Tag Archives: wine reviews

Wine of the week: Straccali Chianti 2014


Straccali ChiantiThe retail market, despite years of producers wishing otherwise, is still awash in cheap Chianti, the Italian red wine made with sangiovese from the Chianti region of Tuscany. Most of it, save for a couple of brands like Melini, tastes like you’d expect: harsh and bitter, with little reason to drink even though it costs less than $10. 

Add the Straccali Chianti ($8, purchased, 12%) to the first group. It’s not just a better value than the Melini, which I love, but a well-made wine that embarrasses all those $15 grocery store red Italians with their cute names and shiny labels. One of the great questions in Italian wine: Why, if the country’s winemakers can do something like the Straccali Chianti, do they do so many dull, overpriced, Paso Robles-style wines on the theory Americans prefer them? Trust me — we want quality, not marketing.

Look for more depth than the Melini, so that you have to swallow twice to get a hint of everything that’s going on. It’s also less rustic, with black pepper, red cherry, a little more grip, and the acidity that Chianti is famous for. One key to this wine: a touch of merlot is blended with the traditional sangiovese and canaiolo grapes, which rounds out the flavors and mouth feel. Plus, no oak, which lends more freshness than you expect.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to be added to the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this as the weather cools on its own if you want a glass of red, or with pork or beef that will complement the crisp red fruit, as well as red sauce.


Mini-reviews 77: Reinhold Haart, Piccini, Picpoul, Corvina


Reinhold HaartReviews 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.

• Reinhold Haart Riesling 2014 ($35, sample, 7%): Gorgeous, honeyed white wine with sweet lemon fruit — and not the fake Sweet Tart kind common these days — that reminds you how wonderful German riesling can be. This is sweet wine the way it should be, made to be a sweet riesling instead of just being made to be sweet.

• Piccini Memoro Rosso 2014 ($12, sample, 14%): Very ordinary Italian red blend of no particular interest, with that ashy middle that often shows up when too much winemaking is going on. The poorly done oak overshadows too soft red fruit.

• Domaine des Cadastres Picpoul 2014 ($10, sample, 13%): Regular visitors know how much the Wine Curmudgeon appreciates picpoul, a cheap French white. Sadly, this isn’t one of them. Old-fashioned, but not in a good way, made with unripe grapes, almost no fruit flavor, and a too sour taste.

Tenuta Sant’Antonio Corvina 2013 ($10, purchased 13%): One review of this Italian red made with the corvina grape (usually used as for blending) says it has tropical fruit, an interesting way to describe a red wine. Another way is flabby and soft, without any freshness or acidity. Very disappointing given the quality of the producer.

Wine of the week: Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier 2014


Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognierHow impressive is this California white wine blend? For one thing, it has its own website, and how many $10 wines can say that? For another, some retailers — who apparently have no shame — charge as much as $15 for it. Is it any wonder the Wine Curmudgeon is so curmudgeonly?

The other thing you need to know about the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier ($10, purchased, 12.5%)? That it is, as always, one of the great cheap wines ever made, combining the qualities of each grape to produce something greater than the whole. Given how much stupid label, fake oak, sort of sweet cheap white wine gets foisted off on us, this is a revelation. And that it’s made with two grapes that don’t get much respect makes the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier that much more interesting.

In addition, the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier is different each vintage, something that also rarely happens with cheap wine. The 2014 has less citrusy sauvignon blanc character than the 2013 (something you can get from chenin blanc), with more steely chenin minerality and a dollop of white fruit (peach?) from the viognier, as well as an almost floral aroma.

Drink this chilled on its own, or with any end of the summer dinner. It’s a fried seafood wine, too — clam rolls, anyone? Highly recommended, and sure to take its place again in next year’s $10 Hall of Fame.


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