? Carlos Pulenta Malbec Tomero 2011 ($15, sample, 14%): Fairly-priced Argentine red that doesn’t have too much black fruit — which means it’s drinkable and not syrupy — and somehow manages to be mostly balanced. A very pleasant surprise.
? Da Luca Pinot Grigio 2012 ($13, sample, 12%): Disjointed pinot grigio with requisite tonic water at back but also weird fruit in the middle, almost tropical. Not much better than grocery store pinot grigio but at almost twice the price.
? “Apr s moi, le d luge“: Which would be the price of malbec after the collapse of the Argentine peso in January. Malbec is the national grape of Argentina, and its economic crisis will not only force down the price of its malbec, but prices of malbec regardless of origin as well as most cheap red wine. Because that’s how the law of supply and demand works. Or, as Lew Perdue at Wine Industry Insight wrote: “Think Australian invasion before the U.S. screwed up the value of its currency and sent the Aussie dollar soaring.” This is another example of why it’s so difficult to predict when wine prices will rise — too many moving parts to take into account. How can a company charge more for ts California grocery store merlot when the competition is dumping something similar, like malbec, in the U.S. thanks to a currency flop?
? How much did all that wine really hurt? Englishman Chris Chataway, one of the world’s great distance runners in the 1950s and who helped Roger Bannister break the four-minute mile in 1954, died in January. His New York Times obituary reported that Chataway ran a 5:48 mile when he was 64, 41 years later, but wasn’t entirely satisfied with the effort. One possible explanation: Chataway told a friend he had smoked 400 pounds of tobacco and drank more than 7,000 liters of wine (almost 10,000 bottles) since the 1954 race. Which demonstrates that he was not only a world-class runner, but a pretty funny fellow who enjoyed his wine, and which is also why this is blog-worthy despite the ban of health-related wine news.
? The power of price: Asda, the British grocery store chain, wasn’t selling much of its private label Pierre Darcys Champagne over the holidays. So it cut the price from 24.25 to 10 (from about US$40 to US$17). No surprise what happened next, is there? A British trade magazine reports that the supermarket sold almost 8 million worth (about $US13.4 million) of Pierre Darcys in the 12 weeks ending Jan. 4. That made the brand the fifth-best selling Champagne in Britain over the holidays, beating top names like Piper-Heidsieck and Taittinger — despite being sold only at one retailer. This, of course, is the other component in wine pricing: How do we account for the power of consumers?
The Trivento ($11, sample, 14%) isn ?t one of those wines. It ?s a surprisingly solid Argentine malbec that outshines most of the other $10 versions that are on store shelves. Yes, there is lots of blueberry fruit aroma and flavor, the hallmark of cheap Argentine malbec and all that most of the other wines offer.
But the Trivento also has a fine, grippy back end, and that was the surprise: Nicely done tannins and even some acid balancing all that fruit and letting you know that this is a red wine made to taste like a red wine. That ?s a rare treat.
Also surprising: The wine needs food, which is something that most of the others don ?t. Serve it with beef, as the Argentines would, or even roast 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. Today, wines to enjoy over the Labor Day weekend:
? Schug Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2010 ($25, sample): Elegant chardonnay that is a huge bargain at this price. It retains California freshness and fruit while showing some of the length and breadth of a fine white Burgundy.
? Anne Amie Pinot Noir Cuv e A 2010 ($25, sample): Classic Oregon pinot (and always a favorite), with berry fruit and earthiness that balance each other, and a fine value at this price.
? Acrobat Pinot Noir Rose 2011 ($10, purchased): Nothing really wrong with this Oregon rose, but mildly disappointing if only because it ?s not up to the quality of the Acrobat pinot gris. Tastes of red fruit with almost sauvignon blanc-like acidity.
? Colores Del Sol Malbec 2010 ($12, sample): At $8, this is a nicely done grocery store wine, featuring the typical blueberry cola aroma. But, unfortunately, it doesn ?t cost $8.
? Reading a wine label: The great Tim McNally offers a wine label reading primer, and it's as good anything I have seen. "Who can read this damn thing and make any sense of it at all? Long words, abbreviations, references to places no one ever heard of, and not a mention at all as to what grapes are in the bottle," he writes. "The world ?s worst wine labels, when it comes to disclosing information, are from … the United States. … Our labels tell us practically nothing. Conversely, when you know what to look for on some other country ?s wine labels, you will learn just about everything you need to know about the wine except what it smells and tastes like, which are subjective anyway."
? More than malbec: Dave McIntyre takes a look at Argentina and discovers there is more to the country's wines than the tidal wave of malbec washing up on our shores. "Think fresh, elegant cabernet sauvignon," Dave writes, "plummy, earthy syrah; and juicy bonarda. Most exciting may be Argentina ?s pinot noir. …" It's a well-thought out look at Argentina, and though some of the wines are pricey, Dave finds some great bargains, including a $13 pinot from Nieto Senetiner that I will look for and review here.
? Cava sales soaring: How well is cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, doing in the world marketplace? Consider that export sales are at an all-time high. The Spanish sold 12.7 million cases of cava to the rest of us in 2011, 2 percent more than in 2010. The reasons for this are obvious: Tremendous marketing, great prices and even better value, and quality that has to be tasted to be believed. Right, $10 Hall of Fame? Most impressively, the Spanish are breaking down the wine snob barrier that has always held cava back — the idea that sparkling wine that doesn't come from Champagne (and is cheap) isn't worth drinking.
? New Zealand group sets organic target: Organic Winegrowers New Zealand wants 20 percent of the country's vineyards to be certified organic by 2020. The 140-member organic group signed a memorandum of understanding last year with New Zealand Wine Growers to work towards organic goals. The amount of vineyard land in New Zealand under organic certification has tripled in the past three years, and about 4.5 percent of vineyard land is certified organic. That compares to 5 percent in California, which is one of the New World leaders in organic wine. Note that the Kiwis want organic vineyards, which is different from organic wine according to U.S. law. No synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides are permitted in organic vineyards.
? French wine values: My pal Dave McIntyre at the Washington Post says France, thanks to an exceptional 2009 vintage, will offer some exceptional "recession buster" wines in 2011. Dave especially likes the Gugial Cotes du Rhone blanc, about $13, and a white from Savoie, Domaine Eugene Carrel Jongieux, about $11. From California, he likes two reds — the 2007 Parducci petite sirah and Liberty School Cuvee, both about $12.
? Not all malbecs are alike: The Wine Curmudgeon is indifferent to much malbec, and Michael Apstein at Wine Review Online, discussing the various regions and styles of malbec that are available today, does a good job of explaining why: "Argentine Malbec satisfies the current thirst in the United States for big, ripe, fruity red wines to accompany the robust flavors found on the plates in fashionably boisterous restaurants. … Hence, there are plenty of Malbecs from Argentina that disappoint with their simplicity and monotonic profile of dark black fruit." But, he says, there are plety of interesting malbecs, from Argentina and elsewhere.