Tag Archives: red wine

Wine of the week: Evanta Malbec 2018

evanta malbecReconsidering the 2018 Evanta malbec: A year in the bottle made it much more enjoyable

The Evanta malbec, a red Argentine Aldi private label, has one of those weird cheap wine stories that make it so difficult to decipher cheap wine. The 2017 was terrific – $5 wine that tasted like it cost twice as much. In an addendum to that post, I noted that the 2018 wasn’t quite as well done – softer and less interesting.

So why did the 2018 Evanta Malbec ($5, purchased, 13.9%) taste almost like the 2017 when I bought it last month? Who knows? Maybe it was the extra year in the bottle that took off the soft edges and made it more appealing. Maybe it was bottle variation, when every bottle doesn’t taste the same. This is a common problem with cheap wines made in mass quantities.

Regardless, the 2018 is well worth buying. It’s not quite as structured as the 2017, but it’s still difficult to beat for $5: There are more tannins and acidity than in most cheap malbecs, which tend to leave those out in favor of lots of soft fruit to make it “smoooothhhhhh. …” The berry fruit isn’t overdone and there’s not a hint of sweetness anywhere. No wonder it has been mostly sold out at my local Aldi since the pandemic started.

Imported by Pampa Beverages

Mini-reviews 135: Bonny Doon, Bota Box, Wente, Cameron Hughes

Bonny DoonReviews 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; four California wines for July.

Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2019 ($15, sample, 13.5%): Something is missing in this rose, released after Randall Grahm sold his legendary company in January. It’s not bad – some watermelon fruit, some minerality – but it’s not the top-notch rose of vintages past.

Bota Box Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($18/3-liter box, sample, 12.5%): Decent California white that works out to less than $5 a bottle, though it’s nothing more than that. Not sweet but not especially tart, either, with a bit of green herb and citrus. There’s an odd grapiness in the back that makes me think it was blended with something like French colombard to stretch the sauvingon blanc.

Wente Cabernet Sauvignon Southern Hills 2018 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): Ordinary (if well-made) supermarket-style California red from a quality producer. Not much in the way of tannins or acidity — just lots of very ripe black fruit, lots of oak, and that sort of smooth finish that focus groups prefer.

Cameron Hughes Lot 676 2016 ($14, sample, 14.3%): Heavy, rich, hot, and full California white blend, made in the classic “Trying to get 94 points” style. There’s some fruit (stone, lime?), and a surprising amount of oak. Given its age, the style, and that Hughes buys what other producers can’t move, this may well be a pricey bottle that was sitting in a tank somewhere, unloved and unsold.

Photo: “Summer Hols Day 3 – Rain and Wine” by Ian Livesey is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

Wine of the week: Azul y Garanza Tempranillo 2019

azul y garanzaThis vintage of the Spanish Azul y Garanza tempranillo isn’t as interesting as the past couple, but still delivers quality and value

This is the fourth vintage I’ve tasted of the Azul y Garanaza tempranillo, a Spanish red. And each year has been different from the others. That’s incredibly refreshing in our post-modern, all wine must taste alike world.

This time, the Azul y Garanza tempranillo ($13/1 liter, purchased, 14.1%) is a little more rustic and tannic than past vintages, with less cherry fruit. In this, it’s about the opposite of the first vintage I tasted, the 2016, which was softer and fruitier than I normally like. The Azul probably isn’t Hall of Fame quality this time, like the 2017 and 2018. But, like the 2016, it is perfectly enjoyable to drink.

And it remains a fine value, and not just because it’s a liter, with the extra glass and a half of wine. (And, in four vintages, this is the fourth different price I’ve paid – all bought from stores in Texas).

One other thing: Don’t worry about the 14.1 percent alcohol, which is likely a little sleight of hand to get around the 25 percent Trump wine tariff, which applies to Spanish and French wines less than 14 percent. This “adjustment” is happening quite a bit, and it really doesn’t affect the quality of the wine.

Imported by Valkyrie Selections

Wine of the week: McGuigan The Plan 2016

McGuigan The PlanMcGuigan The Plan – an Aussie shiraz that shows sense and sensibility

Australian red wines are infamous for high alcohol, jammy, too ripe fruit, and an absence of balance. So what’s the catch with McGuigan The Plan, which clocks in at an almost unbelievable 12.5 percent alcohol?

Chalk it up to the wonderful unpredictability of wine, where we should regularly discover how little we actually know. McGuigan The Plan ($13, purchased, 12.5%), though it’s from a top producer, is about the last thing one expects from an Australian red made with shiraz – it shows sense and sensibility, to steal a phrase. Yes, it’s rich and fruity, with lots and lots of blackberry. But the wine isn’t hot or sweet, the way some too alcoholic wines can be. Plus, there’s a little spice (and maybe even some pepper) in the middle. And I could swear I tasted a tannin or two. Honest.

