Category:Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Cantia Cellaro Luma Grillo 2017

luma grilloThe 2017 version of the Luma grillo, an Italian white, is just as enjoyable and as delicious as the 2016 – and that’s saying something

Vintage difference is a good thing. What isn’t good is inconsistency from vintage to vintage, when quality appears and disappears seemingly at random. This is something that happens to wine at every price, a function of our post-modern wine world and its focus on price instead of value. So when you find a wine that shows vintage differences, but doesn’t show inconsistency, buy as much of it as possible. Which is the case with the Luma grillo.

The Luma grillo ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is a Sicilian white, and grillo is one of my favorite grapes. Grillo is a Sicilian specialty, and offers a welcome change from chardonnay and sauvignon blanc – not as rich as the former and not as tart at the latter. This vintage shows lemon and green apple fruit, and even some almond and spice. It’s exactly what grillo should taste like – balanced, interesting, and light but food friendly.

Highly recommended. This is a Hall of Fame wine and a candidate for the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year, assuming availability isn’t a problem like it was with the equally wonderful 2016.

Imported by Gonzalez Bypass

 

Premiumization be damned: $139.36 for 14 ½ bottles of cheap wine

cheap wine

Look at all those bargains at Jimmy’s just waiting for us to buy.

It’s still possible to buy quality cheap wine for $10 a bottle

So what if the cheap wine news these days is about failure? The Wine Curmudgeon, undaunted by the obstacles of premiumization, perseveres. The result? 14 ½ bottles of quality cheap wine for less than $10 a bottle.

How is this possible? I followed the blog’s cheap wine checklist. It’s even more valuable today, when $15 plonk is passed off as inexpensive. So look for wine from less pricey parts of the world, wine made with less common grapes, and shop at an independent retailer who cares about long term success and not short term markups.

The retailer was Jimmy’s, Dallas’ top-notch Italian grocer – so the wines are all Italian. Here are the highlights of what I bought for less than $140, which includes a case discount but doesn’t include sales tax.

• A couple of bottles of the Falesco Est Est Est, $10 each. This white blend used to be $7 or $8, but it’s still a value at $10.

• A 350 ml can of the Tiamo rose for $5 – hence, the half bottle in the headline. There wouldn’t be an onus about canned wine if all canned wine was this well done, . Highly recommended.

• Banfi’s Centine red Tuscan blend, $10. The Centines (there is also a white and rose) are some of the best values in the world. This vintage, the 2017, was a little softer than I like, but still well worth $10.

Principi di Butera’s Sicilian nero d’avola, $10. This was the 2016, but it was still dark and plummy and earthy, the way Sicilian nero should be. Highly recommended.

• A couple of roses – a corvina blend from Recchia, $8, and the Bertani Bertarose, a $15 wine marked down to $8. Because who is going to buy a $15 Italian rose made with molinara and merlot? They were in similar in style – fresh and clean, with varying degrees of cherry fruit.

More about buying cheap wine:
Cheap wine checklist: $82.67 for a case of wine
Once more: A case of quality wine for less than $10 a bottle
Nine bottles of wine for $96.91

Wine of the week: Avignonesi Cantaloro Rosso 2016

The Italian Avignonesi Cantaloro red blend is full of surprises, which makes it that much more enjoyable

The one thing about wine that bears repeating – and I repeat it here and to myself regularly – is that wine should always be surprising. If it’s not, then something is wrong. Case in point? The Avignonesi Cantaloro.

This is an Italian red wine, a blend from Tuscany, that tasted nothing like I expected. For one thing, it was heavier the mouth and had more ripe fruit than I thought it would, since it was an Italian red made mostly with sangovese. But know this, too: The wine was enjoyable and still tasted Italian – a wonderful surprise.

The Avignonesi Cantaloro ($12, purchased, 14%) displays the fresher New World style that’s not uncommon in many Tuscan red blends. But the style is more restrained, and it has retained some Italian herbalness, a touch of earthiness and enough acidity to balance the riper fruit.

It was so enjoyable that I wasn’t even annoyed to find out that the producer describes the wine as smooth. In fact, it’s not, and it does need food. It’s a bit heavy for porch sipping, but pair it with sausages or red sauce as the weather cools, and you’ll enjoy the combination.

Imported by Tabaccaia USA

Wine review: Antoine Delaune Chardonnay 2018

Antoine Delaune chardonnayThe French Antoine Delaune chardonnay is a $6 Aldi white that hints at what the discount grocer can accomplish with its wine

Aldi, the discount grocer, has never seemed to be able to deliver cheap wine quality in its U.S. stores the way it does in Europe. There have been exceptions, but for the most part the wines have been Winking Owl and its ilk. So where does the French Antoine Delaune chardonnay fit into this?

Hopefully, it’s the beginning of Aldi’s commitment to better quality cheap wine — a good thing, since the chain will open a store near my mom in the spring, and we know the trouble she has buying quality cheap wine. The Antoine Delaune chardonnay ($6, purchased, 13%) is a sign that Aldi is focusing more on selling competent and professional wine that you can buy, drink, and not worry about.

