Tag Archives: Vina Fuerte

Wine review: Vina Fuerte 2015

vina fuerteThe new vintage of the Vina Fuerte, once a dependable $5 Spanish red, isn’t very Spanish or  worth $5

The Aldi discount grocer is famous for its cheap, quality wine in Europe. Unfortunately, we’re not getting any of that in the U.S. – as the new vintage of the Vina Fuerte sadly demonstrates.

The Vina Fuerte ($5, purchased, 13%) is a Spanish tempranillo, and the 2014 was more than serviceable. It tasted like Spanish tempranillo – tart cherry fruit with some character and interest in the back. It wasn’t $10 Hall of Fame quality, but it was the kind of red wine to buy for dinner without worrying about whether it would be any good. In fact, I usually bought two.

The 2015, though, is about as Spanish as a pair of sweat socks. The tart cherry fruit has been bulldozed in favor of almost overripe California-style red fruit and the character and the interest in the back have been replaced by heaping amounts of fake oak.

This is disappointing, but not surprising. Aldi’s U.S. wine decisions have focused on the lowest common denominator over the past couple of years: Plonk like Winking Owl, copying the overpriced and very ordinary wines sold in traditional grocery stores, and bringing in one-offs that are priced for their labels and not what’s inside the bottle.

The days when Aldi sold Vina Decana, a Hall of Fame Spanish tempranillo, and the equally worthy Benedetto Chianti are long gone. Today, we’re stuck with focus group wines like the new Fuerte; apparently, we’ll never get to enjoy real wine like this.

It’s baffling. Aldi understands the U.S. grocery store market so well that even Walmart is running scared, but it treats wine with the same arrogance and disdain for the consumer that everyone else does. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

Big Wine 2019

The $15 wine dinner challenge

$15 wine dinnerNuts to restaurant wine prices – a $15 wine dinner you can make at home, even if you don’t do much cooking.

The Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t eat out much anymore, given the silly prices of Dallas restaurant meals, the uneven quality of the food and service, and, of course, the stupid markups for their mediocre wine.

This approach has annoyed more than a few of my friends, who like to eat out and aren’t as fussy (or as stubborn or cranky) as I am. “Come on, Jeff, it can’t be that bad,” they say. And them I invite them to the house for the $15 wine dinner challenge.

The challenge: I’ll make them my legendary arroz con pollo (the secret of which is leftover Chinese takeout rice) and an appetizer, plus two cheap wines of my choosing. If they don’t think that my dinner is a better value – a much better value – than the $100 a person budget busters that the foodies wax poetic about, then I’ll buy them one of those dinners.

So far, so good. Most recently, it was socca, the French chickpea flour pancake garnished with yogurt and tomatillo salsa and served with Bogle’s sauvignon blanc, followed by the arroz con pollo plus home-made guacamole, paired with Aldi’s $5 Vina Fuerte. Everyone was happy, and of course they were all surprised that they liked the wine as much as they did since it was so cheap.

My success with the $15 wine dinner challenge is not as much a testament to my cooking skill as it is to the foolishness of Dallas restaurants, who consider hip more important than quality and value. Consider this, from a news release for a high-end restaurant set to open here: It “will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner items like seasonal salads, rice bowls and homemade soups made with locally-sourced proteins and produce, and a curated bar will serve craft beer, cocktails and wine.” Talk about restaurant-speak; a curated bar, indeed. Somewhere, Richard Hainey is spitting fire.

Or as a friend of mine who is in the wine business said the last time we talked about this: “I go out to dinner to have a good time, not to spend a lot of money for food that isn’t as good as what I can make at home.”

Which is something that I wish more people understood. The food and wine – and the prices – would get a lot better.

 

Wine of the week: Milagro Vina Fuerte 2011

Vina fuerteAldi’s Vina Decana, one of the great cheap wines in the 20-plus years I’ve been doing this, has apparently gone, leaving us almost as quickly as it appeared on the grocer’s store shelves. This is not unusual in wine, though I’ve never quite grown used to it. Wine can’t be made like a car, with a new model every year; there are too many vagaries of production, the supply chain, and the three-tier system.

The Decana’s replacement as Aldi’s private label Spanish tempranillo appears to be the Vina Fuerte ($5, purchased, 13%), though it’s from a different part of Spain. The first thing to know about the Fuerte is that it’s a perfectly competent red wine, and maybe even a little more than that, and certainly a value for $5. The problem is that it’s not the Decana, and it suffers by comparison.

Of course, almost any wine — and especially at this price — would. The Fuerte doesn’t have the Decana’s Spanish-style flair, and it’s not the kind of wine that makes you go, “Wow,” after the first sip. Rather, it’s more international in style, softer and with more oak showing, and cherry fruit instead of the Decana’s sour cherry. One plus, though: It does have the hint of orange peel that’s supposed to be there. This is red meat wine, though gentle enough for roast and grilled chicken.

Will I buy this again? Of course. The Fuerte is much better made than most of the boring — and even awful wine — for sale at this price. But I’ll always think of the Decana when I drink it.