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Category Archives: Red wine

Wine of the week: Melini Chianti Borghi d’Elsa 2013

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Melini ChiantiThis summer, the Wine Curmudgeon attended a big-time Italian trade tasting, which included five Chiantis from the Melini producer. None of them cost more than $25 or $30, which is saying something for big-time Italian trade tastings.

All of which means that the 300-year-old Melini knows a thing or two about making quality cheap wine, and the Borghi d’Elsa ($7, purchased, 13%) amply demonstrates this expertise. It’s a red wine made with sangiovese from the Chianti region of Italy, and every time I taste it, I’m surprised by how well done it is. Look for berry fruit, more black than red, clean and fresh, and just enough character — some tannins and earthiness — to let you know this is wine from Italy. It’s a simple wine, but as I have noted before, simple does not have to mean stupid.

The other that impresses me about the Melini Chianti? The company doesn’t waste money on the bottle, which is lightweight and without much of a punt. Would that other cheap wine producers did the same thing.

This is winter red sauce wine, and braised pot roast wouldn’t be so bad, either. If it’s not quite a $10 Hall of Fame wine, it’s still better than most of the $10 wine on store shelves, and shows just how much great cheap wine there is in the world.

Wine of the week: Faustino VII Tinto 2010

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faustino viiWhen the Wine Curmudgeon started drinking wine, but before I started paying as much attention as I do now, a version of the Faustino was on store shelves. How old-fashioned, I thought, Roman numerals on a wine label.

Which is why I appreciate the Faustino VII ($8, purchased, 13%), and even a vintage as old as this one (of which there is still quite a bit on store shelves). It’s a Spanish red from the Rioja region, made with tempranillo, and about as old-fashioned a Rioja as you’ll find these days — from the Roman numerals to its traditional style, which is one reason why a 2010 $10 wine is still drinkable. The Spanish rarely make wines, even cheap ones, that go off in a year or two.

This isn’t Hall of Fame quality wine, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s Tuesday night takeout wine, orange beef, perhaps. It’s simple, but simple doesn’t mean stupid or insipid. Bodegas Faustino is a 150-year-old producer, and they’ve found a winemaking approach that works. And has worked. And keeps working.

Look for cherry fruit, Spanish-style acid, earthiness, and even what seemed to be a little oxidation — not unpleasant, but another sign of an old-fashioned Spanish wine. My guess is that the newer vintages, and there is a 2013, will taste about the same, minus the oxidation. That’s consistency to be appreciated.

Wine of the week: Feudo Zirtari Nero d’Avola-Syrah 2011

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Feudo Zirtari Nero d'Avola-Syrah One more reason that Sicilian wine deserves to enter the mainstream — the Zirtari ($12, purchased, 14%), a funky wine that is delicious yet does not seem especially Sicilian. One knows a wine region has found its niche when you can write that about one of its wines.

First, the Zirtari is almost one-half syrah, hardly a grape indigenous to the island. Second, the syrah gives it an almost Rhone-like character, richer (almost fatty) than similarly-priced Sicilian reds. Plus, there isn’t much earthiness, but there is well-balanced black fruit and the particular character that the Sicilian nero d’avola grape adds to a well-made wine.

In all, a wine that is enjoyable, dark, and almost brooding. It’s intense enough for summer barbecue and red meat, but not so heavy, with its 14 percent alcohol, to be be off-putting in hot weather. It was a most pleasant surprise to find when I was looking for something else.

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