Showing posts with label bargain wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bargain wine. Show all posts

Monday, June 17, 2024

Not Sancerre, But Close To It

The 2023 Vignobles Lacheteau Touraine Sauvignon Blanc hails from France's Loire Valley, specifically the Touraine appellation. It is made wholly from Sauvignon Blanc grapes and imported by Plume Ridge of Claremont, CA. Alcohol hits only 11.5% abv and I bought mine for only $6 at one of my local Trader Joe's stores.

This wine has a faint yellow-green tint in the glass. The nose has abundant citrus fruit and a tad more grassiness than I expect in a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Minerals appear along with tropical notes. The palate offers a brisk acidity to go with the lemon, tangerine and green apple flavors. The finish is long and mineral driven. It will match a salad or serve as counterpoint to a rich, buttery seafood or pasta dish. 


Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Cool Wine, Cool Bottle

I will admit, I purchased this wine simply because of the bottle. Who can resist a bocksbeutel? However, I have learned that when used for Portuguese rosés it is called cantil. Whatever the name, it's a cool bottle. Mateus Rosé used to come packaged in it, and maybe it still does.

Roseta Rosé is from Portugal, although I have been able to find out little else about it. It gets written up all over the place, no doubt due to the fact that it's cheap and it's actually pretty good. The wine is imported by Plume Ridge in Claremont, California, is light in alcohol at just 11% abv and was selling for $5 at Trader Joe's when I bought it.

This wine has a light salmon tint to it and it pours up with a slight frizzante. The nose features ripe, red strawberries and cherries. There is a floral note in the background. On the palate, the red fruit emerges first, while a more delicate citrus flavor comes in afterward. There is a slightly carbonated sense to the mouthfeel, which is refreshing. It is not a terribly complex wine, but it is quite enjoyable and should be a mainstay through summer, particularly at the price. 


Monday, June 3, 2024

A Wine Bargain At Whole Foods

The 2022 Gran Conti Montepulciano d'Abruzzo  is one of those bargain wines that turns up nearly everywhere in online searches, but very little actual information seems to surface. I wrote about their Sangiovese last year, and I recently stumbled upon this wine from a different part of Italy.

The Gran Conti has a manageable alcohol level of 13% abv and a more than reasonable price, $8 at my local Whole Foods Market.

This wine is very dark colored. It has a nose that displays an abundance of black fruit - plums, blackberries - and savory notes of tobacco and earth. On the palate, there is the aforementioned dark fruit, with a healthy tannic grip and a lengthy finish. I had it with a cheeseburger and it was a good fit. I also used it to make short ribs, which worked well, too. 


Monday, May 27, 2024

Soave Classico For Pasta Primavera

Italian food calls for Italian wine, in my book at least. I usually end up having some kind of lovely Sangiovese-based wine with my tomato sauce and pasta. Sangiovese generally goes into the sauce, too, which helps the pairing. Recently I made a pasta primavera with way too much butter and way too much cream. I happened to have a wine on hand that balanced the meal for me. Not a Sangiovese, though. Soave Classico.

Soave Classico is quite a different wine from Soave. The Classico region of the Soave DOC has a higher altitude and a volcanic aspect to the soil, which is imparted into the Garganega (90%) and Trebbiano (10%) grapes of the 2022 Villa Molino Soave Classico. The wine is much better than the label, which features a picnic basket and a cute little dog who is packing the wine in his saddlebags. Alcohol hits only 12% abv and the bottle can be had for less than $10 at Trader Joe's.

This wine has a golden yellow color in the glass. The nose is highly aromatic, with citrus minerals, apricot and a lanolin note competing for attention. The palate is brisk and full, showing Meyer lemon, guava and a hint of pineapple, all laced with a streak of salinity. The acidity is fresh, but not ripping. The long finish has a sense of apricot outlasting all the other flavors. It's a great wine for sipping, but it paired quite nicely with my way too creamy pasta primavera. 


Monday, May 13, 2024

French Rosé That's Easy On The Wallet

Here is a bargain rosé from the Perrin family. They have been making wine in the south of France for more than a century. They adorn the back label of their La Ferme Julien with a quote attributed to Leonardo da Vinci: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Is it really so simple? Stay away from chemical fertilizers, use natural nutrients in the soil to bring the vines to maturity, adopt a laissez-faire attitude in the cellar. Not so difficult, I suppose.

