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Tag Archives: wine review

Wine of the week: Rene Barbier Red NV

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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.

Wine of the week: Adami Prosecco Brut Garbèl NV

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Wine of the week: Adami Prosecco Brut Garbèl NVThe problem with Prosecco for those of us who don’t understand it is that it doesn’t taste the way we expect it to. It’s made differently, so it’s sweeter and not as bubbly. That makes it difficult to judge Prosecco as Prosecco, and not in comparison to Champagne, cava, or any sparkling wine made in a more dry and bubbly style.

Which is even more difficult if you’re one of the world’s greatest living advocates of cava and someone whose only criticism of Champagne is that it’s too expensive.

But the Wine Curmudgeon is nothing if not persistent, and my exploration of Prosecco over the past month or so has helped me get a better idea of what it is and why so many people like it. Because they do: Two-thirds of the increase in imported sparkling wine sales in 2012 in the U.S. came from Italy, and most of that was Prosecco. The key to understanding Prosecco? To accept it for what it is, and not to make the mistake that Champagne snobs make when dismissing cava for no other reason than it isn’t Champagne. Prosecco is supposed to taste like Prosecco, and nothing else.

The Adami ($15, sample, 11%) is a big step in that direction. It tastes like quality Prosecco, with more character and interest than many others at this price. That means more structure — a beginning, middle, and end, instead of just a sweetish, fruity middle — and apple fruit instead of softer tropical flavors. The bubbles are also a little sturdier. All in all, very nicely done, and you could do much worse tonight when toasting the New Year.

Wine review: Falesco Vitiano Rosato 2010

image from www.falesco.it When the Wine Curmudgeon tastes this wine, he is not only enjoying one of the best $10 wines in the world, but remembering the day when he embarrassed himself in front of the legendary Riccardo Cotarella — not just once or twice, but three times.

The first instance has been documented, and the second I'll save for another day. The third came while tasting the rose, when I asked Cotarelli if the wine shouldn't be colder. It was at red wine temperature, and I had always been taught that roses, like whites, should be chilled 10 or 12 degrees more. No, no, no, he said. Don't drink it chilled. You'll never taste all of the flavors.

This was an amazing thing to say. First, how many $10 wines have more than one flavor? Second, it's not unusual for winemakers to want critics to taste their wines chilled, since that covers up most flaws. Third, Cotarella was correcting a critic, and while many, many winemakers would like to do that, most of them figure discretion is the better part of valor. Too many wine writers, secure in the knowledge that we already know everything, don't react well to criticism.

But Cotarella, secure in his talent and the quality of his wine, said what needed to be said. And I will always be grateful for that. This vintage ($10, purchased) is as well done as always, with some bone dry strawberry fruit and the nooks and crannies of quality that define the Cotarella style. Drink it over the Labor Day weekend on its own or with burgers or barbecued chicken, and you'll know  why there is a special Falesco wing in the $10 Hall of Fame.

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