The Mont Gravet Carignan offers value and quality and interest – impressive in any wine, and even more so for $10
This vintage of the Mont Gravet Carignan, a red wine from France, isn’t as amazing as the 2015, which was one of the great cheap wines of all time. But that doesn’t mean the 2018 isn’t a terrific cheap wine.
Because it is. The Mont Gravet Carignan 2018 ($10, purchased, 12%) is everything a great $10 wine should be – professionally made, varietally correct, and interesting. Why interesting?
• It’s not tannic, but it’s not the kind of “smoooooth” wine that a focus group would approve of.
• It’s made with carignan, usually used for blending. So it doesn’t taste like cabernet sauvignon, merlot or pinot noir. Which is OK, since it’s not supposed to.
• It’s both food friendly (burgers and fajitas) and something to drink when you feel like a glass of red wine. That just doesn’t happen much any more.
Look for berry fruit, not quite brambly and not too much of it, plus a little bit of earth (one of my favorite things about this wine every vintage). The smidgen of tannins and acidity make the wine complete. Highly recommended, and should return to the Hall of Fame in 2021.
Check out these six roses — cheap and delicious — for the blog’s 13th annual Memorial Day and rose celebration
There is lots and lots of quality rose out there at terrific prices as we continue the blog’s 13th annual Memorial Day and rose extravaganza with today’s post. But given the surreal way wine works these days, that’s both good news and bad.
Good because there is lots and lots of rose in the marketplace, keeping prices down. Case in point: I got a California rose sample this month that cost $2 less this year, and it was the exact same wine the producer sent me last year. Yes, a price cut in the wine business – as hard as it is to believe.
Bad because there is lots and lots of rose in the marketplace, much of it unsold from last year. That’s almost unprecedented for rose. But pink wine’s sales have slowed thanks to the general wine sales slowdown and the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t helped. In this, many producers have delayed release of the 2019 until they sell out. Bota Box, whose 3-liter rose is one of the best values in the world, isn’t releasing its 2019 until August. And I haven’t seen the 2019 Angels & Cowboys rose, always well-done, though there is lots of 2018 on store shelves.
Complicating matters is the 25 percent tariff on French and Spanish wine, which accounts for some of the best cheap rose in the world. It’s not so much that the tariff bumped up prices; in fact, I’m surprised so many producers didn’t increase prices more. Rather, importers cut their orders because they were unsure what they could sell given the general slowdown in wine. So there is still lots of great cheap Spanish and French rose, but there isn’t necessarily a lot from each producer.
Not to fear, though: The Wine Curmudgeon has found cheap, delicious, and honest roses (not sweet, not high in alcohol and not tannic). And don’t overlook the blog’s rose primer and the rose category (from the dropdown menu on the lower right), which lists 13 years of rose reviews.
Today, six standout roses – each highly recommended. Tomorrow, six more roses worth writing about:
• Bielet Pere et Fils Sabine Rose 2019 ($12, sample, 13%): This French pink is one of the world’s best roses every year, regardless of price. In this vintage, the cabernet sauvignon in the blend gives the wine a little more structure, depth, and body, plus a little darker flavor (blackberry instead of strawberry?). As it ages, the cabernet should go to the back and more red fruit will come to the front. Imported by Bieler et Fils
• Santa Julia Organica Rose 2019 ($6/375 ml can, sample, 13%): This is the same high-quality Zuccardi family rose that shows up under a variety of labels – this time, in a half-bottle sized can. Look for some not too ripe berry fruit, a bit of structure, and a fresh finish. Let it open up, and it’s even better in a glass. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.
