Tag Archives: Zestos

Wine of the week: Zestos Blanco 2018

zestos blancoZestos Blanco, a Spanish white, is the kind of great cheap wine everyone wishes they could make

Being cheap isn’t enough to make a great cheap wine. Otherwise, the $10 Hall of Fame would be little different from a list of the country’s best-selling $8 supermarket labels. That difference can be seen in the Zestos Blanco, which is both cheap and marvelous.

How marvelous? A friend of mine, who enjoys the wines I recommend but pays little attention otherwise, tasted it the other day and said: “I’ve had this before, haven’t I? I remember it, because it’s so well made compared to the rest of the stuff I buy at the grocery store. Which all mostly tastes the same.”

The Zestos Blanco ($10, purchased, 12%) is a Spanish white made with malvar, a grape found mostly in and around Madrid. It produces a crisp, almost lime-infused, tropical sort of wine that is bone dry and has surprising body (but isn’t tart). That combination makes it an especially wonderful food wine, be it Chinese takeout or something as complicated as roast salmon.

Highly recommended, and certain to return to the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame; also, a candidate for the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Finally, a note about the importer, Ole & Obrigado. Patrick Mata, who runs Ole, is one of the smartest people I’ve met in the wine business. He is also one of the most stand-up: He returns phone calls and emails, answers questions honestly, and is unfailingly polite.

I mention this because his company, and everyone he employs, could suffer dramatically from the 25 percent European wine tariff. I’ve tried not to beat up on the tariff more than necessary on the blog, but it’s worth noting again the financial harm it could cause Ole and dozens of other small- and medium-sized importers. Trade policy is just not imperial pronouncements. It’s also the people we overlook when we’re making those imperial pronouncements.

wine and food pairings

Wine and food pairings 7: Classic roast chicken

roast chickenThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with perhaps the most classic of all dishes, roast chicken.

When I taught wine to culinary students, they always asked what my favorite dinner was — no doubt expecting some over-complicated, over-sauced French haute cuisine adventure to pair with $300 wine. My answer always surprised them: Roast chicken served with a simple pan sauce, green noodles, a green salad with a mustardy vinaigrette, and crusty French bread.

Because when it’s a top quality chicken and the skin is brown and crisp, what else do you need but terrific cheap wine?

The catch, of course, is finding an affordable quality chicken. Most supermarket chickens don’t have any flavor to begin with, and they’ve often been frozen and defrosted and frozen again as they go through the supply chain. Hence, the meat gets almost crumbly after it’s cooked. Find a chicken that has avoided that, usually at a specialty grocer, and you’ll be stunned at the difference.

The other key: Finding the best roasting method. I’ve tried almost all of them, including smothering the skin with gobs of butter, roasting in a rack, and stuffing the cavity with lemons and herbs. But nothing seems to work as well as Jacques Pepin’s Chicken Roti. It’s simple and direct and delicious. You brown the chicken on each side in a hot oven, and then finish the bird on its back, basting with the pan juices occasionally. Yes, it can cause an undue amount of smoke in the kitchen, and flipping the chicken during roasting takes some getting used to. But it’s well worth the effort

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. These three wines will do justice to the chicken — and not a chardonnay in sight:

Zestos Old Vine Rosado 2018 ($10, purchased, 12%): This Spanish pink is one of the world’s great cheap roses — bright and fresh and almost minerally, but with more fruit than a Provencal rose (strawberry?). Highly recommended. Imported by Ole & Obrigado

Terre del Fohn Muller-Thurgau 2017 ($14, purchased, 12.5%): A beautiful white Italian wine that is made from muller-thurgau, an uncommon grape. It’s almost spicy, a little oily, and offers some light lime fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Tricana.

La Cornada Crianza 2015 ($5, purchased, 13%): I bought this Spanish temprnaillo at Aldi in February, and it was enjoyable. I’ve since bought a half-dozen more, and it keeps improving with age — more Spanish in style, less oaky, and cherry fruit that stays in the background. There’s even a little earth.

More about wine and food pairings:
Wine and food pairings 6: Louisiana-style shrimp boil
• Wine and food pairings 5: America’s Test Kitchen pizza
• Wine and food pairings 4: Oven-friend chicken and gravy

Wine of the week: Zestos Old Vine Garnacha 2017

Zestos Old Vine GarnachaThe Zestos Old Vine Garnacha, a Spanish red, remains one of the world’s great wine values

One of the hallmarks of a great wine, regardless of price, is consistency – does it offer quality and value every vintage, while remaining true to its terroir and varietal? Which is exactly what the Spanish Zestos Old Vine Garnacha does.

