Category:$10 wine

Wine of the week: Bota Box Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

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Regular visitors here know that the Wine Curmudgeon does not much care for boxed wine for boxed wine ?s sake. Poorly made wine in a box is still poorly made wine, despite being cheaper and more environmentally friendly. In fact, one could argue that poorly made boxed wine is even more of an environmental waste, since there is no reason for it to exist at all.

So when I find a boxed wine that is well made, I get giggly. Or at least as giggly as the Wine Curmudgeon can get. The Bota Box (about $22 for three liters, the equivalent of four bottles) is a simple, fruity (think cherry) California wine that is so much better than similar wines at this price that it ?s difficult to believe. It doesn ?t have any of the raw tannins these wines often have, it ?s varietally correct, and it isn ?t green ? that is, it doesn ?t have an unripe fruit flavor also typical of very cheap wines. (Which, sadly, some of its Bota compatriots do.)

It ?s not quite as well done as the Avalon cabernet, but it ?s also less than half the price. Which means it ?s highly recommended and a candidate for the 2010 $10 Hall of Fame.Serve this with spaghetti and meatballs and burgers on the grill, or to people who only drink red wine.

Wine of the week: Duca di Castelmonte Notorius 2007

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The Wine Curmudgeon loves Sicily. The island at the bottom of Italy produces quality cheap wine from grapes most people have never heard of. What more can one ask?

The Notorius is made with the grillo grape, which is native to Sicily and apparently has been used to make wine since before the birth of Christ. It ?s most widely used to make marsala, but is increasingly showing up in table wine.

The Notorius is richer than I thought it was going to be, with more of a soft lemon flavor and not the usual harsher citrus common to poorly-made cheap Italian wine. That ?s from a bit of oak aging, which gives the Notorius a richer mouth feel and more complexity than the usual cheap Italian wine. Highly recommended, especially for Mother ?s Day chicken, fish and shellfish. This would really impress Mom if it's served with grilled shrimp marinated with garlic, rosemary and olive oil.

Wine of the week: Campo Viejo Rioja Crianza 2005

Campo Viejo crianxa: Still a $10 value Spanish wine remains a fine value, despite the fluctuation of the dollar, and the Campo Viejo is an excellent example of why.

It ?s a red wine made with tempranillo from the Rijoa region of Spain. Crianza is the basic wine in the three tiers of Rioja. The middle level is reserva and the best is gran reserva; winemakers must follow specific guidelines for the wines to attain those levels.

So why the Campo Viejo? It has been $10 for as long as I can remember; it ?s widely available, from grocery stores to wine shops; and it ?s consistently made. (The label is owned by the very large Pernod Ricard group). The 2005 tastes more modern than I remember, which means more cherry fruit. But it ?s still Rioja, which means it ?s tart, a bit tannic (though soft tannins) and occupies that that in-between ground between red and white wine foods.

Drink this with everything from roast chicken to burgers to ? yes ? tapas and paella.

Wine review: Chateau Famaey Cahors Malbec Rose 2007

Chateau Famaey in Cahors in southern France. The temperature in Dallas hit 91 yesterday, which is even a bit warm for us in April. So The Wine Curmudgeon reached for the rose.

The Famaey (about $10) is made with malbec from the southern French region of Cahors. It ?s a strawberry bombshell, which was a bit surprising. The French are supposed to be a bit more subtle than this. But it was also bone dry, and any hints of sweetness come from the intense strawberry flavor. That ?s because our brains are used to associating that kind of fruitiness with sweetness (think of a Jolly Rancher). Hence, we assume that it ?s sweet. I would have preferred a little more acid to balance the fruit, but there is certainly nothing wrong with the wine.

Drink this well chilled as an aperitif or with any kind of picnic food. I ?d also try to slip it past a white zinfandel drinker. The results could be fun.

Wine of the week: Ipsum 2008

Ipsum_Rueda_Hermanos del Villar Cheap Spanish white wines are often a crapshoot. Quality varies considerably from vintage to vintage and even solid producers seem to pay less attention than they should when the wines get made.

Which is why the Wine Curmudgeon didn ?t expect much from the Ipsum (about $10), a blend of verdejo and viura from northern Spain. Which goes to show why one must always taste the wine before judging. Ipsum, from the respected Ole Imports and made by Hermanos del Villar, was much better than I expected it to be. It's fruit forward (mostly citrus), but not overwhelmingly so. It has lots and lots of Spanish minerality, probably from the limestone that the grapes grow in.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the $10 Hall of Fame. Serve chilled with chicken and rice, paella or just about anything with saffron.

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.