Category:$10 wine

The cheap wine poll 2018

cheap wine poll 2018Vote in the cheap wine poll 2018.

Welcome to the Wine Curmudgeon’s cheap wine poll 2018, the sixth annual. Voting ends at 5 p.m. central time on Dec. 7. I’ll post the results on Dec. 10. Vote for one brand only, and just one vote per person. Click on the respective buttons next to each entry at the bottom of this post. If you get the blog via RSS or email, click here to vote on the blog.

Share the poll with your friends and fellow cheap wine drinkers by clicking on any of the social media buttons at the end of the post. The first five polls attracted some 18,000 visitors. The winners:

Falesco Vitiano in 2013

Bogle in 2014, 2015, and 2017

McManis in 2016.

There are 8 producers for 2018; I trimmed the list to those that actually get votes. Plus, you’ll be able to add write-ins this year, something many of you have requested.

The WC needs your help in choosing the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame

Hall of FameSend me your suggestions for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame, so we can show the wine business we want quality cheap wine and not the plonk they want us to drink

The 2019 $10 Hall of Fame will appear in one moth – Jan. 4, 2019. And I truly need your help to find wines worthy of induction this year.

I always ask for – and appreciate – suggestions when I compile the best cheap wines of the previous year. But I’m asking earlier this year because prospects for the 2019 Hall are not good. As I wrote last year, the warning signs for 2019 appeared in 2018, and the situation has deteriorated since.

This was easily the worst year for cheap wine since I started the $10 Hall at the turn of the century for a Dallas magazine. Prices are up, quality is down, and added sugar seems to be everywhere. Too many producers don’t want to sell us wine, but alcoholic fruit juice. Even the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier blend, once a Hall of Fame staple, has been tarted up with residual sugar.

What makes a $10 Hall of Fame wine?

• Price, of course. The wine should not cost more than $12 or $13; I’ve increased the limit over the past couple of years because of price creep.

• They should be varietally correct and without obvious flaws. In addition, they should be balanced and interesting enough to buy again. In other words, honest wines. I can’t emphasize this enough. Chardonnay should taste like chardonnay, French wine should taste like French wine, and so forth. Otherwise, what’s the point?

• A wine is not worthy of induction because it’s cheap; there’s a difference between quality cheap wine and wine that is made cheaply. We’re seeing entirely too much of the latter these days.

• Availability. No wines sold by just one retailer, like Two-buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s. My term is generally available – you should be able to buy the wine at a quality retailer in a medium-sized U.S. city.

Leave your suggestion in the comments to this post or . I start working on the Hall during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, so keep that in mind if you have wines to recommend. And thanks for your help and continued support – we’ll get through this bad patch and make the wine business understand they can’t continue to foist this plonk on us.

Wine of the week: Feudo Zirtari Bianco 2015

Zirtari BiancoThe Feudo Zirtari Bianco is an astonishing $10 white wine, and especially given how old it is

This Italian white blend from Sicily is not supposed to be this enjoyable. First, it’s too old – who ever heard of a $10 white wine lasting more than a couple of vintages? Second, the producer’s wines are notoriously inconsistent, and my notes are littered with lines like “not as good as the last one.” Nevertheless, the Zirtari Bianco is $10 Hall of Fame quality cheap wine.

Which, of course, is one of the joys of doing this – finding a wine like the Zirtari Bianco ($10, purchased, 13.5%) when I don’t expect to find anything at all. It’s a blend of insolia, a native Sicilian grape, and chardonnay. Hence, the sum is far greater than its parts, given the usual quality of Sicilian chardonnay.

Look for spice (white pepper, nutmeg?), almonds, and pear fruit, which is a surprisingly delicious combination considering the two grapes that have been blended together. Plus, it’s not thin in the mouth or on the finish, which is what usually happens with a three-year-old cheap white wine.

Highly recommended, but there is a conundrum: Should you try to find this vintage, and hope it held up as well as my bottle did? Or should you buy the current vintage and hope that it’s as well made as this one? I don’t have an answer, though it’s almost certainly easier to find the current vintage.

Imported by Santa Margherita USA

Wine to drink when you’re visiting your mom

wine to drinkFour wines to drink when you’re visiting your mom

I spent a week in Chicago with my mom before Thanksgiving, which brought up the question of wine. I wasn’t where I knew the stores, and I wanted to find wine my mom would enjoy. Because, as noted here many times, what’s the point of sharing wine with someone when you don’t take their tastes into consideration?

My mom’s palate is discriminating, and she looks for value almost as much as I do. She is also open to wines that aren’t mainstream, so lesser known regions and varietals are OK. But the wines had to be well made and taste like they’re supposed to.

The catch: I was limited to grocery stores and one visit to Binny’s, the biggest chain in the area. The grocery store selection wasn’t any better than it is in Dallas (and the pricing was just as screwy), and Binny’s was more expensive than I thought it would be.

In the end, I bought four wines – three from retailers and one at a local restaurant (and, as an added bonus, I know two of the winemakers – always nice to be able to brag to your mother):

Domaine de Pouy ($10): This Gascon white blend is suffering from the same problem as most of the rest – not enough white grapiness and almost too tart. Having said that, it was the least tart of those I’ve tasted this year, and Mom liked it. So a winner all around.

