The Carletto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a $10 Italian red that’s a step from most $10 Italian reds
The blog features a lot of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, the red wine from the middle of Italy. That’s because it’s cheap, dependable, terrific with food, and almost always well made. If the wines have a flaw, it’s that they all tend to taste more or less the same. The Carletto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, on the other hand, is cheap and well made – but far from just another bottle of d’Abruzzo.
Look for lots of cherry fruit, but also some dark spices and freshness in the back that is more than just the contrast between the fruit and the wine’s natural acidity. In this, it’s much more than spaghetti wine; serve it with something more complex and complicated, including roast lamb.
Three wines to drink during Texas’ rolling power blackouts — because that’s when you really need quality cheap wine
The weather in Dallas for the past 10 days has been exceptional – record, almost sub-zero cold and more snow in a couple of days than we usually get in a couple of years. As such, we’ve had rolling power blackouts thanks to the unprecedented electrical demand. Here at Wine Curmudgeon World Headquarters in Dallas, the power went off eight times between Sunday and Wednesday — and I was luckier than most, who didn’t have any power at all. And a friend in suburban Arlington lost water, and had to use snow to flush the toilet.
Fortunately, I have lots of sweaters, as well as flashlights positioned around the house. Churro, the blog’s associate editor, showed grace under pressure — he barely objected when I wiped his feet off after a trip outside.
The situation raises two questions: First, how did the state’s grid operator get in this mess, which isn’t really in the purview of the blog (though I have had long experience with Texas’ electricity ineptness). Second, what wine to drink during rolling power blackouts?
• Fantini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2018 ($10, purchased, 13.5%): This vintage of an always dependable Italian red blend is a touch more interesting – a little earthier, more intriguing cherry fruit, and a little more complex. Just the thing for my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs, and especially when it’s snowing outside. Imported by Empson USA
• Marquis de la Tour Brut NV ($10, purchased, 11%): This French bubbly from the Loire, made in the charmat style, is soft, a little sweet (honey?), with tight bubbles and lemon and apple fruit. Very nicely done, and especially for the price. Imported by Palm Bay International
Good news for cheap wine: New importer may bring back all of Falesco Vitiano wines to the U.S.
Italy’s Falesco Vitiano, one of the all-time great cheap wines, may soon be selling all of its labels in the U.S. I’m still waiting on official confirmation from the producer’s new importer, Trinchero Family Estates. But a Trichero spokeswoman said this week that the Falesco wines would be included, and it doesn’t make much sense to only add one of the three Vitiano wines.
Because that’s what happened in October, when then importer Winebow dropped the Vitiano white and rose. That was a shocking blow to those of us who care about cheap wine. The Vitiano had been in the $10 Hall of Fame since its inception, and the brand won the best cheap wine poll in 2013. The red, white, and rose are everything great cheap wine should be – in fact, what great wine at any price should be. That means varietally correct, terroir-driven, and interesting.
Apparently, the old importer didn’t see enough demand for the white and rose to make bringing them into the country worth the trouble. In addition, it didn’t seem that Winebow was importing newer vintages of the reds — most of what I could find was 2016 and 2015.
And, apparently, the producer disagreed. Though the winery didn’t respond to an email asking about the changes in October, it does seem that the switch to Trinchero could be tied into the cuts. This has been happening repeatedly over the past decade, with producers dropping their long-time importers. See this and this.
The Banfi Col di Sasso is another in the produer’s long line of quality $10 wines
Banfi’s $10 wines, even in these uncertain times, are a hallmark of consistency and quality. We’ve waxed poetic about the Hall of Fame Centine wines, and the Col di Sasso is of the same type.
The Banfi Col di Sasso 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is an Italian red blend made in the Super Tuscan style; that is, it uses sangiovese combined with international grapes liker cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The 2017 has just sangiovese and cabernet, and though the proportion isn’t listed, it’s probably more of the former than the latter.
That’s because Banfi’s red wines are typically softer than the normal $10 Italian – less tart and with rounder tannins. This isn’t a bad thing, but a house style that the company has refined over the years and that it puts to good advantage.
Look for a bit of spice, full black cherry fruit, and a clean finish. Again, this is not Chianti, with its trademark bright acidity, or a high-end Super Tuscan, plush and California-like. Rather, it’s the kind of wine for a midwinter dinner – spaghetti and meatballs, perhaps?
What better use is for a quality $10 wine these days?
The Adami Prosecco is Italian bubbly that shows how enjoyable Prosecco can be
Those of us who want more from Prosecco than a sweet, fizzy wine often have difficulty finding something that costs less than $15. Which is where the Adami Prosecco comes in.
The Adami Prosecco Brut Garbel NV ($13, purchased, 11%) combines all that makes this style of Italian sparkling wine popular while not dumbing it down. That means a quality bubbly with a bit of sweetness that is part of what’s going on and not its reason for being. In fact, I have three tasting notes for the Adami over the past decade, and each says mostly the same thing. That’s amazing consistency for a wine at this price.
Look for a fresh and rounded wine, with more apple and less tropical fruit than many similarly-priced Proseccos. It has also more and sturdier bubbles than many others, for a more enjoyable fizziness. Highly recommended, whether for New Years or just because it’s sparkling time.
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. This month, a special Christmas Eve 2020 edition.
• Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rose 2020 ($15, sample, 12.5%): The South African Mulderbosch was once one of the world’s great cheap roses. This isn’t it — there has been a price hike and the wine is softer, without the edge the cabernet used to give it. Plus, there’s a touch of sweetness. Very disappointing. Imported by Third Leaf Wines
• Petra Zingari 2015 ($13, purchased, 14%): This red blend is made in the popular post-modern Italian style, so that the sangiovese is surrounded by three international grapes — merlot, syrah, and petite verdot. Notice I wrote surrounded, and not complemented. It is well made and professional, and spot on if you like this style. Imported by TMT USA
• Calcu Escarlata 2019 ($12, sample, 14%): This Chilean red blend is exactly the kind of supermarket wine that focus groups like — lots of dark fruit, no tannins, and very little acidity. It does what it does well enough, but there are hundreds of wines exactly like it. Imported by Global Vineyard Importers
• Chasing Rain Merlot 2018 ($24, sample, 14.5%): A very dark merlot from Washinton state that tastes like it has lots of winemaking going on. It’s more heavy and tannic, more like a caberent, with less soft merlot character.
The Monte Antico Toscana is an Italian red blend not to be overlooked
The Monte Antico, an Italian red blend, is one of those wines that I see in stores, make a note to check out, and then forget about. How else to explain that I have only reviewed a well-made and very Italian wine that costs $10 – and often less – only a couple of times in 13 years?
Because the Monte Antico Toscana 2015 ($10, sample, 13%) does what all great cheap wine should do. It tastes like the part of the world that it comes from, it’s enjoyable, and you want to buy another bottle when you finish the one on the dining room table.
The blend is mostly sangiovese, but there’s enough cabernet sauvignon (10 percent) and merlot (five percent) to round out any rough edges in the sangiovese. Look for dark red fruit and an almost minty aroma, plus that biting Italian acidity that means this wine needs food. The finish is longish, and almost berryish.
Highly recommended, and especially when you can find it for less than $10. Pair this with red sauce and sausage on a cold winter’s night.