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Tag Archives: cheap wine

$100 of wine

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$100 worth of wineWhich, as anyone who has been paying attention knows, means not one or two bottles of wine for $100, but $100 of wine — an entire case, plus one, without a crappy label in it. How did I do it?

I wanted to find something from a familiar region, like Spain, that I hadn’t tried before; to try something from a new region, like Portugal, that has been getting good press; and to find wines to drink on a weeknight with a weeknight dinner, which meant low alcohol and, even in winter, rose. All the wines were purchased:

• Four bottles of Rene Barbier, two red and two white — quality $4 wine that I keep around the house for emergencies. Because, as we all know, wine emergencies are all too common.

The 2013 Charles & Charles rose ($10, 12.6%), which has lost some of its fruit over the past nine months and become more interesting in the process. How rose improves with age is something not enough people pay attention to.

Louis Tete Beaujolais-Villages ($11, 12.5%). This was a previous vintage, the 2012, from one of my favorite Beaujolais producers. It had started to fade, but it was still drinkable — a little grapey and soft, but with enough structure so it remained much more than Welch’s.

Cruz de Piedra rose, a pink Spanish garnacha, also a 2012 ($9, 13.5%). Yet another top-notch, value-oriented Spanish wine with lots of berry fruit.

Penelope Sanchez ($11, 13.5%), a delicious and funky Spanish red blend (garnacha and syrah) that might have been my favorite. It was dark and spicy, the sort of wine that is as far removed from the International style of winemaking as possible.

Maybe my favorite U.S. rose, despite its $15 price — the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare (13%). It’s always fresh, it’s always enjoyable, and the berry fruit is always impeccable.

• The Esporao Alandra Branco 2012 ($7, 12.5%) and the Barão de Vila Proeza Dao Tinto 2010 ($9, 13%). a Portuguese white and red. The former showed its age, but still had pear fruit and white pepper; the latter was a wine of the week this month. I’m still skeptical about much of the Portuguese hype, but both these wines demonstrate Portugal’s effort to make better table wine.

Artadi Tempranillo ($14, 14%), This Spanish red combines traditional style with modern winemaking, with more red fruit than I expected, but still identifiable as Spanish.

Wine of the week: Barão de Vila Proeza Dao Tinto 2010

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 Proeza Dao TintoPortuguese wine has become chic over the past year or so, which is surprising given that it has been around for hundreds of years. So what’s different this time?

Mostly that quality keeps improving. The Wine Curmudgeon has written about Portuguese wine that isn’t vinho verde off and on over the years, and the only consistent thing has been its inconsistency. The Portuguese are best known for port, the fortified dessert wine, and their table wines, red and white, often seem like afterthoughts. The whites can be thin and acidic, while the reds sometimes have a heavy, ashy feel to them.

The Proeza Dao Tinto ($9, purchased, 13%), though, demonstrates that the country’s winemakers are making impressive progress. It’s a nice little red wine, simple but not stupid, made with touriga nacional, the primary grape used to make port, plus tinta roriz, the country’s equivalent of tempranillo, and alfrocheiro, a blending grape. This combination gives the wine a rich, almost port-like feel, with plum and berry fruit. It’s not as pleasantly tart as a Spanish tempranillo can be, but that’s not a flaw.

A label note, since these terms are so unfamiliar: The producer is Barao de Vila and the wine is called Proeza, and it’s made in the Dao region, north of Lisbon about halfway between the coast and the Spanish border. Tinto, of course, is red. Drink this with traditional red wine food, and it’s also a red wine for summer — low alcohol, lots of fruit, and something that can even be served a little chilled.

Winebits 371: Winston Churchill, cheap wine, Kevin Zraly

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winston churchill wineA Churchillian anniversary: This is the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death, which the Wine Curmudgeon notes for several reasons. First, so I can run a picture of Churchill on the blog; second, because he was a fine writer and historian, which he somehow found time to do in addition to saving the world from Adolph Hitler; and third, because he appreciated wine. How many of us get a Champagne named after us? Churchill also drank wine with dinner, a practice that I like to think helped him in his battle against the Nazis — mostly red Bordeaux, which the English call claret.

Pull out those vines: Grape growers in California’s Central Valley are ripping out vines and replacing them with more profitable crops such as almonds, thanks to slowing sales of cheap wine and a glut of cheap wine from overseas. The Sacramento Bee, covering one of the biggest wine trade shows of the year, reports that some 22,000 acres of vineyards have been removed since the 2014 harvest ended. Before we panic, know that these sorts of things are cyclical, and as soon as demand picks up, the grape vines will return. It’s also worth mentioning that these vines are used in wines cost $7 or less, and often used to make the huge boxes like Franzia.

Happy No. 30: This year marks the 30th anniversary of perhaps the best wine book ever written, Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Wine Course. How good is it? I use it in my El Centro class. Mike Veseth at the the Wine Economist offers a few thoughts about the anniversary, noting that “Where many wine guides jump into geography, geology, variety and so forth in encyclopedic detail, Zraly more or less begins with the question, ‘A bottle of white? A bottle of red?’ as you would in a restaurant.” Best yet, it’s written in English, mostly avoids winespeak, and covers the basics without bogging down into wine geekdom.

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