Aldi’s Evanta malbec is what supermarket private label should be — $10 or $12 worth of wine for $4 of $5
Is is possible? Has Aldi finally hit the private label jackpot with the $4 Evanta malbec? I think so.
The Evanta malbec ($4, purchased, 12.9%) comes as close to Aldi’s European wines for quality and value as any wine I’ve tasted that the chain sells in the U.S. It’s even on a par with the long gone and much lamented Vina Decana, which is probably the best value/quality wine the discount grocer has offered in this country.
The Evanta malbec is what supermarket private label should be — $10 or $12 worth of wine for $4 of $5. It offers better quality and more varietal character than many Argentine malbecs that cost $15 or $18, and there’s no chocolate cherry fake oak or too ripe fruit in an attempt to appeal to the so-called American palate. Instead, the Evanta has blueberry fruit, almost nuanced oak, and enough acidity so that you can tell it’s malbec and not fruit juice and vodka. Plus, it’s somehow fresh and not cloying, almost impossible to do with a wine at this price.
Highly recommended. This is the kind of wine to buy a case of and keep around the house. I’m going to do that, and I don’t much care for New World malbec. It’s that well made and that much of a value.
The Vigouroux Pigmentum malbec is $10 red wine that offers weeknight quality and value
There’s a style of French wine that has survived Robert Parker and premiumization and the decline of wine drinking in France. It’s a simple style, used for the every day kind of wines that still dominate European wine drinking. The Vigouroux Pigmentum malbec is exactly that kind of wine.
That’s because it exists for one purpose – to drink with dinner, because everyone drinks wine with dinner. In this, the Vigouroux Pigmentum malbec ($10, purchased, 13.5%) excels; I brought it to dinner with the Big Guy at our local BYOB, and he was surprised that the wine did as much as it did for the price.
That means a rustic sort of quality – tart but accessible, with dark fruit (blackberry, black cherry?), an almost herbal quality, and just enough tannins to show it’s a red wine. This wine is from Cahors in southwestern France, where malbec is still quite common. But it’s important to note that Cahors malbecs bear little resemblance to most $10 Argentine malbecs, which are soft and fruity and rounded. This wine is angular, and you can almost taste the corners.
Hence, it’s red meat wine – I drank it with a roasted lamb shank and white beans, and it was spot on. But it’s also meatloaf and takeout chicken, the sort of thing for a middle of the week dinner. Because where where would we be without wines like that?
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 red wines.
• Big Smooth Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($17, sample, 14.5%): Much winemaking and craftsmanship went into this California red to make it taste like a cherry Tootise Pop. If that’s what you want your wine to taste like, then it’s worth $17. Otherwise, taste and be amazed at the post-modern marketing cynicism that also went into it.
• Casillero del Diablo Malbec 2016 ($12, sample, 13.5%): This Chilean red speaks to terroir and varietal character, and is about more than the jammy black fruit of similarly-priced Argentine malbecs. Having said that, it’s not a value this price – a little thin and tart. But if you find it for $8 at the grocery store and you need a bottle of wine for dinner, you won’t be disappointed. Imported by Excelsior Wine
• Bagordi Rioja Navardia 2016 ($13, sample, 14%): Nothing special about this Spanish red – just a full-bodied (heavier, more red fruit) and not especially varietal tempranillo made with organic grapes. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.
• Cantina Cellaro Luma 2016 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Sicilian red, made with the nero d’avola grape, was either oxidized (doubtful, given the vintage) or so extracted and so overripe that it was about as Sicilian as my Honda. Imported by Gonzalez Bypass
The Vigouroux Pigmentum malbec from the Cahors region in France shows $10 wine can offer terroir and varietal character
Not every French producer wants to make soft and fruity wine that will get 94 points. Many, including the less known Georges Vigouroux, make wine that is varietally correct and tastes of where it’s from in France – its terroir. Such is the Vigouroux Pigmentum Malbec.
This red wine comes from Cahors, a lesser known appellation just east of Bordeaux. Traditionally, its wines have been less sophisticated than Bordeaux, the less established country cousin who could never quite come up to Bordeaux’s standards.
In this, its wines remain heavier and more rustic, without the polish that’s going to get most of them a high score. But that doesn’t mean they’re poorly made or aren’t worth drinking. The Vigouroux Pigmentum Malbec ($10, purchased, 13.5%) shows just that: Berry fruit, heavy but not ponderous, and full in the mouth without being too ripe. And there is even a hint of tannins.
