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Tag Archives: cheap wine

Spanish wine may offer the best value in the world — part I

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Spanish wineThis is the first of two parts discussing why Spanish wine may be the best value in the world today. Part II, with reviews of some of Spain’s best-value wines, is here.

The reasons are many, and they add up to the same thing: Spanish wine, whether red, white, pink, or bubbly, probably offers the best value in the world, and certainly for the cheap wine that we celebrate here.

Count the reasons:

•  Continuing political and economic unrest in Spain. The Eurozone’s inability to recover from the recession, combined with Spain’s particular problems (including 25 percent unemployment), have devastated the domestic wine market. Hence Spain’s need to export at very competitive prices.

• Spanish wine staying the province of Spanish companies, as opposed to multinationals buying or taking over Spanish producers. This has allowed Spanish companies to focus on Spanish wine, instead of Spanish wine being one small part of a larger company.

• Spanish producers focusing on Spanish varietals that taste like Spanish wine, saving us from the spectacle of Spanish chardonnay. This switch to the so-called international varietals has been a problem elsewhere, even though the Italians refuse to admit it.

• Improvements in technology, winemaking, and grape growing. This is part of the revolution seen elsewhere in the world, and the Spanish have not been left behind.

• Spain’s relative anonymity in the U.S. market, which means that its wines have to be better and offer more value — not only to attract consumers, but to convince distributors and retailers they’re worth carrying. If you’re going to take shelf space away from cash cows like Kendall Jackson, Yellow Tail, and Barefoot, you’d better be pretty good.

• Some of the best importers in the world, who can find the wines that fit these requirements. I regularly rave about Ole Imports; Hand-Picked Selections is also excellent, and Eric Solomon and Jorge Ordonez have long been bringing in top-flight Spanish wines. And that’s only a handful of the best.

Mini-reviews 65: Taris, Gruet, Cabirau, Yalumba

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reviews Taris, Gruet, Cabirau, YalumbaReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

• Chateau Taris 2012 ($6, purchased, 12.5%): This Trader Joe’s red Bordeaux, with some red fruit, some oak, and soft tannins, is worth exactly what it costs. Whether it’s worth buying is up to you; I’d just as soon spend a couple of dollars more for a more interesting wine.

• Gruet Brut Rose NV ($16, sample, 12%): This New Mexico bubbly, now labeled American, was disappointingly dull and not what it once was. Not much body, with muted red fruit and a hit of caramel.

Domaine Cabirau Rosé 2013 ($12, purchased, 13%): Not quite Hall of Fame quality wine, but another in what is a wonderfully long line of delicious and well made roses for around $10. From southern France, made with a grenache blend, with tarti strawberry fruit, lots of crispness, and even a touch of spice.

Yalumba Riesling 2012 ($10, purchased, 12.6%): This vintage of the Hall of Fame Aussie white is missing something, which may be nothing more than old age from sitting in a warehouse for too long. Some lemon and a hint of petrol, but thin and not all that much fun on the back end.

Second annual five-day, $3 wine challenge

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$3 wine challenge

You won’t need a pile of money to buy these wines.

In which the Wine Curmudgeon puts his money where his mouth is. Each night next week, I’ll drink a $3 wine with dinner and attempt to answer the question: Can a wine drinker live on really cheap wine? Are the claims made by producers like Fred Franzia and the various anti-critics true, that most of us can’t tell the difference and that it doesn’t matter if we can?

Last year, when I did five $3 chardonnays, the results were mixed — mostly OK, but we expect more than OK from our cheap wine. This year, I’ll drink six merlots (yes, I know that’s one more than the days, but I’ll figure out the logistics). First, to do a red wine, and second, because merlot is the easiest red wine to make. It has fewer problems with tannins, and there shouldn’t be a problem finding quality fruit. All six wines were purchased in Dallas:

Two-buck Chuck ($2.99, 12.5%), the Trader Joe’s private label that was the first and remains the most famous of the very cheap wines. It’s a California wine from the 2012 vintage.

• Three Wishes ($2.99, 12.5%), the Whole Foods private label. It carries an American appellation, which means it’s non-vintage and at least three-quarters of the grapes used to make it were grown in the U.S.

Winking Owl ($2.89, 12.5%) from Aldi but may be available elsewhere. Also American and non-vintage.

• Yosemite Road ($3.99, 12%), a private label for 7-Eleven. The label says red blend, and is probably close to merlot. Yes, it’s $1 more, but I haven’t reviewed a Yosemite Road in five years, and this seemed like a good time. Also American and non-vintage.

Oak Leaf ($2.97, 12.5%), the Walmart private label. Also American and non-vintage.

Southern Point ($2.39, 12.5%), the Walgreen’s private label, because I always tick off someone when I do a drug store wine. Also American and non-vintage.

I’m not doing HEB’s Cul-de-Sac this year, since it’s only available in Texas. I’ll post the results of the challenge on Oct. 6, but you can keep up with the day-to-day action by following me on Twitter or checking out the Wine Curmudgeon Facebook page.

Again this year, all the wines but the Two-buck Chuck are made by The Wine Group, one of the Big Six and whose brands include Cupcake. And none of them have a screwcap, which I can’t even begin to understand. Why would anyone want to pay more for the tool that opens the wine than the wine itself?

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