The Wine Curmudgeon can think of no higher praise for the Argento Malbec: I don’t like malbec, and I would not only buy it, but serve it to my friends.
That’s because the Argento Malbec ($8, sample, 13.5%), an Argentine red, is everything most grocery store wine isn’t: It’s not cloying, it’s not too soft, and it’s not smooth in that mindless way that so much wine in supermarkets is. In fact, grocery store wine has no right to be this well made, based on how much junk I taste every year, and part of me still doesn’t believe it was this good. But sometimes, Big Wine (Argento may be near 1 million cases a year) gets it right.
Look for fresh black fruit, a little spice, and the soft tannins that separate malbec from merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Plus, the almost cherry aroma wasn’t like the Jolly Rancher cherry smell that makes me want to dump other wines down the drain. Pair the Argento malbec with any red meat, and especially a hearty winter stew, as well as sausages with red sauce. Highly recommended, and the perfect wine of the week for the introduction of the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame on Friday.
Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month (though it posts today because of the holiday):
?Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 ($8, purchased, 13%): Better than the last couple of vintages of this French red, in which it tastes more like wine than grape juice. But it’s still too soft and too full of that off-banana flavor that marks poorly made Beaujolais Nouveau. One day, perhaps, these wines will again be worth drinking, and I’ll keep trying them to let you know.
?Planet Oregon Pinot Noir 2014 ($20, purchased, 13.4%): There’s nothing really wrong with this Oregon red, other than I expected a bit more than it delivered. Look for lots of red fruit with some earthiness, but it’s light and too simple for $20 — even for pinot noir.
?Vistalba Tomero Torront s 2014 ($14, sample, 13%): This Argentine white is more sauvignon blanc than torrontes, with too much citrus and not enough of the soft white fruit that makes a dry torrontes so enjoyable. Having said that, it’s not unpleasant; it just doesn’t taste like torrontes. Given that, the price is problematical.
?Leese-Fitch Chardonnay 2014 ($12, sample, 13.5%): Solid and dependable grocery store chardonnay from California that follows the same template every year — just enough green apple fruit, fake oak, and heavy-ish mouth feel to taste the way it should, and consistency is a virtue when you’re standing in front of the Great Wall of Wine on your way home from work.
? Argento Chardonnay Reserva 2014 ($12, sample, 13.5%): Grocery store chardonnay from Argentina that demonstrates how Big Wine can turn ordinary grapes into something quite pleasant when it wants to. Look for white stone fruit and a hint of sweetness that balances everything out.
? Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($15, sample, 13.5%): Consistent, well-made, varietally correct California sauvignon blanc that always offers value. Look for citrus and tropical flavors, but none that are overdone, and a clean finish. This may cost as little $12 or $13 in the grocery store, which is the time to buy several.
? Line 39 Pinot Grigio 2014 ($12, sample, 13%): One of the oddest wines I’ve ever tasted, with little pinot gris or pinot grigio character and more chardonnay flavor than anything else. But it’s 100 percent California pinot grigio, and without any added sugar despite a decidedly sweet feel to it. Go figure.
The Wine Curmudgeon got a bunch of emails over the past couple of weeks extolling various studies about what dads want for Father’s Day, who buys dad his Father’s Day present, and the most common Google searches for Father’s Day gifts. Most of which was a lot of effort for nothing, because everyone here knows that Father’s Day wine 2015 is the ultimate gift.
Keep the blog ?s wine gift-giving guidelines in mind throughout the process: ?Don ?t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like. ?
Suggestions for Father ?s Day wine 2015:
? Tintonegro Malbec Uco Valley 2012 ($14, sample, 14%): Know how too much Argentine malbec tastes like dark-flavored grape juice? Not this one, which was among the highlights of my El Centro wine class tastings. Look for dark fruit and more freshness than I thought possible in a malbec. Highly recommended (steaks on the grill), and a steal at this price.
? Jolie Folle Rose 2014 ($10/1-liter bottle, purchased, 12.5%): The ultimate porch rose, in that this French pink wine is simple enough (sort of lemony-cranberry fruit) to be enjoyable and offers a couple of extra glasses because of the bigger bottle at the smaller bottle price.
? Cruz de Piedra Blanco 2014 ($9, purchased, 13%): I suppose there are some crappy cheap Spanish wines to be found, but I’ve yet to find one yet. This white, made with macabeo, usually useed for cava, offers some of the Spanish bubbly’s fruit flavor (lemony-apple?) and a wonderful freshness — and somehow, once, got 86 points from the Wine Spectator. Serve chilled on its own or with any grilled seafood or even brats.
