Domaine du Vieux Chene Cuvée des Capucines

Domaine du Vieux Chene Cuvée des CapucinesMade of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah, this wine comes from the southern part of the Côtes du Rhône province near Orange, Vaucluse in France, and more specifically just outside the village of Camaret.  This is not far from the well-known Chateauneuf du Pape appellation.  Domaine du Vieux Chene produces a number of wines from these vineyards with organic farming techniques. Read more

Château Beauchêne Vignoble De La Vialle

Château Beauchêne Vignoble De La VialleI avoided the French aisles of wine shops for ages, mostly because I was intimidated by names like this one: Château Beauchêne Vignoble De La Vialle Côtes du Rhône Villages.  And in addition to being a honestly hefty name, many of the French producers use the fanciest scripted fonts they can find, building it really impossible to read.  The font on this one isn’t too terrible, compared to some others I’ve seen, and if you spend some time with French wines the language barrier isn’t so terrible either. 
There’s a lot of stuff in this name, so let’s break it down to simplify it… Producer: Château Beauchêne, Brand/Designation: Vignoble De La Vialle, Appellation: Côtes du Rhône Villages.
I had mentioned at the start of this series on Côtes du Rhône that I would feature a link from the Villages appellation.  This usually signifies a step up in quality and value, but in this case I found it to be honestly comparable with non-Villages Côtes du Rhône wines. Read more

Silver Burgundy: Affordable Burgundy Wines

Silver Burgundy: Affordable Burgundy WinesYay!  It’s my favorite day of the month: Wine Blogging Wednesday.  The host this month is Neil at Brooklyn Guy’s Food and Wine Blog and he has named the theme “Silver” Burgundy.  The Burgundy wine that most people reckon of comes from the Gold Coast (Côte d’Or) and tends to be rather pricey.  If you don’t want to empty your bank account on the Gold Coast, perhaps you should visit the “Silver” Coast of Burgundy.
Neil’s goal with this theme is to identify more affordable (but subdue tasty) Burgundy wines, specifically from the Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais regions.  The rules of this challenge also state no Chablis and no Beaujolais.
I am a pleased man when the theme revolves around affordability.  And I was intrigued by venturing into the French aisle of the wine shop.  I admittedly don’t drink a lot of French wine.  I don’t have anything against the French, it’s just a language barrier. 
I do fantastic with Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, but I’m lost with French.  And to complicate it even more, they use the most ornate fonts on the earth to design their marks.  I can struggle through it, but it takes me three times as long to interpret a French wine mark as any additional province.  And I take way too much time at the wine shop anyway.  But the only was to fix my issues with French wine is to place myself into that aisle and get more familiar with the language and regions… and this was a fantastic opportunity for me to do that.
I managed my way through the language barriers and found a wine from both recommended regions for this challenge. 
Côte Chalonnaise: Mont Avril Bourgogne Pinot Noir
Côte Chalonnaise is considered better for red wines, so I went with a Pinot Noir from this province.  The Mont Avril Pinot Noir is produced by Domaine Michel Goubard & Fils and sold for $16.99.  I was pleased to see on their website evidence that they struggled with English translation as much as I struggled conception French wine marks.
I found this wine to be a fantastic pinot noir.  It has a very fascinating nose with cherry, mushroom, cinnamon and cigars.  I spent a excellent five minutes just enjoying the aromas previous to I even tasted it.  The palate is equally exciting with cherry, rhubarb, leather and cinnamon.  It does have a slightly high acidity but nice smooth tannins.  I gave it an 89.  Although it’s a link bucks more than I like to spend (I am the cheap wine guy after all) I will probably get this again sometime for a splurge.
Wine: Domaine Michel Goubard & Fils, Mont Avril Bourgogne
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2005
Alcohol: 13% 
Rating: 89
Fee Paid: $16.99
Mâconnais: “Les Charmes” Chardonnay
Contrary to Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais is better known for colorless wines.  Therefore, I selected a Chardonnay from this province.  The Les Charmes Chardonnay is from producer Cave de Lugny, who own over 98% of the vineyard property in the Mâcon village of Lugny.
This is pretty much a classic chardonnay.  It has citrus and mineral on the nose.  Tart apple and lots of butter on the palate.  It is well balanced, but not too exciting.  I gave it an 85 and wouldn’t be liable to buy it again.  It wasn’t terrible, just nothing special, and I reckon I can find better chardonnay for less.
Wine: Cave de Lugny “Les Charmes”
Varietal: Chardonnay
Vintage: 2005
Alcohol: 13% 
Rating: 85
Fee Paid: $12.99

