Category:$10 wine

Wine of the week: McManis Family Pinot Grigio 2007

image Much American-made pinot grigio is actually closer in style to pinot gris than it is pinot grigio. Producers in this country call it pinot grigio because the Italians have spent so much time and money marketing the name. Hence, they ?re more than happy to piggyback on that effort. (The grapes are, for all practical purposes, the same. The difference in style comes from climate and cultural differences.)

Which is why anyone who buys the McManis and expects an Italian-style wine, with not much fruit and that quinine quality that seems ever present, will be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you want a quality $9 wine with juicy, almost peachy fruit and a stony finish, then try this. McManis, a quality cheap wine producer, would be better served calling this pinot gris.

It ?s easily a better buy than similarly priced pinot grigio imports (and many California labels), and is a $10 Hall of Fame contender. It will stand up to a variety of white wine food, and should be quite nice with grilled chicken.

Cheap wine does not cost $20

Note to Meredith Erickson at the New York Times: $20 wine is not cheap. It is past mid-priced and on its way to expensive.

I mention this because Erickson has put together a case of what she calls cheap wine, courtesy of the great Kermit Lynch. This is no criticism of Lynch, who is one of the world ?s great importers of French wine and could probably find value in $100 wine.

But Erickson does not say value. She says cheap, as in ?the only quantifier being cheap, but not cheap tasting. ? So why is only one of the wines in this case is less than $15? In fact, one of them is $20, one is $19, and two are $18. For the cost of those four wines, $74, I could have put together an entire case of wine that is actually cheap. Actually, you can do it. Just look at the $10 Hall of Fame.

I ?m getting exceedingly worn out from reading this kind of wine writing. I may have to do something about it. Be sure to read the blog on Friday.

Wine review: Sangre de Toro 2006

sangre de toroSomewhere in my house, either stuffed in a drawer or buried in a box, are probably hundreds of the little plastic bulls that are attached to the neck of the bottle of the Sangre de Toro, a Spanish red blend. When I started doing this 20-some odd years ago, I drank a lot of what I called bull wine. It was $6 or $7 then, well made, and dependable.

I haven;t had Sangre de Toro in years. No reason to, really. I thought I knew what it tasted like, and I thought I had outgrown it. Which is a good reason to repeat the Wine Curmudgeon mantra: “Taste the wine before you judge it, dummy.”

So I bought a bottle for about $10, took it home, unscrewed the cap (a welcome change from the old days) and discovered that the wine has remained relevant. These days, it ?s made with Spanish versions of grenache and carignan. The former gives it fruitiness I don’t remember from before, while the latter adds body. It was fine on its own before dinner, and would also pair with simple red wine food — burgers, sausages, and the like.

Wine of the week: Vini Merlot 2007

Reasons to go crazy over this wine:

• Screw top.

• It costs $8.

• It’s from Bulgaria (and the back label notes that “Since we haven’t seen you in Bulgaria lately.” )

• It ?s actually available, which was really surprising given how many $10 wines that the Wine Curmudgeon likes that aren ?t available.

• It may be the best-made cheap merlot I’ve ever had. It’s certainly the best I’ve had in a long time, with enough tannin and structure to complement the cherry and plum fruit. Best yet, it wasn’t cloying and jammy, like so many inexpensive California merlots. It’s pleasant enough to drink on its own, but it would also complement barbecue, beef fajitas, and meat loaf. Most definitely a candidate for the 2010 $10 Hall of Fame.

Wine review: Altano Douro 2006

image Two years ago, this was a nifty $7 wine and it almost made the $10 Hall of Fame. The 2005 vintage, on the other hand, was fat and flabby, and was not interesting at all.

The good news is that the 2006 is almost up to the standards set by the 2003. This Douro, a Portuguese red blend, is still not as well put together as the ?03. It ?s kind of empty in the middle, and it ?s more jammy than it should be. (Whether this was a conscious decision by the winemaker to appeal to the American palate or the result of Portugal ?s recent unseasonably warm weather is anyone ?s guess.)

But it ?s certainly drinkable, with lots of red berry fruit, decent tannins, and it is food friendly ? think burgers or pizza. And you ?ll probably be able to buy it for as little as $8 at some retailers.

Wine of the week: Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc 2007

image The Wine Curmudgeon, as noted, is a huge fan of chenin blanc. It can produce tasty, well-made, cheap wine that isn ?t chardonnay ? something that is always welcome. Which is why I was so glad to find the Dry Creek on sale for $9 (it ?s probably going to be closer to $11 most of the time).

It ?s a little oily, which is not a bad thing for this kind of wine. (The winespeak term for oily, by the way, is viscous, which sounds like a bad cough, as in, ?Boy, your viscous sounds awful. ?) Most importantly, the Dry Creek is not sweet, which makes it a little more food friendly. This is not an indictment of sweet wine, as regular visitors here know, but a reflection of how much poorly made, sweet chenin blanc exists in the world. Also, look for some apricot fruit and a very long mineral finish.

Serve this with salads, seafood or as an aperitif.

Wine of the week: Hedges CMS Red 2007

image

This red wine blend from Washington state has been a steady, dependable $10 effort since at least the early 1990s. I remember buying it on one of the first Internet wine sites, the late Virtual Vineyard. And why did I have to buy it on-line? Because availability was limited.

It ?s still not easy to find (and its white blend cousin, also called CMS, is even more difficult to locate). Why? Who knows? Just know that you should try it if you see it. CMS is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah ? moderate alcohol, pleasant dark berry fruit, some structure and tannins, and solid value. I tasted it against a $25 petite sirah, and there was no comparison. The CMS was a more interesting wine in every way.

Drink this with any hearty late winter dish, like stuffed bell peppers. And be sure to ask your local retailer why he or she doesn ?t carry it.

For more on wine availability and its problems: