The Chateau Bonnet is one of the world’s greatest cheap wines, even if it isn’t cheap any more
Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way: First, availability for the Chateau Bonnet may be hit and miss. Second, the vintages are all over the place. I’ve seen everything from the 2014 to the 2018. Third, the wine isn’t cheap anymore, costing as much as $20 at some retailers.
So what is the Bonnet doing as the wine of the week on the first week of January, when the blog honors the best cheap wine in the world with the Cheap Wine of the Year and the $10 Hall of Fame? Because nothing has changed about the Bonnet since I started the blog in 2007. It’s the same wine (merlot and cabernet sauvignon), made the same way, providing the same quality, and it doesn’t cost that much more to make. In fact, it’s still less than €8 in France.
But the price has almost doubled in the states for no particular reason other than premiumization. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?
I bought the Chateau Bonnet ($15, purchased, 14%) because I missed it. I taste so much junk these days – sweet, flabby, and overpriced – that I was willing to overpay for old time’s sake. And I wasn’t disappointed.
The Bonnet is a French red blend from Bordeaux that tastes like a French red blend from Bordeaux. And how sad is it — and how much does it say about the post-modern wine business – that I have to make that point? Shouldn’t that be the way things are?
Look for a little juicy dark fruit, almost earthy tannins, enough acidity to round it all out, and that certain something that says this is a French wine. Drink this with any red meat, and especially streak frites. If you can find this for less than $15, buy a case. Otherwise, feel free to pay too much knowing it’s probably not worth $20, but that it used to be a hell of a value at $10.
• Torres Verdeo 2018 ($11, purchased, 13%): Ignore the silly marketing — this Spanish white is made with verdejo, but its name is Verdeo. It’s an astonishing cheap wine, an almost layered effort of something that is almost always one note. There is sort of peach fruit to balance the lemon. Highly recommended. Imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
• Prosper Maufoux Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc NV ($19, sample, 12%): Would that this French sparkling wine — from high-price Burgundy, no less — still cost around $15. But that’s the tariff for you. Still, it remains top-notch bubbly: Fresh, fruity (apples and lemons), tight bubbles, and nary a hint of brioche. Highly recommended. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.
• Naranjas Azules Rosado 2018 ($10, purchased, 13%): This pink Spanish is quite traditional, almost orange in color, but also oh so crisp and clean and practically savory. But there’s also more modern amount of strawberry fruit. An odd and interesting and delicious wine. Highly recommended. Imported by PR Selections
• Château de Ribebon 2016 ($14, purchased, 13.5%): Modern-style red Bordeaux blend that’s mostly merlot with dark berry fruit, but tempered by a bit of earth, an almost pine forest aroma, and nicely done tannins. This is about as value-oriented as red Bordeaux gets these days. Imported by Knows Imports
Yes, $14 isn’t cheap, but the Chateau de Ribebon still offers value in red Bordeaux
The amazing thing about the $14 Chateau de Ribebon is not that the 2015 vintage has aged well enough to become a wine of the week, but that the current vintage is the 2016. So someone, somewhere, remembers how to make popularly priced wines that will last.
The Chateau de Ribebon is a traditional red blend, though with more merlot than cabernet sauvignon. Hence, it’s a little softer and a little fruitier (cherries?) than many others, but there are still tannins in the back and it’s nothing like a jumped up New World fruit slurpee.
Pair this with beef, but it’s the sort of wine that would work for coq a vin and 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 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
• 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
Four value and quality-oriented bottles to enjoy for Labor Day wine 2018
What’s a Labor Day wine? Wine that takes the edge of the heat (it will be mid-90s in Dallas, fairly normal), suitable for porch sitting, picnics, and barbecues. In other words, light wines for warm weather.
These four bottles are fine start as part of Labor Day wine 2018:
• La Fiera Pinot Grigio 2017 ($10, purchased, 12%): This Italian white wine is almost always worth drinking, a step up from grocery store pinot grigio (a little lemon fruit to go with the tonic water). This vintage is certainly that, and almost Hall of Fame quality. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.
• Matua Pinot Noir Rose 2017 ($12, sample, 13%): Big Wine at its best — Fresh and tart berry fruit, plus a crispness I didn’t expect from a company that is one of the largest in the world. If not a little choppy in the back, it’s a candidate for the Hall of Fame. Imported by TWE Imports
• Moulin de Canhaut 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): This French red Bordeaux is everything cheap French wine should be — simple but not stupid, earthy, and just enough tart black fruit. It’s also an example of how screwed up the wine business is, that someone would send me a sample of a wine that may not be available in the U.S.
• Naveran Brut Rosado 2016 ($15, sample, 12%): This Spanish bubbly is one of the world’s great sparkling wines, a cava that compares favorablly to wines costing two and three times as much. Clean and bright, with more citrus than berry flavors. Highly recommended.
Confidences de Prieure-Lichine, a second label red Bordeaux, reminds us just how wonderful these wines can be
In the old days before the recession, the great Bordeaux estates nade two wines. The first was the expensive one, and the other, called a second label, was a more affordable version, made with lesser quality grapes.
The Big Guy bought the Confidences de Prieure-Lichine and brought it to lunch at Dallas’ Urbano Cafe (the blog’s unofficial BYOB restaurant). We were joined by Thibodaux, who finagled a day off from work despite the bossses’ insistence that the business would collapse without her.
The Confidences de Prieure-Lichine was all we hoped it would be – elegant, sophisticated, and oh so Bordeaux. There’s dark fruit (plums? black currants?), the tannins are almost velvety, and the wine has an idea of earthiness, nothing more. It was softer than I expected, but understandable since Prieure-Lichine uses more merlot in the blend than other left bank producers.
It probably won’t age much longer, so drink now. Highly recommended, and the ideal wine to pair with holiday beef, lamb, or even turkey. And it’s yet another reason why scores are so useless. This was a beautiful and delicious wine, yet its average score on Wine-Searcher was 89 points. That’s about what a quality bottle of $10 wine gets.