Category Archives: Wine

Review: 2012 Martin Codax Albarino

martin codax albarino 2012 wine 124x300 Review: 2012 Martin Codax AlbarinoWidely available and incredibly affordable, Martin Codax’s 2012 Albarino from Spain’s Rias Baixas region is easy to like. Offering fresh lemon and pineapple notes, it has a modestly creamy body and a brisk acidity to the finish. A bit of vanilla adds a touch of the exotic.

A- / $12 / martincodax.com

Tasting Report: 2009 and 2010 St. Emilion Bordeaux Wines

It isn’t every day we get to experience a narrowly-focused tasting that offers only wines from a single, small region — and restricts them to just two vintages, at that. Hard, then, to pass up the opportunity to sample the 2009 and 2010 vintages of St. Emilion red Bordeaux wines — all Grand Crus — from dozens of producers in this right bank region, known for its heavy focus on Merlot.

In pitting ’09 and ’10 head to head, I found the vintages largely similar, with 2010 pulling just a bit ahead of its older sibling, thanks to generally better acidity levels in the wine. Thoughts follow on all wines tasted.

Tasting Report: 2009 and 2010 St. Emilion Bordeaux Wines

2009 Château Bellefont-Belcier Bordeaux St. Emilion/ A- / rich, with nice licorice and spice, some leather
2010 Château Bellefont-Belcier Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / slightly thinner
2009 Château Chauvin Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B / needs time, significant herbal notes
2010 Château Chauvin Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / more lively, lots of earth
2009 Château Clos de Sarpe Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B- / showing some oxidation
2010 Château Clos de Sarpe Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B / big raisin, high acidity and tart blueberry notes
2009 Château Corbin Bordeaux St. Emilion/ A- / more floral, with blackberry tones; an easy favorite
2010 Château Corbin Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / lush and mushroomy, leather with deep wood
2009 Clos des Jacobins Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B / modest, tannic with a big finish
2010 Clos des Jacobins Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / lots of depth, similar to 2009
2009 Château la Commanderie Bordeaux St. Emilion/ C- / significant barnyard notes
2010 Château la Commanderie Bordeaux St. Emilion/ C+ / quite jammy, overcooked
2009 Couvent des Jacobins Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B- / out of balance, vegetal notes
2010 Couvent des Jacobins Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B / heavy duty, big structure with lots of future promise
2009 Château Dassault Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / good fruit, balanced with solid acid
2010 Château Dassault Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / a curiosity, raisin character and some Port notes
2009 Château de Ferrand Bordeaux St. Emilion/ A- / well crafted, nice balance of fruit and light herbs
2010 Château de Ferrand Bordeaux St. Emilion/ A- / similar character to 2009, with a bit more acidity
2009 Château de Pressac Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B / tough, slightly weedy
2010 Château de Pressac Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B / similar, a bit thin
2009 Château Destieux Bordeaux St. Emilion/ A- / very rich, dense with chocolate and tobacco notes
2010 Château Destieux Bordeaux St. Emilion/ A- / similar structure, winning body, balanced but with depth
2009 Château Faugeres Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B / some greenness, tar notes
2010 Château Faugeres Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B- / heavy notes of herbs and wood
2009 Château Peby Faugeres Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / dense, heavy tar, blackberry and cassis notes – a huge wine
2010 Château Peby Faugeres Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / a bit over-sweetened, cherry notes
2009 Château Fleur Cardinale Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B / earthy, subtle and more delicate, but short on fruit
2010 Château Fleur Cardinale Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / fuller and rounder, more stone fruit character
2009 Château Fombrauge Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / dense fruitcake character
2010 Château Fombrauge Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B / considerable tannin, tougher, dried herbs
2009 Château Fonplegade Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B- / thin body, short on fruit
2010 Château Fonplegade Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B / tart, acidic finish, cherry cola notes
2009 Château Fonroque Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / some mint, some mushroom, with an herbal finish
2010 Château Fonroque Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / more balanced, crisp and tart berry notes
2009 Château Moulin du Cadet Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B / simple, easy fruit, sweet finish
2010 Château Moulin du Cadet Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B- / tobacco notes, Port character, simple and sweet finish
2009 Château Franc Mayne Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B / easy, simple fruit core
2010 Château Franc Mayne Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B / similar notes to 2009
2009 Château Grand Pontet Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B / some weediness
2010 Château Grand Pontet Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B- / somewhat unripe, tough around the edges
2009 Château Guadet Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / moderate berries on the core, some stone fruit character
2010 Château Guadet Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / better balance, more fruit and structure
2009 Château Jean Faure Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / more powerfully structured, chewier than 2010
2010 Château Jean Faure Bordeaux St. Emilion/ A- / fruit forward, ample body with some floral notes; huge Cab Franc in blend
2009 Château la Dominique Bordeaux St. Emilion/ A- / great balance of fruit with floral notes
2010 Château la Dominique Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / bigger body, licorice notes on top
2009 Château la Marzelle Bordeaux St. Emilion/ A- / lots going on, coffee notes, fresh flowers, big berry notes
2010 Château la Marzelle Bordeaux St. Emilion/ A / similar build, but with a more refreshing finish; tops!
2009 Château La Tour Figeac Bordeaux St. Emilion/ A- / licorice notes, some cocoa beans, dessert-like
2010 Château La Tour Figeac Bordeaux St. Emilion/ A- / much the same, some ginger, cocoa powder
2009 Château Laroze Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / forest floor, charcoal, dense and chewy
2010 Château Laroze Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / lots of tart berry notes, cranberry sauce
2009 Château Le Prieure Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / some menthol on the nose, a bit thin, tobacco notes
2010 Château Le Prieure Bordeaux St. Emilion/ B+ / considerable menthol, more acid, bigger but balanced
2009 Château Yon Figeac Bordeaux St. Emilion/ C- / barnyard notes, on a thin body
2010 Château Yon Figeac Bordeaux St. Emilion/ C / similar character to 2009