That was true with the 2013 vintage, and it’s just as true for this one. The Zestos Old Vine Garnacha ($10, sample, 14%) shows off the fruit, but doesn’t overwhelm the wine drinker. That’s not easy to do with cheap garnacha.

Look for red fruit (cherry? berries?), but it’s not too jammy, which can be a problem with garnacha. There’s even a trace of minerality, and the bit of oak that seems to lurking in the background should fade as the wine ages. In this, it’s lively and juicy and everything I hope for in great $10 wine. But what else we expect from an importer as brilliant as Ole Imports?

The Zestos will complement almost any kind of food, tapas or otherwise. And you could even chill it a bit, and it would be fine its own on a lazy weekend afternoon. Highly recommended, and almost certain to appear in the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame – and it’s a candidate for the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Wine of the week: Zestos Blanco 2015

Zestos BlancoIf you’re tired of drinking great cheap wine, then don’t buy the Zestos Blanco

Tired of the Wine Curmudgeon writing about Spanish wine? Then you’re tired of drinking great cheap wine, as the Zestos Blanco demonstrates.

The Zestos Blanco ($10, purchased, 13%) fulfills all the qualifications for quality and value:

Made with an odd Spanish grape called malvar, and we know how much I enjoy odd grapes. More importantly, since it’s not Spanish chardonnay, there’s no reason to charge a premium for it.

• Malvar produces a white wine that is not quite chardonnay, not quite sauvignon blanc, and not quite viognier. That means tart green apple and stone fruit flavors, and even a little white pepper.

• The Zestos Blanco comes from the area around Madrid, which even in Spain isn’t highly regarded for wine. Hence, another reason not to charge a premium for it.

• My favorite cheap wine importer, Ole Imports, brings the wine to the U.S., and regular visitors know how many terrific wines Ole handles. Like the Zestos rose. And the Zestos garnacha.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame. Chill this, and pair it with salad Nicoise, grilled fish or shrimp, and even chicken fried steak. And, given the grape, the wine is better with food.

Wine of the week: Zestos Old Vine Garnacha 2013

Zestos garnachaOne of the Wine Curmudgeon’s battle cries is varietally correct — that is, does the wine taste like the grapes it came from, or has winemaking been used to make it taste a certain way? The latter approach, though useful in making certain kinds of cheap wine, is ultimately not very satisfying. The best wines, of whatever price, should be varietally correct.

Which is why the Zestos garnacha ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is so stunning. I rarely quote from producer websites, but this says it all, including the exclamation point: “This tremendous quality wine is made from old vine Garnacha and it sells for a song!” No less than Robert Parker — yes, that Robert Parker — calls the Zestos “a staggering value.” If Parker and I agree on quality and value, it’s time to buy a case and reserve a spot in the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame.

So what makes the Zestos so impressive? It combines the best parts of garnacha, its fresh and juicy red fruit, with the qualities added by using grapes from old vines, most 40 to 50 years old. That means rich, concentrated fruitiness (dark cherries?), an almost oak-like depth, though there is no oak, and layers of flavor rarely found in $10 wines. The tannins are soft, as they should be, and the finish is chalky, befitting the terroir.

All this is impressive enough. But the Zestos does it with normal alcohol; other wines with these attributes need to be 15 percent or more to taste this way. Hence, you can drink a bottle with dinner and not pass out. That Parker likes a wine that hasn’t been Parkerized is the Wine Curmudgeon’s holiday gift to his readers.

Wine of the week: Zestos Blanco 2010

Wine of the week: Zestos Blanco 2010There are a couple of importers whose wines are so trustworthy that the Wine Curmudgeon will buy them regardless of what’s in the bottle. Kermit Lynch, of course, for French wine, and Ole Imports and Patrick Mata for Spanish wine.

Mata’s passion for Spanish wine is famous, and his palate is exceptional. Which is why I trust Ole implicitly. Otherwise, a wine like the Zestos would raise all sorts of red flags. It’s a white wine from a region in Spain best known for red wine, and the red wine doesn’t have all that great a reputation. Its color is different, sort of off-yellow, and it’s made with a grape, the malvar, that is obscure even for those of us who appreciate obscure. Malvar, grown only in that part of Spain, is not even listed in the incredibly comprehensive Winegrape Glossary.

My faith, not surprisingly, was rewarded. The Zestos ($10, purchased) is unique, though it had some similarity to the Gascon wines I like, including a little white grapiness. It is simple, but definitely Spanish in style — less fruit than the Gascon wines (some lemon, maybe) with a stone fruit pit kind of finish. One tasting note described the finish as bitter almonds, and that works, too.

Drink this chilled on its own or with a any week night dinner that calls for white wine. It’s a candidate for the 2013 $10 Hall of Fame, and is highly recommended. Just don’t expect it to taste like something you’ve tried before.