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Kuentz-Bas Tradition Riesling Review

Kuentz-Bas Tradition Riesling ReviewIt’s time once again for Wine Blogging Wednesday and the host this month is Tim at Winecast.  For those stumbling upon this who don’t know what Wine Blogging Wednesday is, it’s a monthly event when wine bloggers from around the globe all write about a common topic.  The theme this month, for WBW #45, is Ancient World Riesling.
With Ancient World Riesling as the theme, you can check out about 50 additional wine blogs today and learn a wide breadth of European Rieslings.  Some reviewers will feature sweet Rieslings and others, like me, will highlight the dry ones.  
Remember that syrupy-sweet stuff you were served the last time you had Riesling (the time when you declared that you don’t like Riesling because it’s too sweet), forget about that.  Dry Riesling is delightful and is typically dominated with mineral and citrus flavors.  Some of the German ones may also have a oil characteristic to them.
The Riesling I chose to review is Kuentz-Bas Tradition from the Alsace province on the eastern border of France.  This is a province well known for its colorless wines, Gewürztraminer and Riesling in particular.  Kuentz-Bas has been producing wines in this province since 1795, so I guess you could say they have a bit of experience.
Kuentz-Bas Tradition 2005
I am pleasantly surprised by the intensity of the nose of this wine.  It’s not overbearing, but it’s more intense than I expected.  Honeydew melon and floral notes are the dominant aromas, but there is also a bit of mineral smell like the wet rocks from a crisp, clean mountain stream.  That mineral aspect dominates the palate.  It is like pulling one of those rocks from the stream and sucking on it.  Picture one of those well-worn, rounded, granite-based rocks.  There is also a excellent amount of lime flavor mid-palate with a crisp acidity.  The end brings a subtle pineapple flavor to the tongue.  It’s a long end too—I can walk away from this for a few minutes and I’m subdue enjoying the aftertaste.
This is a fantastic example of a dry, ancient world Riesling at a decent fee, $14.99.  If you’re a name who has always avoided Riesling because you reckon it’s too sweet, I suggest you give this one a try.
Wine: Kuentz-Bas Tradition
Varietal: Riesling
Vintage: 2005
Alcohol: 12.5%
Rating: 89
Fee Paid: $14.99

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“S” is for Saint-Esprit Côtes du Rhône

“S” is for Saint-Esprit Côtes du RhôneToday is Wine Blogging Wednesday number 47 and the theme is the letter “S.”  For those who don’t know what Wine Blogging Wednesday is, it’s a monthly event when wine bloggers around the world all write about a common theme. The theme typically revolves around a specific type of wine or wine province, but each now and then it’s just something fun and creative.  That’s the case this month, with a theme that brings back memories of Sesame Street.
Each Wine Blogging Wednesday comes with a host who is responsible for providing the round-up of all the contributions.  This month’s host is Grape Juice, a Canadian wine blog.
With a theme that is brought to you by the letter “S” things are pretty wide open to do whatever I want.  Many wine bloggers will take the strategy of tiresome to find a wine that includes as many “S”es as possible. They’ll find a wine like Syrah or Sangiovese, produced in Sonoma, Spain, or South Africa, by a producer with an “S” name.  I too did a bit of that, but I wanted to find a link “S”es that others may not focus on.  The first one is sneek peek.
Yep, this Wine Blogging Wednesday I am giving you a sneek peek at the next series (there’s another “s”) that will be featured on Cheap Wine Ratings. If you’re a regular reader you know that we’ve been doing a series on California Zinfandel for what seems like forever.  Well, that is nearly complete and the final summary is quick approaching. Once that is done we’ll be featuring Côtes du Rhône wines and today we’re revealing the first wine in that series.
Saint-Esprit Côtes du Rhône from Delas Read more

