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Mini-reviews 74: White wines for summer

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white winesReviews 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. This month, white wines for the beginning of summer:

Honora Vera Rueda 2013 ($6, purchased, 13%): Ordinary grocery store verdejo, missing some lemon fruit that should be there and a little harsh on the finish. Yet, having said this, that a national retailer is selling this hardly common Spanish white speaks to how far cheap wine has come.

Canals Canals Cava Classic NV ($15, sample, 11.5%): Very pretty cava, the sparkling wine from Spain, that is softer and more Prosecco like, with green apples and lemons. Not crazy about the price, if you appreciate the style, worth the money.

Amarte Mas Albariño 2013 ($15, sample, 13%): Quality albarino, a white wine from Spain, though there are equally as good wines made with the same grape for less money. Look for soft white fruit aromas, some lemongrass in the middle, and a full finish.

Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc 2013 ($15, sample, 13.5%): This California white is a touch overpriced, but a solid, dry, crisp, and lemony chenin blanc — the kind of inexpensive and well-made California white wine we need more of.

Wine of the week: Kon Tiki Merlot 2014

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kon tiki merlotMichael Franz, who judged the flight of $15 and under merlots at the Critics Challenge with me last month, was even less optimistic abut finding quality wine among the nine entries than I was. And regular visitors here know how the Wine Curmudgeon feels about $10 grocery store merlot.

So if Michael was happy, then you know the wine was worth drinking. We gave six medals, including a platinum to the Chilean Kon Toki merlot ($12, sample, 13.2%) — easily one of the best grocery store merlots I’ve had in years. It tasted like merlot and not a chocolate cherry cocktail, with almost unheard of depth and subtlety. Look for a black currant aroma followed by black fruit and very correct tannins that weren’t harsh or off, but complemented the fruit.

This is the kind of wine to buy by the case and keep around the house when you want a glass of red wine that does what red wine is supposed to do, and that doesn’t offend you with too much fruit, bitterness, or oak. Drink it on its own, or with any weeknight red wine dinner, from meat loaf to takeout pizza. Dad probably wouldn’t mind a bottle, either, if he needs something for Father’s Day.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the $10 Wine Hall of Fame if I can find it for that price. The only catch? The importer lists distributors in 33 states and the District of Columbia, but many of them are small and may not have enough clout to get the wine on store shelves.

Cupcake wine review 2015

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cupcake wine review 2015Cupcake Moscato 2013 ($10, purchased, 9.5%)

Cupcake Red Velvet 2012 ($10, purchased, 13.5%)

When the Wine Curmudgeon finishes a day of wine judging, he usually gets a beer or glass of whiskey to cut the taste of the sweet wines that we judge at the end of each round. After tasting the two wines for the Cupcake wine review 2015, I needed a couple of belts of Wild Turkey.

It’s not so much that the Red Velvet, the legendary Cupcake sweet red blend, and the Italian moscato were sweet, which I was prepared for. Rather, they were sweet in that cynical, Big Wine, better living through chemistry way that drives me crazy. Sweet doesn’t mean bad; the best German rieslings are some of the world’s great wines.

But wines made to be sweet for sweetness’ sake? No thank you — and the moscato went past even that to sweet tea territory. There was a little orange-ish moscato aroma, and then some sweetness. And more sweetness.  And, in case you missed it, even more sweetness. No acidity, no freshness, just lots of sugar. Assuming my math is correct, it may be as much as 10 percent residual sugar, about one-third higher than a typical Old World moscato, and with one-third more alcohol. In this, as my old pal Tom Johnson noted, it’s Boone’s Farm for Baby Boomer grandchildren (with the resultant sugar-fueled hangover).

The Red Velvet, though even more a product of post-modern winemaking, was more like wine than the moscato. It had flavors — a sort of cherryish, chocolate thing — as well as tannins and acidity. There wasn’t much of either of the latter, but enough so that you could drink it and not go into a sugar coma. Serve it chilled with hamburgers and it’s drinkable in a way the moscato isn’t, even for those of us who prefer more balanced sweet wines.

It’s also why wine needs ingredient labels. Cupcake says Red Velvet has zinfandel, merlot, and petite sirah, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a couple of other grapes, as well as MegaPurple grape juice concentrate for added color. Plus, what Cupcake describes as a “unique oak regimen” smells and tastes like caramel-flavored fake oak.

So one yes, the Red Velvet, and one no, the moscato. In this case, .500 is not a bad average.

For more on Cupcake wine:
Cupcake wine review 2014
Cupcake wine review 2013
Cupcake wine review 2012

 

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