Category:Wine of the week

Wine of the week: Volver Tarima 2018

Volver TarimaThe Volver Tarima is not traditional Spanish red wine, but it is a value

Spanish wine producers, save for some notable exceptions like the reds from Ribero del Duero, have resisted the impulse to Parkerize their wines. Most are still lower in alcohol, restrained in fruit, and taste like Spanish wine has traditionally tasted.

The Volver Tarima 2018 ($11, purchased, 14.5%), a red wine made with monastrell, inhabits the mid-ground between the too ripe, cocktail-like Parker wines and a 12.5 percent Rioja. In this, it’s a pleasant surprise for those of us who want something different, but not something so different that it doesn’t taste like wine.

Yes, the wine is a bit hot, so that the alcohol shows on the back. Having said that, it’s very well-made and surprisingly balanced. There is lots of black fruit (blackberry, black cherry?), but it isn’t too ripe. There’s a little spice, and the tannins are under control – not always easy to do with monastrell. It’s mostly used as a blending grape (known in France as mourvedre).

This is a food wine – braises and stews as the weather gets colder.

Imported by Winebow

Wine of the week: Chateau de Campuget Rose 2019

 Chateau de Campuget RoseThe French Chateau de Campuget rose is a standout cheap pink wine at a time when we need one

What better way to celebrate the blog’s 13th annual Birthday Week with a wine of the week that symbolizes everything the blog stands for? In other words, the Chateau de Campuget rose.

The Chateau de Campuget Rose 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%) is well-made, it’s consistent from vintage to vintage, and it tastes like pink wine from France’s Rhone. I have tasting notes dating to 2012, with nary a discouraging word. Plus, given how difficult it has been to find quality cheap wine on store shelves this year, it is supposed to be more than widely available.

In fact, this vintage is step up from the usual fine effort – a Hall of Fame candidate, even. It’s still a bit fruity (red berries?), but there is more structure instead of just the fruitiness in the front. It’s blend of syrah and grenache, and the former seems to be keeping the latter in its place. In addition, there is a cleaner, more savory finish.

Highly recommended, and just the wine for Thanksgiving. Or, buy a case, drink it throughout the holidays, and enjoy the simple pleasures of fine $10 wine.

Imported by Dreyfus & Ashby

Wine of the week: Michel Armand Muscadet 2018

Michel Armand MuscadetThe Michel Armand Muscadet is $10 wine that shows you know what makes a quality cheap wine

The Jacques Pepin video that ran on the blog last month talked about finding quality $10 wine, which is more than possible “if you know what to buy.” Which is where the Michel Armand Muscadet fits in.

This French white wine from the Muscadet region in the Loire near the Bay of Biscay is made with a less known grape called melon de burgogne. Not surprisingly, the grape has nothing to do with melons or Burgundy or muscat; in fact, it may be best known for its difficulty in making quality wine. Nevertheless, there’s a long history of quality, affordable Muscadets.

In other words, exactly the kind of wine Pepin is talking about – an everyday wine that tastes as it should and offers much more than $10 worth of value. The Michel Armand Muscadet ($10, purchased, 12%) is crisp, flinty, and almost herbal, with a bit of stone fruit. It’s not fat or sloppy or overdone or any of those things that we’re supposed to want in white wine, but deceptively simple and intriguing.

In this, the Michel Armand reflects a wine tradition that we often forget about. It comes from a coastal region of France, so it’s made to go with the local seafood. I also paired it with a Pepin appetizer, goat cheese toasts, and the wine was gone almost as quickly as the food.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to enter the Hall of Fame in a couple of months – and don’t be surprised to see it on the shortlist for the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Imported by Knows Imports

Wine of the week: La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2018

La Fiera Montepulciano d'AbruzzoConsistency, consistency, consistency: Welcome to the La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Italian red

One of the most difficult things about parsing cheap wine is consistency. So much cheap wine is made to hit a certain price that quality can vary greatly from vintage to vintage. Hence, a wine that is terrific one year when grapes are cheap can taste like sugar water the next when grapes are more expensive.

Fortunately, that has never been a problem with the La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, an Italian red. Year after year – and I’ve been tasting the wine almost as long as I’ve been doing the blog – it is worth its $10 price. It may differ a bit from vintage to vintage, softer or more acidic or whatever, but it is always somewhere around Hall of Fame quality.