Ormarine Picpoul de Pinet

Ormarine Picpoul de PinetA few weeks ago I wrote about a link examples of Picpoul de Pinet, one of my favorite colorless wine varietals.  It’s one of those varietals where you’re most liable only going to find one or two options at your local wine shop, versus the 80+ options you’ll have for Chardonnay.
Given that I don’t come across Picpoul de Pinet from a large number of producers it doesn’t make sense for me to do a full series here on Cheap Wine Ratings.  But I recently tried a new one and I chose to do another quick review.  I won’t regurgitate all the background info on Picpoul, you can check out the previous post for that. Read more

Réserve Perrin Côtes du Rhône Red Blend

Réserve Perrin Côtes du Rhône Red BlendIt’s time to start our next series of reviews, and as promised it’s red blends from the Côtes du Rhône province, and I’ll highlight a link wines from the Côtes du Rhône-Villages appellation.  First let’s explore what this appellation is.
Côtes literally means, “hills.”  So, reckon of these wines as from the hills of Rhone.  The designation can be broadly used to describe any wine from the Rhône valley, but it really is a specific appellation.  I reckon of it as the budget-level designation as appellations within the province that have markedly high quality have earned their own designation, such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  Those wines, while generally considered to be of higher quality, are considerably more expensive than wines with the Côtes du Rhône designation.  And I’ve found that wines from Côtes du Rhône are subdue quite excellent and are often a fantastic value.
Côtes du Rhône-Villages is an appellation that represents villages within the Côtes du Rhône appellation that are a step up in quality—but not a huge enough step up to earn an individual appellation.  There are fantastic values to be found in Côtes du Rhône-Villages.
Wines from Côtes du Rhône are generally blends and Grenache is usually the dominant grape with a variety of Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre as additional varieties.  In some wines you’ll find Syrah as the dominant variety, and that is typically an indication that the wine comes from northern Rhône.  I gave a preview of this series a few weeks ago with an early review of Delas Saint-Esprit, which is a tasty wine from the northern Rhône. Read more

Picpoul de Pinet

Picpoul de Pinet for Wine Blogging Wednesday 46Simply place, Picpoul is my favorite colorless varietal; specifically, Picpoul de Pinet from Coteaux du Languedoc in France.  Since learning it I nearly don’t want to try any additional colorless wine for I have found the one that I like.  This is an absolutely delightful varietal.  It’s set alight, dry, minerally, acidic… it’s everything I want from a colorless wine.
Picpoul is a varietal that originated in southern France and is often used as a component in blends versus bottled as a single varietal.  It is known for its high acidity which makes it an brilliant wine to pair with shellfish — oysters are a well loved choice with Picpoul.  It is also an brilliant choice with rich, soft cheeses.
The Picpoul de Pinet terroir is the largest colorless wine producing province in Coteaux du Languedoc.  Rather than spending my time rehashing the details, I’ll direct you to the Picpoul de Pinet site to read all about the terroir.  They’ve done a fantastic job.
In addition to being consistently a fantastic colorless wine, another consistency I’ve noticed is that the producers all seem to use the same bottle design.  See the designs on the neck of the bottles pictured below.  So you can quickly identify this varietal on the shelf when you see the bottle.
It is sick how much I delight in this wine.  It is the most crisp and refreshing colorless varietal I have ever tasted.  I tried Picpoul de Pinet from two different producers for this Wine Blogging Wednesday and they were both brilliant.
Le Jade Picpoul de PinetAt times Picpoul can be a bit too acidic, but this one is just right.  And it has surprising complexity for a $9 bottle of wine.
The nose is a full bouquet of tropical delights.  There’s a bit of grapefruit, some pineapple, and lime.  Yes, those are all acidic fruits, but trust me… it’s not too acidic.  The palate on this has a gentle pineapple and lime flavor with really nice mineral undertones.  The end is rather long and is very minerally.
I loved this with some garlic butter drenched escargot and some pan bigio bread with soft ripened fromage triple-crème.  It was delightful, but I found myself wishing I had picked up the lobster I was eyeing in the market.
Wine: Le Jade
Varietal: Picpoul de Pinet
Vintage: 2006
Alcohol: 12.5%
Rating: 89
Fee Paid: $8.99
Hugues Beaulieu Read more