This is not to say it’s white Burgundy, the epitome of French chardonnay. But it does taste like chardonnay (some green apple); mostly tastes like it came from France (none of that California slickness); and is clean and fresh without a hint of residual sugar. It’s not even especially thin, which is usually what happens at this price.

And it’s not quite a wine of the week. It’s not stupid, but it is a little too  simple and straightforward and the lesser quality of the grapes does show. Plus, you’ll need to open the screwcap 10 or 15 minutes before you drink it, since the wine needs to breathe.

Mostly, the Antoine Delaune chardonnay is worth $6. That’s an accomplishment these days; I recently tasted a $20 chardonnay that was too precious for words, tasting more like non-alcoholic wine than anything.

Imported by Prestige Beverage Group

Labor Day wine 2019

Labor Day wine 2019

Fire up the grill and break out the Labor Day 2019 wine

Enjoy Labor Day 2019 with four wines that focus on value and quality

It has been a mild summer in Dallas — lots of rain in June, an unseasonably cool day in July, and no 100 degree days until July 30. Having said that, Labor Day means cooler weather sooner rather than later, so let’s celebrate with Labor Day wine 2019.

These four bottles will get you started, and don’t overlook the blog’s porch wine guidelines:

Bonny Doon Malvasia Bianca 2018 ($18, purchased, 13.5%): This California white is nothing if not interesting, as well as a terrific food wine: Flavors of orange, lime, and then more orange. This means it’s varietally correct, and there is freshness and a very zippy acidity.

Sierra Cantabria Rosado 2018  ($12, purchased, 13%): This Spanish pink, made from tempranillo in the Rioja region, does all it should for the price — a little orangish red fruit, some stoniness on the back, and crisp throughout.
Imported by Fine Estates from Spain

Ludovicus Garnacha 2015 ($12, sample, 14%): It’s amazing that this Spanish red has aged this well, given the grape and the cost. Rich and full, easy tannins, lots of dark fruit (cherry? blackberry?), and surprisingly clean and un-cloying for a garnacha. Needs food — Labor Day barbecue, anyone?. Imported by Ole Wine Imports

La Granja 360 Brut NV ($6, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish bubbly from Trader Joe’s is pleasant and sweetish, more like Prosecco than Cava. That means  softer fruit (less tart green apple and more red delicious) and a much softer mouth feel. But the bubbles are tight, and you can do a lot worse for $6. Imported by Evaki

Photo: “Picnic-2004-681” by Nashville First Baptist is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

For more about Labor Day wine:
Labor Day wine 2018
Labor Day wine 2017
Labor Day wine 2016

Wine of the week: Tiamo Rose NV

Tiamo roseHow do you make quality, affordable canned wine? Check out the Tiamo rose

A restaurant trade magazine review of the Tiamo rose, an Italian pink, called it a “serious wine in a can.” Frankly, I can think of no higher praise.

Too much canned wine, as I’ve discovered over the past couple of years, is made to be sold in a can, and not made to be wine. The Tiamo, from the always top-notch Winesellers, Ltd., in suburban Chicago, is wine that happens to come in a can instead of a bottle. And boy, can you can taste the difference.

That means you can take the Tiamo rose ($5/375 ml can, purchased, 12%) on a picnic, to the beach, or on a camping trip and not worry that it will taste like like cherry Kool-Aid or watery and bitter lemonade. Frankly, it’s also wine you can drink at home. Open the fridge, pop open the top, pour it in a glass, and not know the difference. In other words, just the wine for the upcoming Labor Day weekend, whether you’re on the road or staying on the back porch.

The Tiamo is slightly fizzy, with some floral aromas and almost red plum fruit. It’s balanced, as all rose should be, is bone dry, and has a surprisingly long finish. The price works out to $10 a bottle, which is a fair value. One key to that, given the inflated prices of many canned wines, is that it’s non-vintage; that is, the grapes used to make it come from several vintages. This keeps the price down, and vintage doesn’t really matter any way. It’s a canned win, after all – who is going to age it?

Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Mini-reviews 124: Freemark Abbey, Bogle rose, Lacrima, Terra Alpina

Freemark AbbeyReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month

Freemark Abbey Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2018 ($21, sample, 13.7%): Competent, mostly enjoyable California style sauvignon blanc (some grass, some citrus) with richness in the mouth but a surprisingly short finish. Hence, this white wine speaks to how difficult it is to offer value in entry level Napa wine. Because these days, $21 is entry level Napa wine.

Bogle Vineyards Rose 2018 ($10, sample, 13%): Thin, bitter, and slightly sweet California pink wine with almost no redeeming qualities. Rose for people who buy buy rose at the supermarket because someone tells them they should buy rose.

Marotti Campi Rùbico 2018 ($18, purchased, 13%): Intriguing Italian red made with the little known lacrima grape from the Marche wine region, which is best known for white wine. It resembles a quality Beaujolais – lots of red berry fruit, not too much acidity, and just enough heft to be interesting. Price is problematic, since you can buy better wine for less money. Imported by Dionysus Imports

Terra Alpina Pinot Grigo 2018 ($15, sample, 12.5%): Alois Lageder makes some of the best Italian white wine in the world.  This is apparently its second label, but why it would sully its name with this very ordinary and overpriced tonic water pinot grigio is beyond me.

Photo: “When in Italy” by simon.wright is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0