Tag Archives: inexpensive wine

Wine of the week: Sokol Blosser Evolution Lucky No. 9 2019

EvolutionHow about a white wine from an Oregon producer in a 1.5 liter box that works out to $9 a bottle?

We’ve heard lots about the west coast grape glut, but we haven’t seen it translate into much in the way of lower wine prices. Sokol Blosser’s Evolution white blend, the Lucky No. 9, might be the first of many.

That’s because it’s unusual to see a wine like the Evolution, a white blend that usually carries an Oregon appellation, in a box at this price. The 1.5-liter box works out to $9 a bottle; typically, the wine costs around $15. So what’s the catch here? It may well be all those grapes. The box has an American appellation, which means 75 percent of the grapes didn’t come from any one one state. My guess, from tasting it, is that it’s Oregon fruit with more than a fair share from California’s Central Valley, the center of the grape glut.

Which is is not say the Evolution white blend ($18/1.5 liter box, sample, 12%) isn’t worth drinking. Because it is – the kind of wine to chill, keep in the fridge, and drink when you feel like a glass. Look for the slightest hint of sweetness, and not nearly as much as I thought there would be. Plus, it’s hidden among a variety of white fruit flavors – some tropical, maybe some peach, and a pleasing sort of apricot stone bitterness.

This is a fine value, and I’m not the only one who think so. Give Sokol Blosser credit – it saw all those grapes sitting there waiting for someone to be creative and figured out how to make a quality cheap wine and still turn a profit. What a unique concept for the post-modern wine business.

Wine of the week: Feudo Zirtari Sicilia Bianco 2018

Feudo Zirtari Sicilia BiancoThe Feudo Zirtari Sicilia Bianco is a $10 Sicilian white blend that reminds me why I like Sicilian wine

The pandemic has limited my ability to find terrific cheap Italian wine, since I don’t get to Jimmy’s, Dallas’ legendary Italian grocery, as often as I used to. Fortunately, I was able to find the Zirtari Sicilia Bianco white blend elsewhere; it has long been one of the world’s great cheap wine values.

And this vintage of the Feudo Zirtari Sicilia Bianco ($10, purchased, 13%) shows why that’s true. It’s made with a native Sicilian grape, insolia, and chardonnay, which leads to a whole greater than the sum of its parts. There’s some spice and a little green apple or pear fruit from the insolia, while the chardonnay fills up the background. This is kind of quality cheap wine I used to see a lot on store shelves, but that has slowly vanished. Not sure if it’s just more importer and distributor problems, or someone somewhere decided we’d rather buy $15 bottles of European wine designed by a focus group instead of $10 wine that tastes like it came from Europe.

Highly recommended. Chill this and drink it on its own (the spice is always a revelation) or pair it with grilled shrimp or chicken with lots of herbs.

Imported by SM USA

Labor Day wine 2020

labor day wine 2020

The WC has just the wines to pair with this plate of barbecue.

Labor Day wine 2020 — these wines will make your holiday that much more enjoyable

Labor Day marks the traditional end of summer, even a pandemic summer. Hence these wines, which should cheer up even a socially-distanced holiday barbecue. Churro, the blog’s associate editor, and the Wine Curmudgeon will be doing that, if Dallas’ 100-degree temperatures allow for it.

These four bottles will get you started for Labor Day wine 2020; don’t overlook the blog’s porch wine guidelines:

McManis Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): This Lodi cabernet is balanced, and neither too ripe or too hot. Its New World fruit (black currants, even) and tannins actually hold everything together. This a big red wine that needs food, and especially red meat from the grill. Highly recommended.

Anne Amie Cuvée A Amrita 2018  ($18, purchased, 12.8%): This goofy Oregon white blend with a bit of fizz is always enjoyable, and it’s even available closer to $15 if you look hard enough. The fizz is spot on, better than some Proseccos, and the sweetness is buried in the back behind some lemon and red apple fruit. Highly recommended, and just the thing for porch sipping.

Schafer-Frohlich Dry Rose 2018 ($14, sample, 12.5%): This nifty German rose features ripe-ish strawberry fruit, a surprisingly full mouth feel, and a fresh — and not sweet — finish. Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.

Fantini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2018 ($9, purchased, 12%):  This Italian white, a long time WC favorite, is as it always is — tart and lemony. Chill it, drink it, and don’t worry about what other people think about what you drink. Imported by Empson USA

Photo: “Linner!” by jessicafm is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

For more about Labor Day wine:
Labor Day wine 2019
Labor Day wine 2018
Labor Day wine 2017

Wine of the week: Domaine de la Sangliere Juliette 2018

Sangliere JulietteForget the back-handed compliments: the Sangliere Juliette is cheap, enjoyable, and well made wine

Two things are worth noting about the Sangliere Juliette, a rose from southern France. First, like so many roses these days, it’s a previous vintage that is still worth drinking. Thank the rose boom for that; not that long ago, previous vintages faded as quickly as snow melts.

