Consistency, consistency, consistency: Welcome to the La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Italian red
One of the most difficult things about parsing cheap wine is consistency. So much cheap wine is made to hit a certain price that quality can vary greatly from vintage to vintage. Hence, a wine that is terrific one year when grapes are cheap can taste like sugar water the next when grapes are more expensive.
In this, the 2018 La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($10, purchased, 13%) has more structure and more oomph this vintage. That means more grip from the tannins and and the acidity isn’t as restrained. But it’s still varietally correct, with lots of cherry fruit, and it’s still fresh and enjoyable. So break out the sausage ragu.
One other note: The wine averaged 83.5 points on CellarTracker, the blog’s unofficial wine inventory software. Sigh. When will these people ever learn?
The La Fiera Montepulciano is Hall of Fame quality $10 wine from one of the world’s best quality and value importers
Premiumization continues its rampage through the wine business. It’s getting more difficult to find wine costing less than $15 that’s worth drinking; I’m writing a longer and more thorough post about the premiumization crisis that will run in the next week or so. Until then, be grateful for wines like the La Fiera Montepulciano, which still offer value and quality for $10.
I’ve tasted the La Fiera Montepulciano ($10, purchased, 13%) twice over the past four months, and it has gotten earthier and more interesting That’s an impressive achievement for any wine, especially for a $10 wine, and especially these days.
That it has done that is a testament to the importer, Winesellers Ltd. in suburban Chicago, whose wines show up a lot on the blog (and who I wrote about recently in a wine business trade magazine). The Sager family, which has owned Winesellers for 40 years, doesn’t follow trends. It searches for value, and would that more importers did that anymore.
The La Fiera is an Italian red made with the montepulciano grape in the Montepulciano d/Abruzzo region. As such, it comes from a less well known region and is made with a less respected grape, which usually means better pricing for consumers.
In this wine, it also means a little earthiness is starting to show, and the wine is a touch heavier and more serious than it was in February. Again, impressive for a $10 label. Look for zippy cherry fruit, balance, and tannins hiding in the background.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the $10 Hall of Fame. It’s a terrific food wine as well as a reminder what an importer can do who cares about the consumer and not focus groups.
Four 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.
Because what’s better than four cheap wine reviews — none more than $10 — for Black Friday? Plus, you don’t have to get up at 3 a.m. or wait in line to read it.
? La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2012 ($9, purchased, 13%): This vintage of the Hall of Fame Italian red isn’t as interesting as previous versions — not as deliciously tart and missing the earthiness that made me want to buy a case. Still, it’s worth drinking, with mostly cherry fruit.
? Melini Orvietto 2013 ($7, purchased, 12.5%): Soft white fruit and bone dry, this Italian white is a wonderful food wine. The problem is that the various parts are disjointed, so you get one swallow of fruit and one swallow of acid instead of it being all of one. But still a terrific value.
? Rare Rose NV ($10, sample, 13%): Surprisingly tasty given that it seemed, from all appearances, to be just another California sweet pink wine. But it’s just barely sweet, and the red fruit (strawberry?) balances the sweetness. This is wine for someone who wants to try something other than white zinfandel.
One of the questions we got during our Savor Dallas wine event last week was about price: Is there really all that much good $10 wine?
Several people, knowing the Wine Curmudgeon ?s reason for being, chuckled. I was actually quite restrained, since I was in public and did not not want to embarrass myself or the other people on the panel. Throwing things and jumping up and down tends to do that.
In fact, I spoke barely at all, and when I did it was to recommend the La Fiera ($8, purchased, 13%), an Italian red that is everything a cheap wine should be ? varietally correct and indicative of its place, all the while treating the consumer with respect.
Primitivo may or may not be zinfandel; I ?ve tasted some that had nothing in common, and some, like this, that show that the grapes are related. Look for some black pepper on the nose and more dark red fruit than I expected (zinfandel characteristics). This is not a perfect wine ? the vanilla on the back was annoying and the wine would have benefitted from less oak or chips or whatever. But it cost $8 ? how much more could I want?
Drink this with takeout pizza, any Italian-American dinner, or even hamburgers on the grill. I just hope the people at the panel take my advice.
The La Fiera ($8, purchased) is a red wine from the Abruzzo region east of Rome and made with the montepulciano grape (not be confused with the pricier wines from the Montepulciano region of Tuscany, which are made with sangiovese). In this, Abruzzo wines have always been poor relations to their more expensive cousines, but you can ?t tell that from the La Fiera anymore.
The 2010 almost smells of violets (really), and retains the wonderful sour cherry fruit and Italian earthiness of the 2009. It ?s a little heavier than the previous vintage (though the tannins are proper), but that ?s not a problem ? just pair it with red sauce and sausages. I ?d also chill it a touch. The bottle sat in my 78-degree house for eight hours after I bought it, and the wine was just too warm. I ?m pretty sure I didn ?t taste all of the of the fruit. Which was too bad, because this is a wine one should get every bit from.
Where has this wine been all my life? It does everything a great cheap wine should — reflects its origins, pairs with food, and doesn't cost a lot of money. Make room in the Hall of Fame, as well as the wine closet, since I'm buying a case.
The basics, quickly, about the La Fiera ($8, purchased) before the Wine Curmudgeon goes into lyrical, wine writer overdrive: It's a red wine from the Abruzzo region east of Rome and is made with the montepulciano grape (and is not be confused with the pricer Montepulciano from Tuscany, which is made with sangiovese). Wine quality in Abruzzo has improved significantly over the past decade or so, but prices have remained more or less the same.
Which is one reason why this wine is so exciting. The La Fiera smells oh-so-Italian, and tastes of very sour cherries. Plus, it has that wonderful dark earth quality that isn't so much a flavor or an aroma, but more of a presence — something that so many wines, of all prices, aspire to but fail to deliver. One sip of this and you'll be thinking of your mom's spaghetti and meatballs. It's also perfect for grilled sausages and peppers over the Labor Day weekend. Highly recommended.