Tag Archives: cheap wine

Winebits 163: Organic wine, cheap wine, malbec

? New Zealand group sets organic target: Organic Winegrowers New Zealand wants 20 percent of the country's vineyards to be certified organic by 2020. The 140-member organic group signed a memorandum of understanding last year with New Zealand Wine Growers to work towards organic goals. The amount of vineyard land in New Zealand under organic certification has tripled in the past three years, and about 4.5 percent of vineyard land is certified organic. That compares to 5 percent in California, which is one of the New World leaders in organic wine. Note that the Kiwis want organic vineyards, which is different from organic wine according to U.S. law. No synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides are permitted in organic vineyards.

? French wine values: My pal Dave McIntyre at the Washington Post says France, thanks to an exceptional 2009 vintage, will offer some exceptional "recession buster" wines in 2011. Dave especially likes the Gugial Cotes du Rhone blanc, about $13, and a white from Savoie, Domaine Eugene Carrel Jongieux, about $11. From California, he likes two reds — the 2007 Parducci petite sirah and Liberty School Cuvee, both about $12.

? Not all malbecs are alike: The Wine Curmudgeon is indifferent to much malbec, and Michael Apstein at Wine Review Online, discussing the various regions and styles of malbec that are available today, does a good job of explaining why: "Argentine Malbec satisfies the current thirst in the United States for big, ripe, fruity red wines to accompany the robust flavors found on the plates in fashionably boisterous restaurants. … Hence, there are plenty of Malbecs from Argentina that disappoint with their simplicity and monotonic profile of dark black fruit." But, he says, there are plety of interesting malbecs, from Argentina and elsewhere.

Wine of the week: Volteo Viura + Viogner + Sauvignon Blanc 2008

This wine should really be called Volteo Blanco, since it's a Spanish white wine blend. I'm assuming that the three grapes used to make it are in the name because most Europeans think that Americans only buy wine that has the varietals in the name. That most of us have no idea what viura or viogner are probably never occurred to the folks behind Volteo ($10, purchased).

Having said that, it's quite well made and (with its tempranillo cousin) was in consideration for the 2011 $10 Hall of Fame. That it didn't get in speaks more to its newness; this is one of the first vintages, and I'd like to see what happens next before I elevate it to the Hall.

Viura is a traditional Spanish grape used to make just this kind of wine. Look for a crisp, fresh, clean effort with a bit of lemon fruit and Spanish minerality and acid. Don't expect a New World citrusy wine — the Volteo is much more balanced. Serve this with salads, almost any kind of grilled fish, and even boiled shrimp. And, like the tempranillo, it has the "Smart Label:" A blue frame appears around the label illustration when the wine is at the correct serving temperature. Which actually did work.

The 2011 $10 Wine Hall of Fame

$10halloffame Six wines in, four out, and an analysis of what happened with cheap wine in 2010. That's the result of the 2011 $10 Wine Hall of Fame. For all of the great wine I found last year — from Sicily, from Oregon, and even from France — this year's Hall was a bit of a disappointment. Click the previous link  to see which wines made it, or go to the upper left hand corner of the page.

No new California wines made the Hall. For the most part, the California wines I tasted (save for the old dependables like Bogle and Toad Hollow) were boring and unimpressive. California can make much better cheap wine (and it has), and I hope 2011 will show a return to form.

The ground rules for this, the fifth annual, Hall of Fame: The wines have to cost $10 or less (Dallas prices, though I will make an exception if prices seem to be higher here) and be generally available. That means no wines like Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck, which are only sold at one retailer. The final decisions are my own, and take into account what I think wine should be: varietally correct, balanced, and interesting enough to buy again.

I do take suggestions and input from dozens of people — blog visitors and wine drinkers, people I know in the wine business, and other wine writers. Thank you for your help.

Finally, two wines that almost made it:

? Barefoot merlot. I spent a lot of time on this one, and was encouraged by several people to add it, but finally decided not to. The Barefoot wines are professionally made, but I don't think they're as interesting as the wines I selected.

? Rene Barbier Mediterranean White: I love this wine, which is simple and pleasant and almost relaxing. But as much as I like it, it is, like the Barefoot, too simple. There's not just enough going on.

Coming Monday: The 2011 $10 Wine Hall of Fame

Seven wines in, four out, and an analysis of what happened with cheap wine in 2010 — that’s the 2011 $10 Wine Hall of Fame, which will post on the blog on Monday. Want to get a sneak peak? Browse to Olivia Wilder’s Art of Living Internet radio program at 8 o’clock central tonight, when Olivia and I will talk about the wines, take questions from listeners, and field queries from the show’s chat room.

2011 $10 Wine Hall of Fame

$10halloffame
This should have been a grand and glorious $10 Wine Hall of Fame. The recession forced consumers to drink down, and we’re buying more cheap wine than ever before — and, hopefully, learning that we don’t have to pay too much money or attention to scores to find quality wine. In fact, I added six wines to the fifth annual Hall this year, because there was that much great $10 wine to find.

