Champagne - a sucker bet?
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Two affordable reds
After a week of traveling in two of the world's great wine regions, Burgundy and Champagne, sampling wines of a quality and price that I can rarely enjoy at home, it's time to reset my standards back to the level that I can afford.
Happily, my notes on a couple of $10 reds that I enjoyed in the days before leaving for France remind me that there's plenty to like in the budget realms. And if everyday wines like these don't always make you hear choirs of angels sing, why, that kind of a diet might be a little rich for regular consumption anyway.
The new "Red Truck" table wine from California's productive Cline Cellars, a blend of Syrah and Mourvedre and unidentified supporting players, has drawn mixed reviews from the tasters in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, many of whom fault it for a lack of the acidic structure needed to support its abundant fruit. There's no question that you'll find a flabby padding around its vinous waistline, but there's still a lot to like in its juicy, very berry fruit.
There's less reason for serious wine enthusiasts to quibble about today's other wine, a big, bold and even ageworthy Monastrell (Mourvedre) from Portico del Castillo in the little-known Yecla river valley of Southeastern Spain.
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Cline Cellars 2002 California "Red Truck" ($10)
This blend of Syrah and Mourvedre shows a clear ruby color with a reddish glow, with a ripe and luscious aroma of mixed red and black fruits. Juicy fruit carries over on the palate in a ripe, fresh flavor profile that's so fruity it almost seems sweet. It's a jovial quaff, but the fruit outruns minimal acidity, leaving a pudgy beverage that seems as much like a "spiked" glass of fruit juice as wine. That said, I find some things to like in it ... a wisp of tannins and an intriguing back note of minerality that's nostalgically reminiscent of old country rain barrels keeps me coming back until the glass is gone. (May 18, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Juicy, medium-rare hamburgers make a natural match with blowzy wines like this; even better was an upscale variation, lamb burgers laced with fresh ginger, garlic and minced South African Peppadew-brand red peppers.
VALUE: The $10 I paid was a bit on the high side compared with online prices, and serious wine enthusiasts might award higher point scores to such competitors as Laurel Glen REDS, Bonny Doon's Big House Red or Cline's own Oakley Vin Rouge (formerly Cote d'Oakley).
WHEN TO DRINK: Now.
WEB LINK: Here's a link to the Cline Cellars Website:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Compare prices and find sources for Cline Red Truck on Wine-Searcher.com,
Portico del Castillo 2002 Yecla Monastrell ($9.99)
This Monastrell (Mourvedre) hails from Yecla, a small and rather obscure wine region in Southeastern Spain, near Jumilla. Very dark reddish-purple in color, it shows almost a bluish cast. The aromas are all earthy Mourvedre: Ripe black fruit accented by characteristic varietal accents of leather, "tree bark" and subtle "barnyard." Big and full on the palate, juicy black fruit gains structure from crisp acidity and gentle warmth from substantial 14.5 percent alcohol. U.S. importer: European Cellars Direct, NYC, Eric Solomon Selections. (May 18, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: This gutsy, powerful wine has plenty of oomph to stand up to spicy, savory lamb burgers loaded with ginger, garlic and sweet-hot red peppers.
VALUE: A very good value at $10.
WHEN TO DRINK: Drinking nicely now, but balance, power and the nature of the variety suggest that it will hold up and even gain flavor interest with five years in a good cellar.
WEB LINK: I couldn't find a Website for the winery, but you might enjoy an interesting article about the Yecla wine region (in English) on the Website of the excellent Madrid wine shop Reserva y Cata:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: To locate this wine, check local wine merchants, or (for U.S. readers) find a distributor in your state on the importer's Website,
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Wednesday, June 2, 2004