Tag Archives: inexpensive wine

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

vinho verde review 2017

Wine of the week: Vinho verde 2020

vinho verde 2020Vinho verde 2020: Producers are taking the fizzy, sort of sweet Portuguese wine more seriously than ever, and we’re the big winners

This year, for vinho verde 2020, I’m writing something I never thought I would write about vinho verde — several of these wines are candidates for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. That’s because the fizzy, sort of sweet Portuguese wine has always been about cheap, and quality often seemed like an accident. This year, though, the four wines I tasted were cheap and well made.

Vinho verde is a Portuguese white wine with a greenish tint that rarely costs more than $8 (the blog’s vinho verde primer is here). It has a slightly sweet lemon lime flavor, low alcohol, and a little fizz — all of which makes it ideal for hot weather. Most of the cheapest wines, like Santola, Famega, Casal Garcia, and Gazela, are made by the same couple of companies but sold under different names to different retailers.

Check out these vinho verde 2020 suggestions:

Broadbent Vinho Verde NV ($9, purchased, 9%): This is the vinho that sets the standard, and the current bottling doesn’t disappoint. Not quite as sweet as last year, with more of a tart, green apple fruitiness.  Imported by Broadbent Selections

Gazela Vinho Verde NV ($8, purchased, 9%): Solid, typical vinho — fizzy lime with a bit of sweetness. If all ordinary vinho was made this well, the wine world would be cheaper and more enjoyable. Imported by Evaton

Aveleda Vinho Verde Fonte 2019 ($10, purchased, 9.5%): Perhaps the best vinho verde I’ve ever tasted — so much more than the usual. There’s a bit of structure, the tartness is fresh and limey, the fizz is legit, and the sweetness is buried in the back. Highly recommended. Imported by Aveleda, Inc.

Faisao Vinho Verde NV ($5/1-liter bottle, purchased, 10%): Is this the best vinho verde on the list? Nope. Is it the best value? Probably, since it’s quality wine (sour lime fruit, fizzy, with just enough of an idea of sweetness) that comes in a liter bottle. Keep well chilled. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

For more about vinho verde:
Vinho verde review 2019
Vinho verde review 2018
Vinho verde review 2017

Wine of the week: Evanta Malbec 2018

evanta malbecReconsidering the 2018 Evanta malbec: A year in the bottle made it much more enjoyable

The Evanta malbec, a red Argentine Aldi private label, has one of those weird cheap wine stories that make it so difficult to decipher cheap wine. The 2017 was terrific – $5 wine that tasted like it cost twice as much. In an addendum to that post, I noted that the 2018 wasn’t quite as well done – softer and less interesting.

So why did the 2018 Evanta Malbec ($5, purchased, 13.9%) taste almost like the 2017 when I bought it last month? Who knows? Maybe it was the extra year in the bottle that took off the soft edges and made it more appealing. Maybe it was bottle variation, when every bottle doesn’t taste the same. This is a common problem with cheap wines made in mass quantities.

Regardless, the 2018 is well worth buying. It’s not quite as structured as the 2017, but it’s still difficult to beat for $5: There are more tannins and acidity than in most cheap malbecs, which tend to leave those out in favor of lots of soft fruit to make it “smoooothhhhhh. …” The berry fruit isn’t overdone and there’s not a hint of sweetness anywhere. No wonder it has been mostly sold out at my local Aldi since the pandemic started.

Imported by Pampa Beverages

barefoot wine

Barefoot wine review 2020: Rose and riesling

Barefoot wine review 2019

Barefoot wine (again): Value or just cheap?
Barefoot wine: Why it’s so popular

Barefoot wine review 2020: Get ready for a dose of sweetness with the rose and riesling — but at least the front labels let you know what’s coming

Call it knowing your audience: The Barefoot wine review 2020 bottles don’t pretend to be something they aren’t. Looking for a dry, tart, Provencal- style rose? Then don’t buy the Barefoot rose, which says “Delightfully sweet” on the front label. Want a nuanced, oily, off-dry riesling? Then don’t buy the Barefoot riesling, which says “Refreshingly sweet” on the front label.

Which, frankly, is a much welcome development in this, the blog’s 13th Barefoot review. Few things are more annoying than Big Wine — or smaller wine, for that matter — claiming a wine is dry when it tastes like sweet tea. Barefoot, the best-selling wine brand in the country (depending on whose statistics you believe) has the courage of its convictions. And good for it.

The Barefoot wine review 2020 features the non-vintage rose ($5, purchased, 10%) and the non-vintage riesling ($5, purchased, 8%). Both are California appellation. The sweetness is obvious, and especially in the riesling. In the rose, it tries to hide in the background — and then you swallow, and it hits you.

The rose tastes of strawberry fruit, and has lots of acidity in an attempt to balance the sweetness. Which doesn’t exactly work — just sort of offers a counterpoint. The riesling smells like oranges (perhaps some muscat in the blend?) and then the candied sweetness hits and covers up what little fruit flavor (apricot?) was there. A smidgen of acidity is around somewhere, sort of like the cool of a summer morning before it gets hot, and then the  like the coolishness, the wine gets sweet again.

In this, these wines deliver what the front labels promise, though the back labels are marketing hurly burly — “smooth, crisp finish” and “hint of jasmine and honey.” But if you want a $5 sweet wine that is cheap and sweet, then the rose and the riesling fill the bill.

