Category:$10 wine

Wine of the week: Banfi CollePino 2014

Banfi CollePino Grocery store wine, and especially grocery store wine from the biggest companies, takes a lot of abuse on the blog (and deservedly so). So when Big Wine does grocery store wine right, it’s worth noting, and that’s why you’re reading about the Banfi CollePino.

Banfi is among the top 20 biggest producers in the U.S. which makes the Banfi CollePino ($9, sample, 13%) all that much more interesting. That’s because it shows what Big Wine can do when it aims for more then technical correctness — that is, boring wine made without any flaws. In this, the CollePino is varietally correct, so that it’s made with sangiovese and tastes like sangiovese, with the telltale tart cherry fruit, a certain freshness, and soft tannins. It’s also worth noting that these wines need some oak to temper the, bu that it it has almost no oak and yet what little oak there is has done its job. This is a testament to Big Wine’s technical ability.

But that may not be the CollePino’s greatest asset. It’s made with a bit of merlot, which softens the sangiovese and produces a wine that’s soft enough so that it won’t scare off the grocery store smooth wine drinkers who are, I assume, its target audience. But those of us who want more than smooth should also be happy, and especially if we drink it with anything with red sauce. Highly recommended, and candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame.

Wine of the week: Lamura Bianco Organica 2014

lamura biancoOrganic and natural wines, despite powerful support, have never gotten much attention from consumers. For one thing, it’s difficult to tell the difference between organic and conventional wines, and especially when it comes to quality. Fortunately, the Lamura Bianco, a white from Sicily made with catarratto, has been a consistent organic value for years.

The Lamura Bianco ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is made with organic grapes (which is different from an organic wine); the 2014 vintage, despite its age, shows why Lamura delivers outstanding quality and value almost annually. Look for lemon and tropical fruit in a wine that is crisp and fresh, and with all of that topped off with the minerality one expects from a wine that will pair perfectly with seafood.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame, with one caveat. Older vintages of the white (though not of the other Lamura, a red) don’t always age well, and can taste tired and worn out. I haven’t noticed a pattern to this, and it may be because the wine suffers during its Dallas supply chain experience. If that’s the case, then you won’t have a problem with it in other parts of the country.

Wine of the week: Cristalino Brut Rose NV

Cristalino Brut RoseHow impressive is the Cristalino Brut Rose? It has remained one of the best buys in the wine world despite corporate upset and a lawsuit that forced it to change its name; the arrival of more hip and expensive cavas, the Spanish sparkling wine; and the usual changing of wine tastes.

Somehow, though, the Cristalino Brut Rose ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is still the kind of wine you can buy without a second thought, knowing you’ll get value for money and that it will be fun to drink. I’m convinced that the secret, other than Cristalino’s commitment, is using the trepat grape, which tempers the wine’s fruitiness and adds a layer of Spanishness.

This is a clean and crisp wine with tight bubbles, some cranberry and cherry fruit, and even a little toastiness, which one usually doesn’t get in a $10 bubbly. Drink this chilled on its own, or with almost any kind of meal that isn’t beefy red meat. It’s terrific with takeout Chinese, fried chicken, or hamburgers. Highly recommended, and assured of its place in the $10 Hall of Fame for another year.

Has the death of $10 wine been greatly exaggerated?

$10 wineThe death of $10 wine, according to the wine pundits, is just around the corner. That corner, though, looks to be in a completely different part of town.

How else to make sense of U.S. sales figures for the 52 weeks ending Jan. 24, where 19 of the top 20 selling brands cost less than $10? And that eight of the top 20, all selling for less than $10, showed double digit sales growth in a market has been essentially flat for the past three years?

In this, what is happening with wine sales shows again the divide that has developed between the top end of the market and the wine that most of us drink. The Winestream Media and the analysts can talk all they want about the growth of wine that costs $15 or more, but that they continue to ignore what’s happening at $10 speaks to their wishful thinking. Barefoot, at $5.59 a bottle, is the best-selling wine in the country, selling almost 10 million cases last year, according to these sales figures. That would make it the seventh biggest winery in the U.S. if it wasn’t part of E&J Gallo; how can analysts continually dismiss this as the exception that proves the rule?

Also big sellers: Black Box, the boxed wine that is the equivalent of four bottles, up 18 percent at $5.01 a bottle; my beloved Bogle, up 14 percent at $9.49 a bottle; and 14 Hands, up 14 percent at $9.79 a bottle.

So why the $10 wine blind spot?

? Too many wine writers are snobs about cheap wine, and look for sales data that supports their bias. So if sales at $15 and more are growing more quickly, even if it’s from a smaller base that was depressed during the recession, it’s evidence that the stuff they think is beneath them is going away.

