Category:$10 wine

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.

Wine review: Heinrich Red 2005

An Austrian red blend that is quite different than what most of are used to.

My guess is that most people not only have not had an Austrian wine, but aren ?t aware there are Austrian wines. (And no, gr ner veltliner, the Austrian white wine that is the darling of sommeliers and chic wine retailers doesn ?t count, since most of us aren ?t sommeliers or chic retailers.)

So I was quite excited about the Red (about $10), made with two quite obscure grapes ? zweigelt and blaufrankisch ? in an even more obscure wine region ? the Neusiedlersee H gelland in eastern Austria south of Vienna. What more could the Wine Curmudgeon ask for?

And this is a wonderful wine, in all sorts of ways. It ?s simple yet quite fascinating, with an earthy, almost roast meat flavor, soft tannins, balanced acidity, and lots of cherry fruit. In other words, it tastes nothing like most of the red wines we ?re taught to drink. In this, it ?s another example of what can be done by winemakers who stick to what the grapes give them and not what the magazines tell them to make. In keeping with this theme, the Web site is quite eccentric. You ?ll need to point and click on what look to be blank pages to make it work, but it will.

This is a wine for summer barbecue, sausages, potato salad, baked beans, and cole slaw. Or, as the weather cools, use it for stews and peasant style soups. Highly recommended, with the caveat that it may be difficult to find.

Wine review: Castello Monaci Maru 2006

The Maru is Italian wine that tastes like it came from Italy. One of the problems with Italian wines these days is that the Italians are so eager to crack the U.S. market that are developing wines to appeal to the U.S. palate. Which means, of course, that they don ?t taste very Italian.

Note to Italian wine producers: If the Wine Curmudgeon wants to drink wine that tastes like U.S. wine, he ?ll drink wine made in the U.S.

Hence my relief ? no, my joy ? when I tasted the Maru (about $10). This is Italian wine in all its glory ? cheap, quality stuff made with a grape (negroamaro) that most people have never heard of from a region (Salento) that is equally as unknown. It ?s dark, earthy, and plummy, with low alcohol (13 percent), trademark Italian acid, and without many tannins to get in the way. This cries out for food — sausages, ragus, roast pork and the like. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2010 $10 Hall of Fame. Availability may be limited (the only reason I got to taste it is that a Dallas restaurateur didn ?t use his sample), but don ?t let that stop you.

Wine of the week: Brancott Sauvignon Blanc 2008

imageAh, to be able to walk into almost wine or liquor store in the United States, plunk down $10 (more or less), and get a quality bottle of wine every time.

That ?s what you get with the Brancott. Is it the best $10 wine you can find? Nope (which is not a criticism, but a testament to how much good $10 wine is available). But you can find it, and these days that ?s saying something. The Brancott is in almost a dozen major retailers in the Dallas area, which is a good sign for availability elsewhere given how stingy Dallas retailers are about shelf space.

So what makes the Brancott worthwhile? It ?s a solid New Zealand sauvignon blanc, made in the classic style. That means citrus and grapefruit in front (though not as over the top as some), an OK tropical-ish middle, and a long mineral finish.

Drink this chilled during the summer, pair it with the usual sauvignon blanc suspects (shellfish, most anything with garlic and olive oil), and be glad you didn ?t have to drive around town looking for a bottle of wine.

Wine review: Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc 2007

$2.99 seems about the right price for the Tow Buck Chuck's 2007 sauvignon blanc Let it never be said that the Wine Curmudgeon doesn ?t go to the ends of the earth to track down wine. Or, in this case, to Trader Joe ?s in Santa Fe, N.M.

This white wine is one of the legendary Two Buck Chucks ? given its name because it costs $1.99 at Trader Joe ?s in California (though it ?s $2.99 in New Mexico and $3.49 at points farther east). So what do you get for $2.99?

A very ordinary wine, actually, which was quite disappointing. There was very little to it, save for a bit of grassy aroma. But there wasn ?t much fruit, nothing in the middle and barely a finish at all. The wine was not flawed in any way; it just wasn ?t very interesting. As I write this, I ?m wondering: Did it just get old and wear out?

In this, it was different than the Two Buck Chuck sauvignon blanc that I tasted several years ago. But that ?s not surprising. As noted, the winemaking process for many cheap wines is not about quality, but about price. The producer uses grapes that allow it to sell a wine for a certain price, not to taste a certain way. Some years, the quality of the grapes at that price is better than in other years, and the wine tastes better ? an unintended benefit.

But, at $2.99, was it a value? Probably, because it is so cheap. But I ?d argue that all of the wines in the $10 Hall of Fame offer better value.

Wine of the week: Torres Vina Brava Rojo 2006

vina brava garnacha fr Miguel Torres is one of Spain ?s biggest producers, and its bull wine ? the Sangre de Toro with the little plastic bull ? is available almost everywhere wine is sold. So what is the Vina Brava wine, and why does Torres do it?

It ?s called a second label, which it sells in the U.S. as a private label to retailers who want something more than the bull wine and is various spinoffs. In this, the Vina Brava (about $10) has much to recommend it. It ?s a red blend of grenache and carignan, which means it has more heft, but less fruitiness, than grenache-only wines. And, like Spanish labels in general, it ?s made to go with food. Streak frites comes to mind, but it would also work with meat loaf, hamburgers and grilled mushrooms.

The drawback? Since it ?s a private label, availability is probably limited. But if you do see it, it ?s certainly worth buying.

Wine review: Vida Organica Malbec Rose 2008

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This wine, produced by Argentina ?s Familia Zuccardi (the same company that does the well-done and reasonably priced Santa Julia wines), may be a little hard to find. It ?s mostly in Whole Foods, though I have seen it scattered around elsewhere. In fact, the availability issue is the reason why it ?s not a wine of the week.

But if you can find the malbec rose (about $9), it ?s well worth it. Think strawberry, low alcohol, dry, and a pleasant stony finish. If I used the word quaffer, which I always thought seemed  demeaning, I'd use it for this. Serve chilled with almost any warm weather meal, and especially salads and grilled vegetables.

A note about organic wines: This is made with organic grapes, but it doesn ?t mean the wine itself is organic. The definition of organic wine, according to the federal government, is quite complicated, and many organic wine producers don ?t bother with it.