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Category Archives: Wine of the week

Wine of the week: PradoRey Rueda 2013

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pradorey ruedaThere are a variety of reasons why Spanish wine isn’t more popular in the United States, but to put it most simply: The wines are made with grapes that most of us have never heard of and come from regions that are even more obscure.

Case in point is the PradoRey Rueda ($11, sample, 12.5%), a white wine that comes from the Rueda region just northwest of Madrid and is made with the verdejo grape. In this, it does not seem like the kind of wine that would scream at shoppers from a grocery store shelf filled with chardonnay (hence the 84 it got from one user on CellarTracker, the blog’s unofficial wine app). 

But it does stand out, offering the exceptional quality and value that Spain delivers these days. Look for clean, sour lemon fruit, but this is also a wine that is softer and richer than similar white wines at this price, with a hint of something tropical that balances the lemon. It’s a much more complex wine that it should be, and I was surprised at how I kept tasting it even after I had swallowed the wine.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame if I can find it for $10 in the Dallas area. Chill this and drink it on its own, or with anything that is traditional white wine food. And it would work wonders with grilled seafood or something like arroz con pollo.

Wine of the week: Pillar Box Red 2012

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Pillar Box RedWant to dissect the sad, recent history of the Australian wine business? Then look at the blog’s reviews for Pillar Box Red ($10, sample, 14.5%), which first appeared in 2009, and again in 2011. It cost $12 for the 2007 vintage, and many retailers marked it up to as much as $15. In those days, the Pillar Box Red was an affordable and more accessible alternative to the inky and overpriced Aussie reds that got high scores and glowing reviews.

These days, the wine costs $10, and you can find older wines for as little as $8. Meanwhile, the release of new Pillar Box Red vintages has been irregular — another sign that the market has dried up for Australian wine at almost any price. Which is good news for wine drinkers, because this an exceptional red blend worth $12, a steal at $10, and even worth buying in older vintages.

Look for powerful, rich black fruit, which remains a signature of this kind of Australian wine. But the Pillar Box Red doesn’t taste cheap, hot, or ashy, and there is more than fruit here. The cabernet sauvignon and merlot in the blend take the edge of the shiraz, and it’s a more enjoyable wine because of it. This is red meat wine, and don’t overlook sausages. Nicely done, and a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame.

Wine of the week: Ocean Blue Chardonnay 2013

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Ocean Blue ChardonnayOne of the most important trends in the wine business is the increase in private label wines, which give retailers an exclusive to sell and a bigger profit margin when they do. The catch is that private label wines, which are sold in only one retailer and can be limited in availability, are too often of indifferent quality.

That’s not the case with the Ocean Blue Chardonnay ($9, purchased, 12.5%), a private label for the Aldi grocery store chain. This New Zealand white is unoaked, which helps to keep the price down and gives it a bright and fresh approach. In addition, there is lots of crisp green apple and a rich mouth feel despite the lack of oak.

In this, it’s not especially subtle, but $10 New Zealand wine has never been famous for being understated. That’s how the country’s sauvignon blanc became famous, after all. And those who need vanilla or toasty and oaky in their chardonnay will probably wonder what it’s doing here.

But those of us who are more open minded about chardonnay will appreciate the wine’s value. Drink this chilled, on its own or with white wine food, and even something with a simple sauce. Grilled chicken breasts with garlic and parsley, perhaps? And hope more private labels approach this level of quality.

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