But I also tasted way too much flabby and dull $10 wine in 2010, and especially from California. Producers, apparently, were throwing anything in a bottle that they could sell for $10 or less, regardless of quality, in order to attract customers. The result was wine that tasted as if it had been made to a formula, and a cynical one at that. Call it the white zinfandel style — lots of sweet fruit and not much else. So it should be no coincidence that no California wines made the Hall this year.

That’s why the 2011 Hall of Fame a mixed bag. Yes, six wines were added, but four dropped out: La Ferme de Gicon, a red blend from the Rhone, which was lacking this year; vini merlot from Bulgaria and the Lockwood sauvignon blanc, which apparently aren ?t available in the Dallas area any more; and Meridian ?s chardonnay, which tasted nothing like last year ?s vintage. In this, the Meridian seemed to demonstrate what was wrong with California’s approach to wine last year — dumb it down, spend less on it, and figure no one will notice.

One other 2011 note: I’m establishing a special place in the Hall — call it the Asterisk Wing — for the Vitiano red, white and rose made by the great Riccardo Cotarella. These Italian wines are sometimes $10 and sometimes $11, and it’s kind of silly to keep moving them in and out of the Hall because the dollar fluctuates against the euro or because retailers are playing with margin.

The new members are:

? Chateau Barat, a French rose and an incredible wine. It started with lots of strawberry fruit and then morphed into something with a long, minerally finish — and does it with only 12 percent alcohol.

? Casamatta Toscana, perhaps the best cheap sangiovese I’ve ever had. Price note: This wine, like the Vitianos, is apparently $10 in places other than Dallas.

? Chateau Boisson, a white French wine that is “about as close as I have come to finding older-style white Bordeauxs that don’t taste like New Zealand sauvignon blanc.”

? Ch teau Parench re Bordeaux Blanc Sec, a white Bordeaux that is pleasantly floral and fruity (lime and melon?), but with a firm backbone.

? Marqu s de C ceres Rioja Rosado, a grocery store Spanish rose that “is full of strawberry fruit, is bone dry, offers great value, and is barbecue friendly on a 100-degree Texas afternoon.”

? Anne Aimee Muller-Thurgau Cuvee A, an Oregon white wine that is “somewhere between an off-dry German riesling and an old-style gewurtztraminer — sweetish but also spicy.” A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to Jennifer Uygur, who sold me this wine and then gave up retail in 2010 to open a restaurant with her husband. Good luck, Jennifer and David.

The holdover wines are:

? The chenin blanc, CNW, and a chenin blanc-viognier blend, Chenin Vio, from Vinum Cellars in California. One caveat: These wines are not $10 everywhere, and the CNW seems to be in short supply.

? Notorius, a white wine from Sicily. This was just one of almost a dozen Sicilian wines that cost $10 or less and offer spectacular value, almost all of which are worthy of inclusion.

? The $10 wines from California ?s Bogle Vineyards, and especially the petite sirah.

? Cristalino, the Spanish sparkling wine, which comes in brut (dry), extra dry (sweeter than brut) and rose.

? California ?s Toad Hollow pinot noir rose.

? The Yellow+Blue box wines, and especially the malbec, about $12 for a 1-liter box.

? Domaine Tariquet, a white blend from Gascony, which is the representative for several other Gascon wines made with obscure grapes that deserve to be better known.

Previous $10 Wine Hall of Fames:
? 2010
? 2009
? 2008
? 2007

2011 $10 Wine Hall of Fame preview

The work is mostly done for the fifth annual $10 Wine Hall of Fame, which will appear on the blog on Jan. 3. I'm still doing some fine tuning, but most of the decisions about which wines will drop out and which wines will be added have been made.

We're even going to do a special Internet radio kickoff for the 2011 $10 Hall — 8 p.m. central on Jan. 2 on Olivia Wilder's Art of Living program on Blog Talk Radio. Olivia and I will talk about the wines, take questions from listeners, and field queries from the show's chat room.

The good news is that there were many great $10 wines in 2010, and I'll probably add a half dozen or so to the Hall. The recession focused consumer attention on cheap wine, and wine drinkers discovered that they didn't have to pay $15 or $20 or more for quality wine.

The bad news is that I tasted way too many flabby and dull $10 wines over the past year, and especially $10 wines from California. Lots of producers were apparently throwing anything in a bottle that they could find to sell for $10 or less, regardless of quality, in order to lure all those customers who had discovered cheap wine during the recession. Or, sadly, they were downgrading the quality of the wine to keep their margins up, figuring their customers were too stupid to know the difference.

The results, too often, were not pleasant. So call the 2011 edition a mixed case — some fine wines, but lots of disappointment.