Category:$10 wine

2021 $10 Wine Hall of Fame

2021 $10 Hall of FameGood news, and just when we need it — nine wines entered the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame

Somehow, nine wines entered 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. That’s the most since 2017, which also had nine.

How is that possible, given the Trump tariff, premiumization, and supply shortages caused by the pandemic? I’m not sure. Chalk it up to a bit of good fortune, as well as a variety of far-sighted importers and retailers who saw an opportunity in a market glutted with overpriced, supermarket-quality plonk.

All was not good news, of course. Some of  the greatest cheap wines in the history of cheap wine dropped out. France’s Chateau Bonnet red, white, and rose now cost as much as $20 each, while the importer for Italy’s much beloved Falesco Vitiano dropped the white and rose and limited distribution of the red. Two other wines dropped out — New Zealand’s Matua sauvignon blanc and the Australian Yalumba Y series rose, both for quality.

Meanwhile, availability became an even bigger problem last year. A half dozen more wines were Hall quality, but weren’t readily available, so I couldn’t use them. And even the ones I did add might be more difficult to find now than they were when I tasted them in 2020. There are still too many wines and not enough distributors, and the distributors that remain are so big that they don’t want products from the smaller, niche producers who make the most interesting cheap wine.

Still, given how cheap wine quality has plummeted over the past couple of years, and how pitiful last year’s Hall was, any good news is welcome. The inductees include the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year, the MAN chenin blanc from South Africa; the Campuget and Masciarelli roses; the Italian Tenuta Carpazo sangiovese and La Valentina Montelpuciano; a vinho verde, the Aveleda Fonte; the Spanish Balnea verdejo; the French Le Paradou viogner; and an old friend, the Mont Gravet carignan.

The complete 2021 $10 Wine Hall of Fame is here. You can also find it at the Hall of Fame link at the top of the page. The Hall’s selection process and eligibility rules are here. I considered wines that cost as much as $13 or $14 to take into account price creep and regional pricing differences.

You’ll be able to print the Hall as either a text file or a PDF. Look for the printer icon on the upper right hand corner of the post.

2021 Cheap Wine of the Year: MAN Chenin Blanc 2019

man chenin blancSouth Africa’s MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc 2019 is the blog’s fourth annual Cheap Wine of the Year

The MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc, a South African white, appeals to the Wine Curmudgeon on a variety of levels. First, that it’s South African wine, and we know about that, don’t we? Second, that it’s chenin blanc, and we know about that, don’t we?

And, of course, that it’s cheap, delicious, and varietally correct. Because that’s what matters, and not any of the aforementioned criticisms. Hence, the MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc 2019 is the blog’s fourth annual cheap wine of the year.

In this, the MAN chenin blanc ($10, purchased, 12.5%) demonstrates once again that wine preconceptions are one of the problems with wine. Why pass up a wine as wonderful as this because you don’t drink chenin blanc, white wine, or South African wine? Because, of course, too many of you reading this now are thinking just that.

Does this wine taste like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc? Nope, because it’s not supposed to. It tastes like a New World chenin blanc — not as steely or stony as chenin from France’s Loire, but crisp and minerally enough, and with more fruit. It’s bone dry, with stone fruit and maybe some red apple, a richness that most $10 wines don’t have, and a longish finish. It’s surprisingly layered and sophisticated; swish it around in your mouth, and you’ll see what I mean. This is a white wine if you want a glass before dinner, as well something to drink with braised chicken.

The 2019 vintage is still be widely available, as is the 2018. The latter isn’t as impressive as the 2019, but it’s well made and enjoyable. The 2020 has been released, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

More Cheap Wine of the Year:
2020 Cheap Wine of the Year: Le Coeur de la Reine Gamay 2017
2019 Cheap Wine of the Year: Château La Gravière Blanc 2017
2018 Cheap Wine of the Year: Bieler Pere et Fils Rose 2016

Christmas wine 2020

christmas wine 2020Four recommendations for Christmas wine 2020

Check out these suggestions for Christmas wine 2020, whether for a last minute gift, something to drink when you need a moment to yourself, or a holiday dinner. As always, keep our wine gift giving tips in mind — and don’t overlook the blog’s 2020 holiday gift guide.

These wines will get you started:

Torres Verdeo 2018 ($11, purchased, 13%): Ignore the silly marketing — this Spanish white is made with verdejo, but its name is Verdeo. It’s an astonishing cheap wine, an almost layered effort of something that is almost always one note. There is sort of peach fruit to balance the lemon. Highly recommended. Imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Prosper Maufoux Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc NV ($19, sample, 12%): Would that this French sparkling wine — from high-price Burgundy, no less — still cost around $15. But that’s the tariff for you. Still, it remains top-notch bubbly: Fresh, fruity (apples and lemons), tight bubbles, and nary a hint of brioche. Highly recommended. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Naranjas Azules Rosado 2018 ($10, purchased, 13%): This pink Spanish is quite traditional, almost orange in color, but also oh so crisp and clean and practically savory. But there’s also more modern amount of strawberry fruit. An odd and interesting and delicious wine. Highly recommended. Imported by PR Selections

Château de Ribebon 2016 ($14, purchased, 13.5%): Modern-style red Bordeaux blend that’s mostly merlot with dark berry fruit, but tempered by a bit of earth, an almost pine forest aroma, and nicely done tannins.  This is about as value-oriented as red Bordeaux gets these days. Imported by Knows Imports

More about Christmas wine:
Christmas wine 2019
Christmas wine 2018
Christmas wine 2017
Wine of the week: Chateau La Graviere Blanc 2019
Expensive wine 138: Panther Creek Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Cuvee 2017

Photo: “guardian of wine” by marcostetter is marked with CC PDM 1.0

Wine and food pairings 11: Croque monsieur, turkey style

croque monsieurThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with croque monsieur, the French grilled sandwich,  and all that leftover holiday turkey.

