Category:Red wine

Wine review: Three Citra Italian wines

Citra Italian winesThese three Citra Italian wines deliver everything great cheap wine should – quality, value, and a more than fair price

When the wine world looks to be at its worst and the Wine Curmudgeon is contemplating something as depressing as a return to sportswriting, great cheap wine always saves the day. This time, it was three Citra Italian wines.

Citra is a co-op, buying grapes from nine growers in one of the less well known regions of Italy, Abruzzo. Which, to be honest, is not always a sign of great things. But its consulting winemaker is the legendary Riccardo Cotarella, and that changes everything.

Cotarella is the man behind Falesco’s Vitiano wines, as good a cheap wines as ever made. These are wines – red, white, and rose – that you can buy and not worry about vintage or varietal. They will always been worth the $10 or $12 or $14 they cost. In fact, they’ve been in the $10 Hall of Fame for as long as there has been one.

The Citra aren’t quite that well made yet. But the three wines I tasted could get there sooner rather than later. Each of the wines is about $10 and imported by Winebow:

Citra Sangiovese 2017 (sample, 13%): This is what cheap Italian red wine should taste like — earthy, with tart red fruit and professionally made. It isn’t rough or amateurish, like a wine from the 1980s, and it hasn’t been focused group to take out the character and interest. Highly recommended.

Citra Montepulciano 2017 (sample, 13%): This red is another example of a red wine made with the montepulciano grape from the Montepulciano d’Aburzzo region that offers value and consistency — some tart and peppery red fruit, a clean finish and competent all around. A touch thin, but these wines aren’t necessarily supposed to be rich and full.

Citra Trebbiano 2017 (sample, 12%): Any review of this white is going to make it sound lacking, one of the perils of wine with the trebbiano grape. It’s not as lemony and as crisp as the Fantini trebbiano, and it doesn’t approach the grandeur of the Gascon Tariquet ugni blanc. But it’s not lacking when it comes time to drink it. Look for some tropical and soft citrus fruit, and buy a case to keep around.

Wine of the week: Michel-Schlumberger Maison Rouge 2017

Michel-Schlumberger Maison RougeThe Michel-Schlumberger Maison Rouge is a textbook example of how to make quality, inexpensive California wine

How do you make a quality, $11 bottle of California wine? Check out the Michel-Schlumberger Maison Rouge:

• Screwcap, since you’re not trying to fool anyone into thinking this is a wine made to age.

• Light bottle with a minimal punt, so you’re not spending more money for glass than on the wine.

• California appellation, since the grapes are less expensive.

The result is the Michel-Schlumberger Maison Rouge 2017 ($11, purchased, 13.9%), a red blend from a top quality Sonoma producer that makes a second line of high-value, affordable wines. In fact, there’s a $30 version of this wine with a Sonoma appellation.

Unfortunately, I don’t see many of the second label wines in stores often enough. But when I do, I buy what I see. And buy it again.

This vintage of the Michel-Schlumberger Maison Rouge has rich, ripe, red fruit and soft tannins, and it’s likely more zinfandel than anything else. But the wine isn’t over the top or too ripe, in the way of some cheap red blends and zinfandels. Plus, the finish is just tart enough so the wine isn’t cloying.

Highly recommended. This is fall barbecue wine, and you can even chill it a touch.

Expensive wine 124: Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Beringer private reserveThe Beringer private reserve cabernet shows off the style that made this kind of wine famous

The wine closet continues to offer surprises – witness the high-powered Beringer private reserve, a Napa red. This was a sample from the long ago recession, when producers were so eager to move product that they even sent pricey bottles to me.

The Beringer private reserve ($115, sample, 14.5%) has aged barely at all in that decade. It’s still a huge wine, with rich and luscious black fruit. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have tasted like if I had opened it when I got it.

And, though the wine isn’t subtle, it’s not overpowering. The structure is round and supple, and if there aren’t layers of flavor, it’s much more than a one-note wine. There are very relaxed tannins hiding in the back, and all that fruit isn’t especially cloying. Despite the high alcohol, it’s not noticeable until you’ve finished the bottle. So it does need food as big as it is.

In this, it’s an excellent example of the style of Napa cabernet so beloved by critics who give points, retailers who use points to sell wine, and wine drinkers who buy wine according to price and points.

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

Labor Day wine 2019

Labor Day wine 2019

Fire up the grill and break out the Labor Day 2019 wine

Enjoy Labor Day 2019 with four wines that focus on value and quality

It has been a mild summer in Dallas — lots of rain in June, an unseasonably cool day in July, and no 100 degree days until July 30. Having said that, Labor Day means cooler weather sooner rather than later, so let’s celebrate with Labor Day wine 2019.

These four bottles will get you started, and don’t overlook the blog’s porch wine guidelines:

Bonny Doon Malvasia Bianca 2018 ($18, purchased, 13.5%): This California white is nothing if not interesting, as well as a terrific food wine: Flavors of orange, lime, and then more orange. This means it’s varietally correct, and there is freshness and a very zippy acidity.

Sierra Cantabria Rosado 2018  ($12, purchased, 13%): This Spanish pink, made from tempranillo in the Rioja region, does all it should for the price — a little orangish red fruit, some stoniness on the back, and crisp throughout.
Imported by Fine Estates from Spain

Ludovicus Garnacha 2015 ($12, sample, 14%): It’s amazing that this Spanish red has aged this well, given the grape and the cost. Rich and full, easy tannins, lots of dark fruit (cherry? blackberry?), and surprisingly clean and un-cloying for a garnacha. Needs food — Labor Day barbecue, anyone?. Imported by Ole Wine Imports

La Granja 360 Brut NV ($6, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish bubbly from Trader Joe’s is pleasant and sweetish, more like Prosecco than Cava. That means  softer fruit (less tart green apple and more red delicious) and a much softer mouth feel. But the bubbles are tight, and you can do a lot worse for $6. Imported by Evaki

Photo: “Picnic-2004-681” by Nashville First Baptist is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

For more about Labor Day wine:
Labor Day wine 2018
Labor Day wine 2017
Labor Day wine 2016

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