? Let’s hop on the Millennial bandwagon, because they are going to spend more money on wine than their parents did. This is about as wishful as it gets, as Rob McMillan at Silicon Valley Bank has shown, but it still gets recited as gospel.

? These are grocery store wines, and grocery store wines don’t count. Would I buy most of the wines on the top 20 list? No, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t quality for the price, including Bogle, 14 Hands, and Chateau Ste. Michelle.

Yes, wine that costs $5 and less is seeing sales declines, some significant, but this has less to do with price than with demographics. The audience for those wines is aging and doesn’t buy as much as it used to, in the same way the big beer brands are seeing significant sales declines as their audience drinks less. My guess is that the Millennials are buying Black Box instead of their elders’ Franzia, and it’s probably not a coincidence that a craft beer costs about as much as a Black Box bottle. But who in wine wants to believe that?

More about wine sales trends:
? Big wine growth 2016
? Is the U.S. wine boom over?
? Wine prices in 2016

Wine of the week: Farnese Fantini Sangiovese 2013

Farnese Fantini SangioveseDuring last week’s judging at the Texsom International Wine Awards, another judge and I were commiserating about how difficult it had to become to find value in California, and just not at my price range. Fortunately, the judge told me, there is always Spain and Italy.

Which is about the best way possible to introduce the Farnese Fantini sangiovese ($10, purchased, 12%), an Italian red wine from Abruzzo on the Adriatic coast west of Rome. Cheap wine doesn’t get much better than this; it’s as if the last couple of years of premiumization and dumbing down wine never happened. The Fantini (Farnese is the producer) is surprisingly layered and rich for a $10 sangiovese, with almost sour cherry fruit, black pepper, and what the tasting notes call a wood flavor, an intriguing way to describe how sort of oaky it is.

The other thing I liked? That it tasted like sangiovese, but didn’t taste like the $10 sangioveses from Umbria, about two hours north or Abruzzo, or those from Tuscany, another couple of hours north. In this, we get a chance to taste terroir for our $10, and how often does that happen with cheap wine?

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame. Pair the Fantini with red sauce, of course, but don’t be afraid to try it with grilled meats and beef stews.

Wine of the week: Chateau Pajzos Furmint 2014

Pajzos furmintThe Wine Curmudgeon regularly gets emails offering samples from less well-known parts of the world; my reply, always, is that if the wine isn’t for sale in the U.S., it doesn’t do me much good to review it. So imagine my surprise when the Pajzos Furmint, a Hungarian wine, was at a Dallas retailer.

Hungarian wine still isn’t widely available here, even though the country’s producers have been trying to re-establish their industry for 30 years. I’ll taste it every once in a while while judging a competition, usually a dessert wine, and something called Bulls Blood may be on a bottom store shelf, dusty and abandoned.

But a dry white table wine made with the country’s trademark furmint grape? Almost never, which is where the Pajzos Furmint ($10, purchased, 13%) comes in. I bought it not because I thought it would be worth drinking, but because it was supposed to be a dry table wine made with furmint. That’s a big deal if you do what I do, and sometimes, it’s worth suffering for your art.

But I didn’t suffer. The Pajzos Furmint, from the Tokaji region (a rocky, hilly speck in the Hungarian northeast near Ukraine) was everything a great cheap white wine should be: clean, fresh, and varietally correct. It had spice (white pepper?), apricot fruit, and even some nuttiness (almonds?). Missing was any harshness, unripe fruit, or lingering sweetness that wines from less known regions often have.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame. This is a wine for spring salads or sipping on a pleasant afternoon as the temperatures get warmer.

Wine of the week: Flaco Tempranillo 2014

Flaco TempranilloWhat do I say when I find yet another tremendous value from Spain brought into the U.S from Ole Imports? Not much, other than to be grateful that the Flaco Tempranillo, a red wine, is as well made and as well priced as it is.

The Flaco Tempranillo ($9, purchased, 13%) is not as tart as I would have hoped, but then it’s not from Rioja, where that’s part of the wine’s character. Instead, it’s from the region around Madrid in the middle of the country, where a decade or more of winemaking improvements have turned wine that was barely drinkable into consistent, commercial, and and interesting.

The Flaco Tempranillo is just one more example of that winemaking revolution. It’s more even throughout, and there are fewer elements to balance than in a similarly priced Rioja — call it a terroir difference, and who thought we would ever write that about a wine from Madrid? Look for enough cherry fruit to be recognizable, soft tannins, and a bit of herb floating in and out. It’s an exceptionally well done wine, let alone for the price, and the French could learn a thing or two about how to make quality wine for $10 from tasting this.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame.