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Christmas wine 2014

winereview

• Order by noon Monday for holiday delivery for the cheap wine book


Christmas wine 2014Wine suggestions for the holiday next week, whether you need to buy a gift or aren’t sure about what to serve family and friends, be it for dinner or just because:

Sileni Pinot Noir 2013 ($16, sample, 12.5%): This red wine from New Zealand has been winning awards around the world this year, and why not? It tastes like pinot noir, with dark cherry fruit, soft but still noticeable tannins, and no hint that the wine wants to be anything other than pinot noir, like lots of alcohol or over the top jamminess. If it doesn’t taste like red Burgundy, and I don’t know why it should, it tastes like what it is — one of the best pinots at this price from anywhere in the world.

Grgich Hills Merlot 2010 ($42, sample, 14.8%): Another remarkable effort from Grgich, which has been making this sort of wine for so long we tend to take it for granted. This California red somehow combines high alcohol with style, finesse, and even some earthiness. Look for red fruit and an almost licorice finish. It’s big enough for red meat, but well made enough to enjoy without it.

Chateau d’Archambeau 2012 ($14, purchased, 12.5%): Just when I’ve given up on finding white Bordeaux that tastes like white Bordeaux — minerality and crispness without an overabundance of citrus fruit — along comes this French white, made with two-thirds sauvignon blanc and one-third semillon. Nicely done, and worth the extra couple of bucks compared to something like Chateau Bonnet. Sip on its own, or with holiday turkey.

Argyle Brut 2010 ($22, purchased, 12.5%): Argyle always seems to show up in holiday wine roundups here, but there’s a reason for that. It’s one of the best sparkling wines, dollar for dollar, made in the U.S. — about half the price of its California counterparts, and with that much better quality than less expensive California bubblies. Lots of apple fruit, but also some creaminess. Drink for toasting or with almost any food that isn’t prime rib.

Hacienda Araucano Reserva Carmenere 2013 ($10, sample, 14%): Carmenere is a red grape from Chile that is supposed to vaguely resemble an earthy merlot, but mostly tastes like grocery store merlot. This wine, from the same family that owns Bonnet, is carmenere the way it should be, and especially at this price. Look for black fruit and some grip, a welcome change from all of the flabby carmeneres on the market. Beef wine without a doubt.

More about Christmas wine:
Christmas wine 2013
Christmas wine 2012
Wine of the week: Astoria Prosecco NV
Wine of the week: Little James’ Basket Press NV

Wine of the week: Astoria Prosecco NV

wineofweek

Astoria ProseccoThe Wine Curmudgeon, slowly but surely, is understanding Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine. First, because I’m making an effort to appreciate it, and not to dismiss Prosecco because it doesn’t taste the way I want it to taste. Second, because Prosecco winemaking has improved, so the wines are not just sweet and fizzy; also, that it’s possible to find these better quality wines on store shelves because the wine has improved so much.

Case in point is the Astoria ($13, sample, 11%), one of the best Proseccos I’ve had in a long while. It wasn’t just sweet, which made it wine and not the product of a focus group. In fact, it was interesting, with all sorts of things going on, and that’s not something I usually get to write when I write about Prosecco.

Look for lemon and apple fruit, enough sweetness to make you wonder if it is sweet, and soft but long-lasting bubbles. Another problem with too many Proseccos is that the bubbles are sometimes like a flat soft drink. There is even a sort of minerally finish, which is again unexpected. Highly recommended, and the kind of wine to keep on hand as the holidays approach. This would pair well with Thanksgiving — light enough for a long meal, but well made enough so that it complements and doesn’t overwhelm the food.

Wine of the week: Castillo Perelada Brut Reserva NV

wineofweek

Castillo Perelada Brut ReservaNothing illustrates the revolution in cheap wine better than cava, the Spanish sparkling wine. When I started writing about cheap wine in the early 1990s, cava was almost unknown in the U.S., and the only cava for sale, even at many specialty retailers, was the Freixent black bottle.

Today, though, cava is everywhere, and it’s not unusual to see a half dozen labels at a grocery store. And why not? As the Perelada ($9, purchased, 11.5%) demonstrates, cava may be the best wine value in Spain, and Spain may offer the best wine value in the world. That’s a combination that’s difficult to pass up, especially during the blog’s birthday week.

The Perelada fits between Cristalino and Segura Viudas in style — not as simple as the former, but with its crispness, and more balanced than the latter, but with quality apple and lemon fruit. The bubbles, small and tight, are rarely found in sparking wine that is this inexpensive. And, though simple, it’s not stupid and isn’t as showy as the otherwise delicious Dibon.

Highly recommended, and maybe the best $10 cava I’ve tasted yet — impossibly well done for the price. Will join the Cristalino, Segura, and Dibon in the $10 Hall of Fame in January. Buy this for Thanksgiving, but make sure you buy enough, because everyone will want a taste.

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