Category:$10 wine

What wine magazines — still — don’t understand about wine

Food & Wine magazine is a well-done and professional book that has hundreds of thousands of readers. The Wine Curmudgeon likes Food & Wine. For one thing, it  occasionally acknowledges regional wine, and its wine stuff is mostly written in English. Compared to the rest of the Wine Magazine universe, that ?s top of the class.

But what Food & Wine doesn ?t understand is the same thing that all of the rest of them don ?t understand. Cheap wine does not cost $20. Cheap wine costs $10 or $8 or  even $5. The average price of a bottle of wine in the U.S. (all together now, regular readers) is $6.

But Food & Wine, apparently, has the same blind spot that the rest of the wine world has. The winner of the ?value ? pinot noir (Manhattan magazines hate to use the word cheap) in its American Wine Awards, which will be announced in the October magazine, cost $20. Yes, $20 ? or three times the average price of a bottle of wine.

Or, to quote the magazine: ?This entry-level bottling.

Entry-level bottling? For Donald Trump, maybe. Why this matters, and that it ?s not just another excuse for a Wine Curmudgeon rant — after the jump:

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Wine of the week: Harlow Ridge Pinot Noir 2008

imageThe Bronco Wine Co. is most famous for its Two Buck Chuck, the $1.99 wine that is sold only at Trader Joe ?s (and that costs as much $3.49 in states other than California). The Wine Curmudgeon has never been much impressed by Two Buck Chuck, and has always thought that Bronco ?s best wines were the ones that cost around $10.

One of those is Forest Glen, which I tasted earlier this year while judging a wine competition in New York state. It was solid, quality $10 red wine, made mostly, I think, for restaurant sales. Another is the Harlow Ridge pinot noir, which was sitting in the back of the wine closet and I found by accident. In fact, I ?m not quite sure how it got there.

But it was worth finding, a surprisingly drinkable $10 pinot. The wine tasted more like pinot than it should — especially since it ?s from Lodi, which is usually too warm for quality pinot grapes to thrive. Plus, it ?s very low in alcohol at 12.5 percent, has more fruit (strawberry?) than some $30 pinots I ?ve tasted lately, and was not unpleasant in any way. Which is an important consideration with pinot at this price. A contender for the $10 Hall of Fame.

Serve this on its own before dinner or with burgers, pizza or any weeknight red wine dinner.

Wine of the week: Yellow + Blue Rose 2008

image Yellow + Blue makes some of the Wine Curmudgeon ?s favorite cheap wine. The malbec is in the $10 Hall of Fame, and the torrontes would be if I could find it in more stores. The third entry in the producer ?s line, a Spanish rose, is another terrific $10 wine.

The rose, like the other two wines, is made with organic grapes and comes in a 1-liter juice box. It lists for about $13, which works out to $10 a bottle. It's a dry wine, more cranberry than strawberry, as befits a Spanish rose. It also has a surprisingly long mineral finish, which you don't usually find with this style of wine. My only criticism is that it isn ?t quite up to the level of the malbec and torrontes, but that ?s no fault of this wine. It ?s because the malbec and torrontes are so well made. One caveat: Availability may be a problem. I ?m told that it ?s a special order in the Dallas area.

Drink this chilled on its own, or with any late summer or early fall dinner. It ?s also interesting enough to bring it out for roast chicken and roast turkey.

Wine review: Falling Star Malbec 2008

This malbec may cost as little as $6 a bottle in some parts of the country.There is a fairly long discussion on the importer ?s Web site about this wine, throwing around terms like hand harvested, pneumatic pressing, and slow malolactic. Fortunately, it also happens to be great cheap wine.

The Falling Star (as little as $6 in some parts of the country) is from Argentina ?s Trapiche, which does decent $10-$15 wine and decided to branch down. Good decision. This wine is almost certainly a shoo-in for the 2010 $10 Hall of Fame. Highly recommended.

