Category:Wine of the week

Wine of the week: Vinho verde 2020

vinho verde 2020Vinho verde 2020: Producers are taking the fizzy, sort of sweet Portuguese wine more seriously than ever, and we’re the big winners

This year, for vinho verde 2020, I’m writing something I never thought I would write about vinho verde — several of these wines are candidates for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. That’s because the fizzy, sort of sweet Portuguese wine has always been about cheap, and quality often seemed like an accident. This year, though, the four wines I tasted were cheap and well made.

Vinho verde is a Portuguese white wine with a greenish tint that rarely costs more than $8 (the blog’s vinho verde primer is here). It has a slightly sweet lemon lime flavor, low alcohol, and a little fizz — all of which makes it ideal for hot weather. Most of the cheapest wines, like Santola, Famega, Casal Garcia, and Gazela, are made by the same couple of companies but sold under different names to different retailers.

Check out these vinho verde 2020 suggestions:

Broadbent Vinho Verde NV ($9, purchased, 9%): This is the vinho that sets the standard, and the current bottling doesn’t disappoint. Not quite as sweet as last year, with more of a tart, green apple fruitiness.  Imported by Broadbent Selections

Gazela Vinho Verde NV ($8, purchased, 9%): Solid, typical vinho — fizzy lime with a bit of sweetness. If all ordinary vinho was made this well, the wine world would be cheaper and more enjoyable. Imported by Evaton

Aveleda Vinho Verde Fonte 2019 ($10, purchased, 9.5%): Perhaps the best vinho verde I’ve ever tasted — so much more than the usual. There’s a bit of structure, the tartness is fresh and limey, the fizz is legit, and the sweetness is buried in the back. Highly recommended. Imported by Aveleda, Inc.

Faisao Vinho Verde NV ($5/1-liter bottle, purchased, 10%): Is this the best vinho verde on the list? Nope. Is it the best value? Probably, since it’s quality wine (sour lime fruit, fizzy, with just enough of an idea of sweetness) that comes in a liter bottle. Keep well chilled. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

For more about vinho verde:
Vinho verde review 2019
Vinho verde review 2018
Vinho verde review 2017

Wine of the week: Evanta Malbec 2018

evanta malbecReconsidering the 2018 Evanta malbec: A year in the bottle made it much more enjoyable

The Evanta malbec, a red Argentine Aldi private label, has one of those weird cheap wine stories that make it so difficult to decipher cheap wine. The 2017 was terrific – $5 wine that tasted like it cost twice as much. In an addendum to that post, I noted that the 2018 wasn’t quite as well done – softer and less interesting.

So why did the 2018 Evanta Malbec ($5, purchased, 13.9%) taste almost like the 2017 when I bought it last month? Who knows? Maybe it was the extra year in the bottle that took off the soft edges and made it more appealing. Maybe it was bottle variation, when every bottle doesn’t taste the same. This is a common problem with cheap wines made in mass quantities.

Regardless, the 2018 is well worth buying. It’s not quite as structured as the 2017, but it’s still difficult to beat for $5: There are more tannins and acidity than in most cheap malbecs, which tend to leave those out in favor of lots of soft fruit to make it “smoooothhhhhh. …” The berry fruit isn’t overdone and there’s not a hint of sweetness anywhere. No wonder it has been mostly sold out at my local Aldi since the pandemic started.

Imported by Pampa Beverages

Wine of the week: Biscaye Baie Sauvignon Blanc 2019

biscaye baieThe Biscaye Baie is a Gascon white wine that delivers more than $10 worth of value

The wine business has not been kind to France’s Gascon whites, one of the finest values in the world. There have been importer and distributor problems, the 25 percent Trump wine tariff, and the usual sort of availability foolishness. So imagine the Wine Curmudgeon’s euphoria when he found the Biscaye Baie.

Cheap wine gods be praised.

The Biscaye Baie ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is pretty much everything it should be. If it’s not quite up to the quality of the legendary Domaine Tariquet, it tastes like Gascon wine – fresh, white grapey, maybe a little tart, and, as the producer’s tasting note says, “a wine to be enjoyed at all times. …” Or, as my tasting note says, “Not quite Hall of Fame, but still worth buying in quantity.”

The Biscaye Baie isn’t a blend, like so many other Gascon whites – just sauvignon blanc. Hence, it tastes a little more sauvignon blanc-ish than those blended with colombard, since the latter grape tends to take the edge of the sauvignon blanc’s citrusness. But don’t confuse this with a New Zealand sauvignon blanc; it’s not a grapefruit-style wine, but has a sort of vague lemony something or other.

