Category:$10 wine

Wine review: Sebeka Chenin Blanc 2008

The Wine Curmudgeon thinks chenin blanc is one of the world’s great unappreciated grapes. When it is made well, it ?s a fine alternative to chardonnay ?- dry and fruity in the New World style or dry and steely in the French style.

The catch, of course, is the phrase ?if it ?s made well. ? Too much chenin blanc is tasting room sweet or sour and green. Fortunately, there is the Sebeka (about $10), a South African wine from the Gallo empire. It ?s a solid Tuesday night with Chinese takeout wine ? a bit sweet, but not unpleasantly so, with lots of tropical fruit. I wish it had had more of an acid backbone, but that doesn ?t detract from its value.

Wine of the week: Colonia las Liebres 2007

image Argentina is best known for malbec, which it has turned into the country ?s national grape. Wine drinkers associate malbec with Argentina in the same way that people associate shiraz with Australia. But that doesn ?t mean the country ?s winemakers don ?t produce other interesting wines.

The las Liebres (about $10) is made with an Italian variety called bonardo (by Italians in Argentina, apparently), and it ?s worth a taste. The wine is fruity and ripe, with lots of blackberry, very little in the way of tannins, and no oak. It ?s a heftier, darker version of Beaujolais nouveau. Drink this with with any tomato-based Italian dish, grilled sausages or barbecue.

Wine drinkers like cheap wine

Yes, I know ? one of those dog bites man headlines. But sometimes, in the wine business, not everyone gets the obvious.

Hence the headline, from this story: ?"The consumer has definitely changed buying habits," says a buyer for a major American liquor chain. "They are buying wines, which is good for us, but they are being more careful. People don't need another $50 cabernet. What they need is a really good wine at $10."

Note to major American liquor chain: Look here. Sigh. How long has the Wine Curmudgeon been saying this? When can I get quoted as an expert?

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Wine review: Loredona Viognier 2006

image There is nothing wrong with the Loredona ? it ?s $10, and has pleasant honey and apricot flavors (though not much of a finish). Plus, it isn ?t cloying in the way that some cheap, fruity wines are. It ?s fine for porch sipping, as well as pairing with a fall-inspired jambalaya.

But what really made me notice the Loredona was that it ?s just another in a line of quite well-made, inexpensive viogniers that I ?ve tasted this year. They ranged from technical wines (a French term for grocery store wines ) like Smoking Loon to the various Texas viogniers that I have praised (Brennan, McPherson, Becker). Are winemakers discovering viognier is an interesting alternative to chardonnay, especially on the inexpensive side? I hope so, because these were some of the best cheap wines that I ?ve had this year.

Wine of the week: Domain du Tariquet Côtes de Gascogne 2007

image The French region of Gascony is famous for two things, foie gras and D’Artagnan, the Fourth Musketeer. The Wine Curmudgeon submits that a third item should be added ?- great, cheap wine.

The Tariquet (about $10) is just another in a long line of terrific $10 wines from Gascony. These wines are made with grapes that are little known, like ugni blanc, or have bad reputations, like French colombard. But in the hands of a variety of Gascon winemakers, they become clean, crisp and refreshing, with a bit more fruit than other French white wines. The Tariquet has a lemony, floral aroma and a touch of lemon flavor (maybe even lemon zest), without any unpleasant minerality. This is cheap wine the way it should be. Serve it chilled on its own, or with seafood or something like chicken Caesar salad.

Jacques Pepin loves cheap wine

Yes, it ?s true ? Pepin, one of the great chefs of the last 50 years, the man who has cooked for presidents and kings, drinks cheap wine.

?I rarely spend more than $10 on a bottle of wine, ? Pepin told me on Thursday during a visit to Dallas, where he was promoting his new book, More Fast Food My Way.

He said he looks for bargains from countries like Spain and France, and finds much California wine too expensive. At this point, as regular visitors to this site can well imagine, the Wine Curmudgeon was beside himself.

?There ?s nothing wrong with drinking simple wine, ? said Pepin, who still drinks a lot of $10 Beaujolais. His advice: Put a bottle of red wine and a bottle of white wine out for dinner, and let your guests make up their own minds.

More Pepin wine pointers:

? If you ?re going to splurge, splurge on champagne and sparkling wine.

? Drink regional. (By now, of course, I was past being beside myself). Several years ago, Pepin was eating dinner in the Savoie region of France, known for its well-made, inexpensive white wines. He was with a TV group and when the wine list came, the TV people asked if they should order the one Bordeaux on the list. Pepin said he laughed and said, ?You ?re in Savoie ? drink Savoie wine. ?

? Wine and food pairings are overrated. ?I ?m not too high on that anymore, ? Pepin said. ?It ?s too difficult to figure out. ? Hence the simple red and the simple white put on the dinner table.

And, if I can plug the new cookbook, try the Israeli couscous and popover with apricot jam recipes.

Wine of the week: Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

clip_image002The Wine Curmudgeon is not a big fan of boxed wines, but not for the usual reasons. My problem is convenience. Do you know how difficult it is to pour wine from a 3-liter box at the dinner table?

Having said that, this year ?s version of Black Box ?s cabernet (about $21, or the equivalent of four bottles) provides fine value. You get fruity California cabernet with decent tannins and even a bit of vanilla oakiness. It ?s a big wine, yet still reasonably balanced. In fact, I served it with spaghetti and red sauce, and the wine was almost too much for the dish. That means it ?s a beef and smelly cheese wine.

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