Tag Archives: inexpensive wine

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

 

Labor Day wine 2018

labor day wine 2018Four value and quality-oriented bottles to enjoy for Labor Day wine 2018

What’s a Labor Day wine? Wine that takes the edge of the heat (it will be mid-90s in Dallas, fairly normal), suitable for porch sitting, picnics, and barbecues. In other words, light wines for warm weather.

These four bottles are fine start as part of Labor Day wine 2018:

La Fiera Pinot Grigio 2017 ($10, purchased, 12%): This Italian white wine is almost always worth drinking, a step up from grocery store pinot grigio (a little lemon fruit to go with the tonic water). This vintage is certainly that, and almost Hall of Fame quality. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Matua Pinot Noir Rose 2017  ($12, sample, 13%): Big Wine at its best — Fresh and tart berry fruit, plus a crispness I didn’t expect from a company that is one of the largest in the world. If not a little choppy in the back, it’s a candidate for the Hall of Fame. Imported by TWE Imports

Moulin de Canhaut 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): This French red Bordeaux is everything cheap French wine should be — simple but not stupid, earthy, and just enough tart black fruit. It’s also an example of how screwed up the wine business is, that someone would send me a sample of a wine that may not be available in the U.S.

Naveran Brut Rosado 2016 ($15, sample, 12%): This Spanish bubbly is one of the world’s great sparkling wines, a cava that compares favorablly to wines costing two and three times as much. Clean and bright, with more citrus than berry flavors.  Highly recommended.

For more about Labor Day wine:
Labor Day wine 2017
Labor Day wine 2016
Labor Day wine 2015

Wine of the week: Ryder Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Ryder Estate sauvignon blancThe Ryder Estate sauvignon blanc reminds us that California can still offer delicious cheap wine that offers quality and value

Regular visitors here know how despondent the Wine Curmudgeon has been the past three or four months, what with rising wine prices, decreasing wine quality, and an increasing amount of foolishness from the wine business. And then, from out of nowhere, the Ryder Estate sauvignon blanc arrived.

Ryder Estate is made by one of the oldest producers in Monterey County, but I’d never heard of it until the samples arrived. That was my loss. The wines were mostly enjoyable and fairly priced, and the chardonnay and rose were especially well made. The Ryder Estate sauvignon blanc ($12, sample, 13.5%) was even better, almost certain to make the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame and a candidate for the 2018 Cheap Wine of the Year.

This is California wine at its best, and something we don’t see much these days. It offers quality and value, as well as professional winemaking to make those happen. It’s true California sauvignon blanc, and not tarted up with sweet grape juice, flavored with fake oak, or a New Zealand sauvignon blanc knockoff. It’s varietally correct and delicious – fresh, grassy, stony, a bit of citrus and a hint of tropical fruit, and much more balanced than I expected or that we usually see in sauvignon blanc at this price.

Chill this and drink it on its own on a warm summer evening, or pair with grilled chicken or shrimp marinated in olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice. And then you can worry a little less about the future of the wine business.

More bad news for cheap wine: Domaine du Tariquet loses U.S. importer

domaine du tariquet

The Domaine du Tariquet Classic may join Osborne Solaz, the Hogue fume blanc, and the black label Jaja de Jau as great cheap wines that aren’t any more.

Buy all the Domaine du Tariquet you can, because there won’t be any more in the U.S. until the holidays — if we’re lucky

Domaine du Tariquet Classic, the Frnech white blend from Gascony that is one of the greatest cheap wines of all time, has lost its U.S. importer. That means no more Tariquet until at least the holidays, says its Dallas distributor – if we’re lucky.

And that’s just the beginning of the bad news: There will be a price increase if and when the wine reappears on U.S. store shelves. Currently, the Classic costs $10 to $12; expect it to cost as much as $15. Which, as much as I love the wine, is probably more than it’s worth. By comparison, the Classic costs €8 (about US$9.34) on Amazon UK and goes for €6.60 (about $US7.70 ) in France.

How did we get to this point? It’s just more of the fun and thrills that are part of the post-modern wine business. The French company that makes more than 800,000 cases of the various Tariquet wines (owned by the Grassa family) had a disagreement with its long-time importer, New York’s Domaine Select Estates, and one thing led to another. These spats are becoming increasingly common in the wine business as it consolidates and readjusts itself. A variety of well-known brands, starting with Santa Margherita in 2015, have also changed or lost importers.

What makes the Tariquet so terrific? Why is it a charter member of the $10 Hall of Fame? First, exceptional value for the price, possible because it comes from a part of the world where land is cheap and where the grapes aren’t well known. Second, its consistency – I’ve never had a bottle that wasn’t worth drinking, and I’ve been drinking it for at least a decade. Third, and I’m quoting the winery website because it’s spot on: “Very refreshing at any time of the day, as an aperitif or with starters, seafood or fish. … Always have a bottle in the fridge door, just in case.”

Which, sadly, I can’t do any more.

More cheap wine news:
Freixenet sold to German bubbly maker
Cheap wine quality sinks to new low
Cheap wine checklist: $82.67 for a case of wine

Wine of the week: Banfi Centine Toscana 2017

centine toscanoBanfi’s Centine Toscana remains a Hall of Fame quality $10 red wine

The Centine Toscana ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is Big Wine done right – a varietally correct Italian red made with sangiovese made by Banfi, a $70 million company that sells wine in 85 countries. So it should be no surprise that it’s a $10 Hall of Fame quality wine (as is the white version).

The 2017 Centine Toscana is even a little more Italian, so less ripe fruit than the previous vintage and more earthiness. As always, it’s terroir driven, with slightly tart cherry fruit, a pleasant, chalky finish, and appropriately soft tannins. In other words, it tastes like sangiovese from the Tuscan region of Italy, and not a winemaking-driven product from a marketing company focus group trying to figure out how to make a sort of sweet and very smooth Italian wine.

Pair this with summer barbecue – sausages, of course, but also smoked chicken and burgers. And maybe even pizza on the grill for the adventurous. And if the weather allows it, this is a delicious wine with any red sauce.