Tag Archives: Chilean wine

Wine of the week: Casillero del Diablo Reserva Pinot Noir 2018

Casillero del Diablo Reserva pinot noirWe celebrate the blog’s 12th birthday with the $10 Casillero del Diablo Reserva pinot noir

This fall, wine guru Roberta Backlund recommended Chilean pinot noir, and those who listened to the podcast with Roberta probably heard the skepticism in my voice. Shows what I know: The Casillero del Diablo Reserva pinot noir shows Roberta may be on to something.

The Casillero del Diablo Reserva pinot noir ($10, sample, 13.5%) was about the last thing I expected. It’s not just that Casillero is owned by Concha y Toro, one of the three or four biggest wine companies in the world, but that making $10 pinot noir that’s worth drinking is almost impossible. And I have the hundreds of tasting notes to prove it.

But this Chilean red is a pinot noir that tastes like pinot noir. Isn’t tarted up with residual sugar, overloaded with over-ripe fruit, or blended with a couple of other grapes to “smooth” out the wine. Instead, it’s almost earthy in the front, with soft tannins and a pinot-like, almost restrained, approach in winemaking. There is a lot of berry fruit, but it’s not overdone.

Highly recommended, and especially with the uncertainty about inexpensive French pinot noir given the 25 percent wine tariff. Pair this with any weeknight dinner or something like Italian takeout – and even enjoy a glass or two in the afternoon.

Imported by Eagle Peak Estates

 

Mini-reviews 123: Sauvignon blanc, Trader Joe’s merlot, chambourcin, mencia

Trader Joe'sReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

Luis Felipe Edwards Sauvignon Blanc Autoritas 2018 ($8, purchased, 12%): Something very odd going on with this Chilean white — either that, or lots of winemaking to get it to some point I can’t figure out. Not especially Chilean in style, with barely ripe grapes and almost no fruit at all — just some California style grassiness. Imported by Pacific Highway

Trader Joe’s Merlot Grower’s Reserve 2017 ($6, purchased, 13%): This California red, a Trader Joe’s private label, is a bit thin on the back and a little too tart. Plus, the residual sugar shows up after three or four sips. Having said that, it’s easily one of the most drinkable and varietally correct wines I’ve had from TJ — for what that’s worth.

Oliver Winery Creekbend Chambourcin 2016 ($22, sample, 13.4%): Professionally made and varietally correct, this Indiana red shows how far regional wine has come. I wish it showed more terroir and less winemaking — it too much resembles a heavier wine like a cabernet sauvignon and it doesn’t need this much oak.

Virxe de Galir Pagos del Galir 2016 ($17, sample, 13.5%): There are quality grapes in this Spanish red, which is the best thing about it. Otherwise, it’s a very subdued approach to the mencia grape, taking out much of the darkness, earth, and interest. And $17 is problematical.

Photo: “Coburg wine cellar tour” by hewy is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Mini-reviews 107: Big Smooth, malbec, Rioja, Sicily

Big smoothReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This month, four red wines.

Big Smooth Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($17, sample, 14.5%): Much winemaking and craftsmanship went into this California red to make it taste like a cherry Tootise Pop. If that’s what you want your wine to taste like, then it’s worth $17. Otherwise, taste and be amazed at the post-modern marketing cynicism that also went into it.

Casillero del Diablo Malbec 2016 ($12, sample, 13.5%): This Chilean red speaks to terroir and varietal character, and is about more than the jammy black fruit of similarly-priced Argentine malbecs. Having said that, it’s not a value this price – a little thin and tart. But if you find it for $8 at the grocery store and you need a bottle of wine for dinner, you won’t be disappointed. Imported by Excelsior Wine

Bagordi Rioja Navardia 2016 ($13, sample, 14%): Nothing special about this Spanish red – just a full-bodied (heavier, more red fruit) and not especially varietal tempranillo made with organic grapes. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Cantina Cellaro Luma 2016 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Sicilian red, made with the nero d’avola grape, was either oxidized (doubtful, given the vintage) or so extracted and so overripe that it was about as Sicilian as my Honda. Imported by Gonzalez Bypass

Mini-reviews 96: Poema, Natura, Sicalia, St. James

st jamesReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

Poema Red 2015 ($10, sample, 14%): This red blend, made with tempranillo and, believe it or not, cabernet sauvignon, is Spanish wine for people who think Spanish wine should taste like it comes from California. Thick, ashy, and not very interesting.

Emiliana Natura Unoaked Chardonnay 2016 ($11, sample, 13%): The Natura, like other Big Wine products made with organic grapes, is surprisingly inconsistent from vintage to vintage given that the point of Big Wine is consistency. There’s more tropical fruit than there should be, less apple and pear, no crispness, and a bitter finish.

Sicalia Red Blend 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Sicilian red, like the Poema, uses an international grape, merlot, so the wine won’t taste like it came from the country on the label. The merlot’s sweet black fruit overwhelms the nero d’avola in the blend, and the result is more ashiness and more unpleasant thickness.

St. James Winery Semi-Dry Vignoles 2014 ($15, sample, 11%): This Missouri wine, sort of sweet and made with a hybrid grape, is something that wine snobs would sneer at on principle. But it’s embarrassingly more honest and better made than the three other wines in this post. Look for lemon and pineapple fruit, a certain softness that makes it perfect for spicy food, and marvel at how this can be done.

