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.
• Ava Grace Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): Light, almost riesling-y sauvignon blanc from California. It’s not bad if you prefer a less intense style, and it’s a fair value; it just tastes like there is a lot of winemaking going on in an attempt to make it less varietal.
• Tasca D’Almerita Nero d’Avola 2016 ($20, sample, 13.5%): Premiumized Italian red from Sicily made in an international style, which means it doesn’t taste like nero d’avola and it’s not very interesting. Imported by Winebow
• River Road Family Stephanie’s Cuvée Pinot Noir 2017 ($30, sample, 14.3%): Classic, post-modern cocktail party California pinot noir – heavyish, with lots of cherry fruit, almost no tannins, and only a hint of pinot noir character.
• Château Malescasse 2016 ($25, sample, 14.5%): There are two ways to look at this French red Bordeaux blend. First, as a French wine that tastes French, with herbal notes, currant fruit, and that French mouth feel. Second, as an every day style of French wine that costs $25. Imported by Austruy Family Vineyard Import
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
• Domaine de la Rosière Rose 2018 ($13, purchased, 12%): Intriguing pink from the Savoie region in eastern France near Switzerland. There are green herbs, oddly enough, with a little red fruit and some spice. Made mostly with gamay, with some pinot noir and mondeuse, a local grape. Imported by Wines with Conviction
• Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2018 ($11, purchased, 13.5%): This Sicilian red, once a great cheap wine, is fine for what it is, but there are plenty of $8 and $10 simple Italian reds that more or less taste like this – almost unripe dark fruit and lots of acidity. Imported by Terlato Wines International
• Grand Louis Rouge 2016 ($11, purchased, 12.5%): This red Bordeaux blend (more merlot than cabernet sauvignon) is old-fashioned, but not in a good way — tart and and not very ripe fruit. Imported by Laird & Company
• A to Z Wineworks Rose Bubbles ($16, sample, 12.5%): Surprisingly disappointing spritzy rose from an otherwise reliable producer. It approaches white zinfandel sweet, without anything to balance the sweetness. And the price is problematic.
The Sicalia Terre Siciliane isn’t very Sicilian, but it’s still worthwhile when you need a red wine for a weeknight dinner
Italian wine producers, even though they have thousands of indigenous grapes to work with, are fascinated by what they call “international” grapes — those we know as cabernet sauvignon, melot, chardonnay, and the like. Their efforts can be uneven – for every great Super Tuscan, where international grapes are blended with sangiovese, there are dozens of $8 and $10 washouts. Which is where the Sicalia Terre Siciliane comes in.
On the one hand, the Sicalia Terre Siciliane ($8, purchased, 13%) doesn’t taste especially Sicilian. There is little earthiness or dark fruit or Old World complexity. And why should there be, since it’s a red blend, featuring the Sicilian nero d’avola and the and merlot?
On the other hand, it’s an enjoyable weeknight wine. Who knew? That certainly wasn’t the case the last time I tasted it: “ashy and unpleasant.” This time, though, the Sicalia Terre Siciliane was juicy, with enjoyably tart red fruit, a clean finish, and tremendous value.
No, it’s not very Sicilian, and yes, it needs food. But given the state of cheap wine these days, you could do a lot worse when you want a $10 red wine for a weeknight dinner.
Imported by Enovation Brands
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 real thing: The Feudo Principi di Butera Nero d’Avola is tasty, honest Sicilian red wine
The worst results of the new-found popularity of Sicilian wine has been the decrease in quality and the increase in prices. We see more cheap, ordinary wine that is priced as if it was something special, and fewer affordable, honest and authentic wines.
The Butera Nero d’Avola ($12, purchased, 14%) is a most welcome exception. It not only tastes like Sicilian wine, but the nero d’avola grape is the main focus. It’s not blended with merlot or cabernet sauvignon to achieve something that it’s not. Instead, look for cherry aromas, the dark and earthy plum fruit that I don’t find often enough anymore, and a little baking spice. Also surprising: the length, where the wine doesn’t disappear in your mouth after the first couple of sips.
This is a food wine – fresh, yes, and especially for a wine this old, but also substantial. It’s stews and red meat braises and almost any sort of warming autumn dinner.
To be honest, I didn’t expect this quality. Butera is owned by Zonin, a large Italian producer, and Butera is just one of its 10 labels. But, as always, taste the wine before you judge it.
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, I have questions that the wines can’t answer.
• Tasca D’Almerita Lamùri 2014 ($18, sample, 13.5%): This Italian red offers about $10 worth of Sicilian nero d’avola at twice the price, and it‘s about as Sicilian as a Paso Robles red blend. My question: Why did I get it as part of a Sicilian wine promotion when it isn’t very Sicilian?
• Kono Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($14, purchased, 13%): This New Zealand white offers $10 worth of Zealand sauvignon blanc and its citrus flavors at one-third more the price. My question: How could this vintage be so much less enjoyable than the 2012?
• Les Portes de Bordeaux Rose 2015 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French pink wine is not exceptional, but tastes like it should (freshness, red fruit) and is yet another reason why rose is always a good value. My question: How can this be, in the history of the blog, the first Trader Joe’s wine I can recommend?
• Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2015 ($10, purchased, 13%): A French red that was too tart and not very Beaujolais-ish, without any of the round and fruity flavors that should be there. My question: How can anyone at Jadot, one of the most important producers in France, think this is what this wine should taste like?