? Los Dos 2013 ($8, purchased, 14%): This Spanish red blend, with garnacha and syrah, never fails to amaze me, and this vintage is even better than the 2012 (which was terrific). Lots of red fruit from the garnacha, and the syrah adds some heft and balance.
Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.
? Vin Vault Pinot Noir 2013 ($20 for 3-liter box, sample, 13%): This California red, part of E&J Gallo’s assault on the booming box wine business, offers much more than $5 a bottle worth of value (since a 3-liter box equals four bottles). Look for red fruit and soft tannins, though it tastes more like a red blend than pinot noir (and my guess is that it has been blended with lots of grenache or syrah). Still, it’s pleasant drinking and a huge step up from most $5 pinot noir.
? Marqu s de C ceres Rueda 2013 ($8, purchased, 12.5%): This version of the Spanish white from one of Spain’s biggest producers is made with the verdejo grape. It’s much more balanced than previous vintages — the lemon fruit is more rounded and it’s less harsh. A steal at this price, though it’s still a simple wine, and its tartness may put some people off.
? rido Malbec 2013 ($10, sample, 13.7%): Just another Argentine grocery store malbec with lots and lots of sweet red fruit, some tannins that don’t really fit with the sweet fruit, and not much else. It’s an example of why I liked this malbec so much.
? Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($10, sample, 13.9%): This California red is not the old $10 Napa Avalon cabernet, one of the great cheap wines of all time and which now costs as much as $18. But it’s professionally made, if hardly complex, and mostly a value with soft tannins, black fruit, a little mouth feel, and some acid to round it out. If you’re in a grocery store and need a red wine for dinner, this will be fine.
It’s not so much that the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t like malbec; rather, it’s that most malbec tastes like it’s made from the same recipe, regardless of who makes it or where it’s from — too much sweet red fruit and without any tannins or crispness, as boring as it can be. So when I tasted the Trivento malbec, I didn’t expect much.
Silly me. What’s the first rule of wine writing? Taste the wine before you judge it, and the Trivento ($9, sample, 14%) was a revelation, everything that most malbec isn’t — surprising depth and structure, and especially for an Argentine malbec at this price. I guess I forgot how much I liked it last time.
The red fruit (cherry?) was more juicy than soft, and the wine wasn’t flabby at all. I can’t remember the last time I wrote that about this kind of wine. In addition, there was varietal character, with sweet tannins and some heft at the back. Tasting this, it’s easy to see why malbec is supposed to be a beef wine, which isn’t true of most of that I taste, which is more suited to ice cubes.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2016 Hall of Fame. The Trivento malbec was so much more interesting than most of the malbec on grocery store shelves that it makes me wonder why more producers don’t try this approach.
The Wine Curmudgeon has long been in a quandary about Argentine wine. The best tend to be expensive, and there are other wines I’d rather spend the money on than its malbecs and red blends. The least expensive wines are too often corporately dull, and overpriced at that.
Which is why it was such a pleasure to taste the wines from Nieto Senetiner, a 126-year-old Argentine producer whose wines were none of those things. Santiago Mayorga, one of the company’s winemakers, knew exactly what I was talking about when I explained my dilemma to him; the company’s approach, he said, was to offer better quality than grocery store malbecs, but at a better price than the country’s high-end wines.
Much better prices, actually. These four wines are each worth buying, and the first two are exceptional values and highly recommended:
? Torrontes 2013 ($12, sample, 13.5%): A bone dry torrontes, which is as welcome as it is rare. Most versions of this white wine, the most popular in Argentina, are sweet to off dry, and too many are sickly sweet. There are delicious off-dry torrontes, but this one has even those beat. Look for an almost lemon tonic flavor with a hint of orange peel, and much more subtle than a sauvignon blanc. Pair this with grilled vegetables, Thanksgiving, even fried fish.
?Bonardo 2012 ($13, sample, 14%): Malbec gets most of the attention, but bonardo has long been an important red grape in Argentina. This wine shows why — juicy strawberry, but also spicy and almost minty. Spaghetti wine in the finest sense of the word, as well as anything with red meat and roast chicken.
? Malbec 2012 ($13, sample, 14%): I drink very little malbec; even well-made versions are usually too soft and fruity for me. This wine, somehow, is varietally correct, but plummier, darker, and deeper, and the well-constructed tannins add interest. There is more to this than just cola and blueberry aromas.
? Don Nicanor Estate Malbec 2011 ($20, sample, 14.5%): This red takes the previous malbec to the next level, with more berry flavor and some black pepper without the alcohol getting in the way. Much more complex than I thought a malbec at this price could be.
A tip o’ the WC fedora to Eli Cohn at Veritas in Dallas, who helped out with the tasting and told me how good the bonardo would be.