Wine of the week: La Moneda Reserva Malbec 2015

La Moneda malbec

The last bottle of La Moneda malbec at this Dallas-area Walmart.

The La Moneda malbec delivers $7 worth of quality, but it’s not worth driving an hour back and forth in Black Friday weekend traffic

There are two things to know about the Chilean La Moneda malbec, the “world’s greatest cheap wine.” First, many people who buy it won’t like it – it’s missing the sweet fruit they’ve come to expect from wine at this price. Barefoot it ain’t. Second, it’s a nice enough wine, but probably not worth the trouble I went to to buy it, which included an hour drive to Walmart and back during Dallas’ Black Friday weekend.

Having said that, the La Moneda malbec ($7, purchased, 13.5%) offers value for its price – and it’s important to note it’s only available at some Walmarts. Look for an enticing blueberry aroma and a straightforward, if simple, approach. It’s more tart than an Argentine malbec, but there is pleasant black fruit. On the other hand, the finish is a touch thin and could probably use some sort of oak to balance the tartness. But I enjoyed the wine, and it’s easily wine of the week quality, though not quite worthy of the $10 Hall of Fame.

The La Moneda malbec doesn’t have the cloying, heavy dark fruit that so many cheap wines have and that many people who buy it will expect. Its absence, though, probably explains why the wine won the best varietal red for less than £15 (about US$20) award at the Decanter competition.

I’ve judged similar competitions, where the wines are judged by price, and most of the cheap reds taste the same regardless of varietal – waterfalls of sweet fruit gushing into your mouth, coating your tongue, and leaving you gasping for water. So when a wine doesn’t do that, like the La Moneda malbec, it’s time to reach for the superlatives. Call it winning by contrast – the more tart the wine, the better medal you’re going to give it.

Mini-reviews 91: Black Friday 2016 edition

Black Friday 2016Reviews 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. This month, the Black Friday 2016 roundup: Wines not to buy.

Little Black Dress Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($8, sample, 13.5%): Sometimes, this supermarket California red wine wins gold medals at prestigious competitions. Sometimes, it’s undrinkable, which is the case here. Horribly overcooked, with the classic and very rarely seen anymore taste and aroma of stewed tomatoes.

The Federalist Zinfandel 2014 ($23, sample, 14.5%): The nicest thing I can say about this California red is that it’s not hot. Otherwise, it’s sadly predictable — massive sweet black fruit, nary a tannin in sight, and one more example where the marketing is better than the quality of the wine. The Bogle zinfandel is twice as good for half the price.

Los Vascos Rose 2015 ($8, purchased, 13.5%): Cheap and adequate dry Chilean pink wine, and nothing else. And this this is a Rothschild property and used to be one of the top producers in Chile.

Cave de Lugny Les Tuiles 2014 ($13, purchased, 13.5%): Cave de Lugny usually makes the best, affordable white Burgundy in the world. Not this time: Unripe and stemmy, without any chardonnay varietal character. And a couple of dollars more than the previous vintage, adding insult to injury.

In search of the elusive La Moneda malbec

La Moneda malbecThe La Moneda malbec will be in Dallas-area Walmarts, but who knows which ones and who knows when?

May 15, 2017 update: A reader writes: Why so much publicity and so little availability?

Nov. 27 update: The Wine Curmudgeon braved Black Friday Dallas traffic to drive to a Walmart in Irving and bought the last bottle in the store. The review is here.

The news last week that the La Moneda malbec – “the world’s greatest cheap wine” – was going on sale in the U.S. demonstrated two things: First, that the Wine Curmudgeon will do almost anything for his art, and second, that the three-tier system is just as antiquated and worn out as I have always said it was.

I spent Monday morning hunting for the wine, a Walmart private label and available only at the chain. I visited the Walmart near me (“Never heard of it,” said the store manager); called the two biggest distributors in Texas to see which one worked with Walmart; and contacted the company’s media relations office in Bentonville, Ark.

The consensus? The La Moneda malbec should be available in some Walmart stores in the Dallas area sooner rather than later. Which ones? We’ll have to wait and see. The company spokeswoman emailed me that “Many stores in North Texas have or will receive the wine: multiple locations in Plano and Fort Worth, Arlington and Irving.” Meanwhile, the distributor told me the wine was in their warehouse, and he’d call if, when, and where it shipped.

Which is hardly definitive, but shows just how badly three-tier works in the 21st century.

Walmart is one of the world leaders in supply chain efficiency, and academics study the company to see how it eliminates waste and increases productivity in ordering merchandise. Walmart is supposed to be so good at this that it can tell you how many widgets are on the shelf at each of its almost 12,000 stores with a couple of mouse clicks.

This is a far cry from what the manager at the store near me said. “I’ll have to ask my food guy, who who will have to ask his wine guy,” the manager said. No mouse clicks here, because this is wine and not widgets.

Walmart’s supply chain brilliance is based on dealing directly with the producer. Which, of course, isn’t the case with wine. Three-tier laws require it to deal with the distributor, which adds another layer of bureaucracy, confusion, and waste to the supply chain. In this case, the wine’s availability is not about Walmart, but about the distributor. The world’s biggest and most important retailer is waiting on a third party to decide when it gets product. How quaint.

Next week, hopefully, I’ll review the La Moneda malbec. But if I don’t, you’ll know why — thank you, three-tier.