Category Archives: $10 wine

Wine of the week: Scaia Garganega Chardonnay 2013


Scaia Garganega ChardonnayIn the Winestream Media’s version of the world, the only odd grapes that matter come from countries that don’t make enough wine to matter, but are sold in Manhattan. If odd grapes are used in something that’s actually on store shelves, the wine gets 87 points, like the Scaia Garganega Chardonnay.

Which demonstrates two things — the uselessness of scores, and the idea that we should not be afraid to try something that isn’t what we usually drink. The main reason I bought this was wine was because it was an odd blend, and as the Italian Wine Guy has said more than once, the Wine Curmudgeon never met a grape he didn’t want to try. Especially it costs $10.

The Scaia Garganega Chardonnay ($10, purchased, 12.5%), an Italian white blend, speaks to all of those points. It will never get a 90-plus score because it’s a cheap white, and because the chardonnay is blended with the grape used to make Soave, an Italian white that is too often indifferently made. Besides, any self-respecting Winestream Media type would gag at the thought of chardonnay blended with garganega.

All of which is just wine writing foolishiness. The Scaia Garganega Chardonnay features the best of each grape — crispness and acidity from the garganega and a bit of richness and tropical fruit from the chardonnay. It’s a combination that’s to be much appreciated on a hot summer day, either on its own or with any kind of seafood. It’s also the kind of wine to keep on hand if you want a glass with dinner

Highly recommended, and a candidate (almost certain to be included) for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame.


Wine of the week: Casillero del Diablo Malbec Reserva 2013


Casillero del Diablo malbecChilean malbec is a wine oxymoron. The Argentines make malbec, not the Chileans, so what’s the point of something like the Casillero del Diablo malbec? In addition, the Casillero del Diablo brand, made by Concha y Toro, is often undistinguished grocery store stuff, another reason to wonder about the quality of the malbec.

Which is why the first rule of wine writing is to taste the wine before you judge it. The Casillero del Diablo malbec ($9, sample, 13.5%) is much more than it should be, a value quality red that can often be found for a couple of bucks less than the suggested price. Look for some grip, where the wine has staying power in your mouth and not just gobs of fruit. In fact, there isn’t too much black fruit (plums? black cherries?), making this more like an older style of French malbec than a 21st century Argentine one. The oak is muted, and if the middle isn’t very full, it’s not short and offensive, either. The finish has what wine geeks like to call chewy tannins — not overdone, but almost meaty.

Pair this with any red meat, be it hamburgers or something a little more sophisticated, and it would go well with sausages, too. And remember, as you drink it, that tasting wine is the most important — and only — way to assess quality.

Wine of the week: Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2014


matua valley sauvignon blancTreasury Wine Estates has come in for its share of criticism on the blog, including its failure to help me retire to Burgundy. In this, Treasury has been everything Big Wine shouldn’t be — arrogant, unwieldy, and not focused on its customers. So how does the Matua Valley sauvignon blanc fit in?

As an example that shows what Big Wine can do when it isn’t arrogant, unwieldy, and unfocused. Treasury owns the company that makes the Matua Valley sauvignon blanc ($10, purchased, 13%), and this white from New Zealand is exactly what you want to be able to buy at the grocery store — well-made, tasty, food-friendly, and something that offers more than $10 worth of value. I wish I could say that about more supermarket wines.

Look for enough red grapefruit so that you can tell it’s sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, plus some tropical fruit in the middle that is usually a sign of a more expensive wine. It’s not as simple as other $10 Kiwi sauvignon blancs, and there was even more of a finish than I expected.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this chilled on its own, especially as summer drags on, or with grilled or boiled seafood. And, as with most sauvignon blancs, it pairs well with almost anything made with olive oil, parsley, and garlic.

And be glad that someone at Treasury didn’t think Matua was important enough to micro-manage, and so left it alone to make something of this quality.

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