La Ferme Julien is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault grapes, it carries alcohol at a mere 12.5% abv and I bought mine at Trader Joe's for about $7. I seem to remember the 2022 vintage was around $10, so I got quite a deal on the 2023.

This wine has a soft, light, onion skin pink hue. The nose is fresh and fruity. There is a bushel basket of strawberries in the aroma package, along with citrus minerality and that wonderful smell of rain on a hot sidewalk. The palate is dominated by the acidity, which is quite lively. Ripe red fruit is there, of course, as is a healthy dose of lemon and tangerine. The wine finishes long and the acidity keeps on working after the sip. 


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Monday, May 6, 2024

Don't Call This Chardonnay Cheap - Call It Affordable

Grocery chain Trader Joe's is a place you learn to love very quickly. Nice prices on things like wine, beer, cheese and nuts are fine, but the fact that the product is of high quality is a real bonus.

TJ's carries wines from a variety of producers, but the 2023 Trader Joe's Coastal Chardonnay is reportedly made by Castoro Cellars in the Paso Robles town of Templeton. Central Coast grapes went into the private label wine, which is unoaked. Alcohol is reasonable at 13$ abv and it sells at Trader Joe's for a bit less than $7. 

This wine has more of a yellow tint than I would expect from an unoaked Chardonnay. The nose is clean, though. Brilliant aromas of flowers, pears, peaches and apples come through with nary a trace of wood aging. The palate is rich and full, with fruit flavors dominating. Acidity is fresh and zippy, and nearly razor sharp. The fruit lasts on the finish and the wine is a perfect match for seafood, white sauce pasta or chicken.


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

A Great Grenache Blend From Spain

From the D.O.P. Cariñena of Spain comes a wine called Oxte The Silence. It is a red blend of Grenache, Syrah and Tempranillo. The wine was aged for only two months in French and American oak barrels which had been used before. Another two months is spent in stainless steel before being bottled. Alcohol sits at 14% and it sells for around $6 at Trader Joe's.

This wine is tinted medium dark. The nose is jammy and oaky, with plenty of blackberry, clove and currant notes. The palate brings no surprises. It is full of fruit and oak spice, but not as much as I found in the bouquet. The flavor of anise hides amongst the berries and staves. I bought it for cooking, but did enjoy the leftover sips. It was cheap, but serviceable. 


Monday, March 25, 2024

Bargain Primitivo On The Bottom Shelf

The bottom shelf of the wine aisle at your grocer is probably not a good place to find a wine you'll love and want to share with guests. It can, however, be a good place to find an everyday wine, or one with which you can cook.

The bottom shelf is where I found Grifone Primitivo at Trader Joe's. For a store which features so many rock-bottom prices on wine, it is worth noting that they do a fine job of curating those shelves, from top to bottom.

Grifone is made from 100% Primitivo grapes, grown in Puglia, in the heel of Italy's boot. In case you are unfamiliar with the Primitivo grape, it is the same as the Zinfandel grape. It just has an Italian name. Alcohol is reasonably light at 13% abv and the price is only $5 at Trader Joe's

This wine is dark ruby in the glass and offers a beautiful nose that is full of dark fruit aromas and a good bit of oak. Tar also appears, adding a very earthy angle to the bouquet. On the palate, big, jammy blackberry, blueberry and cassis flavors are joined together by oak spice and a healthy dose of tannins. Despite the oak mentions, the wine tastes clean and fresh. The winery recommends pairing it with aged cheeses. I like it with spaghetti and meatballs. I used the wine in my sauce.


Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Cooking With Aglianico

The 2021 Epicuro Aglianico was produced by the D'Aquino family. The brand is not listed on their website, so this may be a second label from the maker. I remember reading someone's opinion, years ago, that Epicuro was a good cheap wine to look for. 

The grapes came from southern Italy's Puglia region. Alcohol tips only 13% abv and my bottle cost $7 at Trader Joe's. I always use an Italian wine in my pasta sauce, and this Aglianico gave the sauce a dark richness that I had never found before. 

This wine has a medium-dark purple color in the glass. The nose is somewhat muted, but a good sniff will find some blackberry and blueberry aromas with a strong rustic sensibility. The flavors are certainly not shy about coming forward. Very dark fruit comes forth right away. A bit of oak spice makes itself known, but does not overwhelm. The tannins are firm and the acidity is refreshing. This is a full and juicy wine, with a finish that lingers awhile.


