Category:$10 wine

Wine of the week: La Petite Perriere Sauvignon Blanc 2018

La Petite Perriere sauvignon blancThe La Petite Perriere sauvignon blanc is stunning $11 wine – suck on that, three-tier system

Two years ago, I wrote a glowing review of this wine. Best yet, I wrote in the post, the La Petite Perriere sauvignon blanc was supposed to be widely available.

Hah.

It wasn’t, of course, because of the three-tier system. That I actually believed the people who told me it was available in many other parts of the country shows that even I can be duped. And I know better.

This time, the La Petite Perriere Sauvignon Blanc ($11, purchased, 12.5%) should be available – even in these trying times. I bought the 2018 last week from wine.com. Suck on that, three-tier system.

This vintage of the La Petite Perriere is highly recommended, which means Hall of Fame quality and a spot on the shortlist for the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year. And why not? It tastes like top-notch sauvignon blanc from France’s Loire, home to some of the best sauvignon blanc in the world. But it costs about as much as a plonky bottle of supermarket white wine.

Suck on that, three-tier system.

Which isn’t surprising, since the Saget family, whose company makes the wine, has been in business since Napoleon was emperor of France, more than two centuries.

Look for more lemon than grapefruit fruit, a pleasant change from the New Zealand style that predominates, even in non-New Zealand wines. There’s also a little something tropical in the middle (barely ripe melon?), and lovely Loire-style minerality on the finish. I drank this with socca on Saturday night; for the time it took to finish the bottle, I wasn’t stuck in my house during the pandemic, but enjoying wine and food the way they should be enjoyed.

Mini-reviews 131: Raeburn, Pigmentum, Montmirail, Excelsior

raeburnReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month

Raeburn Rose 2019 ($13, sample, 13.5%): California pink with some tart raspberry fruit that is well made, but the longer it sits in the glass, the more you notice the lingering residual sugar and that it’s not quite dry rose.

Vigouroux Pigmentum Malbec 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): Didn’t notice the vintage when I bought this French red, and that is so tasty is amazing given its age. Still has a little dark fruit and some earth, and still eminently drinkable.

Château de Montmirail “M” 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): This red Rhone blend has some heft and black fruit, but isn’t overdone or too heavy. Availability may be limited, which is too bad since it’s close to a Hall of Fame wine. Imported by Kindred Vines

Excelsior Chardonnay 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): This South African white will not help the country get back into the U.S. market. It’s a Kendall Jackson chardonnay knockoff, complete with residual sugar. Imported by Cape Classics

Did the Mafia take over one of Italy’s best cheap wine producers?

mafiaItalian anti-Mafia police raid Sicily’s Feudo Arancio in corruption probe

Feudo Arancia, whose wines have appeared on the blog more than once, may have been taken over by the Mafia. So say Italian police officials, whose financial police seized more than €70m (US$76 million) in assets from the Sicilian winery last week.

Details are still unclear, and it has been difficult to get anyone to talk about what has happened. I’ll update the post if I find out more.

Here’s what we know: The financial police, acting on a request from an anti-Mafia prosecutor in Trentino, seized 900 hectares of vineyards (about 2,200 acres) and several buildings at Feudo Arancio. Police say a Mafia group in Sicily was using Arancio to launder money; four people are reportedly being investigated.

Feudo Arancio is owned Trentino’s Groupo Mezzacorona, one of Italy’s biggest producers and whose $8 pinot grigio is ubiquitous in the U.S.. Mezzacorona executives have “strongly rejected the allegations.”

Feudo Arancio’s wines aren’t as consistently good as Falesco, but they’re worth the $10 they cost more often than not. I’ve reviewed three of them over the years, and the whites seem to be more interesting.

This Italian news report (use Google translate to make sense of it) reads like a pulp novel, complete with references to “men of honor,” the Cosa Nostra, “fugitive bosses,” and “a classic of fixing.”

The charges, if true, seem quite odd. A winery doesn’t appear to be the best place to launder money. It’s not a cash business, like a casino; cash flow, again, is limited; and there are extensive legal reporting requirements because alcohol is involved. But, given the success Italian police have had over the past couple of decades in combating the Mafia, this might have been the best the Mafia could do (assuming the charges are true).

Wine of the week: MAN Chenin Blanc 2018

MAN Chenin BlancSouth Africa’s MAN chenin blanc offers quality and value in an $11 white wine

I’ve spent the past couple of months writing about South African wine, not only here but for the trade media. The goal? Trying to figure out if South Africa can fill the void caused by the 25 percent tariff on French, Spanish, and German wine.

Sadly, despite top quality wines like the MAN chenin blanc ($11, purchased, 12.5%), the answer seems to be no. The reasons are many, including the three-tier system (since each wine needs a distributor, which most don’t have) and problematic pricing on higher-end South African wines.

Which is too bad, since the MAN chenin blanc does everything a terrific $10 wine should do. It’s a far cry from the country’s pre-Apartheid chenin blanc, when it was called steen and was likely to be soft and flabby.

