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Tag Archives: sweet wine

Wine of the week: Sara Bee Moscato NV

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sara bee moscato Sweet wine is not easy to review, and this doesn’t even take into account that a lot of sweet wine isn’t worth reviewing — poorly made, sweeter than Coke, and as cynical as a carnival barker. Many of the Wine Curmudgeon’s readers — half? more? — will skip this review in annoyance and some will even cancel their email subscription in disgust.

But let it not be said that I am easily intimidated.

The Italian Sara Bee Moscato ($7, purchased, 5.5%) is one of the best sweet wines I’ve tasted in years, and especially at this price. Yes, it’s sweet — probably somewhere around a high-end soft drink like Jones Soda — but there is plenty of orange fruit aroma, common to the moscato grape, apricot, some wonderful “fermentato,” which translates into light, fun bubbles, and even a bit of crispness (usually missing in most sweet wines at this price).

I drank it with some delicately-spiced Indian takeout, and the sweetness correctly played off the spice. It would also work as a dessert wine; something with chocolate, perhaps? Sweet wine drinkers, of course, won’t bother with any of that. Chill it well, add an ice cube or two if you want, and enjoy.

So what’s the catch? The Sara Bee is made by Santero, a dependable producer of grocery-store priced Italian sparkling wine, but this is a private label for the Trader Joe’s chain. This means two things: Trying to get information about the wine is almost impossible, since Trader Joe’s doesn’t like to return phone calls, and you can’t buy it anywhere else. If you’re in a state without a Trader Joe’s or one that doesn’t sell wine — in New York and Pennsylvania, for instance — you’re out of luck.

This is a $10 Hall of Fame wine, but because of the availability problems, I probably won’t add it next year. But if you have $7, are near a Trader Joe’s that sells wine, and are curious about the Sara Bee, don’t hesitate to try it.

Winebits 323: Sweet wine, three-tier, high alcohol

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Winebits 323: Sweet wine, three-tier, high alcohol

Where do we go? Obviously, not anywhere where three-tier doesn’t exist

Bring on the Apothic: E&J Gallo, one of the biggest wine companies in the world, is making a play for the British market, and is using its sweet red wine to do the job, reports the Harpers trade magazine. The article describes Apothic as a blend of five grapes, though doesn’t mention that it helped pioneer the sweet red movement in the U.S. Rather, it quotes a Gallo official, who says the wine is “very different from previous Gallo brands, and very polarizing.” Still, he says Apothic is selling better than expected, and has been picked up by most of the country’s major grocery stores. It’s odd that Harpers doesn’t mention that Apothic is sweet; its stories are usually better reported than that. Did the writer leave it out on purpose or just not know? Or figured no one in the UK wine business would care?

Play that dead band’s song: The Wine Curmudgeon has often noted that Alabama can be in a completely different universe when it comes to wine distribution and sales, even allowing for the eccentricities inherent in the three-tier system. Like this. And thisBut this one is nifty, even for Alabama. The state legislature wants to pass a law that would make it more difficult for retailers in Montgomery County, which includes the city of Montgomery, to switch distributors. Imagine the clout that’s required to get a bill like that through, which benefits just a handful of companies. It speaks to the immense power of distributors and why three-tier remains so well entrenched in the supply chain.

But it’s in Scientific American: Those of us who write about wine regularly argue about high alcohol, often to no effect other than name calling and snarkiness. But consider this — a report in a respected journal that’s not about wine headlined “Wine Becomes More Like Whisky as Alcohol Content Gets High” and that includes news of a new yeast that allows winemakers to produce fruity wine without high alcohol. Plus, there’s Latin in it, which always impresses me. More importantly, does an article in something as prestigious as Scientific American help mend the rift between the pro- and anti-high alcohol factions? Almost certainly not, unfortunately. The two sides just don’t like each other, and personality — and not wine — has become all.

Mini-reviews 56: Uncensored, Martin Codax, Jordan, Fess Parker

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Mini-reviews 56: Uncensored, Martin Codax, Jordan, Fess ParkerReviews 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.

Geyser Peak Uncensored White 2012 ($10, sample, 13%): Disappointing California sweet white blend, featuring some unripe fruit, some ripe fruit, and a mix of banana and lemon pith flavors. Why so many producers insist on selling such poorly made wine is beyond me, other than that they figure anyone who likes sweet wine won’t know the difference.

Martín Códax Albariño 2012 ($15, sample, 12.5%): A professionally made, as always, Spanish white with lemon fruit, though softer and without the almost salty sea air tang of other albarinos. Price, as always, is $3 more than it should be.

Jordan Chardonnay 2011 ($30, sample, 13.5%): The archetype for California Russian River Valley chardonnay, with green apple fruit, oak more or less in balance, and a rich mouth feel. Needs food, and especially classic chardonnay dishes made with cream sauces.

Fess Parker Riesling 2012 ($15, sample, 12.5%): A very pleasant surprise — California off-dry riesling that was more than just sweet. Look for apricot and melon, and even a little honey. Very well done, and highly recommended.

Image courtesy of Talk-A-Vino, using a Creative Commons license

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