Tag Archives: $10 wine

2021 $10 Wine Hall of Fame

2021 $10 Hall of FameGood news, and just when we need it — nine wines entered the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame

Somehow, nine wines entered 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. That’s the most since 2017, which also had nine.

How is that possible, given the Trump tariff, premiumization, and supply shortages caused by the pandemic? I’m not sure. Chalk it up to a bit of good fortune, as well as a variety of far-sighted importers and retailers who saw an opportunity in a market glutted with overpriced, supermarket-quality plonk.

All was not good news, of course. Some of  the greatest cheap wines in the history of cheap wine dropped out. France’s Chateau Bonnet red, white, and rose now cost as much as $20 each, while the importer for Italy’s much beloved Falesco Vitiano dropped the white and rose and limited distribution of the red. Two other wines dropped out — New Zealand’s Matua sauvignon blanc and the Australian Yalumba Y series rose, both for quality.

Meanwhile, availability became an even bigger problem last year. A half dozen more wines were Hall quality, but weren’t readily available, so I couldn’t use them. And even the ones I did add might be more difficult to find now than they were when I tasted them in 2020. There are still too many wines and not enough distributors, and the distributors that remain are so big that they don’t want products from the smaller, niche producers who make the most interesting cheap wine.

Still, given how cheap wine quality has plummeted over the past couple of years, and how pitiful last year’s Hall was, any good news is welcome. The inductees include the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year, the MAN chenin blanc from South Africa; the Campuget and Masciarelli roses; the Italian Tenuta Carpazo sangiovese and La Valentina Montelpuciano; a vinho verde, the Aveleda Fonte; the Spanish Balnea verdejo; the French Le Paradou viogner; and an old friend, the Mont Gravet carignan.

The complete 2021 $10 Wine Hall of Fame is here. You can also find it at the Hall of Fame link at the top of the page. The Hall’s selection process and eligibility rules are here. I considered wines that cost as much as $13 or $14 to take into account price creep and regional pricing differences.

You’ll be able to print the Hall as either a text file or a PDF. Look for the printer icon on the upper right hand corner of the post.

2021 Cheap Wine of the Year: MAN Chenin Blanc 2019

man chenin blancSouth Africa’s MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc 2019 is the blog’s fourth annual Cheap Wine of the Year

The MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc, a South African white, appeals to the Wine Curmudgeon on a variety of levels. First, that it’s South African wine, and we know about that, don’t we? Second, that it’s chenin blanc, and we know about that, don’t we?

And, of course, that it’s cheap, delicious, and varietally correct. Because that’s what matters, and not any of the aforementioned criticisms. Hence, the MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc 2019 is the blog’s fourth annual cheap wine of the year.

In this, the MAN chenin blanc ($10, purchased, 12.5%) demonstrates once again that wine preconceptions are one of the problems with wine. Why pass up a wine as wonderful as this because you don’t drink chenin blanc, white wine, or South African wine? Because, of course, too many of you reading this now are thinking just that.

Does this wine taste like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc? Nope, because it’s not supposed to. It tastes like a New World chenin blanc — not as steely or stony as chenin from France’s Loire, but crisp and minerally enough, and with more fruit. It’s bone dry, with stone fruit and maybe some red apple, a richness that most $10 wines don’t have, and a longish finish. It’s surprisingly layered and sophisticated; swish it around in your mouth, and you’ll see what I mean. This is a white wine if you want a glass before dinner, as well something to drink with braised chicken.

The 2019 vintage is still be widely available, as is the 2018. The latter isn’t as impressive as the 2019, but it’s well made and enjoyable. The 2020 has been released, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

More Cheap Wine of the Year:
2020 Cheap Wine of the Year: Le Coeur de la Reine Gamay 2017
2019 Cheap Wine of the Year: Château La Gravière Blanc 2017
2018 Cheap Wine of the Year: Bieler Pere et Fils Rose 2016

Wine of the week: Monte Antico Toscana 2015

Monte Antico ToscanaThe Monte Antico Toscana is an Italian red blend not to be overlooked

The Monte Antico, an Italian red blend, is one of those wines that I see in stores, make a note to check out, and then forget about. How else to explain that I have only reviewed a well-made and very Italian wine that costs $10 – and often less – only a couple of times in 13 years?

Because the Monte Antico Toscana 2015 ($10, sample, 13%) does what all great cheap wine should do. It tastes like the part of the world that it comes from, it’s enjoyable, and you want to buy another bottle when you finish the one on the dining room table.

The blend is mostly sangiovese, but there’s enough cabernet sauvignon (10 percent) and merlot (five percent) to round out any rough edges in the sangiovese. Look for dark red fruit and an almost minty aroma, plus that biting Italian acidity that means this wine needs food. The finish is longish, and almost berryish.

Highly recommended, and especially when you can find it for less than $10. Pair this with red sauce and sausage on a cold winter’s night.

Imported by Empson USA

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

Thanksgiving wine 2020

thanksgiving wine 2020Four Thanksgiving wine 2020 suggestions

Don’t feel too thankful this year, what with all the damn terrible things that have happened? The Wine Curmudgeon understands, but wants to remind everyone: At least we’re here to enjoy the holiday. A lot of us are much worse off.

So take a look at these Thanksgiving wine 2020 suggestions. The blog’s guidelines for holiday wine buying are here.

Louis Jadot Beaujolais 2019 ($12, purchased, 13%): This French red is about as old-fashioned as wine gets, and I can hear the wine geeks snickering in the background. But the 2019 is a little heavier than usual, which makes it more of a food wine and which isn’t a bad thing. Look for berry fruit, a hint of tannins, and even a little pepper, Imported by Kobrand

Branchini Pignoletto Frizzante 2019 ($12, purchased, 11.5%): Frizzante, in this Italian white, means fizzy. And that means you get a Prosecco-style wine without any of the off-putting qualities of cheap Prosecco. That means it’s not only delightfully fizzy, but minerally,  with a hint of pear, maybe, and barely sweet. Highly recommended — much, much more than I thought it could be. A  tip of the WC’s fedora to Paul DiCarlo at Jimmy’s in Dallas for telling me about this. Imported by Serendipity Wines

Calcu Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Especial 2019 ($12, sample, 12.5%): An intriguing and enjoyable white from Chile, with about 60 percent sauvignon blanc and 30 percent semillon. It’s not light like a supermarket New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and it needs food. But it’s quite Chilean in character (soft lemon instead of grapefruit) with a pleasantly long finish. Not for everyone, but a fine value. Imported by Global Vineyard Importers

Mezzacorona Rose Vigneti delle Dolomiti 2019 ($10, purchased, 12%): An Italian pink that does what it does quite well and for more than a fair price. It’s soft-ish but not sweet — lots of berry fruit, with a hint of acidity and a pleasing, long fruity finish. Imported by Prestige Wine Imports

More about Thanksgiving wine:
Thanksgiving wine 2019
Thanksgiving wine 2018
Thanksgiving wine 2017
Wine of the week: El Coto Rioja Blanco 2018
Expensive wine 131: Justin Isosceles 2015

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