Charles & Charles rose ($12): Mom buys this Washington state pink at her local supermarket, so it was an easy choice. The price was a couple of bucks more than I pay in Dallas, but this rose remains one of the best and most consistent values in the world – rose or otherwise.

Armas de Guerra ($13): I’m not quite sure how this Spanish red, made with the little-known mencia grape, ended up in a supermarket. But I’m glad it did. Its bitter cherry fruit and earthiness made it a terrific match for Mom’s legendary spaghetti and meatballs.

Giesen sauvignon blanc ($10): This New Zealand white was the best of a very mediocre wine list at an otherwise interesting restaurant. Not surprisingly, almost no one else was drinking wine. Don’t the people who run the place see the correlation? The Giesen had more than just grapefruit, with a little tropical in the middle. It was much better than I thought it would be.

Graphic courtesy of Ephemera, using a Creative Commons license

Mini-reviews 115: Rioja, German rose, Youngberg, Umani Rochi

german roseReviews 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: a German rose, plus Oregon pinot noir, a Rioja, and an Italian white for Black Friday 2018

Vallobera Rioja Crianza 2015 ($15, purchased, 14%): Heavy, old-fashioned Spanish red that isn’t very interesting – sweet cherry fruit, not much orange peel or earth, and almost flabby. Very disappointing. Imported by Evaki

Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 11.5%): This German pink is sweet (not quite white zinfandel, but noticeable) and fizzy, with almost crisp cherry fruit. Neither sweet nor fizzy is a bad thing, and there will be people who will like it. But not for anyone expecting a dry rose. Imported by Loosen Bros. USA

Youngberg Hill Pinot Noir Jordan Block 2014 ($49, sample, 14%): This is a well-made wine, and the winemakers apparently accomplished what they were trying to do – an Oregon pinot noir that is heavier and more California in style than Oregon. It doesn’t have any brambly fruit, but more concentrated, rich black fruit.

Umani Rochi Villa Bianchi 2016 ($9, purchased, 12%): This Italian white is not quite $9 worth of wine – very tart (citrus fruit?), too simple, and not crisp or fresh enough to balance the tartness.

Wine of the week: Farnese Fantini Sangiovese 2017

fantini sangioveseThe Fantini sangiovese is another top $10 wine from Italian producer Farnese

Thanksgiving with Italian wine? Why not, and especially if it’s the Farnese Fantini Sangiovese.

I’ve written about Farnese wines several times over the past couple of years, and after tasting this vintage of the Fantini Sangiovese ($10, purchased, 12.5%), it’s easy to see why. This is simple – but not stupid – $10 wine, the kind the we need more of.

This Italian red, made with sangiovese from the Abruzzo region, isn’t Chianti. Rather, it’s softer, less earthy, and more New World in style. This doesn’t mean it isn’t Italian or varietally correct, because it is – cherry fruit, soft tannins, and requisite acidity to balance the fruit and to give it that certain Italian zip. And, since it is lighter and fruitier in style, it would pair with the piles and piles of food on the Thanksgiving table. So yes, a Turkey wine, as well as sausages and red sauce when the leftovers are in packed away in the freezer.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Empson USA

Thanksgiving wine 2018

thanksgiving wine 2018Four Thanksgiving wine 2018 suggestions

The Wine Curmudgeon looks forward to Thanksgiving like no other holiday. When else do families and friends get to share lots of wine and good food without worrying about money, showing off, or big-screen plasma TVs? Instead, it’s about being thankful that we can be together to enjoy the holiday. The blog’s guidelines for holiday wine buying are here.

This year’s Thanksgiving wine 2018 suggestions should get you started:

Toscolo Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2016 ($14, purchased, 12.5%): Another winner from the Italian Wine Guy. This white, made with the vernaccia grape, is delightful, if a little simple. Look for peach fruit, some almond spice. and white flowers. A turkey wine par excellence. Imported by Empson USA

Fantini Farnese Rosato 2017 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Italian pink wine, part of the always reliable Fantini brand, is a little darker than other roses (black cherry fruit?), but still fresh and delicious. Highly recommended — all $10 rose should be this well made. Imported by Empson USA

Domaine de L’Ameillaud Côtes du Rhône 2015 ($17, purchased, 13%): This French red blend (a little more than half grenache) is competent, professional, and well-made, showing how round and interesting this kind of wine can be. Look for black fruit and soft tannins – another excellent turkey wine. Imported by Dionysus Imports

Carpenè Malvolti Rosé Cuvée Brut ($17, sample, 12%): Nicely done Italian rose sparkling that’s not Prosecco, so it’s a little sturdier in style and bubbles, without Prosecco’s softness. Plus, there is nice pinot noir fruit (cherry and strawberry?). Imported by Angelini Wine

More about Thanksgiving wine:
Thanksgiving wine 2017
Thanksgiving wine 2016
Thanksgiving wine 2015
Wine of the week: Feudo Arancio Stemmari Grillo 2017
Expensive wine 113: Justin Cabernet Sauvignon 2016