Category:Italian wine

Wine of the week: Cantia Cellaro Luma Grillo 2017

luma grilloThe 2017 version of the Luma grillo, an Italian white, is just as enjoyable and as delicious as the 2016 – and that’s saying something

Vintage difference is a good thing. What isn’t good is inconsistency from vintage to vintage, when quality appears and disappears seemingly at random. This is something that happens to wine at every price, a function of our post-modern wine world and its focus on price instead of value. So when you find a wine that shows vintage differences, but doesn’t show inconsistency, buy as much of it as possible. Which is the case with the Luma grillo.

The Luma grillo ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is a Sicilian white, and grillo is one of my favorite grapes. Grillo is a Sicilian specialty, and offers a welcome change from chardonnay and sauvignon blanc – not as rich as the former and not as tart at the latter. This vintage shows lemon and green apple fruit, and even some almond and spice. It’s exactly what grillo should taste like – balanced, interesting, and light but food friendly.

Highly recommended. This is a Hall of Fame wine and a candidate for the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year, assuming availability isn’t a problem like it was with the equally wonderful 2016.

Imported by Gonzalez Bypass

 

Premiumization be damned: $139.36 for 14 ½ bottles of cheap wine

cheap wine

Look at all those bargains at Jimmy’s just waiting for us to buy.

It’s still possible to buy quality cheap wine for $10 a bottle

So what if the cheap wine news these days is about failure? The Wine Curmudgeon, undaunted by the obstacles of premiumization, perseveres. The result? 14 ½ bottles of quality cheap wine for less than $10 a bottle.

How is this possible? I followed the blog’s cheap wine checklist. It’s even more valuable today, when $15 plonk is passed off as inexpensive. So look for wine from less pricey parts of the world, wine made with less common grapes, and shop at an independent retailer who cares about long term success and not short term markups.

The retailer was Jimmy’s, Dallas’ top-notch Italian grocer – so the wines are all Italian. Here are the highlights of what I bought for less than $140, which includes a case discount but doesn’t include sales tax.

• A couple of bottles of the Falesco Est Est Est, $10 each. This white blend used to be $7 or $8, but it’s still a value at $10.

• A 350 ml can of the Tiamo rose for $5 – hence, the half bottle in the headline. There wouldn’t be an onus about canned wine if all canned wine was this well done, . Highly recommended.

• Banfi’s Centine red Tuscan blend, $10. The Centines (there is also a white and rose) are some of the best values in the world. This vintage, the 2017, was a little softer than I like, but still well worth $10.

Principi di Butera’s Sicilian nero d’avola, $10. This was the 2016, but it was still dark and plummy and earthy, the way Sicilian nero should be. Highly recommended.

• A couple of roses – a corvina blend from Recchia, $8, and the Bertani Bertarose, a $15 wine marked down to $8. Because who is going to buy a $15 Italian rose made with molinara and merlot? They were in similar in style – fresh and clean, with varying degrees of cherry fruit.

More about buying cheap wine:
Cheap wine checklist: $82.67 for a case of wine
Once more: A case of quality wine for less than $10 a bottle
Nine bottles of wine for $96.91

Wine of the week: Avignonesi Cantaloro Rosso 2016

The Italian Avignonesi Cantaloro red blend is full of surprises, which makes it that much more enjoyable

The one thing about wine that bears repeating – and I repeat it here and to myself regularly – is that wine should always be surprising. If it’s not, then something is wrong. Case in point? The Avignonesi Cantaloro.

This is an Italian red wine, a blend from Tuscany, that tasted nothing like I expected. For one thing, it was heavier the mouth and had more ripe fruit than I thought it would, since it was an Italian red made mostly with sangovese. But know this, too: The wine was enjoyable and still tasted Italian – a wonderful surprise.

The Avignonesi Cantaloro ($12, purchased, 14%) displays the fresher New World style that’s not uncommon in many Tuscan red blends. But the style is more restrained, and it has retained some Italian herbalness, a touch of earthiness and enough acidity to balance the riper fruit.

It was so enjoyable that I wasn’t even annoyed to find out that the producer describes the wine as smooth. In fact, it’s not, and it does need food. It’s a bit heavy for porch sipping, but pair it with sausages or red sauce as the weather cools, and you’ll enjoy the combination.

Imported by Tabaccaia USA

Wine of the week: Tiamo Rose NV

Tiamo roseHow do you make quality, affordable canned wine? Check out the Tiamo rose

A restaurant trade magazine review of the Tiamo rose, an Italian pink, called it a “serious wine in a can.” Frankly, I can think of no higher praise.

Too much canned wine, as I’ve discovered over the past couple of years, is made to be sold in a can, and not made to be wine. The Tiamo, from the always top-notch Winesellers, Ltd., in suburban Chicago, is wine that happens to come in a can instead of a bottle. And boy, can you can taste the difference.

That means you can take the Tiamo rose ($5/375 ml can, purchased, 12%) on a picnic, to the beach, or on a camping trip and not worry that it will taste like like cherry Kool-Aid or watery and bitter lemonade. Frankly, it’s also wine you can drink at home. Open the fridge, pop open the top, pour it in a glass, and not know the difference. In other words, just the wine for the upcoming Labor Day weekend, whether you’re on the road or staying on the back porch.