• MontGras Rose 2019 ($15, sample, 12.5%): This Chilean pink made with zinfandel is quite fruity, with lots and lots of red berries. But it’s not sweet. Quite interesting, in fact, and perfect for anyone tired of the taut, crisp, Provencal style. Imported by Guarachi Wine Partners
• Banfi Centine Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 13%): Banfi’s Italian Centine line offers some of the best cheap wine in the world today, and the rose is no exception. It tastes Italian, with a well-done crispness and soft cherry fruit. A touch short on the finish, but that’s not a problem. Imported by Banfi Vintners
• Mont Gravet Rose 2019 ($10, sample, 12%): This French label is all a $10 rose should be — a little bit of not quite ripe berry fruit, crisp, clean and fresh. It’s not fancy or flashy; rather, it’s wine for people who care more about what’s in the bottle than the marketing campaign. (And the 2018 is still yummy, too – I’ve got six bottles in the wine closet). Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.
• Charles & Charles Rose 2019 ($12, sample, 11.4%): Winemakers Charles Bieler and Charles Smith combine on this Washington state rose, which shows up on this list every year. The 2019 is stunning – low alcohol, bone dry, with pleasingly crisp and tart strawberry fruit.
So know, as we celebrate the blog’s 12th annual Memorial Day and rose extravaganza, that there is a lot of rose out there looks pink. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to taste like the dry rose we’ve taught the world to love.
In fact, as rose-maker extraordinaire Charles Bieler told me this spring, no-self respecting Big Wine company is going to let rose pass it by. Hence, some of them are making two, three, and even four labels to make sure they don’t miss any of the sales momentum. In this, there’s some talk among wine business types that rose is saving wine from the worst effects of premiumization, and that its popularity is boosting sales that otherwise would be even more flat than they already are.
So yes, there’s lots of plonk out there, which I know because I’ve tasted so much of it. How about thin? How about bitter? How about tannic? How about sweet? To paraphrase Joseph Conrad (though he was probably more of a vodka man): “The horror! The horror!”
But not when it comes to the roses reviewed this post and in tomorrow’s post. These are all cheap, delicious, and rose in style and honesty. What else would you expect from the Wine Curmudgeon?
Prices this year are a touch higher than last year, but there is still plenty of terrific rose for less than $15. Also, don’t overlook the blog’s rose primer, which discusses styles, why rose is dry, how it gets its pink color, and why vintage matters. This year, vintage isn’t quite as important as in the past, and many 2017s should still be wonderful. That’s because technical quality, traditionally a problem with rose, has improved and the wines don’t fall apart like they used to. But still be wary of anything older than two or years, and especially it isn’t pink any more. Brown wine isn’t worth drinking, no matter how little it costs.
For more suggestions, check out the rose category link, which lists 12 years of rose reviews. Today, six standout roses we’ve come to know and appreciate — each highly recommended. Tomorrow, six more roses worth drinking:
• Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2018 ($15, sample, 13.5%): The most interesting of Randall Grahm’s California pink of the past several years. It’s more Provence in style, with barley tart strawberry fruit, and even fresher. Honest wine from an honest producer does matter.
• Mont Gravet Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French rose is made with cinsault, a terrific grape for pink wine. It’s fresh, bright, and crisp – with more depth than the 2017 and better quality fruit. Plus, the red fruit (berries) taste likes red fruit and not soda pop. Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.
• Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 13%): The cabernet sauvingon in the blend gives this Provencal wine a little more structure, depth, and body this year, as well as a little darker flavor (almost blackberry?). As it ages, the caberrnet should go to the back and more red fruit will come to the front. Imported by Bieler et Fils
• Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2018 ($12, sample, 13.5%): One of the most consistent and enjoyable California pinks, and also made in a darker style (cranberry, blackberry?) that lots of people try but few succeed with. In this, it tastes like rose and not red wine.
• Angels & Cowboys Rose 2018 ($15, purchased, 12.8%): This California effort, always one of my favorites, is much more subtle this vintage, with a wisp of strawberry fruit and not much else. Still enjoyable and interestingly different.
• Charles & Charles Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 12.6%): This Washington state rose, from Chalres Bieler and Charles Smith, is fresh and crisp, with tart strawberry and orange fruit and a very clean finish. All in all, another exceptional effort.
