Tag Archives: inexpensive 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

 

Wine of the week: Zestos Blanco 2018

zestos blancoZestos Blanco, a Spanish white, is the kind of great cheap wine everyone wishes they could make

Being cheap isn’t enough to make a great cheap wine. Otherwise, the $10 Hall of Fame would be little different from a list of the country’s best-selling $8 supermarket labels. That difference can be seen in the Zestos Blanco, which is both cheap and marvelous.

How marvelous? A friend of mine, who enjoys the wines I recommend but pays little attention otherwise, tasted it the other day and said: “I’ve had this before, haven’t I? I remember it, because it’s so well made compared to the rest of the stuff I buy at the grocery store. Which all mostly tastes the same.”

The Zestos Blanco ($10, purchased, 12%) is a Spanish white made with malvar, a grape found mostly in and around Madrid. It produces a crisp, almost lime-infused, tropical sort of wine that is bone dry and has surprising body (but isn’t tart). That combination makes it an especially wonderful food wine, be it Chinese takeout or something as complicated as roast salmon.

Highly recommended, and certain to return to the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame; also, a candidate for the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Finally, a note about the importer, Ole & Obrigado. Patrick Mata, who runs Ole, is one of the smartest people I’ve met in the wine business. He is also one of the most stand-up: He returns phone calls and emails, answers questions honestly, and is unfailingly polite.

I mention this because his company, and everyone he employs, could suffer dramatically from the 25 percent European wine tariff. I’ve tried not to beat up on the tariff more than necessary on the blog, but it’s worth noting again the financial harm it could cause Ole and dozens of other small- and medium-sized importers. Trade policy is just not imperial pronouncements. It’s also the people we overlook when we’re making those imperial pronouncements.

Wine of the week: CVNE Cune Rioja Crianza 2015

The Cune Rioja, from Spain’s CVNE, is a tempranillo blend that will bring joy to anyone who loves quality cheap wine

CVNE’s Cune Rioja brings joy to my tired and worn out brain whenever I see it on the shelf. And these days, when the future of quality cheap wine is very much in doubt, that’s something to depend on.

The Cune Rioja ($11, purchased, 13.5%) is a Spanish red wine from the Rioja region, mostly made with tempranillo. CVNE is a large Spanish producer that has been around for 140 years, and its wines still taste as they should and still offer quality and value for less than $15. Crianza is the simplest of the Rioja wines, but still well made.

This vintage of the Cune Rioja is a little rounder and fuller than the 2014 – the cherry fruit isn’t quite as tart and the wine isn’t quite as earthy. But there is some baking spice and a hint of orange peel, Rijoa’s calling card. And it will pair with almost anything that isn’t in a cream sauce. As I wrote in my notes: “As it should be. One of the world’s great cheap wine values.” What more do we need these days?

Highly recommended and a candidate for the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame and 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Wine of the week: Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!! 2017

Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!!The Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!! remains a classic Italian cheap white wine

The Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!! is one of the Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite cheap wines. So why have I reviewed it just three times in 12 years?

Availability, of course. What other reason could there be?

The Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!! ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is the kind of cheap wine that Europeans understand implicitly – you buy it, you drink it with dinner, and you enjoy it. No posturing about scores and no fretting about pairings.

So why isn’t it regularly available? Your guess is as good as mine, and probably has something to do with changes in its importer and distributor over the past decade.

But when the Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!! is available, it’s always a treat (even at $10, as opposed to $8 the last vintage). It’s a white blend made with trebbiano and malvasia, plus an even more rare grape called roscetto. The result is a tart, lemony wine, and some years it can be really tart. The 2017 is comparatively subtle – less tart, more balanced, and even a bit of minerality.

I don’t know that I enjoyed this vintage quite as much, but that’s a personal preference and not about the quality of the wine. It remains as it has always been – enjoyable and well worth buying and drinking.

