Tag Archives: cheap wine

Wine of the week: Ken Forrester Petit Rose 2018

Ken Forrester petit roseThe Ken Forrester petit rose may be the best rose no one has ever heard of

There’s no easy way to say this, so here it is: The Ken Forrester petit rose is a brilliant wine, consistent from year to year, and a tremendous value. But good luck trying to buy it, given the failures of the three-tier system.

In fact, the Ken Forrester petit rose ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is one of several top-notch wines from this outstanding South African producer that are difficult to buy in the U.S. Why? Because it’s South African wine, hardly the darling of the distributors or retailers; because Forrester isn’t a big winery; and because the winery has had importer problems for at least as long as I have been writing about it.

In a perfect world, where we could buy wine the way we buy pants and computers, none of that would matter. But since wine has the three-tier system, we have to make do. Which is a shame, because the rose is everything a great pink wine should be.

Look for strawberry aromas, but not the syrupy, overdone kind that poorly made roses sometimes show. There is fresh, just ripe raspberry fruit flavor, and the finish is precise and almost stony. All in all, the kind of wine to buy again and again. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame.

Wine of the week: Mont Gravet Carignan 2017

mont gravet carignanThe Mont Gravet carignan is professional and terroir-driven cheap wine

The 2015 Mont Gravet carignan was one of the great cheap wines of all time, on a par with the legendary black Jaja de Jau and the Hogue fume blanc. The 2016 version was quality cheap wine, if not quite the 2015. The 2017, though, is almost as terrific as the 2015 was.

That’s because the current vintage of the French Mont Gravet carignan ($10, sample, 12.5%) is more earthy and interesting than the 2016. In other words, this red from the south of French (made with the carignan grape) displays vintage difference. How often do we see that in $10 wine?

The 2017 has less ripe red fruit, as well as more structure and acidity than the 2016. In addition, look for some spice, the tiniest hint of vanilla (from oak staves in steel tanks – fake oak as it should be done), and a clean and refreshing finish. Would that more cheap wine was this professional and terroir-driven.

Highly recommended, and should return to the Hall of Fame in 2019. This is red wine for grilled vegetables, burgers and sausages on the barbecue, and even something like smoked pork shoulder.

Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Four things to know about the rose boom (and that don’t have anything to do with Instagram or memes)

rose boomThe rose boom isn’t about Instagram and memes; it’s about quality wine at a fair price

Listen to the wine wise guys, and the rose boom is about “rose all day” and Instagram posts. Of course, these are the same people who didn’t catch on to pink wine until it was already a hit. Given that, why should we believe anything they say?

So here are are four things to know about the rose boom that don’t have anything to do with Instagram or memes – but show that wine drinkers know value when they see one. Which explains rose’s continuing popularity more than all the hype and the glitter in the Hampton’s.

Consider:

• There’s so much demand for rose that some retailers and distributors are trying to sell old, worn out junk, figuring we’re not smart enough to know the difference. I’m seeing more and more of this, with pink wines as old as 2013 and 2014 finding their way to store shelves. Remember, if a rose is more than 18 months old, it’s probably not worth drinking.

We’re buying $10 rose, no matter that our betters are telling us we’re supposed to spend more. In the 52 weeks between April 2017 and April 2018, we bought five times as much $10 rose as we did $20 rose. In fact, rose costing $10 or less accounted for almost 60 percent of sales over that period. Suck on that, premiumization.

• Overall, reports the same study, U.S. wine sales remain flat. But rose sales increased 53 percent from 2017 to 2018. So consumers, given the choice between buying quality $10 rose or overpriced $18 wine, are buying quality $10 rose. Why isn’t anyone noticing this?

Millennials don’t drink the most rose; it’s still the province of older wine drinkers, according to the Wine Market Council. This makes perfect sense if you look at overall wine consumption, where Millennials are generally at the bottom of the list. But wine industry hype rarely makes perfect sense or any sense at all.

Wine of the week: Conde Pinel Verdejo-Viura 2017

Conde Pinel Verdejo-ViuraThe Conde Pinel verdejo-viura is one more top-notch, inexpensive Spanish white blend

We’ve spent a lot of time on the blog analyzing wine label descriptions – what they mean, if they matter, and how reliable they are. Which, given the description on the Conde Pinel verdejo-viura, means I never should have bought it.

But the Conde Pinel verdejo-viura ($10, purchased, 13%) is more than its front label description – “sweet pineapple combined with green apple.” Someone, somewhere, figured the only way to sell this Spanish white blend in the U.S. was to appeal to the so-called American palate. In doing so, they may scare wine drinkers away from a top-notch $10 wine.

Which would be too bad. This is a professional $10 wine that makes the most of the verdejo and viura grapes that compose its blend. It’s not sweet or especially tropical, but it is clean and refreshing with a little soft lemon fruit and an almost minerally finish It’s not quite a $10 Hall of Fame wine, but it’s a lot more than its description.

