have tasted so much junk at $15 and $20, where the producer cares not at all about quality and only about margins, that the Gil family does this reminds me why I love wine.

Wine of the week: Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red NV


Rene Barbier Mediterranean RedThe Wine Curmudgeon has pretty much had it with the wine business over the last three or four months, as regular visitors here probably noticed the moaning and complaining. The cranky meter has been turned up to 11, but why not? Most of the samples since April have been insipid and flabby, and were so overpriced they wouldn’t have been worth buying even if they had been drinkable. I’ve dumped more wine down the drain since Tax Day than I usually do in two years.

Fortunately, there is the Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red ($5, purchased, 12.5%), the merlot and tempranillo blend from Spain that has had a well-deserved spot in the $10 Hall of Fame for several years. How a very cheap wine offers so much that wines costing three or four times more don’t have speaks to the cynicism and tomfoolery that is dominating the wine business these days.

Look for red fruit that tastes like wine, and not cherry cough syrup or Hawaiian Punch; soft but noticeable tannins, which so many of these wines have abandoned in their quest to cram in as much sweet fruit as possible; and a finish that is neither bitter, green, nor annoying. It’s a wonder of winemaking in the post-modern world, and it’s one I appreciate so much that I bought a case. I use it to wash out the taste of the more expensive samples.

Serve the Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red whenever you want a glass after work (it has a screwcap now) or with any sort of summer red wine dinner. And don’t be afraid to chill it, which doesn’t dull the wine at all.

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