The CVNE rosado is Spanish pink that does exactly what it should do for $11 – and even a little more
It’s difficult to believe, as we celebrate the blog’s 13th annual Memorial Day and rose extravaganza, that most wine drinkers used to think rose and white zinfandel were the same thing. That’s why, back then, it wasn’t always easy to find quality rose. But when you did, it was Spanish more often than not. The CVNE rosado continues that tradition.
The CVNE rosado ($11, sample, 12.5%) is a blend of tempranillo, garnacha, and viura, a white grape. The combination, if not uncommon, offers an interesting take on a typical tempranillo rose. Here, the viura adds a little lemon something or other to the tempranillo’s cherry fruit, which is welcome and interesting. It lightens the cherry and gives the wine a lift in the middle that it might not otherwise have. Plus, all the other qualities that make Spanish rose shine are there – the freshness and that lingering finish, a little crisp, a little tart, and even a little minerally.
The Villa Maria pinot noir is simple but structured — a fine value for pinot noir
There’s no reason why the Villa Maria pinot noir should be such a value and taste so much like pinot noir. It’s almost a Big Wine product, for one thing, and it’s almost impossible to find quality pinot noir at this price.
Nevertheless, that’s the case – a welcome relief in these days of sweet, focus grouped pinot. In fact, you can’t ask more from the Villa Maria ($14, purchased, 13%) at this price. It isn’t complex, but it is structured, with an almost Burgundian forest floor aroma, some herbs and tannins, and lots of bright berry fruit in the New Zealand pinot style. It’s especially impressive for an entry level product.
So how does this happen? For one thing, Villa Maria is still owned by the Fistonich family; its Big Wine deal is an import agreement with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and the latter is lot more hands off when it comes to telling its “partners” what to do. Second, I was lucky enough to meet Villa Maria founder Sir George Fistonich early in the blog’s history. He impressed me as someone who cared about the wine his company made in a way that too many others don’t.
Serve the Villa Maria pinot noir with the usual suspects, like lamb and salmon, but don’t be afraid to experiment with it. It would make terrific coq a vin, both as the wine for the chicken and to drink with the dinner. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame.
Yes, the Tiamo pinot grigio comes in a can – but it’s still top-notch cheap wine
Canned wine, for all its success in the U.S., has been held back by two things: canned formats are confusing, and the price too often reflects convenience and not quality. That’s where the Tiamo pinot grigio comes in.
The Tiamo pinot grigio ($5/375 ml can, sample, 12%) does what most other canned wines don’t: It tastes like the grape it’s made from, the quality matches the price, and it’s wine and not a sugared up canned beverage for the beach. In this, it could be the best canned wine I’ve tasted save for the Tiamo grillo, which is no longer available.
And it’s one of the best pinot grigios I’ve tasted in a while, canned or otherwise. This Italian white wine is crisp and clean, but it’s missing the tonic water finish that passes for varietal character in other cheap pinot grigios. Best yet, it has actual fruit flavors — some not quite ripe stone fruit that isn’t cloying or overdone. And at $5 for the equivalent of a half bottle, it offers plenty of value.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. This is back porch wine for Mother’s Day in the age of social distancing, and it wouldn’t be bad for an indoor campout, either.
Long-time favorite La Vieille Ferme rose reminds us how great cheap wine can be — and what better time to be reminded?
The wine world is in trouble, and it’s not just the coronavirus pandemic. Sales are down, the European tariff is still with us, and younger consumers are drinking something else. How to solve the problem? Make more wines like the La Vieille Ferme rose.
What better way to remember why we love wine than to open a bottle of the new vintage of the La Vieille Ferme rose ($10, purchased, 13%)? There are few better ways to improve the irritations caused by a stay at home order than sipping this French pink wine. Sip and savor, close your eyes, and remind yourself that this too will end. You’ll be surprised at how well that will work.
Look for minerality and barely ripe strawberry fruit, as well as the freshness that should be an integral part of all roses. And marvel at the price – this wine can still be found for as little as $8, despite the 25 percent tariff.
In fact, the point with the La Vieille Ferme rose is just not that it’s worth drinking or that it offers value. Lots of wines do that. Rather, since the producer decided to improve quality four years ago, the wine has remained a well-made, quality cheap pink. That just doesn’t happen much in post-modern wine, where it’s easier to let quality slip, ride the wave, and make up the difference with a cute label or fancy marketing (and especially for rose).
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. (And a tip of the WC’s fedora to everyone who has noticed that I regularly mis-type “LaVieille.” I’ve quadruple-checked the spelling this time, and I think they are all correct.)
The Le Paradou Grenache displays quality and balance for $11
Grenache is the Wine Curmudgeon’s kind of grape. It can make great cheap wine, but it’s not always easy to work with and it isn’t especially popular as a varietal wine.
So how excited was I to see the Le Paradou Grenache ($11, purchased, 13.5%) on a virtual store shelf? Quite excited, as you can imagine. And the Le Paradou didn’t let me down.
This French red is labeled Vin de France, which means it’s not part of the appellation system. These wines are notoriously uneven in quality, but this one offers value for money. Most importantly, it doesn’t suffer from grenache’s flaws – too jammy, almost sweet, too ripe, and practically cloying.
Instead, the Le Paradou is surprisingly balanced – not so jammy, but dark; berry fruit that is almost not ripe; a little spice or black pepper, something missing from all those overworked grenaches; and even a tannin or two hiding in the back. How often does that happen in grenache?
In other words, simple but not stupid, and the kind of cheap wine we need more than ever.
So when I took my own advice and used Wine.com a couple of weeks ago, the Giesen sauvignon blanc ($11, purchased, 13%) was one of the first wines I ordered. And it was a fine choice.
The key to this New Zealand white is that it tastes like sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, but it’s much more than just a lot of grapefruit zinging up the glass. There’s a little gooseberry mixing with the white grapefruit, as well as fresh herbs and the bit of tropical fruit in the middle that the best Kiwi sauvignon blancs seem to have. Plus, look for lots of minerality on the long, clean, and fresh finish.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. Chill this, and drink it on its own as the weather warms, or pair it with grilled shrimp or boiled seafood.
$10 delivers a terrific Spanish red in the Flaco tempranillo
The Wine Curmudgeon has been derelict in his cheap wine duty. I have not reviewed the Flaco tempranillo for a couple of vintages, and it has only been featured twice in the blog’s history. Please forgive me, cheap wine gods.
The Flaco tempranillo ($10, purchased, 13%) should be reviewed – and praised – with each vintage. That’s because it offers Spanish and varietal character every time, and for a fraction of what more expensive Spanish reds cost.
The 2018 is a little fresher and not as heavy as previous vintages. Look for the typical tempranillo aromas, like orange-ish flowers. The berry fruit is not quite sweet, and there is a little spice mixed in there somewhere to round it out, as well as just enough in the way of tannins to support all that fruit.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this with almost anything beef or pork, and it would complement roast chicken as well.