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Wednesday, November 22, 2023

A Bargain Pinot From The Russian River Valley

California wine négociant Cameron Hughes owns no vineyards and has no official winery.  He sniffs out good wine which has already been produced by established makers, then buys it on the cheap with an agreement not to reveal the source.  He then sells the wine online through his wine club - he calls it a wineocracy - bringing top-shelf wines to lower-shelf wallets.  Hughes says he keeps prices low by removing the middleman, the distributor and retailer through which store-bought wines must pass.

One of his latest finds is a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from a top Sonoma County estate which discontinued its Pinot program. Hughes says it is one of his best acquisitions of the year. 

Lot 947 Pinot Noir is of the 2018 vintage, carries alcohol at 14.5% abv and sells for $19.

This wine is medium dark garnet. The nose is made up of raspberry and plum aromas, with liberal dollops of clove, tobacco and spice. Expected notes of tea or cola were noticeably absent. A slight cola note appears on the palate, along with ripe, dark fruit and oak spice. The acidity is zesty. This is not a brawny Pinot, but it is a bit too rambunctious to be considered elegant. It is, however, a very nice sip and a wonderful pairing option with meats of all kind.


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Monday, October 30, 2023

French Rosé At A Bargain Price

Here is a bargain rosé from the Perrin family. They have been making wine in the south of France for more than a century. They adorn the back label of the 2022 La Ferme Julien with a quote attributed to Leonardo da Vinci: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Is it really so simple? Stay away from chemical fertilizers, use natural nutrients in the soil to bring the vines to maturity, adopt a laissez-faire attitude in the cellar. Not so difficult, I suppose.

La Ferme Julien is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault grapes, it carries alcohol at a mere 12.5% abv and it sells for around $10.

This wine has a soft, light, onion skin pink hue. The nose is fresh and fruity. There is a bushel basket of strawberries in the aroma package, along with citrus minerality and that wonderful smell of rain on a hot sidewalk. The palate is dominated by the acidity, which is quite lively. Ripe red fruit is there, of course, as is a healthy dose of lemon and tangerine. The wine finishes long and the acidity keeps on working after the sip. 


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Monday, October 23, 2023

Is A Cheap Chardonnay A Bargain?

Looking for a bargain in the wine aisle can be a daunting experience. Is a cheap wine necessarily a bargain? Not by a long shot. If you are not paying a lot for a bad wine, you got a good price, but at a cost. Good deals abound, though. It just takes a little discerning shopping. 

The 2021 Winemakers Selection Classic Series Chardonnay is cheap, real cheap. My expectations were not high while unscrewing the cap. But, in the interest of investigative reporting, I did unscrew and poured a glass.

On both the front and back labels of the bottle there are references to the fact that the wine was "California made," which is an unusual expression to find on a wine label. California is not given as an appellation, although the state is listed on the website as the "origin" of the wine. The verbal dancing makes me wonder where the grapes were grown. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the wine costs somewhere around $5. 

This wine has a nice golden color. It smells fruity, with lots of citrus, pear and peach notes showing. The nose also has a significant amount of oak on it. The palate bears out the oak treatment, with a hefty dose of wood. If that is not in your wheelhouse, you might want to steer clear. If oak is your jam, then this is a great bargain for you.


Monday, September 25, 2023

A Bargain Chardonnay From Santa Barbara County

Magistrate Wines are a bargain brand, a supermarket wine. It is available, usually, for less than $10 and the company has a small line of wines - a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Alexander Valley, a Paso Robles Merlot, a Lodi Zinfandel and a Santa Barbara County Chardonnay.

Santa Barbara County is, I think, an unheralded wine region. It does not get the same sort of play that Napa Valley or Burgundy gets, but the wines from that large AVA are typically excellent. They are also nearly always a tad expensive, so it was with great curiosity that I plucked the bottle of white wine from the bottom shelf at Walmart. 

One of Magistrate's winemakers, Kip Lorenzetti, calls the company's creations "unpretentious and elegant." He has hit the nail on the head, at least for the Chardonnay.

