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Category Archives: $10 wine

Second annual five-day, $3 wine challenge

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$3 wine challenge

You won’t need a pile of money to buy these wines.

In which the Wine Curmudgeon puts his money where his mouth is. Each night next week, I’ll drink a $3 wine with dinner and attempt to answer the question: Can a wine drinker live on really cheap wine? Are the claims made by producers like Fred Franzia and the various anti-critics true, that most of us can’t tell the difference and that it doesn’t matter if we can?

Last year, when I did five $3 chardonnays, the results were mixed — mostly OK, but we expect more than OK from our cheap wine. This year, I’ll drink six merlots (yes, I know that’s one more than the days, but I’ll figure out the logistics). First, to do a red wine, and second, because merlot is the easiest red wine to make. It has fewer problems with tannins, and there shouldn’t be a problem finding quality fruit. All six wines were purchased in Dallas:

Two-buck Chuck ($2.99, 12.5%), the Trader Joe’s private label that was the first and remains the most famous of the very cheap wines. It’s a California wine from the 2012 vintage.

• Three Wishes ($2.99, 12.5%), the Whole Foods private label. It carries an American appellation, which means it’s non-vintage and at least three-quarters of the grapes used to make it were grown in the U.S.

Winking Owl ($2.89, 12.5%) from Aldi but may be available elsewhere. Also American and non-vintage.

• Yosemite Road ($3.99, 12%), a private label for 7-Eleven. The label says red blend, and is probably close to merlot. Yes, it’s $1 more, but I haven’t reviewed a Yosemite Road in five years, and this seemed like a good time. Also American and non-vintage.

Oak Leaf ($2.97, 12.5%), the Walmart private label. Also American and non-vintage.

Southern Point ($2.39, 12.5%), the Walgreen’s private label, because I always tick off someone when I do a drug store wine. Also American and non-vintage.

I’m not doing HEB’s Cul-de-Sac this year, since it’s only available in Texas. I’ll post the results of the challenge on Oct. 6, but you can keep up with the day-to-day action by following me on Twitter or checking out the Wine Curmudgeon Facebook page.

Again this year, all the wines but the Two-buck Chuck are made by The Wine Group, one of the Big Six and whose brands include Cupcake. And none of them have a screwcap, which I can’t even begin to understand. Why would anyone want to pay more for the tool that opens the wine than the wine itself?

Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Rouge 2010

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Chateau Bonnet rougeChateau Bonnet Rouge ($10, purchased, 14%) is the quintessential cheap red wine:

• It tastes of where it’s from, in this case the Bordeaux region of France. That means enough fruit to be recognizable (mostly red); some earthiness so that it doesn’t taste like it came from Argentina or Australia (almost mushroomy for this vintage); and tannins that make the wine taste better.

• Varietally correct, so that the merlot and cabernet sauvignon taste like merlot and cabernet sauvignon, and not some gerrymandered red wine where the residual sugar level was fixed before the wine was made.

• It doesn’t have any flaws or defects, and is consistent from vintage to vintage.

In this, it shows that simple wines can be enjoyable and that simple does not mean stupid or insulting. What more do wine drinkers need?

And if the Bonnet needs any more to recommend it, this was a four-year-old $10 wine. Too many four-year-old $10 wines don’t make it past 18 months before they oxidize or turn to vinegar.

Highly recommended (as are the Bonnet blanc and rose). The only catch is pricing. Some retailers, even for older, previous vintages like this, figure they can get $15 for it because it has a French label that says Bordeaux. It’s still a fine value for $15, but I hate to give those kinds of retailers my business.

Wine of the week: Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2013

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Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2009This South African white is one of the world’s great cheap wines. So why did I have to taste it in a restaurant in San Diego, instead of buying it in a store in Dallas?

You know the reason for that: the three tier-system.

But the Wine Curmudgeon will not let that deter him from his life’s work. What’s a constitutionally-protected regulatory system when terrific cheap wine is at stake?

Because the Ken Forrester ($10, purchased, 13%) is terrific — a surprisingly rich mouth feel given this is $10 chenin blanc, plus green apple fruit, a tiny hint of honey in the middle, and even some minerality on the finish. In this, it’s the kind of chenin — not sweet, not syrupy, not a sauvignon blanc knockoff, but with character and interest — that makes me wonder why the grape isn’t more popular. I rarely quote producer websites, but this is spot on: “Perfect everyday drinking wine.”

Especially if you live in the ninth largest city in the country where 100-degree summer days cry out for this kind of wine. Or, as several of my colleagues said when we bought the wine in San Diego, “What do you mean, you can’t buy this in Dallas?” Which, come to think of it, has always been a problem.

Highly recommended, but since it’s not for sale in Dallas, it can’t be in the $10 Hall of Fame. Unless I change the rules, but I don’t run that kind of Hall of Fame.

 

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