The new vintage of the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year shows the Chateau La Graviere Blanc at its $10 best
What does the Chateau La Graviere Blanc, the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year, do for an encore? Produce another interesting, value-driven wine in the new vintage.
The Chateau La Graviere Blanc ($10, purchased, 13%), a French white blend from Bordeaux, has been one of the joys of my wine drinking over the past couple of years. It has remained high-quality $10 wine at a time when too much of the wine world cares more about adding sugar and raising prices.
The 2018 version of the Chateau La Graviere Blanc is richer and heavier than the 2017, thanks to the semillon blended with the sauvignon blanc. But know that neither is a bad thing; it shows off the wine’s terroir and reminds us that vintage differences can make a wine more interesting.
Look for some citrus and an almost California aroma of grassiness. There is lots of minerality, which is what a white Bordeaux should have, and the fullness in the mouth moves toward a long and clean finish. This is a food wine, but you can also chill and sip it when you want a glass of after work.
Highly recommended, and it will return to the $10 Hall of Fame in 2020.
The Stephen Vincent Crimson is an excellent example of that vanishing California breed, a well-made and enjoyable cheap red wine
Call this wine of the week, the Stephen Vincent Crimson, a bit of serendipity – a $12 California red wine that doesn’t taste like it has been tarted up, dumbed down, or manipulated to please a focus group.
The Stephen Vincent Crimson ($12, purchased, 13.9%) is a red field blend (mostly petite sirah this vintage), which means it’s made with whatever grapes are available that year. The 2016 offers ripe cherry aromas and lots of dark berry flavors, but finishes bone dry.
That it was dry was actually surprising, since the fruit was so ripe and because so many sweet reds pass themselves off as dry these days. In fact, I kept swallowing, over and over, figuring that the cotton candy sign of residual sugar would eventually show up in the back of my mouth.
But it never did. And that that’s a sign of how well made the Stephen Vincent Crimson is. In addition, most wines of this style and at this price wouldn’t bother with tannins or acidity. But there are tannins, are soft but noticeable, and the acidity is just below the surface, tempering the fruit.
This is an excellent example of that vanishing California breed, a well-made and enjoyable cheap red wine (and you can even drink it slightly chilled). Pair this with barbecue as summer winds down, or even something a little spicy, like pork chops tandoori. That’s what I did, and it was one of this summer’s great wine dinners.
The 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.
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.
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.
The Cortijo Tinto is is another reminder that Spain’s Roija produces some of the world’s best red wine — cheap, expensive and everywhere in between
The Wine Curmudgeon has watched in horror this summer as several of Dallas leading retailers stuffed much too old vintages of cheap wine on their shelves. How about a $10 white Bordeaux from 2011?. They’re playing off the consumer perception that old wine is better wine; in fact. most old cheap wine is vinegar. Unless, of course, it’s something like the Cortijo Tinto.
The Cortijo Tinto ($10, sample, 13.5%) is a Spanish red made with tempranillo from the Rioja, which produces some of the world’s best red wine, cheap, expensive and everywhere in between. The Cortijo is no exception – that it can provide so much interest and character, despite the vintage, speaks to the quality of Rioja, the producer, and the importer.
Look for lots of dark fruit (blackberries?), but where the fruit doesn’t overwhelm what Rioja wines are supposed to be like. That means a bit of floral aroma, some spice, a bit of smokiness on the finish, and just enough in the way of tannins to hold everything together.
This is one of my favorite wines to keep around the house, so I know I’ll have something worth drinking when I feel like a glass of red wine. It’s fine on its own (you can even chill it a touch), and it pairs with almost everything except delicate fish.
The Esporao Alandra Branco is a Portuguese white blend that fits nicely into the middle of summer
A friend of mine insists that Portuguese wine offers some of the best value in the world, and he doesn’t understand why the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t embrace Portugal’s wines the way I do Spain’s. When I tasted the Esporao Alandra Branco, I understood his point.
The Esporao Alandra Branco ($8, purchased, 13%), a white blend, offers a couple of things that I haven’t found in enough other Portuguese wines. The reds are usually too heavy and the whites are usually too thin, but the Esporao Alandra Branco finds the spot in between.
It’s crisp and spicy, with lots of pleasantly ripe stone fruit. This is the result of the blend, a common combination in Portugal (antão vaz, perrum, arinto) ) that is almost unknown to U.S. wine drinkers. The wine was a little rounder and a little heavier than I expected, another result of the grape blend.
Highly recommended, and especially for the price. It’s an ideal wine for the middle of summer, and especially with richer seafood like tuna steaks or chicken and rice with saffron.
The Zestos Old Vine Garnacha, a Spanish red, remains one of the world’s great wine values
One of the hallmarks of a great wine, regardless of price, is consistency – does it offer quality and value every vintage, while remaining true to its terroir and varietal? Which is exactly what the Spanish Zestos Old Vine Garnacha does.
Look for red fruit (cherry? berries?), but it’s not too jammy, which can be a problem with garnacha. There’s even a trace of minerality, and the bit of oak that seems to lurking in the background should fade as the wine ages. In this, it’s lively and juicy and everything I hope for in great $10 wine. But what else we expect from an importer as brilliant as Ole Imports?
The Zestos will complement almost any kind of food, tapas or otherwise. And you could even chill it a bit, and it would be fine its own on a lazy weekend afternoon. Highly recommended, and almost certain to appear in the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame – and it’s a candidate for the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year.
Vinho verde 2019: Better quality this year than in 2018, including the always dependable Broadbent plus the Gazela and Faisao.
The vinho verde 2019 review is good news — much improved quality from 2018, with prices about the same as last year. How can we do better than that?
Vinho verde is a Portuguese white wine with a greenish tint that rarely costs more than $8. It has a slightly sweet lemon lime flavor, low alcohol, and a little fizz — all of which makes it ideal for hot weather.
Our vinho verde primer is here. Most of the cheaper wines, like Santola, Famega, Casal Garcia, and Gazela, are made by the same couple of companies but sold under different names to different retailers. These vinho verde 2019 suggestions will get you started:
• Broadbent Vinho Verde NV ($8, purchased, 9%): Not quite as well done as the 2018 (it’s missing some acidity), and it’s a little sweeter this year. But it remains balanced, rounded, and enjoyable — the vinho verde that sets the standard. Imported by Broadbent Selections
• Gazela Vinho Verde NV ($6, purchased, 9%): Stunningly enjoyable, and especially given how wretched it was last year. This bottling is not as complete as the Broadbent, but it’s not stupid, either — lemon lime fruit, pleasant spritiziness, and not too sweet. Much more than $6 worth of wine. Imported by Evaton
• Asnella Vinho Verde 2017 ($15, sample, 12.5%): Vintage vinho verde is becoming more common, but you still don’t see much of it. This bottle is more layered and more subtle than the $8 non-vintage labels — mostly dry, a more tropical fruit style, much less fizz, and more crispness. Imported by Ole Imports
• Bernador Vinho Verde NV ($5, purchased, 9%): This Aldi private label was perhaps the biggest surprise of vinho verde 2019 — almost dry, the correct amount of fizz, and with refreshing lime fruit. It’s a little thin on the back, but that’s not necessarily a problem.
• Faisao Vinho Verde NV ($7/1-liter bottle, purchased, 10%): The Faisao is noticeably sweet, something that I don’t usually like. But there’s enough crackly lemon-lime fruit and the fizziness is so well done that I drank it with dinner (roasted chicken thighs marinated in orange and lime juice, herbs, garlic and olive oil) and enjoyed it. And how can you argue with the price for a 1-liter bottle? Imported by Winesellers Ltd.