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Category Archives: $10 wine

The 2015 $10 Wine Hall of Fame

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The 2015 $10 Wine Hall of FameIt’s probably not a crisis yet, but the 2015 $10 Wine Hall of Fame points to serious changes going on in the world of cheap wine. Just four wines made the Hall this year, compared to 16 and 12 the past two years. Meanwhile, five dropped out, and I considered just a dozen for inclusion, compared to the 100 or so I looked at last year.

In this, there’s a chance that cheap wine could become nothing more than what it costs, and what it tastes like won’t matter nearly as much as it does now. Blame this on the increasingly powerful role Big Wine plays in the market, and how it uses demographics, focus groups, and flavor profiles to decide how to make wine. This may be profitable, but it’s not much fun for the consumer.

Nevertheless, there is terrific wine in the 2015 $10 Wine Hall of Fame, but why not? This is still the Golden Age of Cheap Wine, no matter what may be on the horizon. Click here for the entire list, or the $10 Hall of Fame link at the top of the page. The Hall’s selection process and eligibility rules are here.

Not surprisingly, three of the four wines that made the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame were Spanish, given that Spanish wine may offer the best value in the world. The other wine was a huge surprise — the Louis Jadot Beaujolais, a wine that I never expected to be here but was happy to add.

Wine of the week: Zestos Old Vine Garnacha 2013

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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.

Bogle edges Barefoot to win 2014 cheap wine poll

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Order by noon Monday for holiday delivery for the cheap wine book


2014 cheap wine pollTalk about a hanging chad. Bogle won the 2014 cheap wine poll by a margin so thin that the outcome was in doubt until the voting ended on Tuesday night. It recorded just four more thumbs up votes than runner-up Barefoot; the latter’s thumbs down votes were more harmful, with three times as many as Bogle.

This is shocking, given that Barefoot finished sixth last year after spending most of the poll in ninth place. Plus, it’s not like I’ve been enthusiastic about Barefoot over the years, and the brands that it beat are some of the best cheap wines in the world. Barefoot second ahead of last year’s winner, Falesco Vitiano, which dropped to seventh? Unbelievable.

The explanation? Availability, I think. The top three wines, which included McManis at No. 3, are sold in grocery stores and are easier to find than most of the rest. You can only vote on what you’ve tasted, and a lot of people have tasted Barefoot. On the other hand, Two-buck Chuck was a badly beaten 10th for the second year in a row, and a lot of people have tasted it.

Other surprises? Chateau Bonnet, which is one of the last cheap French wines that tastes French and not like it was made by a committee obsessed with the so-called American palate, was ninth, with more negative votes than positive after finishing fifth in 2013. I can’t think of a reason for this, unless the voters don’t like French wines that taste French or are still hung up on freedom fries. On the other hand, Domain du Tariquet finished fourth, and that’s also a French wine that remains completely French.

Complete results are here, or you can click on the graphic at the top of the post. You can see last year’s poll here. Thanks to everyone for voting. We mostly equaled last year’s vote tally, and given the site’s Google woes over the past 12 months, that’s not too bad.

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