Category:Wine of the week

Wine of the week: CVNE Rioja Cune Crianza 2014

cune crianzaCVNE’s Cune Crianza is a red Spanish wine that delivers tremendous value and quality

Spanish wine still offers some of the best value in the world. And, whenever the Wine Curmudgeon despairs about the future of cheap wine, I drink something Spanish like CVNE’s Cune Crianza and feel better.

The Cune Crianza ($13, purchased, 13.5%) is everything an inexpensive Spanish Rioja (a red wine made with tempranillo from the Rioja region in northern Spain) should be. It’s varietally correct, with that faint orange peel aroma, not quite ripe cherry fruit, and a bit of earth and a touch of minerality. The touch of oak offers a little vanilla, but it’s in the background and doesn’t take over the wine. In this, there is a tremendous amount of structure for a crianza – the least expensive class of Rioja, and one that sees little of the oak aging that helps to provide structure.

And yes, it’s worth the extra two or three dollars – especially when you consider the alternative is something likes this.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame and the $2019 Cheap Wine of the Year. The past year has not been kind to cheap wine, but the CVNE Cune Crianaza is a reminder about what is possible.

Imported by Europvin

Wine of the week: Feudo Zirtari Bianco 2015

Zirtari BiancoThe Feudo Zirtari Bianco is an astonishing $10 white wine, and especially given how old it is

This Italian white blend from Sicily is not supposed to be this enjoyable. First, it’s too old – who ever heard of a $10 white wine lasting more than a couple of vintages? Second, the producer’s wines are notoriously inconsistent, and my notes are littered with lines like “not as good as the last one.” Nevertheless, the Zirtari Bianco is $10 Hall of Fame quality cheap wine.

Which, of course, is one of the joys of doing this – finding a wine like the Zirtari Bianco ($10, purchased, 13.5%) when I don’t expect to find anything at all. It’s a blend of insolia, a native Sicilian grape, and chardonnay. Hence, the sum is far greater than its parts, given the usual quality of Sicilian chardonnay.

Look for spice (white pepper, nutmeg?), almonds, and pear fruit, which is a surprisingly delicious combination considering the two grapes that have been blended together. Plus, it’s not thin in the mouth or on the finish, which is what usually happens with a three-year-old cheap white wine.

Highly recommended, but there is a conundrum: Should you try to find this vintage, and hope it held up as well as my bottle did? Or should you buy the current vintage and hope that it’s as well made as this one? I don’t have an answer, though it’s almost certainly easier to find the current vintage.

Imported by Santa Margherita USA

Wine of the week: Farnese Fantini Sangiovese 2017

fantini sangioveseThe Fantini sangiovese is another top $10 wine from Italian producer Farnese

Thanksgiving with Italian wine? Why not, and especially if it’s the Farnese Fantini Sangiovese.

I’ve written about Farnese wines several times over the past couple of years, and after tasting this vintage of the Fantini Sangiovese ($10, purchased, 12.5%), it’s easy to see why. This is simple – but not stupid – $10 wine, the kind the we need more of.

This Italian red, made with sangiovese from the Abruzzo region, isn’t Chianti. Rather, it’s softer, less earthy, and more New World in style. This doesn’t mean it isn’t Italian or varietally correct, because it is – cherry fruit, soft tannins, and requisite acidity to balance the fruit and to give it that certain Italian zip. And, since it is lighter and fruitier in style, it would pair with the piles and piles of food on the Thanksgiving table. So yes, a Turkey wine, as well as sausages and red sauce when the leftovers are in packed away in the freezer.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Empson USA

Wine of the week: Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco 2017

Lageder pinot biancoThe Lageder pinot bianco is well worth the extra couple of dollars that it costs

What better question for the wine of the week during the blog’s 11th annual Birthday Week: How does one know when spending more than $10 on a wine in this age of crappy $15 wine isn’t a waste of money? When the wine is something like the Lageder pinot bianco.

So know the producer. The Lageder pinot bianco ( $13, purchased, 13%) comes from one of the best small wineries in Italy – a 200-year-old family business tucked away on Italy’s northern border between Switzerland and Austria. I’ve written about the Lageder wines many times. All have been worth spending the extra three for four dollars for, including and especially the pinot grigio.