Practically highly recommended, if I did that sort of thing. But I have bought it in quantity, and keep three or four bottles chilled. We’ve reached the 100-degree season in Dallas, and that’s just one more reason to reach for this wine.

Imported by Aquitane Wine Company

Wine of the week: Azul y Garanza Tempranillo 2019

azul y garanzaThis vintage of the Spanish Azul y Garanza tempranillo isn’t as interesting as the past couple, but still delivers quality and value

This is the fourth vintage I’ve tasted of the Azul y Garanaza tempranillo, a Spanish red. And each year has been different from the others. That’s incredibly refreshing in our post-modern, all wine must taste alike world.

This time, the Azul y Garanza tempranillo ($13/1 liter, purchased, 14.1%) is a little more rustic and tannic than past vintages, with less cherry fruit. In this, it’s about the opposite of the first vintage I tasted, the 2016, which was softer and fruitier than I normally like. The Azul probably isn’t Hall of Fame quality this time, like the 2017 and 2018. But, like the 2016, it is perfectly enjoyable to drink.

And it remains a fine value, and not just because it’s a liter, with the extra glass and a half of wine. (And, in four vintages, this is the fourth different price I’ve paid – all bought from stores in Texas).

One other thing: Don’t worry about the 14.1 percent alcohol, which is likely a little sleight of hand to get around the 25 percent Trump wine tariff, which applies to Spanish and French wines less than 14 percent. This “adjustment” is happening quite a bit, and it really doesn’t affect the quality of the wine.

Imported by Valkyrie Selections

Wine of the week: Matua Sauvignon Blanc 2019

matua sauvignon blancThe Matua sauvignon blanc is Big Wine at its best — varietally correct, cheap, and delicious

A blog reader told me that his Costco was selling the Matua sauvingon blanc for $7 a bottle. I told him to buy cases and cases.

That’s because the Matua sauvingon blanc ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is Big Wine at its best — a combination of best practices in mass market winemaking, economies of scale, and supply chain efficiencies. The result, from Treasury Wine Estates, is a wine that is simple but not stupid and tastes like it is supposed to — and which may be the best Big Wine product on the market.

The 2019 vintage, which seems to be current, is even a little more well done than past efforts — and those made the $10 Hall of Fame. Look for not too much New Zealand grapefruit, a noticeable if slight tropical middle, and a long, clean finish.

Highly recommended and a wine destined for the 2021 Hall of Fame, as well as the short list for the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Imported by TWE Wine Estates

Wine of the week: McGuigan The Plan 2016

McGuigan The PlanMcGuigan The Plan – an Aussie shiraz that shows sense and sensibility

Australian red wines are infamous for high alcohol, jammy, too ripe fruit, and an absence of balance. So what’s the catch with McGuigan The Plan, which clocks in at an almost unbelievable 12.5 percent alcohol?

Chalk it up to the wonderful unpredictability of wine, where we should regularly discover how little we actually know. McGuigan The Plan ($13, purchased, 12.5%), though it’s from a top producer, is about the last thing one expects from an Australian red made with shiraz – it shows sense and sensibility, to steal a phrase. Yes, it’s rich and fruity, with lots and lots of blackberry. But the wine isn’t hot or sweet, the way some too alcoholic wines can be. Plus, there’s a little spice (and maybe even some pepper) in the middle. And I could swear I tasted a tannin or two. Honest.

In this, McGuigan The Plan is one more reason not to judge a wine before you taste it. It needs food, but with summer burgers or barbecue, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Imported by Palm Bay International

Wine of the week: Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2019

pedroncelli roseCalifornia’s Pedroncelli rose is one of the best pinks from the 2019 vintage – balanced, fruity, and delicious

It’s not easy making quality rose out of the zinfandel grape, and not just because zinfandel tends to make a heavier wine. It’s also because well-made zinfandel roses don’t necessarily taste like the roses most consumers expect – light and fresh and crisp. Which is why the California Pedroncelli rose is worth writing about, for it offers zinfandel’s fruit and spice in a pleasing and enjoyable way.

The Pedroncelli rose ($12, sample, 13.7%) is always top-notch every vintage, but the 2019 is one of the best I have tasted from anywhere this rose season, and certainly and among the best the winery has made in many years. It isn’t especially heavy, and the spice – and even a little pepper – is pleasingly noticeable in the middle, after a burst of zinfandel-ish berry fruit. Plus, the wine finishes cleanly and doesn’t feel syrupy or overdone in the mouth.

Highly recommended and a candidate for the 2021 Hall of Fame. Drink this chilled on on its own, or enjoy it with almost any Fourth of July barbecue.