This is a far cry from the sappy Argentine malbecs that fill grocery store shelves. In fact, malbec is a French grape, once even used in Bordeaux. Today, though, it’s mostly relegated to Cahors, where improvements in winemaking technology have improved wine quality from the country cousin days.
Highly recommended, and especially if you prefer – as I do – wine with character and grip. A candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame.
The 2015 Argento Malbec isn’t Hall of Fame quality, but remains quality cheap wine
The good news about this vintage of the Argento Malbec, a red wine from Argentina, is that it’s worth drinking. The bad news? That it’s not quite as tight and as fresh as the 2014, which made the $10 Hall of Fame in 2016.
In one respect, this vintage difference is a good thing, which shows that the producer lets the grapes determine the quality of the wine and doesn’t make every vintage taste the same using post-modern winemaking technology. Which, of course, is what happens to so much cheap wine these days, and not for the better.
This version of the Argento malbec ($10, sample, 13.5%) is still more than acceptable $10 malbec, especially since most grocery store malbecs taste like blueberry Kool-Aid spiked with poor quality grain alcohol. The wine has the requisite blueberry and sweet spice flavors, sort of tannins in the back, and some (chocolate flavored?) fake oak that surprisingly boosts the whole. It’s just softer and not as bright as the 2014 was, so it will likely be dropped from the Hall of Fame next January.
But if you’re stuck in the grocery store and need a red wine that won’t insult your intelligence, you can do a lot worse than this.
The Vassal de Mercues, a malbec from Cahors, shows cheap red Bordeaux a thing or two about quality and value
During a recent retail visit in Dallas, the employee who had been mostly ignoring me mentioned that those of us who were old-fashioned enough to prefer French wine to taste like French wine should try red Cahors like the Vassal de Mercures. That suggestion made up for what was otherwise a worthless shopping trip.
That’s because Cahors wines like the Vassal de Mercues ($10, purchased, 13%) are more traditional than today’s red Bordeauxs. They’re made to retain the earthiness and Gallic-icty that many less expensive Bordeauxs have abandoned in their quest to get 92 points. That a wine from Cahors, the original home of malbec, can be more Bordeaux-like than Bordeaux is a another example of why the wine business makes me crazy.
The Vassal de Mercures is a second label from a property owned by the noted Georges Vigouroux, whose cheap wines have appeared many times on the blog. This wine is earthy – almost rustic – and doesn’t overdo the blueberry and black cherry fruit. There is also a little spice, while the tannins, sometimes a problem with cheap wines made in this style, are refined and do what they are supposed to do.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2018 $10 Hall of Fame. This would pair with almost anything from chicken or eggplant parmesan, made with a sturdy red sauce, to simple roasts, whether beef or chicken.
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month
• Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee NV ($10, sample, 11.5%): One of the most frustrating things about reviewing wine is consistency of the product. I’ve written glowing reviews of this wine, but when I tasted the most recent sample, it was almost flat and devoid of flavor and character. Is this a flaw with this specific bottle of wine? Is it a problem with the current “vintage?” Or is it a problem in the supply chain, where the wine sat in a warehouse or delivery truck? I think the last, since I’ve had this problem with sparkling wine from many producers at many prices over the past 18 months. This is one of the disadvantages of non-vintage ones; you don’t know how long it has been sitting and getting worse.
• Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Cuvée Alouettes ($17, purchased, 12%): This red wine, from the French region of Loire, is an excellent example of what the Loire can do with cabernet franc – red berry fruit, freshness, graphite, spice, and length. It’s clean through the palate with surprisingly soft tannins. Highly recommended.
• Ridge Geyserville 2014 ($35, purchased, 14.5%): This California zinfandel red blend isn’t anywhere near ready to drink, and needs at least another year (if not longer). Until then, look for ripe black fruit and a lot less of the style and elegance that Ridge is known for.
• Château Lafleur de Haute-Serre 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): This French red, made with malbec from the Cahors region, is not what I’d hoped given that it’s from Georges Vigouroux, a fine producer. It’s just ordinary, 1970s style wine with too much unripe fruit and a rusticity that isn’t as much charming as annoying.