Aldi’s Evanta malbec is what supermarket private label should be — $10 or $12 worth of wine for $4 of $5
May 22 update: The 2018 version of this is now in more stores, and it was disappointing. It’s much more commercial than the 2017 — soft, very ripe fruit, and missing the acidity of the 2017. It’s still worth $4, but it’s nowhere near as interesting as the 2017.
Is is possible? Has Aldi finally hit the private label jackpot with the $4 Evanta malbec? I think so.
The Evanta malbec ($4, purchased, 12.9%) comes as close to Aldi’s European wines for quality and value as any wine I’ve tasted that the chain sells in the U.S. It’s even on a par with the long gone and much lamented Vina Decana, which is probably the best value/quality wine the discount grocer has offered in this country.
The Evanta malbec is what supermarket private label should be — $10 or $12 worth of wine for $4 of $5. It offers better quality and more varietal character than many Argentine malbecs that cost $15 or $18, and there’s no chocolate cherry fake oak or too ripe fruit in an attempt to appeal to the so-called American palate. Instead, the Evanta has blueberry fruit, almost nuanced oak, and enough acidity so that you can tell it’s malbec and not fruit juice and vodka. Plus, it’s somehow fresh and not cloying, almost impossible to do with a wine at this price.
Highly recommended. This is the kind of wine to buy a case of and keep around the house. I’m going to do that, and I don’t much care for New World malbec. It’s that well made and that much of a value.
Four suggestions — red, white, rose, and sparkling — for Mother’s Day wine 2019
Mother’s Day wine 2019: The 13th time we’ve toasted Mom on the blog, and always with an eye toward value and quality. Isn’t that how Mom raised you? Our Mother’s Day wine gift giving guidelines are here; the idea is to please your mother and not yourself. Because it is Mother’s Day, isn’t it?
These Mother’s Day wine 2019 suggestions should get you started:
• Birichino Malvasia Bianca 2015 ($17, purchased, 13%): This California white is wine geek worthy, that doesn’t mean others won’t like it. It offers all the character the malavasia bianca grape can give (floral, honey, a little orange); that it still has structure and acidity after more than four years is amazing.
• Dellara Cava Brut NV ($7, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish bubbly has the requisite cava character — tart lemon and green apple fruit and a bit of minerality. It’s a step up from what Freixenet has become, and at the same price. Imported by Mack & Schuhle
• Ferraton Père & Fils Samorëns Rose 2018 ($13, sample, 13.5%): This French pink is consistent — a little heavier than Provence rose and more red Rhone in style (cherry instead of berry fruit). But it’s also consistently well made. Imported by Sera Imports
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 from around the world.
• District 7 Pinot Noir 2017 ($20, sample, 13.5%): This is top-notch red wine from the Monterey region of California, where it’s a little cooler and where pinot noir can be more pinot noir-ish because it’s cooler. Look for an earthy beginning, refined tannins, and delicious and correct cherry fruit. The price isn’t great, but that’s what quality introductory pinot noir costs these days.
• Domaine de Colette Beaujolais-Villages 2017 ($17, purchased, 12.5%): This is a very nicely done French red wine made with the gamay grape from the region of Beaujolais. It has structure and body, not always easy to do when working with gamay, but also offers gamay character — some soft cherry. Let it sit open for at least 30 minutes. Highly recommended. Imported by Charles Neal Selections
• Castello di Magione Umbria 2017 ($15, purchased, 13%): This Italian red wine made with sangiovese is earthy and tart, which is normally what I like. But it tastes like something is missing, and for $15 I don’t want to have to figure out what that is. Imported by Margaux and Associates
• Oak Ridge Winery OZV 2017 ($13, sample, 14%): This professionally made red blend from Lodi in California tastes exactly like it came from Lodi: Lots of sweet dark fruit, lots of oak, and not much in the way of tannins. If you appreciate this style of wine, then you’ll enjoy this.
The Dominio de Eguren Protocolo Tinto is cheap Spanish tempranillo the way it should be
The Spanish wine regions around Madrid aren’t famous, unless someone is sneering about the tanker cars of cheap red wine produced there every year. Let them sneer, because they’re missing out on terrific cheap wine like the Protocolo.
In fact, one reason why Spanish tempranillo is among the best red wine values in the world is that regions like Castilla-La Mancha do more than make tanker cars of cheap red wine. Much of it is cheap wine the way it should be – varietally correct and following the style of the country, simple but not insulting. And, since producers in these regions can do cheap so well, it holds down the price of better quality tempranillos from Rioja and Ribera.
The Protocolo ($9, purchased, 13.5%) is everything one hopes for in a cheap Spanish tempranillo — soft tannins, just enough acidity to show that it’s red wine, and ripe but not too ripe berry fruit. Plus, it has flavors at the beginning, the middle and the end (a sort of rustic earthiness), just like more expensive wines.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for both the 2020 Hall of Fame and the Cheap Wine of the Year. Drink this with almost any spring and summer barbecue, and then keep drinking it the rest of the year.
The Vigouroux Pigmentum malbec is $10 red wine that offers weeknight quality and value
There’s a style of French wine that has survived Robert Parker and premiumization and the decline of wine drinking in France. It’s a simple style, used for the every day kind of wines that still dominate European wine drinking. The Vigouroux Pigmentum malbec is exactly that kind of wine.