That’s because the current vintage of the French Mont Gravet carignan ($10, sample, 12.5%) is more earthy and interesting than the 2016. In other words, this red from the south of French (made with the carignan grape) displays vintage difference. How often do we see that in $10 wine?
The 2017 has less ripe red fruit, as well as more structure and acidity than the 2016. In addition, look for some spice, the tiniest hint of vanilla (from oak staves in steel tanks – fake oak as it should be done), and a clean and refreshing finish. Would that more cheap wine was this professional and terroir-driven.
Highly recommended, and should return to the Hall of Fame in 2019. This is red wine for grilled vegetables, burgers and sausages on the barbecue, and even something like smoked pork shoulder.
The Mont Gravet carignan is once again quality cheap wine – balanced, fresh, and enjoyable
The 2015 Mont Gravet carginan was an exceptional cheap wine, one of the best I’ve tasted in more than two decades of doing this. The 2016 isn’t quite what that was, but it’s still $10 Hall of Fame quality.
The Mont Gravet carignan ($9, sample, 13%) is a French red, and carignan is a little known grape used mostly for blending and to make jug wine. It’s considered inferior to other red grapes, and even Cellar Tracker users don’t think much of it – too light, too insubstantial, and not manly enough.
Here, though, carignan shows off, producing a varietal wine that is impeccably made, balanced, and fresh. It’s not overripe or too rough, which is usually the case with cheap wines made with lesser known grapes.
The main difference between the 2016 and the 2015 is that the former is fruitier (blackberries?) and less rustic and earthy. That makes it more modern in style and a little less interesting. But that’s a critic’s complaint, and no reason not to buy the wine and enjoy it.
This is summer red wine – sipping on the porch, drinking with burgers, barbecue, and even smoked chicken. Highly recommended.
Mini-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. This month, two whites you’ll enjoy and two reds you probably won’t.
• Lindemans Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($6, sample, 13.5%): It’s not so much that this Australian red tastes like a $6 cabernet, with overly sweet black fruit and lots of fake chocolate oak. It’s that so many wines that cost two and three times as much taste the same way (albeit with better grapes).
• Toad Hollow Merlot 2014 ($14, sample, 14.3%): Red from a once great California producer that tastes more like cabernet than merlot, complete with manly tannins. One fix? I put ice cubes in my glass, which toned down the wine enough so that it tasted like merlot.
• Dancing Coyote Gruner Veltliner 2015 ($15, sample, 13%): California white is a well-made, varietally correct version of the Austrian sommelier favorite – which is saying something given the Wine Curmudgeon’s lack of enthusiasm for gruner. Look for citrus and peach and a crisp finish.
Let’s not waste any time – the Mont Gravet carignan is the best cheap red wine I’ve tasted since the legendary and too long gone Osborne Solaz. To quote my notes: “This cheap French red couldn’t be any better and still be cheap.”
What makes the Mont Gravet carignan ($10, purchased, 12.5%) so wonderful? It’s not dumbed down for the so-called American palate. It’s varietally correct, not easy to do with a blending grape like carignan. It tastes of terroir, not common in $10 wine. I tasted this wine over and over, looking for flaws, because that’s what the Wine Curmudgeon does. I couldn’t find any.
What will you find? An earthy and fruity (blackberry?) wine, with a welcoming, almost figgy aroma, acidity that sits nicely between the fruit and the earthiness, and just enough tannins to do the job. It’s everything you could want in $10 wine – or $15 wine, for that matter. This is the kind of the the $10 Hall of Fame was made for.
Finally, a word about the importer, Winesellers Ltd., and the tremendous job it does finding great cheap wine. I recommend the company’s wines a lot, and that I have to find a retailer who has them and pay for them, as opposed to getting a sample, isn’t an obstacle. These are wines I buy not just to review, but to drink.
Wineseller looks for producers who care about the same things that I do – quality, value, and making wine that is distinctive and reflects where it came from. How many others do that, let alone for $10 wine?