Category:$10 wine

Wine of the week: La Vieille Ferme Rose 2019

La Vieille Ferme roseLong-time favorite La Vieille Ferme rose reminds us how great cheap wine can be — and what better time to be reminded?

The wine world is in trouble, and it’s not just the coronavirus pandemic. Sales are down, the European tariff is still with us, and younger consumers are drinking something else. How to solve the problem? Make more wines like the La Vieille Ferme rose.

What better way to remember why we love wine than to open a bottle of the new vintage of the La Vieille Ferme rose ($10, purchased, 13%)? There are few better ways to improve the irritations caused by a stay at home order than sipping this French pink wine. Sip and savor, close your eyes, and remind yourself that this too will end. You’ll be surprised at how well that will work.

Look for minerality and barely ripe strawberry fruit, as well as the freshness that should be an integral part of all roses. And marvel at the price – this wine can still be found for as little as $8, despite the 25 percent tariff.

In fact, the point with the La Vieille Ferme rose is just not that it’s worth drinking or that it offers value. Lots of wines do that. Rather, since the producer decided to improve quality four years ago, the wine has remained a well-made, quality cheap pink. That just doesn’t happen much in post-modern wine, where it’s easier to let quality slip, ride the wave, and make up the difference with a cute label or fancy marketing (and especially for rose).

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. (And a tip of the WC’s fedora to everyone who has noticed that I regularly mis-type “LaVieille.” I’ve quadruple-checked the spelling this time, and I think they are all correct.)

Imported by Vineyard Brands

Mini-reviews 132: Ava Grace, Tasca D’Almerita, River Road, Chateau Malescasse

ava graceReviews 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.

Ava Grace Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): Light, almost riesling-y sauvignon blanc from California. It’s not bad if you prefer a less intense style, and it’s a fair value; it just tastes like there is a lot of winemaking going on in an attempt to make it less varietal.

Tasca D’Almerita Nero d’Avola 2016 ($20, sample, 13.5%): Premiumized Italian red from Sicily made in an international style, which means it doesn’t taste like nero d’avola and it’s not very interesting. Imported by Winebow

River Road Family Stephanie’s Cuvée Pinot Noir 2017 ($30, sample, 14.3%): Classic, post-modern cocktail party California pinot noir – heavyish, with lots of cherry fruit, almost no tannins, and only a hint of pinot noir character.

Château Malescasse 2016 ($25, sample, 14.5%): There are two ways to look at this French red Bordeaux blend. First, as a French wine that tastes French, with herbal notes, currant fruit, and that French mouth feel. Second, as an every day style of French wine that costs $25. Imported by Austruy Family Vineyard Import

Wine of the week: Le Paradou Grenache 2017

Le ParadouThe Le Paradou Grenache displays quality and balance for $11

Grenache is the Wine Curmudgeon’s kind of grape. It can make great cheap wine, but it’s not always easy to work with and it isn’t especially popular as a varietal wine.

So how excited was I to see the Le Paradou Grenache ($11, purchased, 13.5%) on a virtual store shelf? Quite excited, as you can imagine. And the Le Paradou didn’t let me down.

This French red is labeled Vin de France, which means it’s not part of the appellation system. These wines are notoriously uneven in quality, but this one offers value for money. Most importantly, it doesn’t suffer from grenache’s flaws – too jammy, almost sweet, too ripe, and practically cloying.

Instead, the Le Paradou is surprisingly balanced – not so jammy, but dark; berry fruit that is almost not ripe; a little spice or black pepper, something missing from all those overworked grenaches; and even a tannin or two hiding in the back. How often does that happen in grenache?

In other words, simple but not stupid, and the kind of cheap wine we need more than ever.

Imported by European Wine Cellars

Wine of the week: Flaco Tempranillo 2018

flaco$10 delivers a terrific Spanish red in the Flaco tempranillo

The Wine Curmudgeon has been derelict in his cheap wine duty. I have not reviewed the Flaco tempranillo for a couple of vintages, and it has only been featured twice in the blog’s history. Please forgive me, cheap wine gods.

The Flaco tempranillo ($10, purchased, 13%) should be reviewed – and praised – with each vintage. That’s because it offers Spanish and varietal character every time, and for a fraction of what more expensive Spanish reds cost.

The 2018 is a little fresher and not as heavy as previous vintages. Look for the typical tempranillo aromas, like orange-ish flowers. The berry fruit is not quite sweet, and there is a little spice mixed in there somewhere to round it out, as well as just enough in the way of tannins to support all that fruit.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this with almost anything beef or pork, and it would complement roast chicken as well.

Imported by Ole & Obragado

 

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).