Tasting Report: Ferrari-Carano and J Vineyards

A recent trip to Sonoma County took us to a pair of well-known wineries to sample their latest bottlings. Here’s a look at what’s new from Ferrari-Carano (including a number of rare dessert wines) and J Vineyards, best known for its sparkling production.

Ferrari-Carano
2011 Ferrari-Carano Pinot Noir Russian River Valley / $38 / B+ / licorice notes
2010 Ferrari-Carano Sky High Ranch Pinot Noir Mendocino Ridge / $42 / B+ / some mint, strong currant notes
2011 Ferrari-Carano Sangiovese Dry Creek Valley / $42 / B / a bit sweaty
2010 Ferrari-Carano Tresor Bordeaux Blend / $52 / B+ / slightly thin, chocolate cherry notes later
2008 Ferrari-Carano PreVail West Face Alexander Valley / $55 / A- / blueberry, dense and chewy, brownie-like; 100% cabernet sauvignon, late harvest
2007 Ferrari-Carano PreVail Back Forty Alexander Valley / $85 / B / fading, some astringency; 100% semillon (sweet)
2008 Ferrari-Carano Eldorado Gold Sonoma County (375ml) / $30 / B / orange honey notes, some Christmas cake, a bit thin; 100% black muscat (sweet)

J Vineyards
2012 J Vineyards Vin Gris Russian River Valley / $20 / B / some vegetal character, dry, floral finish
2012 J Vineyards Chardonnay Russian River Valley / $28 / B+ / buttery nose, lots of nuts, vanilla, fresh cookies
2012 J Vineyards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley / $37 / A- / cherry, raspberry, coffee notes, some chocolate
2012 J Vineyards Misterra Pinot Noir Russian River Valley / $50 / A / 6% pinot meunier, 4% pinotage; fruitier, more dense and intense; big blucberry notes, with better structure
NV J Vineyards J Cuvee 20 Brut Russian River Valley / $28 / A- / clean, apple and apricot, some nuttiness, well-balanced, tight finish

Review: 2008 Banfi Brunello di Montelcino

CB Brunello di Montalcino 86x300 Review: 2008 Banfi Brunello di MontelcinoCastello Banfi’s newest vintage in its Brunello di Montelcino line is a knockout, and a great improvement over last year’s oxidized mess. For 2008, Banfi has produced a well-balanced mini-masterpiece, with a nose of black pepper and dried cherries, and a body of fresh cherries and raspberries, light tar notes, and a sultry vanilla-inflected finish. It all comes together in glorious fashion, incredibly drinkable with food and on its own — 100% Sangiovese at its best.

A / $55 / castellobanfi.com

Review: 2011 Palmeri Syrah and “Dark and Brooding” Wines

palmeri 93x300 Review: 2011 Palmeri Syrah and Dark and Brooding WinesPalmeri is a small producer in Northern California producing wines from both Sonoma and Napa county. We sampled two of the company’s recent releases.

2011 Palmeri Syrah Alexander Valley Van Ness Vineyard High-Elevation – Made from grapes grown at 1000 feet-plus. It’s an intense wine, the nose thick with anise, leather, and tobacco leaf, the body loaded with dense blackcurrant fruit, dark chocolate, olives, and a finish of Cocoa Pebbles topped with raspberry jam. Initially tight, it opens up over time to reveal some much-needed softness in the middle, though it remains quite daunting on the whole, at least for now. Let this one mellow for a few years. B / $43

2011 Palmeri “Dark and Brooding” Red Wine Sonoma County (pictured) – A mystery blend, but I’d guess it’s heavy on Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet if I had to. “Dark and Brooding” is a bit of a misnomer, as this wine is more like jammy and intense, thick with hefty blackcurrants, tobacco smoke, raisins, and menthol. Initially a bit off-putting, this wine slowly grows on you, but I wouldn’t dare approach it without a substantial meal to back it up. B / $NA

palmeriwines.com

Review: NV La Marca Prosecco

La Marca Prosecco 750ml 88x300 Review: NV La Marca ProseccoA standby of big box stores and mega liquor retailers, La Marca is unmistakable with its Tiffany-blue label and its frequently sub-$10 price tag. Fresh nose, with a touch of green bean edge. The body is toasty and a bit bready, backed with apple cinnamon character and a touch of grapefruit. It’s nothing special, but it’s an easy enough wine to sip on.

B+ / $12 / lamarcaprosecco.com

Review: Sandeman 2011 Vintage Port and 40 Year Old Tawny Port

Sandeman 40YO Tawny 211x300 Review: Sandeman 2011 Vintage Port and 40 Year Old Tawny PortWe’ve covered the Port-makers at Sandeman fairly regularly through the years. Today we get the honor to look at two of its most treasured bottlings: the latest vintage port release (2011), and the 40 year old tawny expression. Thoughts follow.

2011 Sandeman Vintage Port - Classic currant and some coffee notes on the nose. The body is fresh and less brooding than many of its contemporaries, with ripe blackberry and currant notes that lead to a tight finish. I’d give this at least a decade to mature and mellow before sampling again. Rating today: B / $75

Sandeman Tawny Port 40 Years Old – Tea brown in color. Surprisingly familiar, it drinks like a younger tawny, with steady notes of cola, raisins, black tea, and that familiar “old wine” character. Finishes with raspberry notes on the back of the palate. Lots of depth here. Try it with a rich dessert. 20% abv. B+ / $110

sandeman.eu

Review: 2011 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay Napa Valley

chateau montelena chardonnay 196x300 Review: 2011 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay Napa ValleyIt’s a crisp and bright Chardonnay from Montelena for this year’s release. The nose hints at both fruit and minerals, but not much oak, a hallmark for the Napa version of this varietal. Both melon and tropical notes are present, atop a core that offers peaches and lemon notes. Lots going on, but all kept in near-perfect balance. It’s probably tough to ask anyone to pay 50 bucks for Chardonnay at retail (think $100 on a wine list!), but if you’re going to do it, do it with this bottling.

A / $50 / montelena.com

Review: 2012 Clean Slate Riesling Mosel

Clean Slate Riesling Image 60x300 Review: 2012 Clean Slate Riesling MoselSomewhat sweeter than most dry Rieslings, but still crisp and clean, offering ample citrus, tropical notes, honey, and a finish of lightly roasted nuts. With a little more acidity you’d think you were drinking an Australian Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh and lively, this one’s an easy summer sipper (sorry, January!) but also works well with spicy food and lighter fare. Great price for an “uberfresh” wine.

B+ / $10 / cleanslatewine.com

Tasting Red Sancerre Wines: La Croix du Roy and Jerome Gueneau

La Croix Du Roy Sancerre Tasting Red Sancerre Wines: La Croix du Roy and Jerome GueneauSancerre is a lovely wine made in the Loire Valley, a crisp white made primarily from Sauvignon Blanc… except when it’s not. They also make red wine in Sancerre, from Pinot Noir grapes, in total comprising about 20% of the region’s production.

Red Sancerre, or “Sancerre Rouge,” is virtually unheard-of in the U.S. due to being overshadowed by the big boys in Burgundy. Though it’s stylistically quite a bit different, Sancerre’s Pinots still hang onto some of that sense of terroir, with occasionally bright fruit showing through.

We tried two currently available bottlings to see what the fuss (or lack of it) was all about. Thoughts follow.

