Tag Archives: malvar

Wine of the week: Zestos Blanco 2018

zestos blancoZestos Blanco, a Spanish white, is the kind of great cheap wine everyone wishes they could make

Being cheap isn’t enough to make a great cheap wine. Otherwise, the $10 Hall of Fame would be little different from a list of the country’s best-selling $8 supermarket labels. That difference can be seen in the Zestos Blanco, which is both cheap and marvelous.

How marvelous? A friend of mine, who enjoys the wines I recommend but pays little attention otherwise, tasted it the other day and said: “I’ve had this before, haven’t I? I remember it, because it’s so well made compared to the rest of the stuff I buy at the grocery store. Which all mostly tastes the same.”

The Zestos Blanco ($10, purchased, 12%) is a Spanish white made with malvar, a grape found mostly in and around Madrid. It produces a crisp, almost lime-infused, tropical sort of wine that is bone dry and has surprising body (but isn’t tart). That combination makes it an especially wonderful food wine, be it Chinese takeout or something as complicated as roast salmon.

Highly recommended, and certain to return to the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame; also, a candidate for the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Finally, a note about the importer, Ole & Obrigado. Patrick Mata, who runs Ole, is one of the smartest people I’ve met in the wine business. He is also one of the most stand-up: He returns phone calls and emails, answers questions honestly, and is unfailingly polite.

I mention this because his company, and everyone he employs, could suffer dramatically from the 25 percent European wine tariff. I’ve tried not to beat up on the tariff more than necessary on the blog, but it’s worth noting again the financial harm it could cause Ole and dozens of other small- and medium-sized importers. Trade policy is just not imperial pronouncements. It’s also the people we overlook when we’re making those imperial pronouncements.

Wine of the week: Zestos Blanco 2016

Zestos BlancoThe Zestos Blanco demonstrates that $10 wine is not incompatible with subtlety and sophistication

One of the things that Big Wine strives for is consistency from vintage to vintage, so that the wine tastes exactly the same regardless of the year the grapes were picked. This can be an advantage, so you won’t be surprised if a harvest is off in some way.

But it can also lead to boring and inoffensive wine, which is where the Zestos Blanco ($10, purchased, 12.5%) fits in. It’s about as far from Big Wine as possible, and there is a noticeable vintage difference this time around.

Zestos is a Spanish label from the always dependable Ole Imports, and it has just three wines – a red, rose, and this white. And if that wasn’t un-Big Wine enough, it’s made with the malvar grape, about as geeky as Spanish grapes get. The Ole notes say malvar is somewhere between chardonnay and sauvignon blanc; given how different those grapes are, you can tell how difficult it is to describe.

This vintage, while still clean and fresh, is heavier than the 2015, so it’s not for porch sipping. It needs food – Thanksgiving would do quite nicely, but any roast poultry (or even salmon) would work. It’s also not as tart as 2015, which means less lemon fruit but more of something like kiwi.

Highly recommended, and just not because it’s so odd. The Zestos Blanco demonstrates that $10 wine can be just as subtle, sophisticated, and interesting as bottles that cost twice as much.

Holiday wine gift guide 2016

Holiday wine gift guideThe best holiday wine gift advice: Buy what they want, not what you think they should want

Just in time for the blog’s holiday wine gift guide 2016– an article on rightpricewine.com citing the Wine Curmudgeon’s always sensible gift giving advice: “Buy wine that the person would like, not what you think they should like.”

That’s the thought behind this year’s gift suggestions, culled from interviews with retailers and consumers as well as the countless news releases I get during the holiday season. The trend this year? More wine and less accessories, with consumers deciding that gadgets aren’t as enjoyable in 2016 as a quality bottle of wine.

This year’s gift ideas:

• Chablis for the California chardonnay drinker who wants something different. Chablis, chardonnay from Burgundy in France, doesn’t have any oak. That means a more austere and more minerally wine, in contrast to the richer and more buttery California chardonnays. One possibility: Jean-Pierre Grossot Chablis, about as much of a steal as a $20 wine can be.

• Trade up a cabernet sauvignon drinker who wants something more complex. The Faust, from Napa Valley, is the sort of $50 wine I wish I got to taste more often. It’s firmly rooted in Napa, made in a decidedly New World style, but it also shows that quality wine is about more than just flashy fruit.

• Something different for the wine geek. Look for top-notch wine made with odd grapes – an Italian refosco, for instance, a Spanish malvar, or a Hungarian Tokaj. Each can cost as little as $10.

Koval rye whiskey, because the WC does not live by wine alone. I’ve been a rye drinker since the bad old days, when all you could find was what we fondly called Old Overcoat. The craft spirits boom has changed that, and the Koval ($50) is rye that is more than a bourbon knockoff, something spicy and intriguing.

More holiday wine gift guides
Holiday wine gift guide 2015
Holiday wine gift guide 2014
Holiday wine gift guide 2013
Expensive wine 89: Bonny Doon Old Telegram 2014
Expensive wine 82: Anne Amie Winemaker’s Select Pinot Noir 2012

Wine of the week: Zestos Blanco 2015

Zestos BlancoIf you’re tired of drinking great cheap wine, then don’t buy the Zestos Blanco

Tired of the Wine Curmudgeon writing about Spanish wine? Then you’re tired of drinking great cheap wine, as the Zestos Blanco demonstrates.

The Zestos Blanco ($10, purchased, 13%) fulfills all the qualifications for quality and value:

Made with an odd Spanish grape called malvar, and we know how much I enjoy odd grapes. More importantly, since it’s not Spanish chardonnay, there’s no reason to charge a premium for it.

• Malvar produces a white wine that is not quite chardonnay, not quite sauvignon blanc, and not quite viognier. That means tart green apple and stone fruit flavors, and even a little white pepper.

• The Zestos Blanco comes from the area around Madrid, which even in Spain isn’t highly regarded for wine. Hence, another reason not to charge a premium for it.

• My favorite cheap wine importer, Ole Imports, brings the wine to the U.S., and regular visitors know how many terrific wines Ole handles. Like the Zestos rose. And the Zestos garnacha.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame. Chill this, and pair it with salad Nicoise, grilled fish or shrimp, and even chicken fried steak. And, given the grape, the wine is better with food.

Wine of the week: Zestos Blanco 2010

Wine of the week: Zestos Blanco 2010There are a couple of importers whose wines are so trustworthy that the Wine Curmudgeon will buy them regardless of what’s in the bottle. Kermit Lynch, of course, for French wine, and Ole Imports and Patrick Mata for Spanish wine.

Mata’s passion for Spanish wine is famous, and his palate is exceptional. Which is why I trust Ole implicitly. Otherwise, a wine like the Zestos would raise all sorts of red flags. It’s a white wine from a region in Spain best known for red wine, and the red wine doesn’t have all that great a reputation. Its color is different, sort of off-yellow, and it’s made with a grape, the malvar, that is obscure even for those of us who appreciate obscure. Malvar, grown only in that part of Spain, is not even listed in the incredibly comprehensive Winegrape Glossary.

My faith, not surprisingly, was rewarded. The Zestos ($10, purchased) is unique, though it had some similarity to the Gascon wines I like, including a little white grapiness. It is simple, but definitely Spanish in style — less fruit than the Gascon wines (some lemon, maybe) with a stone fruit pit kind of finish. One tasting note described the finish as bitter almonds, and that works, too.

Drink this chilled on its own or with a any week night dinner that calls for white wine. It’s a candidate for the 2013 $10 Hall of Fame, and is highly recommended. Just don’t expect it to taste like something you’ve tried before.