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Wine of the week: Root:1 Pinot Noir 2012

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Wine of the week: Root:1 Pinot Noir 2012Today's wine of the week is another lesson in tasting the wine before you judge it. Regular visitors will remember the Wine Curmudgeon's ambivalence toward Chilean pinot noir until I was forced to taste it last summer; in addition, Root:1 wines have rarely impressed me, being inconsistent more than anything else.

Nevertheless, I tasted the pinot noir ($10, sample, 13.5%) with an open mind, because that's what I'm supposed to do. And guess what? The wine was worth the effort. It's light, fruity (some sort of red berry?), and balanced, without any of the excesses that plague other $10 pinots -- like adding syrah or grenache -- to make them taste fruitier and heavier. And, blissfully, the tannins were more or less what they were supposed to be.

It's not exactly pinot noir, lacking the earthiness and subtle of great pinot. In this, it tastes more like Beaujolais, which seems to be the case with a lot of $10 pinots from South America. But it's clean, food friendly, and a fine value for $10 -- so fine, in fact, that it merits consideration for the 2015 $10 Wine Hall of Fame.

Wine of the week: Anne Amie Cuvée A Muller-Thurgau 2012

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Wine of the week: Anne Amie Cuvée A Muller-Thurgau 2012One of the most nefarious developments in the wine business is the $15 wine that is only worth about $10. You’ll see this a lot at grocery stores, but it shows up elsewhere as well. The point of these wines is to add value not through what’s in the bottle, but what’s on the bottle — a clever name, a funny label, or paragraphs of winespeak.

That these wines trick consumers into paying more than they should is bad enough, but they also sour the market for $15 wines that are worth that much money, like the Anne Amie. How is a wine drinker, faced with the grocery store wall of wine, going to know that the Anne Amie is an honest wine that delivers value and not something made to fool them?

That’s why I’m here. Anne Amie in Oregon’s Willamette Valley is one of my favorite U.S. producers, making smart, value-driven wines with grapes that aren’t for the faint hearted. The Amrita, for example, is a blend of 10 grapes, including chardonnay and riesling, a combination designed to warm even the most curmudgeonly heart. The Cuvée A ($15, purchased, 12.6%) does the Amrita one better.

Muller-Thurgau is a white German grape not much planted anywhere anymore, even in Germany. It’s sort of like riesling and gewurtztraminer, but with its own characteristics. That means it’s crisp, but not necessarily fruity. The 2012 Cuvée A is softer than previous vintages, almost off-dry — which isn’t a bad thing. Look for white pepper and spiciness, with honey and apricot flavors. Exceptionally well done, and the kind of wine that’s perfect as spring arrives.

Wine of the week: Cave de Lugny Mâcon-Villages 2012

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Wine of the week: Cave de Lugny Mâcon-Villages 2012One of the most amazing things about the Golden Age of Cheap Wine is that it’s amazing despite the dollar’s weakness against the euro. Its decline, dating to the beginning of this century, has increased the price of European goods by as much as 20 percent, and cheap wine has mostly followed suit.

Case in point are the French wines from Cave de Lugny, a growers’ cooperative in the Macon region in Burgundy, which makes some of the best grocery store whites in the world. The catch, thanks to the weak dollar, is that they aren’t priced like grocery store wines these days, costing $15 or more. Which is why I haven’t reviewed a Cave de Lugny wine in three years.

Which is also why the Wine Curmudgeon was so excited to see Lugny’s Macon-Villages ($10, purchased, 13%) at this price. And, frankly, I should have bought more than one bottle. It’s a chardonnay that is always dependable and always varietally correct, made in the traditional Macon style — no oak. That means some lemon and green apple fruit, lots of crispness, and a very clean finish that hints at the minerality of a more complex wine.

Serve this chilled with almost any white wine dish. And if you see other Lugny wines, like the Les Charmes, for $10 or so, don’t hesitate to buy it. You can enjoy it while pondering the mysteries of exchange rates and international banking.

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