Blog associate editor Churro contributed to this post

More Barefoot wine reviews:
Barefoot wine review 2019
Barefoot wine review 2018
Barefoot wine review 2017

Wine of the week: Biscaye Baie Sauvignon Blanc 2019

biscaye baieThe Biscaye Baie is a Gascon white wine that delivers more than $10 worth of value

The wine business has not been kind to France’s Gascon whites, one of the finest values in the world. There have been importer and distributor problems, the 25 percent Trump wine tariff, and the usual sort of availability foolishness. So imagine the Wine Curmudgeon’s euphoria when he found the Biscaye Baie.

Cheap wine gods be praised.

The Biscaye Baie ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is pretty much everything it should be. If it’s not quite up to the quality of the legendary Domaine Tariquet, it tastes like Gascon wine – fresh, white grapey, maybe a little tart, and, as the producer’s tasting note says, “a wine to be enjoyed at all times. …” Or, as my tasting note says, “Not quite Hall of Fame, but still worth buying in quantity.”

The Biscaye Baie isn’t a blend, like so many other Gascon whites – just sauvignon blanc. Hence, it tastes a little more sauvignon blanc-ish than those blended with colombard, since the latter grape tends to take the edge of the sauvignon blanc’s citrusness. But don’t confuse this with a New Zealand sauvignon blanc; it’s not a grapefruit-style wine, but has a sort of vague lemony something or other.

Practically highly recommended, if I did that sort of thing. But I have bought it in quantity, and keep three or four bottles chilled. We’ve reached the 100-degree season in Dallas, and that’s just one more reason to reach for this wine.

Imported by Aquitane Wine Company

Mini-reviews 135: Bonny Doon, Bota Box, Wente, Cameron Hughes

Bonny DoonReviews 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; four California wines for July.

Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2019 ($15, sample, 13.5%): Something is missing in this rose, released after Randall Grahm sold his legendary company in January. It’s not bad – some watermelon fruit, some minerality – but it’s not the top-notch rose of vintages past.

Bota Box Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($18/3-liter box, sample, 12.5%): Decent California white that works out to less than $5 a bottle, though it’s nothing more than that. Not sweet but not especially tart, either, with a bit of green herb and citrus. There’s an odd grapiness in the back that makes me think it was blended with something like French colombard to stretch the sauvingon blanc.

Wente Cabernet Sauvignon Southern Hills 2018 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): Ordinary (if well-made) supermarket-style California red from a quality producer. Not much in the way of tannins or acidity — just lots of very ripe black fruit, lots of oak, and that sort of smooth finish that focus groups prefer.

Cameron Hughes Lot 676 2016 ($14, sample, 14.3%): Heavy, rich, hot, and full California white blend, made in the classic “Trying to get 94 points” style. There’s some fruit (stone, lime?), and a surprising amount of oak. Given its age, the style, and that Hughes buys what other producers can’t move, this may well be a pricey bottle that was sitting in a tank somewhere, unloved and unsold.

Photo: “Summer Hols Day 3 – Rain and Wine” by Ian Livesey is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

Geyser Peak gets a new owner – can that save the brand?

geyser peak

“Seriously — someone put riesling in this?”

Geyser Peak, once a great cheap wine brand, has seen sales fall by one-half and quality sink perhaps even more

Dear Robert Pepi Jr.:

I see you are the consultant for the new owners of Geyser Peak, once one of California’s great cheap wine brands. This is welcome news, given your family’s long tradition with sauvignon blanc, the varietal that made Geyser Peak one of California’s great cheap brands. Is it possible that you can convince the wine’s new owners to restore its $10 sauvignon blanc to greatness?

I ask this because American wine drinkers are eager for a $10 California label that offers consistency, quality, and value. Because, as we have too often noted on the blog, that’s almost impossible to find anymore. Geyser Peak was once once of those wines and a member of the $10 Hall of during the blog’s early days. In fact, the Big Guy used to joke that he knew it was summer in Texas when he started drinking Geyser sauvignon blanc.

But that hasn’t been the case for a long time. Your new bosses are at least the brand’s fifth owners since 2007, and the last owner drove sales from around 300,000 cases a year to half that. And no wonder. The last couple of times I tasted the wine it was, to be polite, crummy. Who mixes riesling with sauvignon blanc unless there is an ulterior motive?

Plus, the quotes I read from the new bosses didn’t fill me with confidence: “500,000 cases. … growth potential. … expanded sales force. … honing our focus.” Shudder – nothing about making quality wine in any of that, is there?

Earlier this year, a leading wine industry analyst said California desperately needs “sexy brands at $7 or $8 per bottle. …” Which you and the new owner have the chance to do with Gesyer Peak (and a $10 price would be fine, too). Grape prices have declined, so it will be possible to buy better quality grapes to put in the wine. The brand has a long history of quality – how more reassuring than marketing it as, “Great Geyser Peak wine is back, baby!”? And maybe you can even convince the new owner that this would be the perfect way to bring younger consumers to wine – cheap, fruit forward, and a product that tastes like wine.

As always, I am ready to help in any way I can.

Yours in quality cheap wine,

The Wine Curmudgeon

Photo: Librestock, using a Creative Commons license