Tag Archives: cheap wine

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

Jacques Pepin: I usually buy wine that costs less than $10

Don’t believe the Wine Curmudgeon about the value of cheap wine? Then listen to the great Jacques Pepin

One criticism of the blog that has been consistent since it started: The Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t know anything about wine. Why else would I recommend cheap wine? This has come from blog visitors, sommeliers, and even other wine writers.

So I offer this, from legendary chef Jacques Pepin. He has cooked for several presidents of France, including Charles de Gaulle; written 36 cookbooks; earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree at Columbia University; and taught classes at colleges around the country. So he may know a thing or two about the subject.

Pepin talks about the role wine played on his series of cooking shows in the 1980s and 1990s, at the beginning of the U.S. wine boom. He thought it was important to introduce U.S. viewers to the joys of wine and food. He also thought it was important to point out that wine doesn’t have to be expensive: “I am not a snob about wine, you know. I usually buy a bottle under $10 or whatever, if you know what to buy.”

Which is where the WC comes in — because I have been here for 15 years helping you know what to buy.

This interview comes from a series Pepin recorded for the Television Academy Foundation, which has taped thousands of  interviews with people from the history of TV — actors, producers, writers, hosts, and the like. The Pepin series is worth watching, and especially when he discusses his friendship and working relationship with Julia Child.

More about wine and cooking shows:
Jacques Pepin loves cheap wine
Christopher Kimball: “Wine is too hard”
Julia Child and wine, both local and cheap

$10 Hall of Fame wine Falesco Vitiano cuts distribution in the U.S.

falesco vitiano

No, no, no… . not the Falesco Vitiano.

More bad news for cheap wine: Only the Falesco Vitiano red will be generally available

Italy’s Falesco Vitiano, one of the great cheap wines in the world, has cut its U.S. distribution. Only the red will be generally available; the white is being sold ”by special order” and the rose will no longer be sold in the U.S., according to a spokesman for the importer.

This is a shocking blow to those of us who care about cheap wine. The Vitiano has been in the $10 Hall of Fame since its inception, and the brand won the best cheap wine poll in 2013. Each wine is everything great cheap wine should be – in fact, what great wine at any price should be. That means varietally correct, terroir-driven, and interesting.

The winery didn’t respond to an email asking about the cuts. Reportedly, the brand was still selling some 200,000 cases a year, although not all of that was in the U.S. The spokesman for the importer, Winebow, e-mailed me that “the rosso (red) has been the driver of the Vitiano line.” Which, to the rest of us, seems to mean that the importer and producer didn’t think the white and rose sold enough to make it worth their trouble.

This is yet another blow to anyone who loves wine, but doesn’t want to pay $15 or $20 for focus group plonk aimed at aging baby boomers. The Cotarella brothers, whose family-owned company makes Vitiano, are winemaking legends. One of the great moments in my wine writing career came in 2008, when I interviewed Riccardo Cotarella and we talked about the need for great cheap wine.

One other thing to know: The current vintages are older than usual – the red is 2016 (and there seems to be a lot of 2015 available, too), and the white is 2018. I drank the 2016 red the other night, and it was still enjoyable, though starting to fray around the edges. I haven’t tasted the white since the 2015 vintage, which I had in 2016. I haven’t seen the white or rose in stores since, and now I know why.

Wine of the week: Sokol Blosser Evolution Lucky No. 9 2019

EvolutionHow about a white wine from an Oregon producer in a 1.5 liter box that works out to $9 a bottle?

We’ve heard lots about the west coast grape glut, but we haven’t seen it translate into much in the way of lower wine prices. Sokol Blosser’s Evolution white blend, the Lucky No. 9, might be the first of many.

That’s because it’s unusual to see a wine like the Evolution, a white blend that usually carries an Oregon appellation, in a box at this price. The 1.5-liter box works out to $9 a bottle; typically, the wine costs around $15. So what’s the catch here? It may well be all those grapes. The box has an American appellation, which means 75 percent of the grapes didn’t come from any one one state. My guess, from tasting it, is that it’s Oregon fruit with more than a fair share from California’s Central Valley, the center of the grape glut.

Which is is not say the Evolution white blend ($18/1.5 liter box, sample, 12%) isn’t worth drinking. Because it is – the kind of wine to chill, keep in the fridge, and drink when you feel like a glass. Look for the slightest hint of sweetness, and not nearly as much as I thought there would be. Plus, it’s hidden among a variety of white fruit flavors – some tropical, maybe some peach, and a pleasing sort of apricot stone bitterness.

This is a fine value, and I’m not the only one who think so. Give Sokol Blosser credit – it saw all those grapes sitting there waiting for someone to be creative and figured out how to make a quality cheap wine and still turn a profit. What a unique concept for the post-modern wine business.

Wine of the week: Feudo Zirtari Sicilia Bianco 2018

Feudo Zirtari Sicilia BiancoThe Feudo Zirtari Sicilia Bianco is a $10 Sicilian white blend that reminds me why I like Sicilian wine

The pandemic has limited my ability to find terrific cheap Italian wine, since I don’t get to Jimmy’s, Dallas’ legendary Italian grocery, as often as I used to. Fortunately, I was able to find the Zirtari Sicilia Bianco white blend elsewhere; it has long been one of the world’s great cheap wine values.

And this vintage of the Feudo Zirtari Sicilia Bianco ($10, purchased, 13%) shows why that’s true. It’s made with a native Sicilian grape, insolia, and chardonnay, which leads to a whole greater than the sum of its parts. There’s some spice and a little green apple or pear fruit from the insolia, while the chardonnay fills up the background. This is kind of quality cheap wine I used to see a lot on store shelves, but that has slowly vanished. Not sure if it’s just more importer and distributor problems, or someone somewhere decided we’d rather buy $15 bottles of European wine designed by a focus group instead of $10 wine that tastes like it came from Europe.

Highly recommended. Chill this and drink it on its own (the spice is always a revelation) or pair it with grilled shrimp or chicken with lots of herbs.

Imported by SM USA