Instead, the MAN is fresh, crisp, and enjoyable, without any cloying fruit or sweetness. Look for some lime and tropical fruit and more layers of flavor than most chenins at this price have. In this, is a professional wine and very well done, and shows how far South African winemaking has come.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

Follow-up: The fifth $3 wine challenge

$3 wine

Consumers have gone through a lot — and I mean a lot — of empty $3 wine bottles since Two-buck Chuck debuted 18 years ago.

Does the continuing popularity of $3 wine, which isn’t all that tasty, tell us more about the wine business than the wine business wants to know?

Five times I’ve tasted $3 wine to see if wine drinkers can survive on ultra-cheap wine. Five times, the answer has been no – and the wines have tasted worse each time I have done it. So why do these wines still exist?

Welcome to the deep, dark dirty secret of the wine business — and which is rearing its ugly head this year: We buy wine on price, and if the price is low enough, nothing else much matters. Despite all of the hoopla about premiumization and trading up, $3 wine exists because people buy it. And we buy lots and lots of it.

Trader Joe’s has sold more than 83 million cases of Two-buck Chuck since the wine debuted in 2002, about 4.6 million cases a year. That would make the Charles Shaw brand the 10th biggest winery in the country by volume in 2020 if it actually existed. And, surprisingly, that total is closer to No. 9 Jackson Family and its ubiquitous Kendall Jackson chardonnay, than almost anyone could imagine.

It’s also worth noting the success of E&J Gallo’s $7 Barefoot, which is estimated to sell $1 billion worth of wine this year, about 18 million cases, That would make it the fifth biggest brand in the country if Gallo didn’t own it. And, when we parse the data, isn’t the popularity of White Claw and the rest of the hard seltzers about price? Why would someone buy flavored spritzy water with a bit of booze if it wasn’t cheap? Like Two-buck Chuck, they’re certainly not buying it for the sensual experience.

The other thing that fascinates me about $3 wine? That its adherents take it as a personal affront when I criticize it. How can you be such a snob? they ask (and not always that politely). We’ll ignore for a moment that I may be the least snobbish person in the wine business. What matters is that they need affirmation that buying on price is OK, because that’s the exact opposite of the way the wine business works.

And in this, they miss the point of my criticism. The first rule – and really the only rule – for wine is to drink what you want, but be willing to try different things. They can drink as much crappy, thin, and watery wine as they want. What does it matter what I think, as long as they enjoy it? So should the question they ask not be what I think, but if they really enjoy it?

Results: The fifth $3 wine challenge

$3 wine challenge

Hopefully, that guy isn’t looking for a $3 bottle of wine.

This $3 wine challenge? One bottle was sort of palatable, but the other four weren’t even close

A 3-liter box of decent wine, like the Bota Box rose or the Black Box merlot, costs about $15, which is less than $4 a bottle. Do yourself a favor and buy one of those. Don’t waste your money on any of the wines in the WC’s fifth, almost annual, $3 wine challenge.

I tasted five $3 chardonnays with dinner last week – the complete story is in this week’s Dallas Observer. The less painful version:

• The Three Wishes from Whole Foods tasted like pinot grigio.

• The Kroger Bay Bridge smelled like nail polish remover, the sign of a wine flaw called volatile acidity. Yummy!

• Four of the five were noticeably sweet and a couple were very sweet. Which would be fine, except that these wines pass themselves off as dry.

• The Two-buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s smelled like old cheese. More yummy!

• The best of the five was Walmart’s Oak Leaf, which was thin, watery, and not obviously sweet, but sort of tasted like chardonnay. And it’s the only one that had any acidity, and there was even a touch of nicely done fake oak. Yes, that would be damning with faint praise.

More on the $3 wine challenge:
Results: The fourth $3 wine challenge 2018
Results: The third $3 wine challenge 2017
Results: The second $3 wine challenge 2014
Results: The first $3 wine challenge 2013

Wine of the week: Herdade do Esporao Alandra Branco 2018

Esporao Alandra BrancoOnce again, the Portuguese Esporao Alandra Branco white blend is terrific cheap wine

One of the best things about this job is finding a great cheap wine that remains a great cheap wine from vintage to vintage. And the Wine Curmudgeon has found one with the Esporao Alandra Branco.

The 2018 version of the Esporao Alandra Branco ($9, purchased, 12.5%) is a Portuguese white blend made with grapes like antão vaz that most of have never heard of. And that’s OK – not every wine has to be made with chardonnay. That it doesn’t taste exactly the same as the 2017? That’s OK, too. Vintage difference is not a bad thing as long as quality remains consistent. And it has here.

The 2018 is a little brighter and fresher than the 2017. There is more lemon and lime zest flavor than the than citrus fruit that the previous vintage had, and there is even a little minerality that wasn’t there last time. This wine is leaner and not as full in the mouth; again, not a bad thing, just different.

Highly recommended, and certain to return to the $10 Hall of Fame in 2021. It’s just the wine as winter ends and we’re looking for something lighter and more spring-like.

Imported by NOW Wine