2008 La Croix du Roy Sancerre Rouge – Light color, a somewhat dainty-looking wine. Somewhat herbacious, slight mushroomy nose. The body, though, offers bright, tart cherry and raspberry character, punctuated with notes of tea and licorice root. The finish is quite acidic, washing away some of the big fruit notes. B / $30

2010 Jerome Gueneau Le Clos Chartier Sancerre Rouge – Less well-crafted than the La Croix du Roy, this Sancerre features more pruny, raisin-driven notes, with intense herbal qualities. The wine opens up after a while to reveal more sultry, berry-driven fruit, but the initial texture is thin and the finish somewhat saccharine. B- / $20

Review: 2011 Vina Ventisquero “Grey” Carmenere

ventisquero grey carmenere 102x300 Review: 2011 Vina Ventisquero Grey CarmenereTying a Chilean Carmenere into the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon is a bit of a stretch, but damn the torpedoes, we’re charging ahead anyway. Grey is a newish label from mega-producer Ventisquero, with a number of varietals under its belt. One of the latest is this Maipo Valley-originated Carmenere — Chile’s unofficial official grape — a 100% varietal bottling.

The nose offers earth and some raisin notes, with deep currant underpinnings. The body offers more of the same, with some tart apple character, and ample raspberry character. Opens up over time, with the initially heavy earth tones fading a bit, revealing a more cohesive, balanced whole.

B+ / $24 / ventisquero.com

Review: Spicy Vines Spiced Wine

spiced wine 99x300 Review: Spicy Vines Spiced WineWhether you call it mulled wine or gluhwein or glogg, spiced wine is a holiday tradition. Spicy Vines wants to bottle the experience — sort of — and bring it to you in a familiar package, without having to resort to kitchen alchemy.

Spiced Wine, by California-based Spicy Vines, starts with nonvintage, non-specified grape wine and adds traditional flavorings to the mix. Spicy Vines doesn’t specify what’s in here, but I doubt they would be surprising. The nose offers cinnamon and almonds, the body cloves, orange peel, and vanilla. The base wine is harmless and unremarkable, but it’s arguably better than the plonk most home glogg-brewers use as the base for their own mulled wine creations. The overall impact, at just 13.2% alcohol, isn’t as throat-burning as many mulled wine recipes. It’s got just enough Christmasy flair to add interest, but it’s ultimately innocuous enough for even those who are normally put off by mulled wine to enjoy. Those looking for a deeply “spicy” experience — as the bottle’s huge label seems to promise — may be a bit disappointed.

Spiced Wine can be served at room temperature or heated. If you warm it up, do so carefully and only a few seconds in the microwave at a time. This is a beverage that is best just slightly warmed. Too hot and it starts to get a little acrid.

B / $23 / spicyvines.com

Review: 2010 Donelan Syrah Knights Valley Obsidian Vineyard

donelan obsidian 95x300 Review: 2010 Donelan Syrah Knights Valley Obsidian VineyardAnother classically structured California Syrah from Donelan, this Knights Valley offering a thickly smoky, mushroomy, and pine forest-focused nose — with undergrowth terroir reminiscent of old Burgundy. On the palate, the wine offers more of this savoriness, bringing grilled meats and wet forest floor to the forefront. What’s lacking here is much fruit — just hints of blackcurrants and blackberries that are quickly overpowered by those tougher, more burly elements.

B / $90 / donelanwines.com

Review: 2012 Assembly Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi

assembly zin bottle shot high res 200x300 Review: 2012 Assembly Old Vine Zinfandel LodiAssembly makes a handful of wine in the Lodi AVA of Northern California. Here’s a quick look at the company’s latest zinfandel release.

This is a tough wine, with a tobacco nose and echoes of beef jerky. The body is dense and chewy, with blackberries at the core alongside menthol, leather, and hickory smoke notes — decent fruit, but a bit muddied with distractions. The finish remains surprisingly tannic, somewhat walled off, and a little difficult to approach.

C+ / $17 / assemblywineco.com

Review: Wolfgang Puck Wines, 2013 Releases

Wolfgang Puck Cabernet Bottleshot 116x300 Review: Wolfgang Puck Wines, 2013 ReleasesCelebrity chefs are plowing their way into the wine world (makes sense), and Wolfgang Puck is the latest with his own house wine that you can serve at your house. Made by DFV Wines (better known as Delicato), the two Puck wines we tried are easygoing and pleasant, but far from challenging or complex. Thoughts follow.

