The news is not good for those of us who love cheap wine. There was a lot less of it worth drinking in 2007, and the ranks of the $10 Wine Hall of Fame have been reduced as we celebrate the sixth annual Cheap Wine extravaganza. (The 2007 Hall is here.)
Gone from the Hall are the Big House red, white and pink. The brand was sold last year, and the new owner makes decent enough wine, but it ?s standard grocery store stuff. It lacks the style that distinguished the old Big House labels. Two red wines that I wanted to add – ? Beaulieu ?s Beauzeaux and Altano ?s Douro – ? didn ?t make it. The former didn ?t release a new vintage locally, while the latter was flat and flabby compared to previous years.
The weak dollar didn ?t help the cause, either, so I added a room on the Hall for imported wine whose price was pushed up currency woes: ?If you can find them for $10, buy them. ?
The Hall did add three Gascon white wines – ? Domaine Duffour, Domaine des Cassagnoles, and Domaine D ?Uby. These are made with less well-known grapes from a very less well-known part of France, which is why they ?re less expensive. With that in mind, here ?s the rest of this year ?s Hall of Fame:
? The $10 wines from California ?s Bogle Vineyards, and especially the petite sirah.
? Osborne Solaz, Spanish reds and a white. Look for the cabernet-tempranillo and shiraz-tempranillo reds (though the cab was a bit below its usual standard this year), a white made with a grape called viura. There is also a rose, but I have yet to find it in the Dallas area.
? Benziger Fume Blanc, the California winery ?s version of sauvignon blanc. One caveat: Look for a recent vintage. If it’s more than two years old, it doesn’t taste fresh.
? Italy ?s Falesco Vitiano, which produces a solid rose, an even more solid white blend, and a stunning red blend made of sangiovese, cabernet and merlot.
? Cristalino, the Spanish sparkling wine, which comes in brut (dry), extra dry (sweeter than brut) and rose.
? The unoaked chardonnay and the petite sirah from California ?s Jewel Collection.
If you can find them for $10, buy them:
? Chateau Ducla and Chateau Bonnet, white blends from Bordeaux.
? Domaine Pichot Vouvray, a French chenin blanc.
? Lindauer Brut , a sparkling wine from New Zealand.
? McPherson Cellars Rose, one of the best wines, dollar for dollar, to come out of Texas.
Wines to consider for next year:
? The dry riesling and chenin blanc from Pacific Rim, a Bonny Doon offshoot. I like these wines a lot, but neither was quite there in 2007.
? I’ll keep an eye on the Beauzeaux and Douro reds over the next 12 months, but I’m not optimistic.
? Los Vascos chardonnay. This Chilean is unoaked, which is why it’s inexpensive. Again, though, it has had problems with consistency.
? Two French wines from huge negociants — the Jadot Macon-Villages and the DuBoeuf Beaujolais-Villages. Sometimes, these are terrific, and sometimes they’re far from it — and this can happen in the same vintage.
? Hugh Hamilton Jim Jim Shiraz. Inexpensive Australian shirazes usually taste like it, but this is on the cusp of being something special.
? The Chalone line from Monterey in California. This is grocery store wine that seems better than it should be. Call me cynical, but I need to taste it one more time.
? Cycle Gladiator, a line of $10 wines from the same California producer who started Rex Goliath (which turned into ordinary grocery store wine under its new owners).
Welcome to the Wine Curmudgeon, overseen by Jeff Siegel. I’m a nationally known wine writer whose work has appeared in a variety of newspapers and regional and national magazines. In everything I write, my philosophy is the same: The wine industry tries to intimidate consumers instead of educating them — and nuts to that.
Q. What does that mean?
A. You won’t see wine speak here, wine scores and ratings, or hoity-toity writing that implies that I’m better or cooler or neater than you are. Because I’m not. I just drink more wine.
Q. So what will you write?
A. Common sense articles about wine, written to help you understand what’s available and what it tastes like, as well as tips and advice about buying and drinking wine. My goal? Offer the information, and let you make the decision.
Q. Which means?
A. Reviews, national and Dallas-Fort Worth area news, a discussion of trends like cute labels and high alcohol levels, the occasional metaphysical speculation about wine (is $100 wine 10 times better than $10 wine?), and an eclectic assortment of tidbits, odds and ends, and miscellanea.
Q. Where can I find the wine you write about?
A. Most of it is generally available; check with your local liquor or wine store. If it isn’t, I’ll make sure to mention it.
Q. What if I disagree with you?
A. Then let me know. Your opinions are always welcome — either by commenting on a post by clicking the comments link at the bottom of the article or by sending me an email. Just keep in mind that the atmosphere here is cordial, which means we don’t use any of George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words. It’s not only OK to disagree — agreeing to disagree is encouraged.
1. The best wine is wine that you like. If you don’t like it, don’t drink it. Or, as the legendary Josh Wesson says, "Would you eat chocolate ice cream just becaue I told you to, even though you like vanilla better?"
2. Don’t be afraid to try something different.
3. Price is not always an indication of quality. Inexpensive wine can be well-made, just like expensive wine.
4. Wine is supposed to be fun.
5. Wine snobs are not fun.
6. Wine speak is for wine snobs.
7. Wine is not rocket science. Anyone can learn about wine, as long as they’re willing to drink it.
8. Wine and food pairings, no matter how good, are just suggestions. The wine police will not come and arrest you if you drink white wine with beef or red wine with chicken. In fact, red wine and roast chicken are good together.