• Torres Verdeo 2018 ($11, purchased, 13%): Ignore the silly marketing — this Spanish white is made with verdejo, but its name is Verdeo. It’s an astonishing cheap wine, an almost layered effort of something that is almost always one note. There is sort of peach fruit to balance the lemon. Highly recommended. Imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
• Prosper Maufoux Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc NV ($19, sample, 12%): Would that this French sparkling wine — from high-price Burgundy, no less — still cost around $15. But that’s the tariff for you. Still, it remains top-notch bubbly: Fresh, fruity (apples and lemons), tight bubbles, and nary a hint of brioche. Highly recommended. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.
• Naranjas Azules Rosado 2018 ($10, purchased, 13%): This pink Spanish is quite traditional, almost orange in color, but also oh so crisp and clean and practically savory. But there’s also more modern amount of strawberry fruit. An odd and interesting and delicious wine. Highly recommended. Imported by PR Selections
• Château de Ribebon 2016 ($14, purchased, 13.5%): Modern-style red Bordeaux blend that’s mostly merlot with dark berry fruit, but tempered by a bit of earth, an almost pine forest aroma, and nicely done tannins. This is about as value-oriented as red Bordeaux gets these days. Imported by Knows Imports
The Le Paradou Grenache displays quality and balance for $11
Grenache is the Wine Curmudgeon’s kind of grape. It can make great cheap wine, but it’s not always easy to work with and it isn’t especially popular as a varietal wine.
So how excited was I to see the Le Paradou Grenache ($11, purchased, 13.5%) on a virtual store shelf? Quite excited, as you can imagine. And the Le Paradou didn’t let me down.
This French red is labeled Vin de France, which means it’s not part of the appellation system. These wines are notoriously uneven in quality, but this one offers value for money. Most importantly, it doesn’t suffer from grenache’s flaws – too jammy, almost sweet, too ripe, and practically cloying.
Instead, the Le Paradou is surprisingly balanced – not so jammy, but dark; berry fruit that is almost not ripe; a little spice or black pepper, something missing from all those overworked grenaches; and even a tannin or two hiding in the back. How often does that happen in grenache?
In other words, simple but not stupid, and the kind of cheap wine we need more than ever.
• Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc CNW 2017 ($15, sample, 12.5%): This California white is exceptional, but I have no idea how much it costs — prices range from $10 to $17. It’s just not well-made and varietally correct chenin (crisp, with lime and tropical fruit, but it’s a wonderful food wine. If you can find it for $15 or less, buy several.
• Juvé y Camps Brut Rose NV ($18, sample, 12.5%): This pink Spanish sparkler is a perennial favorite — always professional and enjoyable. This version is more cava-like (even though it’s made from pinot noir), so more tart red fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Winebow
• Bonny Doon Clos de Gilroy 2018 ($16, purchased, 14%): This California red from Randall Grahm isn’t as grenache-y as past vintages — so less jammy fruit and more spice. It’s different and interesting, and a fine food wine. Plus, probably still a touch young.