Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Brooklynguy's Notes on Recession Wines

On Monday I posted a list of wines that cost $14 or less, about $15 including NYS tax. These wines come recommended by buyers at some of my favorite stores in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Several people wrote comments about wines on the list and in some cases offered helpful recommendations of their own. I drank a few of these wines with dinner in recent weeks, and I'll share a few thoughts with you.

First, I think that it is absolutely possible to find great wine at this price point. I'm pretty narrow in my focus - I drink mostly French wine, and even with the bad Euro, I find very good wine for $14 or less. I think that the most important element at this price point is balance. Even if the wine is not all that complex, if the fruit is not as ripe or lush as you'd like, if there is good balance between the fruit, the acidity, and the alcohol - that makes for enjoyable drinking. This might sound simple, and fine, maybe it is. But there is something to this: if you can find an inexpensive wine with good balance, one that you like to drink on its own or enjoy with various foods...worth its weight in Euros.

For example, consider one of the white wines recommended by Ben Hagan at Slope Cellars, the 2006 Jardin de la Fruitière. A 50-50 blend of Chardonnay and Melon de Bourgogne (the Muscadet grape), this wine is fresh and crisp, lively and well balanced. The fruit is ripe, the alcohol is listed at 12%, the wine is just delicious. And it costs $10. It doesn't have the nuance or minerality of good bottle of Muscadet, or the layers of flavor in a better wine from the Mâconnais. But it's $10, and it's a well balanced and interesting bottle of wine.

Contrast this with another of Ben's recommendations, the 2006 Pichierri Primativo del Tarantino Vermiglio. This wine had fantastic wild cherry fruit, no mistaking that. But the acidity was out of balance, quite shrill and intense, and made the wine difficult to drink on its own. it's all about the balance, baby!

Here are some thoughts on the other other wines I tasted:

I love the 2006 Cassagnoles wine from the southwest of France, a rich, zesty, and well balanced blend of Gros Manseng, Ugni Blanc, and Colombard. Along with the Jardin de la Fruitière I would say that these wines at $10 are my favorite value whites of the season. The Caves de Saumur Les Pouches is also a very nice wine for the money. It's the drier and more mineral of the two Caves de Saumur wines recommended, and clocks in at nice and low12% alcohol. It's a balanced wine with simple but pleasing green apple and citrus flavors, and with enough air time, there is some complexity to the aromas. I'd be quite happy if a glass of this were available at a restaurant.

The Kuentz-Bas Alsace Blanc is good too. It's a neat blend of mostly Sylvaner, but there is Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and even a bit of Muscat in there too. Not at all sweet, quite mineral, very good stuff, not reservations on this one. The Luneau-Papin is a good Muscadet, but I can't help but compare it to the L D'Or, which is just a better wine. I'm not sure that I prefer this one to the Pepière Muscadet, which costs a few bucks less too.

I've tasted far fewer of the reds that were recommended. The Chateau la Rame is nice wine, clean, good fruit, a sense of soil, compliments food. The Domaine St Vincent Saumur-Champigny is not a wine that I reach for when thinking about value priced Loire reds, but it's certainly decent wine. The D’Estezargues Cotes du Rhone is a lovely wine. 100% Cinsault, which you don't often see, this wine combines plummy fruit with a wild brambly sensation, like walking through the forest. This is one that benefits from air time - a decant might be good.

I'm not trying to beat a dead horse here, but my favorite under $15 beauty of the season is the fantastic 2005 Clos Siguier Cahors, $12, (Jenny & Francois). This is very serious wine, requiring a good decant if you're going to get all of the aromas and flavors to blossom.


Anonymous said...

The guys at Terroir Natural Wines in San Francisco were really raving about the Clos Siguier, too. Cool!

Anonymous said...

My two cents worth on this topic--

Red: I have really liked the 2005 Domaine Monpertuis Vin de Pays du Gard "Vignoble de la Ramiere--Cuvee Counoise" ($12). Good straight from the bottle, it blossoms and improves markedly with some aeration. Strikes me as the quality equivalent of a very fine Cotes du Rhone.

White: 2006 Confrerie des Vignerons Oisly & Thesee Touraine Sauvignon "Les Gourmets" ($7). I had the 2005 version of this wine, too. Very varietal, clean, and zesty, if I were served this in a glass I might be forgiven for guessing Sancerre. That's pretty good for $7!

Drink, Memory said...

Oh, yes, white:

I forgot to mention the Lamoreaux Landing Chardonnay,(Lodi, NY) which is $14.99
and one of my favorite new discoveries, especially since I am mostly a red drinker. Fruity, slightly creamy, and everyone who tastes it in the store just loves it.

Anonymous said...

Having tried the Vermiglio Primitivo, i would definitely not call it a wine out of balance. The knock on Southern Italian reds tends to be that there is no acid; they tend to be a little flabby. Maybe in a regional context this wine seems screaming, but I find it refreshing that a Pugliese producer vinifies a wine with a little mouthwatering acidity. All the better for a red sauce, in my humble opinion. Let us not squelch this promising trend.

Anonymous said...

Oops! Ihave no reason to post as anonymous (see previous post). Nice wine blog...

Tony said...

Could you recommend to me some stores in Manhattan that carry the red wines that you like under 15 dollars?


Brooklynguy said...

Tony - Chambers St Wines is my personal favorite for this.