Tired of seeing all that leftover turkey in the fridge? The Wine Curmudgeon has a plan — variations on the theme of the French croque monsieur, a grilled ham sandwich that bears more than a passing resemblance to the grilled cheese our moms made when we were kids.

In this, once we substitute leftover turkey for the ham, the possibilities are endless. The adventurous among us can go traditional (save for the turkey), making the sandwich with a bechamel sauce.  Or, you can go Julia Child, grilling the sandwich in clarified butter and cutting off the crusts. My preference? A turkey Reuben, which uses leftover turkey but also offers a change of pace. How often do Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut show up at Thanksgiving?

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. A turkey Reuben lends itself to a variety of wine; these three suggestions will get you started:

• La Vieille Ferme Blanc 2019 ($8, purchased, 13%): This French white blend is much, much better than the old days, with more fruit (pear?) and a very soft finish. In this, it’s a little too soft to be a wine of the week, but it’s certainly worth buying on sale and keeping around the house. Imported by Vineyard Brands

• Herdade do Esporao Alandra 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): This is an old-fashioned, almost rough and tannic, red blend from Portugal. Having said that, its dark fruit and longish finish is oddly pleasing.. Needs food. Imported by NOW Wine Imports

• Etienne Besancenot Cochon Volant 2019 ($12, purchased, 12.5%): This French pink is fruity (red cherry?), thanks to the 60 percent grenache in the blend. But it’s dry and and enjoyable. Imported by Wines with Conviction

Blog associate editor Churro contributed to this post

Full disclosure: Yet again, I neglected to take a picture of the dish; the one accompanying the post is from the Serious Easts blog.

More about wine and food pairings:
Wine and food pairings 10: Lemon rosemary roasted turkey thighs
Wine and food pairings 9: Mushroom ragu
• Wine and food pairings 8: Not quite ramen soup

Slider photo: “Rome Elite Event: wine, food and nice people” by Yelp.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Wine of the week: Monte Antico Toscana 2015

Monte Antico ToscanaThe Monte Antico Toscana is an Italian red blend not to be overlooked

The Monte Antico, an Italian red blend, is one of those wines that I see in stores, make a note to check out, and then forget about. How else to explain that I have only reviewed a well-made and very Italian wine that costs $10 – and often less – only a couple of times in 13 years?

Because the Monte Antico Toscana 2015 ($10, sample, 13%) does what all great cheap wine should do. It tastes like the part of the world that it comes from, it’s enjoyable, and you want to buy another bottle when you finish the one on the dining room table.

The blend is mostly sangiovese, but there’s enough cabernet sauvignon (10 percent) and merlot (five percent) to round out any rough edges in the sangiovese. Look for dark red fruit and an almost minty aroma, plus that biting Italian acidity that means this wine needs food. The finish is longish, and almost berryish.

Highly recommended, and especially when you can find it for less than $10. Pair this with red sauce and sausage on a cold winter’s night.

Imported by Empson USA

Mini-reviews 139: Black Friday edition 2020

Black Friday 2020Reviews 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. This month: two reds, a white, and a rose for Black Friday 2020

La Vieille Ferme Rouge 2019 ($8, purchased, 13%): Long-time reader Rich Liebman always insisted I was too hard on this French red blend, which I’ve been drinking off and on for longer than I care to remember. And he was correct — it’s nowhere near as old-fashioned as it used to be. It’s less harsh, there’s more dark fruit, and there might even be something that could be oak. But I’m still not sure it should be part of my regular wine rotation. Imported by Vineyard Brands

CK Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($6, sample, 12.6%): This California white is notoriously inconsistent, so the good news is that this vintage tastes like $6 sauvignon blanc — more sauvignon blanc in character (some grass, some citrus fruit) and less cheap tasting.

Dixie & Bass Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($18, sample, 14.5%): There’s nothing very subtle about this Washington state red. It’s a standard big, fruity (black cherry?), over-the-top cabernet (though it tastes more Lodi than Washington state). If this is your style of wine, it’s a fair value.

Notre Vue GSM Rose 2019 ($29, sample, 12.7%): This California pink is a pretty, well-made, and enjoyable wine. Look for crisp berryish fruit, and a long, clean, mineral-driven finish. But is really three times better than a top-notch $10 rose?

Wine of the week: Volver Tarima 2018

Volver TarimaThe Volver Tarima is not traditional Spanish red wine, but it is a value

Spanish wine producers, save for some notable exceptions like the reds from Ribero del Duero, have resisted the impulse to Parkerize their wines. Most are still lower in alcohol, restrained in fruit, and taste like Spanish wine has traditionally tasted.

The Volver Tarima 2018 ($11, purchased, 14.5%), a red wine made with monastrell, inhabits the mid-ground between the too ripe, cocktail-like Parker wines and a 12.5 percent Rioja. In this, it’s a pleasant surprise for those of us who want something different, but not something so different that it doesn’t taste like wine.

Yes, the wine is a bit hot, so that the alcohol shows on the back. Having said that, it’s very well-made and surprisingly balanced. There is lots of black fruit (blackberry, black cherry?), but it isn’t too ripe. There’s a little spice, and the tannins are under control – not always easy to do with monastrell. It’s mostly used as a blending grape (known in France as mourvedre).

This is a food wine – braises and stews as the weather gets colder.

Imported by Winebow