That’s because it exists for one purpose – to drink with dinner, because everyone drinks wine with dinner. In this, the Vigouroux Pigmentum malbec ($10, purchased, 13.5%) excels; I brought it to dinner with the Big Guy at our local BYOB, and he was surprised that the wine did as much as it did for the price.
That means a rustic sort of quality – tart but accessible, with dark fruit (blackberry, black cherry?), an almost herbal quality, and just enough tannins to show it’s a red wine. This wine is from Cahors in southwestern France, where malbec is still quite common. But it’s important to note that Cahors malbecs bear little resemblance to most $10 Argentine malbecs, which are soft and fruity and rounded. This wine is angular, and you can almost taste the corners.
Hence, it’s red meat wine – I drank it with a roasted lamb shank and white beans, and it was spot on. But it’s also meatloaf and takeout chicken, the sort of thing for a middle of the week dinner. Because where where would we be without wines like that?
Our Dallas Aldi wine road trip finds some cheap wine gems among the rows and rows of Winking Owl
The good news: Our Aldi wine road trip was not the disaster that I feared. Alfonso Cevola, the Italian Wine Guy, had scouted four other Aldi locations in our part of Dallas, and assured me we could find things worth drinking. And he was right.
We found four during our five-store visit. That was impressive, given that Aldi here has consistently fallen short of its effort in Europe and the United Kingdom. There, its private label wines (labels sold only at Aldi) are cheap and critically praised.
The wines worth buying again:
• Dellara Cava Brut NV ($7, purchased, 11.5%): The first bottle was flat, a worrisome trend I’ve experienced lately with sparkling wine costing as much as $20. But the second had the requisite character for a Spanish bubbly – tart lemon and green apple fruit and some minerality. A step up from other $7 cavas, especially since they’ve been dumbed down to taste like watery Prosecco.
• La Cornada Crianza 2015 ($5, purchased, 13%): This Spanish red made with tempranillo was this close to being a Hall of Fame wine. It has way too much oak for what it is; leave out the oak, and and the acidity isn’t pushed to the back and the wine is in balance. Very nice cherry fruit and even a little Spanish orange peel aroma.
• La Rue Cotes de Provence Rose 2017 ($7.50, purchased, 12%): This looks like legitimate Provencal rose (a watery pink), and it smells like one, too (tart berries). The catch is that it finishes a little sweet, and legitimate Provencal rose doesn’t do that. But that might have been me looking for a flaw. Otherwise, it’s mostly what it should be a fair price.
• Bergeron Estates Reserve Icewine 2016 ($12/375 ml, purchased, 10.5%): Quality Canadian icewine should cost three or four times this, and no one will confuse the Bergeron with Inniskillin. But it does taste like icewine – a luxurious honeyed sweetness – and it does taste like the vidal grape it is made with. It needs more acidity to balance the sweetness, but well worth buying again for those who like dessert wine.
I didn’t buy two wines that Alfonso thought would be OK, a German pinot gris and reisling labeled Landshut, which may have been made by Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler, a top German producer. So I’ll try those next next – each was about $7. In addition, a Spanish garnacha, Vina de la Nieve from Catalonia ($6) looked worth tasting but wasn’t available for sale. It was on the shelf, but not in the system.
Having said that, there was still too much Aldi wine in the stores whose reason for being was that it cost $3. And too many of the $10 wines were advertised with 88-point shelf talkers, which is about as helpful as writing a blog post longhand and using magic to put it on the Internet. And there was an amazing lack of continuity between stores, where one store would have one wine, another wouldn’t, and third would have something else.
Still, as Alfonso kept reminding me, “Small steps, Jeff, small steps. Aldi is heading in the right direction.” Which I fervently hope.
Three wines that offer quality and value when you’re serving wine to people who don’t drink much wine
The Wine Curmudgeon has entertained twice in the last month where the guests weren’t professional wine drinkers. That is, they were people who fit the profile of the typical U.S. wine drinker – someone who drinks a bottle of month and isn’t interested in the stuff that keeps wine geeks up at night.
The challenge then: How you buy wine to serve with dinner for people who don’t drink much wine? The goal is to pour something interesting that isn’t stupid or insipid, but won’t intimidate your guests. The key: Keep in mind that you want to serve wine other people will like, and not what you think they should like.
A few suggestions and guidelines:
• Try to stay away from tannins and their bitterness, which may be the most off-putting part of wine for those who don’t drink much of it. But what if you want to serve red wine? Then look for something made with sangiovese, gamay, or tempranillo, like the Capezzana Monna Nera 2016 ($10, purchased, 13.5%). This Italian blend is mostly sangiovese – fresh and well-made with soft cherry fruit. Imported by MW Imports.
• Chardonnay, and especially cheap ones with too much fake oak, can make typical wine drinkers grimace. So can overly tart sauvignon blanc. Hence, chenin blanc like the Ken Forester petit 2017 ($11, purchased, 13.5%). This South African white is a long-time favorite, offering crisp white fruit and a refreshing finish. Imported by USA Wine Imports
• One of the best things about the rose boom? It’s ideal for situations like this. The Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12%) is a French pink, almost tart and strawberry, and a tad better made than most at this price. Imported by Pioneer Wine Co.