In this, McGuigan The Plan is one more reason not to judge a wine before you taste it. It needs food, but with summer burgers or barbecue, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Imported by Palm Bay International

Fourth of July wine 2020

forth of july wine 2020Fourth of July wine 2020: Four bottles to enjoy for the United States’ 244th birthday

The Unites States celebrates its 244th birthday on Saturday, which means a need for quality cheap wine. Hence, these suggestions from the Wine Curmudgeon. As always, keep our summer wine and porch wine guidelines in mind: Lighter, fresher wines, even for red, since lots of oak and high alcohol aren’t especially refreshing when it’s 98 degrees outside (which is the forecast for Dallas).

Consider these Fourth of July wine 2020 suggestions:

MAN Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): This South African white is well-made and enjoyable — citrus (softer lemon?), but fruitier than France though not as tart as New Zealand. Simple, but enjoyable and a fine value. Imported by Vineyard Brands

Olivares Altos de la Hoya 2017 ($12, purchased, 14.5%): This Spanish red, mostly monastrell, is a heavy, more Parker-style effort that is mostly balanced. There’s lots of dark fruit, and though it’s a bit hot, there is a surprisingly clean finish. Imported by Rare Wine Co.

Masciarelli Rosato 2019 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This Italian pink is a revelation: Barely ripe strawberry fruit, an almost chalky finish, and so much else going on it’s difficult to believe that it doesn’t cost $18 and have a too cute label. Highly recommended. Imported by Vintus, LLC

Princesa Brut Nature Cava NV ($12, purchased, 11.5%): Brut nature is the driest sparkling wine, and this Spanish bubbly doesn’t disappoint. It’s crisp, very dry, and has cava’s trademark apple and pear fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Quintessential

Photo: “20150702_182103000_iOS” by annisette64 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

More Fourth of July wine:
Fourth of July wine 2018
Fourth of July wine 2018
Fourth of July wine 2017
Wine of the week: La Vieille Ferme Rose 2019

Mini-reviews 134: OZV, CK Mondavi, Domaines Ott, Tour de Bonnet

ozvReviews 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.

OZV Red 2017 ($13, sample, 14%): Yes, way too much fake vanilla and way too much berry fruit without anything in the back, like tannins or a finish. So hardly balanced. But all things considered, it’s more than drinkable – and if you like this style, it’s a fine value.

CK Mondavi Pinot Grigio 2019 ($6, sample, 13.5%): Cheap supermarket pinot grigio, which means no character, no flavor, and not much else save some tonic water flavor. One more reason why cheap doesn’t always mean worth buying.

Domaines Ott By.Ott Rose 2019 ($25, purchased, 13.5%): French rose that tastes more California than Provencal and comes in a heavy bottle with these winemaker notes: “Lovely pink hue with glistening golden highlights.” Ouch. This much money should buy a much better bottle of wine. Imported by Maison Marques & Domaines USA

Château Tour de Bonnet Blanc 2019 ($13, purchased, 13%): This Total Wine private label is mostly a New Zealand sauvignon blanc knockoff, and not very white Bordeaux-like. This is annoying, since it’s from Bordeaux and not New Zealand. Not to be confused with this wine. Imported by Saranty Imports.

Father’s Day wine 2020

Father's Day wine 2020Father’s Day wine 2020: Four wines to make Dad proud

Pandemic got you down? Worried about more wine tariffs? Tired of buying overpriced but not very good wine? Then check out the blog’s Father’s Day wine 2020, where we allow for all of that. Just keep the blog’s wine gift-giving guidelines in mind throughout the process: Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.

Father’s Day wine 2020 suggestions:

Pedroncelli Friends.red 2018 ($11, sample, 14.2%): This red blend from one of my favorite producers is what all inexpensive California wine should aspire to — soft but not sappy, fruity but not syrupy (dark berries?), balanced and enjoyable. There’s even a tannin wandering around the back. Highly recommended.

Vinha do Cais da Ribeira Douro 2018 ($9, purchased, 12.5%): Rustic Portuguese white blend, mostly available at Total Wine, that has a touch of citrus and a little minerality. Be better at $7, but still a fair value. Imported by Middlesex Wine & Spirits

Bodegas Olivares Rosado 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): Grenache-based Spanish pink that combines the grape’s red fruit with long acidity and even a touch of minerality. Much more interesting that it should be and highly recommended.

Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux Brut Rosé 2017 ($15, purchased, 12.5%): Bright, fresh, and fruity sparkling (lots of red fruit) from Bordeaux, and the bubbles are zippy, too.. Not particularly subtle, and you won’t find any brioche or biscuit. But why would you need to?

More Father’s Day wine:
Father’s Day wine 2019
Father’s Day wine 2018
Father’s Day wine 2017
Expensive wine 131: Justin Isosceles 2015