Happy New Year, wine lovers!

Happy 2022, everyone! The first day of the New Year is rolling around the Earth; our friends in New Zealand and Australis and East Asia have already popped their celebratory corks.

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We live in strange times. The worldwide Covid-19 pandemic will enter its third year soon, with the Omicron variant the latest threat but probably not the last one. Wild and frightening weather is tearing up much of Earth. The U.S. is facing midterm congressional elections this year, and the chances of that happening without angry political polarization are slim to none.

Bah! What kind of New Year is that?

And yet, something about turning the calendar over and seeing a new number at the top of the page still brings hope for most of us. Who knows what the new year will bring, but we go into it taking one day at a time, hoping for the best, and trying to do what little we can to make things better.

Life goes on. A good dinner and a glass of something good to drink can still bring us joy, and let’s celebrate that, even in the midst of all the things that concern us.

Happy New Year to you all! May 2022 be even better than you hope.

Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson’s. When he died in 1826, his last known cellar inventory of February 1, 1826 listed 49 bottles of Blanquette de Limoux.

Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson’s. When he died in 1826, his last known cellar inventory of February 1, 1826 listed 49 bottles of Blanquette de Limoux.

See my tasting reports below for notes on two good wines to wrap up the holiday season: A very good Tuscan red that made a fine Christmas Day pour and would work with any good meal; and a favorite French sparkling wine – ideal for New Year’s Eve – that’s made like Champagne and offers similar pleasure for a fraction of the price.


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Today’s Tasting Reports

La Spinetta 2017 “Il Nero di Casanova” Toscana Sangiovese ($19.99)

La Spinetta "Il Nero di Casanova" Sangiovese

Made in the Tuscan style from 100% sustainably farmed Sangiovese, La Spinetta “Il Nero di Casanova” offers an excellent representation of the region and the variety. Very dark purple with a thin garnet edge, it breathes characteristic Sangiovese aromas of ripe cherries and dried cherries and a whiff of peppery spice. The aromas carry over on the palate in a delicious flavor that frames the cherries and spice with the firm acidic structure, soft tannins, and rational 13.5% alcohol that make Tuscan reds such good companions at the dinner table. U.S. importer: Indigenous Selections, LLC, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Dec. 24, 2021)

FOOD MATCH: The winery suggests pheasant casserole, which I doubt many of us will find on our tables, and spaghettone cacio e pepe, which sounds just fine. We did a stereotypical dinner of spaghetti with tomato sauce and were delighted with the match.

WHEN TO DRINK: It’s fully enjoyable now, but should keep for up to five years and possibly longer if you have good, temperature-controlled cellar conditions.

It’s a fine value in a Tuscan Sangiovese at Wine-Searcher.com’s $19 average U.S. retail and my $20 local price tag.

Importer Indigenous Selections offers a detailed fact sheet on La Spinetta In Nero di Casanova at this link.

The image links are broken, but you’ll find more technical information here on the winery website.

Check prices and find vendors for La Spinetta “Il Nero di Casanova” Sangiovese on Wine-Searcher.com.

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to find information, prices, and vendors for a variety of other Toscana IGT wines.


Saint-Hilaire 2019 Blanquette de Limoux ($14.99)

Blanquette de Limoux

Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux is a traditionally made sparkling blend of 90% Mauzac (Mo-zock), a regional white grape from the French Pyrennees, with splashes of 5% Chenin Blanc and 5% Chardonnay. A clear bright straw-color wine, it pours with a frothy mousse that falls back fast, but abundant bubbles persist. Its aroma evokes fresh green apples, juicy and appetizing, with a light yeasty back note. The appley flavor carries over on the palate with a fizzy, creamy mouthfeel, adding subtle citric touches of mandarin orange over a tart acidic structure. 12.5% alcohol. U.S. importer: Jack Poust & Company Inc., NYC. (Dec. 25, 2021)

FOOD MATCH: Bubbly is always good for sipping alone, yet it can also be versatile with a range of flavors. We enjoyed it with the many offerings on a holiday party buffet.

WHEN TO DRINK: It should keep well for two or three years in its pressurized bottle, but there’s no benefit from cellaring. Drink up, and buy it again next year.

Particularly when compared with run-of-the-mill Champagne, Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux offers a resounding value for sparkling wine. Wine-Searcher.com lists a $13 average U.S. retail price. I highly recommend it for New Year’s Eve or any time a bubbly is in order.

Here’s a detailed tech sheet from importer Jack Poust.

Check prices and find vendors for Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux on Wine-Searcher.com.

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to learn more about Blanquette de Limoux and browse dozens of wines from the region.


Wine Focus 2022: Tempranillo

It’s 2022. Here’s hoping it isn’t a replay of 2020 or 2021. Wine Focus will not be a replay, as we have a new theme for the year. We’ll be taking many of our cues from the calendar of National & International Wine Days, but since a few months during the year are a little sparse on wine days, we’ll take some artistic license. Some months, on the other hand, will have multiple choices, as there are more than 12 grapes in the world.

As a matter of fact, there doesn’t seem to be a wine day for January, so we’ve chosen Tempranillo for this month’s Wine Focus, shifting Tempranillo Day forward from its usual November celebration. Try a glass of a Tempranillo that you like, a Rioja or any other wine made from this red grape that forms the backbone of the most famous Spanish wines, and come talk with us about it in Wine Focus January 2022 – Tempranillo!


Good wines we’ve tried under $10.99!

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10.99 or less that I’ve told you about in recent years. In some cases the prices may have risen over the $10.99 mark since I reviewed them, but they should still be excellent bargains. Please tell us about your favorites!

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