In this, the 2018 La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($10, purchased, 13%) has more structure and more oomph this vintage. That means more grip from the tannins and and the acidity isn’t as restrained. But it’s still varietally correct, with lots of cherry fruit, and it’s still fresh and enjoyable. So break out the sausage ragu.

One other note: The wine averaged 83.5 points on CellarTracker, the blog’s unofficial wine inventory software. Sigh. When will these people ever learn?

Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.

Wine of the week: Chateau La Graviere Blanc 2019

Chateau La Graviere BlancThis vintage of the Chateau La Graviere Blanc reminds us it’s possible to make great cheap wine despite all of the post-modern obstacles

The Wine Curmudgeon has been remiss. Blame it on the pandemic or the rigors of daily wine writing or simply an oversight on my part, but I have not yet praised the current vintage of the Chateau La Graviere Blanc.

So consider it praised. This version of the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year is again top-notch – professional, well-made, and quality wine. Best yet, despite the Trump Administration tariff, the Chateau La Graviere ($10, sample, 13%) has not appreciated 25 percent in price.

This French white blend sports the usual grassiness and citrus, but, as always, restrained and not the wine’s reason for being. New Zealand sauvignon blanc this is not. In fact, there seems to be some sort of stone fruit (from the muscadelle in the blend with the sauvignon blanc, perhaps?) that makes the wine a touch softer and almost more interesting.

In addition, the 2019 may even age a little – become a little stonier and less soft? And how often can we say that about a wine at his price? Once again, highly recommended and certain to return to the Hall of Fame in January.

Imported by Luneau USA


Wine of the week: Mont Gravet Carignan 2018

Mont Gravet CarignanThe Mont Gravet Carignan offers value and quality and interest – impressive in any wine, and even more so for $10

This vintage of the Mont Gravet Carignan, a red wine from France, isn’t as amazing as the 2015, which was one of the great cheap wines of all time. But that doesn’t mean the 2018 isn’t a terrific cheap wine.

Because it is. The Mont Gravet Carignan 2018 ($10, purchased, 12%) is everything a great $10 wine should be – professionally made, varietally correct, and interesting. Why interesting?

• It’s not tannic, but it’s not the kind of “smoooooth” wine that a focus group would approve of.

• It’s made with carignan, usually used for blending. So it doesn’t taste like cabernet sauvignon, merlot or pinot noir. Which is OK, since it’s not supposed to.

• It’s both food friendly (burgers and fajitas) and something to drink when you feel like a glass of red wine. That just doesn’t happen much any more.

Look for berry fruit, not quite brambly and not too much of it, plus a little bit of earth (one of my favorite things about this wine every vintage). The  smidgen of tannins and acidity make the wine complete. Highly recommended, and should return to the Hall of Fame in 2021.

Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.

Wine of the week: El Coto Rioja Blanco 2018

El Coto Rioja BlancoThe El Coto Rioja Blanco delivers once again – quality Spanish white wine for $10

El Coto, one of my favorite Spanish producers, understands how to make great cheap wine – and that it’s just not about what’s in the bottle.

Does that sound odd, especially coming from the Wine Curmudgeon? Not at all. Because not only is the wine top-notch, but the El Coto Rioja Bianco doesn’t waste money on a heavy bottle with a punt, which so many $15 supermarket wines still do. Plus, it comes with a screwcap. What more could the WC ask for?

So drink and enjoy the El Coto Rioja Blanco 2018 ($10, purchased, 12%), a white wine made with almost all viura. That means it doesn’t taste like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. Rather, it’s viura as it should be: Tart, lemony, and simple without being stupid. Plus, it’s also consistent from vintage to vintage without being boring, perhaps the third hallmark of a great cheap wine after quality and minimal marketing costs. Hence, the kind of wine to buy because you know it will offer quality and value every time. And buy more than one bottle at a time.

This vintage of the El Coto Rioja Blanco may be a touch light on the back; I couldn’t tell because I enjoyed it so much that I drank it without paying enough attention. Regardless, it’s well worth drinking, and especially at this price and especially given the tariff.

Imported by Opici Wines