The 2017 version of the Luma grillo, an Italian white, is just as enjoyable and as delicious as the 2016 – and that’s saying something
Vintage difference is a good thing. What isn’t good is inconsistency from vintage to vintage, when quality appears and disappears seemingly at random. This is something that happens to wine at every price, a function of our post-modern wine world and its focus on price instead of value. So when you find a wine that shows vintage differences, but doesn’t show inconsistency, buy as much of it as possible. Which is the case with the Luma grillo.
The Luma grillo ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is a Sicilian white, and grillo is one of my favorite grapes. Grillo is a Sicilian specialty, and offers a welcome change from chardonnay and sauvignon blanc – not as rich as the former and not as tart at the latter. This vintage shows lemon and green apple fruit, and even some almond and spice. It’s exactly what grillo should taste like – balanced, interesting, and light but food friendly.
How is this possible? I followed the blog’s cheap wine checklist. It’s even more valuable today, when $15 plonk is passed off as inexpensive. So look for wine from less pricey parts of the world, wine made with less common grapes, and shop at an independent retailer who cares about long term success and not short term markups.
The retailer was Jimmy’s, Dallas’ top-notch Italian grocer – so the wines are all Italian. Here are the highlights of what I bought for less than $140, which includes a case discount but doesn’t include sales tax.
• A couple of bottles of the Falesco Est Est Est, $10 each. This white blend used to be $7 or $8, but it’s still a value at $10.
• A 350 ml can of the Tiamo rose for $5 – hence, the half bottle in the headline. There wouldn’t be an onus about canned wine if all canned wine was this well done, . Highly recommended.
• Banfi’s Centine red Tuscan blend, $10. The Centines (there is also a white and rose) are some of the best values in the world. This vintage, the 2017, was a little softer than I like, but still well worth $10.
• A couple of roses – a corvina blend from Recchia, $8, and the Bertani Bertarose, a $15 wine marked down to $8. Because who is going to buy a $15 Italian rose made with molinara and merlot? They were in similar in style – fresh and clean, with varying degrees of cherry fruit.
This edition of Ask the WC: What happened to the Mulderbosch rose? Plus, why are there so many older vintages on store shelves and what’s going on with Big Wine?
Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question .
Hey Wine Curmudgeon: Did you know the Mulderbosch rose, one of your well-reviewed $10 roses, went away a year or so ago? It doesn’t seem to be coming back anytime soon. Do you have any information? I’m sure many of your followers would like to know also. Thanks. Where’s the Mulderbosch?
Dear Mulderbosch: The past couple of years have not been kind to Mulderbosch — the South African winery was sold and it lost its U.S. importer. Plus, says Bob Guinn, the vice president of sales for the winery’s new owner, “the brand had been ‘footballed around’ for the past few years so we have spent the majority of this year cleaning up older inventory and pricing.” But there is good news: There is a new importer, and there are still distributors in 47 states. So we should be seeing the wine return to store shelves sooner rather than later.
Dear Wine Curmudgeon: I’m seeing a lot of old vintages for wine that costs $10 and $15 on store shelves, some as old as 10 years. They can’t be any good, can they? Older vintages
Dear Older: Oddly, I’m seeing more of that, too, even in supermarkets where they tend to pay more attention to inventory rotation. The standard rule is two years for white wine and three years for reds. That means nothing much older than the 2015 or 2016 vintages for white wine and nothing much older than 2014 or 2015 for reds. The exception, of course, is for wine made to age, but most wines aren’t. In addition, we may be seeing more older wines as wine sales remain flat and more older wine remain unsold and stays on shelves.
Dear WC: Why is Big Wine dumping all its cheap wine brands? I even heard a rumor Yellow Tail was for sale. Call me curious
Dear Curious: Yellow Tail may well be for sale, as Big Wine seems to be trying to be less about wine and more about legal weed, craft beer, and spirits. A couple of weeks ago, a second-tier whisky brand sold for $266 million. That makes it more valuable than most of the cheap wine brands Constellation sold to E&J Gallo in its fire sale this spring. Says Rob McMillan of Silicon Valley Bank, one of the smartest people in the wine business: “The overall growth rate in spirits is better than wine today, so even a second-tier whisky brand is more valuable. We are losing the young customer because of a bogus negative cumulative health messaging, like the ‘One bottle of wine is the same as smoking 10 cigarettes’ and because young consumers are more frugal.”