2010 Wolfgang Puck Red Blend Master Lot Reserve California – A bright and fresh red, thick with strawberry and raspberry, but with sweetness kept in check. The nose offers hints of tobacco smoke and leather, but the body pushes the fruit through to the finish. It’s a nice combination, but a simple one. B+ / $10

2011 Wolfgang Puck Cabernet Sauvignon Master Lot Reserve California - Dense with plum and currant, the fruit is countered by just a touch of earthiness, and some chocolate character. Pleasant, but again, simple as can be. B / $12

wolfgangpuck.com

Review: Wines of Mossback, 2013 Releases

Mossback2012ChardHiRes 93x300 Review: Wines of Mossback, 2013 ReleasesThe latest label from the Crew Wine Company, Mossback arrives with four California-focused varietals and price points around the $20 range. We tried two bottlings. Thoughts follow.

2012 Mossback Chardonnay Russian River Valley – Muted nose, some melon, some lemon oil notes, and a little buttery wood to smooth it all out. On the body, the buttery notes dominate, but they aren’t overly aggressive. In time, a mellow apple and lemon character slowly rises to the surface. Not overwhelmingly “Chard-like” nor ambitious in its fruit level, but a solid, food-friendly experience. B+ / $18

2010 Mossback Cabernet Sauvignon Chalk Hill - Simple yet pretty Cabernet, with a lightly herbal nose that’s backed by a body with a bit more vegetation on it. The fruit is more black currant than blackberry, with a finish that hints at cedar and rosemary. As with the Chardonnay, it’s a solid choice with a meal. B+ / $25

crewwines.com

Tasting the Wines of Hardy’s Australia, 2013 Releases

Nottage Hill Pinot Noir Non Vintage 82x300 Tasting the Wines of Hardys Australia, 2013 ReleasesAustralia’s Hardy’s may be a big producer that competes with the “critter wines” of the world, but considering its wines are this affordable, it keeps quality surprisingly high. Here’s a look at five recently released Hardy’s vintages — bottled under both the William Hardy and Nottage Hill label. Thoughts follow.

2011 William Hardy Chardonnay South Australia – On the nose it’s simplistic, with a rather rough, wood-driven nose and some alcoholic vapor character. The body offers some very sweet honey notes, with apricots, lemon-lime, and some mango character on the finish. As it aerates, the sweetness — which is initially almost sickly — mellows out, taking any wood character with it. What’s left is a basic, quite tropical Chardonnay that wears its fruit on its sleeve. B / $20

2011 William Hardy Shiraz South Australia - Surprisingly drinkable, this fresh and fruity wine keeps the sugar dialed back enough to make for an easily sippable potion either solo or at mealtime. The nose is lightly brooding and a touchy meaty, while the body is pure strawberry and raspberry. An approachable midweek sipper. B+ / $15

2012 Hardy’s Nottage Hill Chardonnay South Eastern Australia - Again, alcoholic vapors up front, with a buttery character that veers on movie theater popcorn, but the body offers fresh peaches and pineapple. Quite sweet, it’s got a creamy character to it that complements the tropical notes, almost like a sherbet. This becomes a bit much over time, making this fine for a glass, but somewhat overwhelming for a refill. B / $8

2012 Hardy’s Nottage Hill Pinot Noir South Eastern Australia - A harmless red, somewhat sweet and not immediately characteristic of the grape. Tart raspberries up front, with a kind of coffee and cocoa bean character underneath. Easy, silky finish. B+ / $14

2012 Hardy’s Nottage Hill Shiraz South Eastern Australia - A slight pepper character on the nose is the only thing that tips you off that this is Shiraz, but the overall craftsmanship of this wine shows off a modestly structured wine, ripe with berry fruit and dense with sweetness. The finish brings along some cedar box character, a surprising touch in an otherwise straightforward bottling. B+ / $13

hardyswines.com

Review: Wines of Alto Adige, 2013 Releases

Nals Margreid Galea Schiava 106x300 Review: Wines of Alto Adige, 2013 ReleasesThe Alto Adige region in the far north of Italy (how far north? two-thirds of its inhabitants speak German) is best known for its most famous son: Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. But there’s a huge diversity of grape varietals grown in this mountainous area — over 20 of them, despite the fact that its size is a third that of Napa Valley.

Thoughts on three newly released Alto Adige wines — stylistically all over the map — follow.