Drink this chilled on its own as summer winds down, or pair it with salads, vegetable dishes like hummus or baba ganoush and pitas, and even cheese.

Imported by Hammeken Cellars USA

 

Wine of the week: Falesco Vitiano Rosso 2015

Falaseco Vitiano RossoThe Falaseco Vitiano Rosso may be the world’s greatest cheap red wine

The Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t get to taste the Falaseco Vitiano Rosso much anymore. That’s one of the drawbacks about what I do; the blog needs to be fed, and that means a constant stream of new and different wines.

So when I do get to taste the Vitiano ($10, purchased, 13.5%), it’s even more of a treat. This Italian red is one of the world’s great cheap wines, and it’s not going too far to call it one of the world’s great wines regardless of price. It has everything a great wine should have: varietal correctness, terroir, and honesty. The Cotarella family, which makes these wines, believes in value for money. They don’t skimp on what’s inside the bottle, regardless of price.

The Falaseco Vitiano Rosso is a blend – one-third sangiovese, one-third merlot, and one-third cabernet sauvigon. The 2015 vintage is a little heavier than previous vintages, which isn’t a bad thing. That makes it more of a food wine, and it needs red sauce, sausages, and the like. In fact, as cool weather returns, drink this with a braised pot roast cooked with garlic, tomatoes, herbs, and red wine.

Since it’s heavier, look for more plum than cherry fruit and a deeper, darker approach to the winemaking. Having said that, the wine isn’t too tannic or too tart, and all is in balance. Which is what I expect from the Cotarella family.

Highly recommended, and it will return to the $10 Hall of Fame next year. It’s also a candidate for the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Wine of the week: Ipsum 2017

ipsumIpsum, a Spanish white, demonstrates that wine doesn’t have to cost $40 to be well made and delicious

One of the many advantages of doing the blog is that I get to taste terrific wine I might not taste otherwise. The Ipsum may be the best example of that.

The Ipsum ($10, sample, 13%) is a cheap wine that is consistently excellent, and has been since I wrote my first review of it in 2009. In this, it demonstrates the perennial value of Spanish wine, the integrity of the producer and importer, and that wine doesn’t have to cost $40 to be well made and delicious.

This version may be the best vintage of the past 10, which is saying something considering how wonderful the Ipsum usually is. The 2017 offers more than just the crisp, and sometimes tart, lemon fruit that is common in white wine made with the verdejo grape. Instead, there’s an almost almond nuttiness mingling with green herbs and even some spices. In addition, there ‘s a surprisingly full mouth feel, something else that isn’t common with $10 verdejo wines.

Chill this and drink it on its own, or pair with grilled chicken or seafood. Highly recommended, and certain to take its place in the $10 Hall Fame next year. It’s also a candidate for the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Imported by Ole Imports

Nine bottles of wine for $96.91 (not including the discounts)

$10 wineIt’s still possible to buy quality $10 wine; just avoid the cute labels and marketing gimmicks

Premiumization has made it that much more difficult to buy quality cheap wine, but it’s still possible. The key, as I have written before, is to concentrate on value and ignore cute labels, scores, and marketing gimmicks. That’s how the wine business tricks us into paying $15 for $8 worth of wine. Which is why we have the cheap wine checklist.

I bought these nine wines last week at Jimmy’s, the well-regarded Italian grocery in Dallas. I spent more this time than during previous cheap wine shopping expeditions, but that’s because all the wines are Italian. Hence, no $6 Spanish values.

Having said that, there’s not a stinker in the lot, and the average is still around $10 a bottle. Suck on that, premiumization:

Cusumano Insolia ($12). This Sicilian white has long been a favorite, even though it has experienced some quality ups and downs. Regardless, it was one of the wines that helped put Sicily on the wine geek map. The red, made with nero d’avola, is worthwhile, too.

Falseco Vitiano Rosso ($10), One of the great moments in my wine writing career was meeting Riccardo Cotarella, whose family makes these wines. Year in and out, $10 or $14, the red, white, and rose are some of the world’s great wines regardless of price.

Garofoli Macrinia ($14). A tip of the WC’s fedora to the Italian Wine Guy for this white.

Scaia Rosato ($11). I bought two bottles of this, one of the best roses I’ve tasted this year.

Fantini Sangiovese ($10). One of literally dozens of terrific $10 red wines from Italy made with sangiovese. Plus, a screwcap.

Rocca di Montemassi Le Focaie ($10). See the Fantini (though no screwcap).

Scaia garganega chardonnay blend ($11). I mentioned this white to another Italian winemaker, and he got visibly jealous.

• Rocca Caselli Toscana ($8). Difficult to find (one more example of how screwed up three-tier is), but this Italian red is well worth the trouble.

More cheap wine shopping trips:
Once more: A case of quality wine for less than $10 a bottle
• Cheap wine checklist: $82.67 for a case of wine
• $100 of wine