This is not to say it’s white Burgundy, the epitome of French chardonnay. But it does taste like chardonnay (some green apple); mostly tastes like it came from France (none of that California slickness); and is clean and fresh without a hint of residual sugar. It’s not even especially thin, which is usually what happens at this price.
And it’s not quite a wine of the week. It’s not stupid, but it is a little too simple and straightforward and the lesser quality of the grapes does show. Plus, you’ll need to open the screwcap 10 or 15 minutes before you drink it, since the wine needs to breathe.
Mostly, the Antoine Delaune chardonnay is worth $6. That’s an accomplishment these days; I recently tasted a $20 chardonnay that was too precious for words, tasting more like non-alcoholic wine than anything.
Fire up the grill and break out the Labor Day 2019 wine
Enjoy Labor Day 2019 with four wines that focus on value and quality
It has been a mild summer in Dallas — lots of rain in June, an unseasonably cool day in July, and no 100 degree days until July 30. Having said that, Labor Day means cooler weather sooner rather than later, so let’s celebrate with Labor Day wine 2019.
• Bonny Doon Malvasia Bianca 2018 ($18, purchased, 13.5%): This California white is nothing if not interesting, as well as a terrific food wine: Flavors of orange, lime, and then more orange. This means it’s varietally correct, and there is freshness and a very zippy acidity.
• Sierra Cantabria Rosado 2018 ($12, purchased, 13%): This Spanish pink, made from tempranillo in the Rioja region, does all it should for the price — a little orangish red fruit, some stoniness on the back, and crisp throughout. Imported by Fine Estates from Spain
•Ludovicus Garnacha 2015 ($12, sample, 14%): It’s amazing that this Spanish red has aged this well, given the grape and the cost. Rich and full, easy tannins, lots of dark fruit (cherry? blackberry?), and surprisingly clean and un-cloying for a garnacha. Needs food — Labor Day barbecue, anyone?. Imported by Ole Wine Imports
• La Granja 360 Brut NV ($6, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish bubbly from Trader Joe’s is pleasant and sweetish, more like Prosecco than Cava. That means softer fruit (less tart green apple and more red delicious) and a much softer mouth feel. But the bubbles are tight, and you can do a lot worse for $6. Imported by Evaki
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
• Freemark Abbey Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2018 ($21, sample, 13.7%): Competent, mostly enjoyable California style sauvignon blanc (some grass, some citrus) with richness in the mouth but a surprisingly short finish. Hence, this white wine speaks to how difficult it is to offer value in entry level Napa wine. Because these days, $21 is entry level Napa wine.
• Bogle Vineyards Rose 2018 ($10, sample, 13%): Thin, bitter, and slightly sweet California pink wine with almost no redeeming qualities. Rose for people who buy buy rose at the supermarket because someone tells them they should buy rose.
• Marotti Campi Rùbico 2018 ($18, purchased, 13%): Intriguing Italian red made with the little known lacrima grape from the Marche wine region, which is best known for white wine. It resembles a quality Beaujolais – lots of red berry fruit, not too much acidity, and just enough heft to be interesting. Price is problematic, since you can buy better wine for less money. Imported by Dionysus Imports
The new vintage of the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year shows the Chateau La Graviere Blanc at its $10 best
What does the Chateau La Graviere Blanc, the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year, do for an encore? Produce another interesting, value-driven wine in the new vintage.
The Chateau La Graviere Blanc ($10, purchased, 13%), a French white blend from Bordeaux, has been one of the joys of my wine drinking over the past couple of years. It has remained high-quality $10 wine at a time when too much of the wine world cares more about adding sugar and raising prices.
The 2018 version of the Chateau La Graviere Blanc is richer and heavier than the 2017, thanks to the semillon blended with the sauvignon blanc. But know that neither is a bad thing; it shows off the wine’s terroir and reminds us that vintage differences can make a wine more interesting.
Look for some citrus and an almost California aroma of grassiness. There is lots of minerality, which is what a white Bordeaux should have, and the fullness in the mouth moves toward a long and clean finish. This is a food wine, but you can also chill and sip it when you want a glass of after work.
Highly recommended, and it will return to the $10 Hall of Fame in 2020.