2011 St. Paul’s Lagrein Alto Adige – A grape that’s vinified virtually nowhere but in Alto Adige, Lagrein can be very complex but is often a somewhat mushroomy, skunky wine  that is quickly forgotten. That’s largely the case here: St. Paul’s 2011 Lagrein has ample green pepper on the nose, with a muddy, tar-laden, and slightly prune-driven body. Gamy finish. C- / $25

2011 Nals Margreid Galea Schiava Alto Adige - Another odd grape, Schiava is indiginous to Italy and Germany. Very light and clear in color, this wine is simple but full of strawberry notes. The wine develops some mushroom notes on the nose as it aerates, but the body remains brisk and tart. The overall effect is unusual, but the wine remains fresh and easy to enjoy. B+ / $20

2012 Tiefenbrunner Gewurztraminer Alto Adige – A slightly tough number, this perfumy wine offers a bit of astringency on the nose, and some rubbing alcohol character as you sip on it. Fortunately, some Viognier-like fruit — peaches and apricots — balance things out, but the fruit character fades over time as its left to its own devices in the glass. B- / $17

Review: Maurin Dry, White, and Red Vermouth

Maurin White Bottle shot 115x300 Review: Maurin Dry, White, and Red VermouthVermouth is a beverage on the return, and Anchor Distilling has joined forces with old Maurin (you’ve seen the iconic green devil posters at better French cafes in your neighborhood) to recreate the vermouths once made by Auguste Maurin, back in 1884.

The two companies adapted Maurin’s traditional recipe for these new vermouths, which are available in three styles. Per the company’s press release, “The Maurin Dry, White and Red Vermouths are fortified wines blended from various regions across France, then infused with coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, Maurin’s absinthe and other traditional herbs and spices.” We tasted the trio, and thoughts follow.

Each is bottled at 17% abv.

Maurin Dry Vermouth – Fragrant with notes of incense, coriander, and cloves. Ample spice on the palate, with a light astrignency and a drying finish. Over time the wine develops a holiday character, as the cinnamon and nutmeg warm up, giving it a mulled wine sensibility. But the bittersweet finish leaves no doubt that you’re drinking vermouth, not glogg. Pairs better with gin over vodka. A-

Maurin White Vermouth - Much like the Dry, but with a richer body and sweeter from start to finish. The bitter conclusion is absent here, as the vermouth takes on a more peachy/mango character as it fades from view. (This has the side effect of dulling some of the spice character, but that’s really just a different approach.) Overall, as a mixer I find I have a preference for the dry — and I’m not alone, which is why sweet white vermouths are relatively rare in comparison to the other two varieties — but if I was drinking vermouth straight (people do this), I’d easily pick the White. Better with vodka; gin demolishes what spice it has left. B+

Maurin Red Vermouth - Aka “sweet vermouth.” Indeed it’s quite red in color, and the spice is thick on the nose, very much offering a mulled wine character, with cloves easily the strongest component. On the palate, there’s gingerbread, anise, and brandied raisins bobbing in and out. Classic gluhwein flavors, but with refinement (and lower alcohol levels), it’s sweet but not overly so, offering a bit of fruit punch without quite making you think about that cartoon guy in the Hawaiian outfit. Acquits itself well in a Manhattan. A-

each $19 / anchordistilling.com

Review: Le Grand Courtage Sparkling Wine, Brut and Rose

LGC Bottle Fam Portrait 231x300 Review: Le Grand Courtage Sparkling Wine, Brut and RoseLook closer: Le Grand Courtage (“the great courtship”) is sparkling wine made in Burgundy, not Champagne, which means it’s made from different grapes… and priced at about $20 a bottle. Thoughts follow.

NV Le Grand Courtage Grande Cuvee Blanc de Blancs Brut - A blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Colombard, and Ugni Blanc. Lots of tart, green apple character here, with lemon peel also evident on the nose. The body is heavy on the aforementioned fruit, but it also has an interesting bakery character to it akin to cream puffs, with touches of yeast. The mellow conclusion takes things to a simple and easy finish. Altogether a solid choice for a nice, restrained aperitif. B+ / $20 (also available as a 187ml mini)

NV Le Grand Courtage Grande Cuvee Brut Rose - A pink blend of Chardonnay, Ugni Blanc, and Gamay. Fresh and fruity, with clear strawberry notes on the nose. A bracing and lasting acidity comes along quickly on the palate, offering some floral elements — almost green and grassy at times. The finish is clean and inviting, that strawberry element lingering, along with some rose petal notes. Lovely and difficult to put down; even works well with spicy meals. A- / $22

legrandcourtage.com