Category Archives: $10 wine

Wine of the week: Falesco Vitiano Bianco 2014


Falesco Vitiano BiancoMy tasting notes for the Falesco Vitiano Bianco are simple and to the point: “Cheap wine doesn’t get any better than this.”

The Falesco ($10, purchased, 12.5%), an Italian white blend, has been that way since I first tasted it 10 or 12 years ago. The red and the rose have been equally as impressive, an example to the the rest of the wine world that it’s possible to combine value, quality, and terroir in a cheap wine. This wine is so well made and so dependable that a distributor friend of mine practically went into mourning when his company lost the rights to sell the brand.

What else do you need to know about this blend of verdicchio and vermentino from Umbria in central Italy? Look for some citrus aromas, white fruit flavors (somewhere between apricot and peach) and a pleasing Italian minerality at the end. Drink this chilled on its own, whenever you want a glass of white wine after work. It’s also a fine food wine, pairing with almost anything, be it Chinese takeout or spaghetti with clam sauce.

Highly recommended, and the Falesco Vitiano Blanco will return to the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame next month. And, in this, the perfect wine of the week to introduce the third annual Best Cheap Wine Poll, which starts tomorrow.

Cheap holiday wine

cheap holiday wine

“Yes, but where did they hide the alcohol percentage?”

The Wine Curmudgeon was in august company earlier this month, helping several of the top restaurant wine people in Dallas pick cheap holiday wine for The Dallas Morning News’ regular wine feature. It was a fascinating experience, and not just because we found some terrific wine for the paper’s readers. Rather, I got to see wine from a different perspective — those who buy wine for restaurants, and where the cost of the wine isn’t as important as to them as it is to me.

Among the highlights of the tasting, which looked at wines costing less than $13 or so:

• The best wine of the tasting? A long-time member of the $10 Hall of Fame, the Chateau Bonnet white. The best red was also French, the Jaboulet Parallèle 45 Rhone blend, and which tasted fresher and more interesting than the last time I had it.

• How much terrible cheap wine is there in the world? So much that even I was surprised, and I probably taste more crappy wine than almost anyone. Too many of the wines were embarrassments — no varietal character, fruitiness verging on sweetness for wines that weren’t supposed to be sweet, and flaws like unripe fruit and off aromas.

• Availability reared its ugly head more than once. One wine we wanted to recommend, the Zestos rose, didn’t make the final cut because the only Dallas retailer that carried it out was almost sold out. This, said several panelists, happens more often than not, depriving readers of quality wine. Also, there were too many old and worn out wines in the tasting, because Dallas retailers leave them on the shelf instead of dumping them for newer and fresher vintages.

• The restaurant perspective was fascinating. I evaluate wines by price — is there value for money? Hence, I don’t treat a $5 wine the same as I do a $50 wine; I expect more of the latter. The restaurant perspective, if not exactly the opposite, is about quality. Is it a quality wine to serve to their guests? If so, then they decide if it’s worth the money.

Finally, a tip o’ the WC’s fedora to my pal Tina Danze, who oversees the tastings, for asking me to participate. It was much fun, and I was flattered she wanted my cheap wine experience on the same panel with people like Paul Botamer, the wine director for Fearings at Dallas’ Ritz-Carlton.

Wine of the week: Casteller Cava NV


casteller cavaSomehow, despite the Wine Curmudgeon’s passion for cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, and several reviews of the Casteller rose cava, I have neglected to review the Casteller brut. What better time time to rectify this than for Thanksgiving?

The Casteller cava ($10, purchased, 11.5%) does everything sparkling wine is supposed to do, regardless of price. It has tight bubbles that sparkle up from the bottom of the glass; a vague notion of the toast that is part of Champagne’s appeal; and crisp, fresh, sweet lemon fruit. In this, it’s not exactly soft like some Proseccos or sweet sparklers, but more fruit forward, and certainly not unpleasant.

And, for your $10, you can buy four bottles the Casteller cava instead of one bottle of very ordinary Champagne. Highly recommended, and almost certain to enter the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame in six weeks. Chill this and serve it with Thanksgiving dinner, on its own, or any time you feel like something bubbly. Which, as regular visitors here know, is any time at all.

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