The pinot bianco is no exception. Look for bright, fresh lime and green apple fruit with an almost floral aroma. In this, the wine may be more like an Oregon pinot blanc, since white wine fruit flavors tend to be subdued in Italian wine. The finish is clean and long, not quite stony but still satisfying. It’s an approachable and enjoyable wine, either on its own or with roast chicken or grilled fish. And it would be terrific for Thanksgiving – a lighter style to go with all that food.

Wine of the week: Tenuta Caparzo Sangiovese 2015

Tenuta Caparzo sangioveseThe Tenuta Caparzo sangiovese fills in the boxes on the cheap wine checklist

Let’s pull out the cheap wine checklist for the Tenuta Caparzo sangiovese:

• Made in southern France, Italy, or Spain? Check.

• Not made with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or chardonnay? Check.

• An importer who specializes in quality and value? Check.

In other words, the Italian Tenuta Caparzo sangiovese ($12, purchased, 13.5%) is exactly what a weeknight wine should be — well-priced and professionally made, and it tastes like the grape that it’s made from and the region where the grape is grown.

Sigh. Why do we need a checklist to find wines like this?

This red from Tuscany in northern Italy is softer than a Chianti, though it’s made with the same grape. That’s a style choice (something to do with Italy’s zany appellation laws?), but it doesn’t make the wine too flabby. Look for red fruit, mostly ripe cherry, a burst of Tuscan acidity, and a little earth and spice.

Is this the best wine ever made? Or even the best cheap wine? No, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s enough to be fairly priced and enjoyable to drink on a cold Tuesday night when you’re home late and dinner is takeout pizza.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

Wine of the week: Feudo Arancio Stemmari Grillo 2017

Stemmari grilloThis vintage of the Stemmari grillo reminds us how terrific cheap Sicilian wine can be

About a decade ago, Sicily was home to some of the world’s best – and least known – cheap wine. But then the wine geeks discovered the Italian island, prices went up, and quality suffered. Case in point is the Stemmari grillo, which alternates between terrific and not worth drinking as often as a wine judge spits.

The 2017 version of the Stemmari grillo ($10, purchased, 13%) is back to terrific. As my notes say: “Much better than expected, and especially after the past several vintages.” In fact, I bought this white wine, made with the grillo grape, because I have to buy lots of bad wine to find something worth writing about.

What makes this version of the Stemmari grillo so much more interesting? It tastes like grillo, for one thing – spicy (white pepper?), with some sort of lemony apple flavor (or apple-y lemon, if you prefer), and it’s dry and clean and almost minerally. When the wine is off, it’s sort of oxidized – heavy and brandyish and about as refreshing as a kick in the head.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame. Just make sure you buy this vintage, and not one of the previous two or three. Chill and drink on its on, or pair with almost anything Mediterranean that comes from the sea. And it wouldn’t be bad with humms, pita breads, and a bulgur salad, either.

Imported by Prestige Wine Imports

 

Wine of the week: Querceto Tuscan Red 2014

Querceto Tuscan Red The Querceto Tuscan Red may not be Chianti, but it does the job every quality $10 wine should do

Talk about confusing wine labels – the Querceto Tuscan Red says Chianti on it, even though it technically isn’t a Chianti – that is, a red wine from the Chianti region of Tuscany made mostly with sangiovese. But those are the Italian labeling laws for you.

In fact, the Querceto Tuscan Red ($10, purchased, 13%) is a Super Tuscan, made with 60 percent merlot, sangiovese, and a little cabernet. And, despite the confusion, it’s worth buying.

All that merlot means it’s softer than a Chianti, so there is riper and less tart cherry fruit – an almost plummy flavor. Plus, it tastes rounder and fresher in the mouth. But it’s still very Italian, with enough acidity to balance the fruit, a little earthiness, and even a touch of oak if you pay careful attention.

I drank this with my mom’s legendary chicken parmesan, given to me on a sheet of yellow legal pad when I left for college. It’s the kind of food this wine was made for, and especially as the weather gets cooler.

Imported by Prestige Wine Imports