Second, cheap wine still sucks, regardless of how well made it actually is. That’s the conclusion of several of the reviewers on CellarTracker, the blog’s unofficial wine inventory app. “OK for $11…” “Typical but nondescript. …”

Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business? What more do wine drinkers want? The Domaine de la Sangliere Juliette 2018 ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is exactly what it is supposed to be – top-notch $11 pink wine to chill, open, and enjoy. When did we get to the point where a wine this well made and this inexpensive isn’t worth drinking? Why must every wine cost $25 or $45 or $65 so it can offer an experience only to be recorded in the most winespeaky of tasting notes?

Look for almost tart strawberry fruit, a mouth feel that is almost austere (there’s hardly any residual sugar to confuse your taste buds), and a clean and kind of stony finish. In other words, the sort of rose to keep on hand when you want a glass or two, or to open for a Labor Day barbecue.

Mini-reviews 136: Four wines you probably don’t want to buy

wine reviews

“Damn, look at that review. The WC is in a foul mood this month.”

Reviews 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 wines you probably don’t want to buy, because I’m really, really tired of tasting wine that is so unpleasant.

Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhone 2019 ($15, purchased, 14.5%): This French red used to be one of the most dependable $15 wines in the world. But this vintage is almost undrinkable. That’s not because it’s flawed or off, but because it has been manipulated to taste like it comes from a second-tier producer in Paso Robles – lots of sweet fruit, not a lick of tannins, and this hideous violet candy smell. Imported by Winebow

Avalon Pinot Noir 2018 ($11, sample, 13.5%): This California red is the sort of pinot noir people buy because it’s cheap, and not especially because it tastes like anything. Think grape juice flavored with fake vanilla oak, in case any of you enjoy that.

Jadix Picpoul de Pinet 2019 ($12, purchased, 14.5%): This French white is heavy and hot, and not anything picpoul should be – fruity, tart, and refreshing. Why would anyone make picpoul like this? Imported by Aquitane Wine Company

Montalto Pinot Grigio 2019 ($12, sample, 12%): Someone, somewhere thought that Americans would love sweet Italian pinot grigio, and this is the result. My question? Why — isn’t there enough dry pinot grigio in the world? Imported by Mack & Schuhle

Wine of the week: Domaine de Pouy 2018

domaine de pouyDomaine de Pouy, from Gascony in France, is ideal for late summer and 100-degree temperatures – crisp and refreshing

Gascon white wines are some of the best values in the wine world. But they’ve fallen by the wayside since the end of the recession. There have been importer and distributor problems, as well as price increases for no other reason than all wine should cost more.

But the wines from Gascony in France’s southwest, made with grapes most of us don’t know, may be back in favor. Could it be that those same importers and distributors are looking for cheap, well-made wines to sell during the pandemic? For one thing, I’ve seen several reviews for Gascon whites I don’t know, always a good sign. For another, I was able to buy the Domaine de Pouy after a long absence from this market.

The Domaine de Pouy 2018 ($11, purchased, 10.5%) shows what these wines can be – enjoyable, food friendly, and refreshing. It’s certainly not the best of the bunch, but one of the great strengths of Gascon wine is that even the ordinary ones are better than ordinary. The de Pouy is crisp, with a lemonish, sauvignon blanc character, but it’s not as tart or as sharp as sauvignon blanc. As with all Gascon wines, there’s a bit of white grape flavor that offers balance.

Best yet, the low alcohol makes it ideal for late summer, when the Dallas temperature gets to 100 and stays there. Chill this, and enjoy it with a Friday night takeout dinner.

Imported by Fruit of the Vines

Wine of the week: Chateau Belingard Bergerac Rouge 2016

Chateau Belingard BergeracTotal Wine’s Chateau Belingard Bergerac Rouge, a French red blend, offers value where it’s often difficult to find these days

The Wine Curmudgeon’s luck with private labels form Total Wine, the erstwhile national retailer, has been uneven at best. Too many of them, regardless of where in the world the wine is made, taste like they went through the California Big Wine Processing Machine, which churns out all that “smooooothhhhhhhhh” wine.

Fortunately, the Chateau Belingard Bergerac Rouge 2016 ($11, purchased, 13.5%) is a red wine blend that tastes like the region it comes from – Bergerac in southwest France. Yes, it’s a bit too oaky and fruity, but otherwise it speaks to the region and the grapes in the blend. The latter are mostly merlot, but with about one-quarter cabernet sauvignon and decent dollops of cabernet franc and malbec. This results in noticeable, though not unpleasant tannins, as well as dark red berry fruit and a hint of an earthy finish (thanks to the cabernet franc).

Best yet, the price – given similar wines cost $15 to $18 – adds to the value. This is weeknight pizza wine; chill the bottle to 50 or 55 degrees, pour, drink, and enjoy.

Imported by Saranty Imports