Yes, it is a little simple and not all that jammy, but compared to something like the Two Buck Chucks and the rest of the $7 and under crowd, it was a revelation. This wine is clean, fruity (think blackberry), fresh, and has very pleasant tannins (especially for a wine at this price).

Serve this with most traditional red wine dishes, but don ?t worry about drinking it on its own or even a little chilled. It will be more than fine.

Wine of the week: Domaine du Tariquet Classic 2008

imageThe French region of Gascony is most famous for d ?Artagnan, the fourth Musketeer; Armagnac, the local brandy; and foie gras. As for wine? Well, it ?s the kind of region that only the Wine Curmudgeon could love.

The wines are cheap, dry and fruity, low in alcohol, and food friendly, all of which are hardly au courant among the over-oaked, over-priced, and over-alcoholic wines that are most popular these days. Plus, Gascon wines are made with grapes that the Wine Magazines consider insignificant, and the only way a Gascon wine would get a high score is if d ?Artagnan held the tip of his sword to the reviewer ?s throat.

So bring on the Domaine du Tariquet (about $9), a white blend made with ugni blanc and colombard. It has lots of crisp green apple fruit and even some citrus, and it ?s difficult to beat this for a quality sub-$10 wine. It ?s in the $10 Hall of Fame, and should be back in 2010.

Serve this chilled, by itself or with almost any kind of summer meal that isn ?t red meat. And it ?s not bad with Chinese takeout, either.

Wine review: Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2007

If you have $10, you can buy a quality Sicilian wine and marvel at how the Italians do it.

There are two questions to ask about this wine: First, why don ?t more retailers carry it? Second, why don ?t more producers understand that this is the way to make wine ? that is, to let Italian wine (or French or Spanish wine) taste like Italian wine.

This summer, the Wine Curmudgeon has been diligently working his way through the wine closet. The results, however, have not often been pleasant. I have tasted too many $15 or $18 wines that that aren ?t worth it, and I have tasted too many European wines ? from reputable producers who should know better ? that taste like they came from California. In other words, they have too much fruit, too much alcohol and too much tannin. (As an aside:  I can ?t decide if this is a cynical reaction to the American palate or whether the producers figure the only way  to sell their wine is to tart it up. The result, of course, is the same.)

When I drink Italian wine, I want it to taste like Italian wine. Or else I would drink California. Blessedly, the Cusumano tastes oh-so-Italian (Sicilian, actually, in this case) and does it for around $10. It has great fruit (cherry and cranberry maybe?) and it ?s fresh and interesting, aromatic and peppery and with the correct acid balance. It ?s burgers and meat loaf wine, something for the back porch barbecue. And while you sip, you can enjoy the wine while everyone else is stuck with whatever they got stuck with at the store.

Wine of the week: Andeluna Torrontes 2008

image A decade ago, torrontes from Argentina was going to be the next big white wine. It was cheap, it was fruity, and could be made off-dry. That meant it was sweet enough for people who didn ?t like dry white wine but not so sweet that it offended the rest of us.

But that never happened. For one thing, there isn ?t a whole lot of torrontes grown in Argentina, and producers haven ?t planted more (I ?m told there is actually some sort of vine shortage). For another, too many producers, faced with short supply and growing demand over the last decade, cut back on quality and raised prices. This might have made them some money, but didn ?t do much for the wine ?s reputation. I tasted some truly dreadful torrontes at a Two Wine Guys tasting last year ? sugary sweet, dirty, and with very little varietal character. One even tasted like sauvignon blanc.

None of this is a problem with the Andeluna (about $10). It has torrontes ? tell-tale apricot and peach aroma and flavors, and though it ?s a bit odd in the middle, it ?s one of the best $10 torrontes I ?ve had in years. Drink this chilled on its own, or with summer salads, grilled chicken or Thai food. It ?s dry, but there is enough fruit so it will stand up to spicy food.