There is little information on specifics available, but the label tells us that the grapes are from Santa Barbara County and the alcohol level sits at 13.5% abv. It cost about $5. There is an effect of oak.

This yellow wine has a somewhat muted nose of citrus, minerals and apricots, with just a hint of vanilla. The palate is far more expressive, showing a beautiful array of lemons, limes, tangerines and green apples. The oak treatment is nicely done, spicy but not over-the-top buttery. The label had me hoping that the wine inside the bottle would be good, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was much better than good. This wine is not simply inexpensive - it's a bargain.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Mendoza Malbec

Back in the 19th century, cuttings of Malbec grape vines were brought to Argentina. They thrived there. Malbec is now the king of grapes in the South American country. If a Mendoza winery can afford to age only one grape in oak, it will be Malbec.

The 2021 Diseño Malbec is a young, simple wine but a tasty one which is lacking a bit in the area of tannic grip. Alcohol hits only 13% abv and it sells for less than $10.

This wine is medium dark purple with a very youthful appearance around the rim. The nose displays plenty of ripe dark fruit, mainly blueberries, augmented by oak spice. Vanilla, clove, coffee, lavender and a hint of perfume. The palate has dark fruit as well, but an earthy savoriness accompanies it. Tannins are easy-going and the acidity is refreshing. This is a good match for a burger or hot dog or pizza, foods with which I typically don't want a red wine. This one is mellow enough to go along with them. 


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Another Bargain Chardonnay

The Whole Foods Market site shows a variety of wines by Three Wishes - Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a blend of Colombard and Pinot Grigio. That last one sounds interesting enough that I wish I had found it when I bought the Chardonnay. Oops, there goes one of my three wishes.

The product page shows, in addition to wine, a grain-free, gluten-free breakfast cereal under the Three Wishes name. I was not so interested in the cereal, but the wine really was pretty good, especially for one that cost only $4. There is not a lot of information out there on Three Wishes. I can tell you that the back label shows it as an "American Chardonnay," which is not something I've ever run across on a wine that is apparently from California. The non-vintage wine runs alcohol at 12.5% abv.

This wine has a golden hue in the glass. It smells quite nice, with Meyer lemon, cantaloupe, minerals and a heavy wash of apricot nectar. The palate is crisp and not as oaky as I would have expected. The effect of the barrel aging is noticeable, but not overdone. The other Three Wishes varieties are in the same price range. If you have to buy lots of bottles for a party or meeting, Three Wishes would seem like a good choice.


Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Budget Cabernet Sauvignon

If you shop for wine and have a budget to which you must adhere, your eye is no doubt attracted by bargain wines at unbelievably low prices.  The problem with bargain wines, of course, is that they often are no bargain at all. Cheap wine with little or no redeeming value is just cheap wine. That's why it's nice to know a good bargain when you see one.

Meridian Cabernet Sauvignon can be had at grocery stores, and for very little money - especially considering that it's California's premier grape, one that usually commands a premier price. On the label, where I expect to find the appellation listed, the words "rich and velvety" appear - so, no Napa, no Paso, no Sonoma. The winery lists its location as Livermore, one of the more unheralded of California's wine regions. There also is no vintage listed.

This Cabernet Sauvignon does not adhere to the practice of billboarding your high-class wine region front and center. In fact, the tech sheet for this wine gets no more specific about where the grapes were grown than "select vineyards in sun drenched California," which is at least a bit more helpful than "rich and velvety," although not much. The winery does have a good reputation, however, for presenting good quality wines at low prices - surprisingly low. 

This Cab is unusual - by California standards, anyway - because part of it was vinified in stainless steel tanks instead of oak vats. The majority was fermented in oak and aged there for a mere six months instead of the customary year or two or three for Cabernets in the Golden State. Both factors allow the fruit to speak without the hand of oak covering its mouth. Two more things set the Meridian Cab apart from its top-shelf brethren - alcohol registers only 13% abv and the retail price sits at right around five bucks a bottle.

This wine shows a medium-dark ruby red color and a nose that is as pretty as they come. Cassis, strawberry, black cherry and clove make up the majority of the fragrances. Notable for their absence are darker, moodier notes like leather, forest floor or tobacco - this is a "happy Cab." The fruit comes first on the palate, too, with bright cherry and currant in the lead. The freshness of this Cab is amazing, and it delivers on the label's promise of "rich and velvety."


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