The Tiamo is slightly fizzy, with some floral aromas and almost red plum fruit. It’s balanced, as all rose should be, is bone dry, and has a surprisingly long finish. The price works out to $10 a bottle, which is a fair value. One key to that, given the inflated prices of many canned wines, is that it’s non-vintage; that is, the grapes used to make it come from several vintages. This keeps the price down, and vintage doesn’t really matter any way. It’s a canned win, after all – who is going to age it?

Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Mini-reviews 124: Freemark Abbey, Bogle rose, Lacrima, Terra Alpina

Freemark AbbeyReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month

Freemark Abbey Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2018 ($21, sample, 13.7%): Competent, mostly enjoyable California style sauvignon blanc (some grass, some citrus) with richness in the mouth but a surprisingly short finish. Hence, this white wine speaks to how difficult it is to offer value in entry level Napa wine. Because these days, $21 is entry level Napa wine.

Bogle Vineyards Rose 2018 ($10, sample, 13%): Thin, bitter, and slightly sweet California pink wine with almost no redeeming qualities. Rose for people who buy buy rose at the supermarket because someone tells them they should buy rose.

Marotti Campi Rùbico 2018 ($18, purchased, 13%): Intriguing Italian red made with the little known lacrima grape from the Marche wine region, which is best known for white wine. It resembles a quality Beaujolais – lots of red berry fruit, not too much acidity, and just enough heft to be interesting. Price is problematic, since you can buy better wine for less money. Imported by Dionysus Imports

Terra Alpina Pinot Grigo 2018 ($15, sample, 12.5%): Alois Lageder makes some of the best Italian white wine in the world.  This is apparently its second label, but why it would sully its name with this very ordinary and overpriced tonic water pinot grigio is beyond me.

Photo: “When in Italy” by simon.wright is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Wine of the week: Scaia Garganega Chardonnay 2018

Scaia Garganega ChardonnayThe Scaia garganega chardonnay is an Italian white blend that pairs the unlikeliest of grapes to produce a terrific wine

Buy this wine.

There’s no better way to describe how terrific the current vintage is of the Scaia Garganega Chardonnay ($12, sample, 12.5%). This Italian white blend is made with two of the unlikeliest grapes possible – garganega, a grape usually used to make tanker trucks of barely drinkable Soave, and chardonnay, hardly the most Italian of grapes.

But it works. It worked for the 2017 wine. It worked for the 2016 wine. It worked for the 2015 wine.

And it works in this, the 2018. Somehow, the Scaia garganega chardonnay tastes better than the sum of its parts. Look for a bit of citrus (lime?), but not as tart as previous years, and some pineapple from the chardonnay that softens the garganega. The wine smells fresh and flowery, and the finish is clean and crisp and a bit stony. Somehow, there aren’t the off notes typical of poorly-made Italian chardonnay. Even more surprising, there is none of the cheap, almost tinny quality too often found in poorly-made Soave.

Highly recommended, and certain to return to the $10 Hall of Fame in 2020. It’s also a leading contender for the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Chill this, and drink it on its own or with anything that isn’t red meat. It’s also worth noting that the 2018 is difficult to find; my local retailer still has cases of the 2017. (A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to Katherine Jarvis at Jarvis Communications, who found a sample for me). But not to worry if you can’t find the 2018. The 2017 is still delicious, and the Scaia garganega chardonnay ages better than a $10 wine should, getting softer and more interesting.

Imported by Dalla Terra

Fourth of July wine 2019

Fourth of July wine 2019Fourth of July wine 2019: Four bottles to enjoy for the United States’ 243rd birthday

The Unites States celebrates its 243rd vbithday this week, and the Wine Curmudgoen has four wines to bring to the party. As always, keep our summer wine and porch wine guidelines in mind: Lighter, fresher wines, even for red, since lots of oak and high alcohol aren’t especially refreshing when it’s 98 degrees outside

Consider these Fourth of July wine 2019 suggestions:

Ryder Estate Chardonnay 2017 ($14, sample, 13.5%): This California white is made in a less zippy style, with softer and less tart apple fruit. Otherwise, it’s well-made and proefessional, without too much oak and the right amount of apple and tropical fruit.

La Fiera Rose 2018 ($8, purchased, 12.5%): This Italian pink is a little softer than expected, without the acidity French-style roses have. But it’s bone dry with lots of red fruit, and offers tremendous value.  Imported by Winesellers Ltd

Renzo Masi Erta e China 2017 ($15, sample, 13.5%):A surprisingly balanced and Italian-like Super Tuscan, where cabernet sauvignon is blended with the sangovese. It has that wonderful tart cherry fruit that shouts Tuscany, plus some backbone from the 50 percent cabernet. It needs food — ribs on the grill, perhaps?
Imported by HB Wine Merchants

Princesa Brut Nature Cava NV ($12, purchased, 11.5%): Brut nature is the driest sparkling wine, and this Spanish bubbly doesn’t disappoint. It’s crisp, very dry, and has cava’s trademark apple and pear fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Quintessential

Photo: “Sydney Foreworks Detail” by Jürgen Lison is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

More Fourth of July wine:
Fourth of July wine 2018
Fourth of July wine 2017
Fourth of July wine 2016
Wine of the week: Bota Box rose 2018