Imported by Winebow

Mini-reviews 126: White Burgundy, albarino, Estancia, petit verdot

white burgundyReviews 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.

Jean-Jacques Vincent Bourgogne Blanc 2017 ($20, purchased, 13%): This is the second time I bought this chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France, which shows that even those of us who do this for a living make mistakes. Bland, boring, and overpriced. Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons

Raimat Saira Albarino 2016 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This Spanish white is cheaply made, watery, and doesn’t much taste like albarino. It apparently exists for no other reason than to cost $10. Imported by Aveniu Brands

Estancia Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($8, purchased, 13.5%): Estancia was once a dependable cheap wine producer. Now, it’s just another Big Wine brand. This California white is green and unripe and tastes very little like sauvignon blanc.

Cameron Hughes ‘Lot 638’ Petit Verdot 2016 ($15, sample, 14.4%): VinePair’s reviewer loved this Washington state red wine, raving about its “concentrated dark-berry fruit, especially blackberry and black currant.” That’s the exact reason I didn’t care for it – too ripe and too overdone, especially given the grapes involved.

Photo: “Lancers” by Rochelle Ramos is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Wine of the week: Sicalia Terre Siciliane 2016

Sicalia Terre SicilianeThe Sicalia Terre Siciliane isn’t very Sicilian, but it’s still worthwhile when you need a red wine for a weeknight dinner

Italian wine producers, even though they have thousands of indigenous grapes to work with, are fascinated by what they call “international” grapes — those we know as cabernet sauvignon, melot, chardonnay, and the like. Their efforts can be uneven – for every great Super Tuscan, where international grapes are blended with sangiovese, there are dozens of $8 and $10 washouts. Which is where the Sicalia Terre Siciliane comes in.

On the one hand, the Sicalia Terre Siciliane ($8, purchased, 13%) doesn’t taste especially Sicilian. There is little earthiness or dark fruit or Old World complexity. And why should there be, since it’s a red blend, featuring the Sicilian nero d’avola and the and merlot?

On the other hand, it’s an enjoyable weeknight wine. Who knew? That certainly wasn’t the case the last time I tasted it: “ashy and unpleasant.” This time, though, the Sicalia Terre Siciliane was juicy, with enjoyably tart red fruit, a clean finish, and tremendous value.

No, it’s not very Sicilian, and yes, it needs food. But given the state of cheap wine these days, you could do a lot worse when you want a $10 red wine for a weeknight dinner.

Imported by Enovation Brands

Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Rose 2018

chateau bonnet roseThe Chateau Bonnet rose comes from one of the world’s best cheap wine producers – and may disappear if the 25 percent wine tariff takes effect

What better way to say goodbye to all of the wonderful cheap wine we may lose in the wake of the U.S.-European Union trade war than with the Chateau Bonnet rose?

The Chateau Bonnet rose ($11, purchased, 13%) will be much missed. It’s the quintessential $10 wine – well-made, consistent from vintage to vintage, and speaks to terroir. In this, it’s a blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, so it’s a little fuller than a Provencal rose, rounder and not quite as zesty. This is neither good nor bad; just different, since these grapes come from Bordeaux and not Provence.

Look for red fruit (ripe-ish cherries?), but the wine also has rose’s lift and freshness. It’s not a heavy rose, like those made for red wine drinkers in California, but one with its own style. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame.

A word about prices: The price of the Bonnet wines has been going up for the past couple of years, mostly because all Bordeaux has become more expensive regardless of quality. The red blend has been closer to $16 than $10 for a while, and the white is closer to $15 in some parts of the country. The rose was $10 was last vintage, but may be as much $13 depending on where you live.

If you can find this wine (or any of the Bonnets) for less than $13, buy as much as you can. These will almost certainly be tariff casualties, since there is little reason to expect consumers to pay $17 for a $10 wine. Hence, once the current inventory is gone, it’s likely that little will be imported to the U.S.

Imported by Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits