Tag Archives: cheap wine

Wine of the week: Honoro Vera Monastrell 2013


Honoro Vera MonastrellBuy this wine. The Honoro Vera Monastrell is that cheap and that well made — what else needs to be said? In this, it not only reaffirms that Spanish wine offers the best value in the world today, but that it’s possible for a producer to make honest wine and to respect its customers.

Monastrell is the Spanish name for the French mourvedre (though there is some dispute), and is mostly used in red blends. The Honoro Vera ($9, sample, 14%), from the fourth-generation Gil family, shows how to do it as a varietal, focusing on its earthy, almost gamey flavor. But don’t let that scare you off, for there is plenty of blueberry fruit and almost spicy tannins. It’s difficult to believe that a wine made with this grape at this price can be this enjoyable. I drank it with chicken breasts roasted with olive oil and herbs, and the pairing was spot on.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to enter the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. I have written this a lot this year, as wine prices have gone up and quality has gone down, but this wine restores my faith in the wine business. I have tasted so much junk at $15 and $20, where the producer cares not at all about quality and only about margins, that the Gil family does this reminds me why I love wine.

Wine of the week: Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc 2014


Line39 Sauvignon Blanc Line 39 is one of five labels owned by Cecchetti Wine, which makes it a sort of Big Wine company brand. In this, the sauvignon blanc can teach the rest of Big Wine a thing or two.

That’s because the Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc ($12, sample, 13%) does something too many Big Wines don’t — offers more than the one flavor that dominates everything else, on the theory that’s all cheap wine consumers want or understand. Instead, it makes the step from the quality $10 wine that it has been over the years to outstanding $10 wine that we don’t have enough of. This may be the best Line 39 sauvignon blanc vintage yet.

Look for muted citrus (lemon-lime) in the front, some tropical fruit in the middle, and a richness that previous vintages didn’t have. This is exactly what quality sauvignon blanc should taste like, regardless of price, and that the citrus is muted puts in squarely in the California style. Plus, the wine doesn’t have any of the bitterness in the back that too many $10 wines expect us to endure as the cost of paying that little.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame (since it’s $10 in many parts of the country).  Drink this chilled on its own or with anything with garlic and parsley — grilled shrimp, for instance, or spaghetti olio.

Wine of the week: Straccali Chianti 2014


Straccali ChiantiThe retail market, despite years of producers wishing otherwise, is still awash in cheap Chianti, the Italian red wine made with sangiovese from the Chianti region of Tuscany. Most of it, save for a couple of brands like Melini, tastes like you’d expect: harsh and bitter, with little reason to drink even though it costs less than $10. 

Add the Straccali Chianti ($8, purchased, 12%) to the first group. It’s not just a better value than the Melini, which I love, but a well-made wine that embarrasses all those $15 grocery store red Italians with their cute names and shiny labels. One of the great questions in Italian wine: Why, if the country’s winemakers can do something like the Straccali Chianti, do they do so many dull, overpriced, Paso Robles-style wines on the theory Americans prefer them? Trust me — we want quality, not marketing.

Look for more depth than the Melini, so that you have to swallow twice to get a hint of everything that’s going on. It’s also less rustic, with black pepper, red cherry, a little more grip, and the acidity that Chianti is famous for. One key to this wine: a touch of merlot is blended with the traditional sangiovese and canaiolo grapes, which rounds out the flavors and mouth feel. Plus, no oak, which lends more freshness than you expect.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to be added to the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this as the weather cools on its own if you want a glass of red, or with pork or beef that will complement the crisp red fruit, as well as red sauce.


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