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Mini-reviews 67: Black Friday wine edition

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Black Friday wineBecause what’s better than four cheap wine reviews — none more than $10 — for Black Friday? Plus, you don’t have to get up at 3 a.m. or wait in line to read it.

La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2012 ($9, purchased, 13%): This vintage of the Hall of Fame Italian red isn’t as interesting as previous versions — not as deliciously tart and missing the earthiness that made me want to buy a case. Still, it’s worth drinking, with mostly cherry fruit.

Melini Orvietto 2013 ($7, purchased, 12.5%): Soft white fruit and bone dry, this Italian white is a wonderful food wine. The problem is that the various parts are disjointed, so you get one swallow of fruit and one swallow of acid instead of it being all of one. But still a terrific value.

El Sancho Escudero White NV ($5, purchased, 11%): This Spanish white is a knockoff of the much loved Rene Barbier white, made with the same cava grapes. It’s not as lemony or fresh as the Barbier, but delivers $5 worth of value. May be Whole Foods private label.

Rare Rose NV ($10, sample, 13%): Surprisingly tasty given that it seemed, from all appearances, to be just another California sweet pink wine. But it’s just barely sweet, and the red fruit (strawberry?) balances the sweetness. This is wine for someone who wants to try something other than white zinfandel.

Wine of the week: Astoria Prosecco NV

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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.

Winebits 361: Thanksgiving 2014 edition

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Thanksgiving 2014Thanksgiving wine suggestions from around the Internet:

 • Keeping it simple: From Real Simple, part of the Martha Stewart magazine empire, “affordable” wines for Thanksgiving. And who says we’re not making progress on the cheap wine front? The recommendations include so many wines that I’ve reviewed here that I think the author may have visited the blog once or twice. They include Gruet sparkling (though the article says it’s New Mexico, which hasn’t been true for years); the Pine Ridge chenin blanc blend (and can the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame be just seven weeks away?); and the Sicilian Planeta red. One caveat: This is a dated post, despite its high Google position, and some of the wines listed will be hard to find.

Surprisingly simple: From Forbes, which offers mostly affordable wine, including too many that aren’t all that good. Still, one of the world’s great wine values, the $12 Acrobat pinot gris, is included. Equally as bizarre — the $10 Handcrafted chardonnay, about as simple as chardonnay from a Big Wine producer gets, is next to the $60 Sea Smoke, a 14.9 percent California monster with 16 months of oak and a critical darling. The only thing those two wines have in common is that they have grapes in them.

 • Never simple: From Eric Asimov at the New York Times, whose annual Thanksgiving column, which I always enjoy, is not unlike the Passover Seder scene from “Annie Hall” — lots of arguing between people who mostly agree about they’re arguing about. His choices include a $14 white Loire from Fournier Pere et Fils, made with sauvignon blanc that I’d love to try. But I’ve never seen in a store and Wine-Searcher,com says it’s only available from east coast retailers. The rest, as delicious as they sound, seem to be as New York-centric as the Fournier.

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