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Tag Archives: inexpensive wine

Wine of the week: Casillero del Diablo Malbec Reserva 2013

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Casillero del Diablo malbecChilean malbec is a wine oxymoron. The Argentines make malbec, not the Chileans, so what’s the point of something like the Casillero del Diablo malbec? In addition, the Casillero del Diablo brand, made by Concha y Toro, is often undistinguished grocery store stuff, another reason to wonder about the quality of the malbec.

Which is why the first rule of wine writing is to taste the wine before you judge it. The Casillero del Diablo malbec ($9, sample, 13.5%) is much more than it should be, a value quality red that can often be found for a couple of bucks less than the suggested price. Look for some grip, where the wine has staying power in your mouth and not just gobs of fruit. In fact, there isn’t too much black fruit (plums? black cherries?), making this more like an older style of French malbec than a 21st century Argentine one. The oak is muted, and if the middle isn’t very full, it’s not short and offensive, either. The finish has what wine geeks like to call chewy tannins — not overdone, but almost meaty.

Pair this with any red meat, be it hamburgers or something a little more sophisticated, and it would go well with sausages, too. And remember, as you drink it, that tasting wine is the most important — and only — way to assess quality.

Wine of the week: Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2014

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matua valley sauvignon blancTreasury Wine Estates has come in for its share of criticism on the blog, including its failure to help me retire to Burgundy. In this, Treasury has been everything Big Wine shouldn’t be — arrogant, unwieldy, and not focused on its customers. So how does the Matua Valley sauvignon blanc fit in?

As an example that shows what Big Wine can do when it isn’t arrogant, unwieldy, and unfocused. Treasury owns the company that makes the Matua Valley sauvignon blanc ($10, purchased, 13%), and this white from New Zealand is exactly what you want to be able to buy at the grocery store — well-made, tasty, food-friendly, and something that offers more than $10 worth of value. I wish I could say that about more supermarket wines.

Look for enough red grapefruit so that you can tell it’s sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, plus some tropical fruit in the middle that is usually a sign of a more expensive wine. It’s not as simple as other $10 Kiwi sauvignon blancs, and there was even more of a finish than I expected.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this chilled on its own, especially as summer drags on, or with grilled or boiled seafood. And, as with most sauvignon blancs, it pairs well with almost anything made with olive oil, parsley, and garlic.

And be glad that someone at Treasury didn’t think Matua was important enough to micro-manage, and so left it alone to make something of this quality.

Wine of the week: Hess Sauvignon Blanc Select 2014

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hess sauvignon blancThe knock against Big Wine is that it can’t make terroir-driven wines, because the formula that has given us better quality at lower prices works against that style. But that’s not necessarily true, and we have the Hess sauvignon blanc to prove the point.

Hess is among the 30 biggest producers in the U.S. and it sells six brands besides its namesake. So why is the Hess sauvignon blanc ($11, sample, 13.5%) a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame (since it’s probably $9.99 in many places)? Because not everyone in Big Wine uses the same formula, or any formula at all.

The Hess sauvignon blanc is a tremendous value, given that most sauvignon blanc at this price tastes like it came off an assembly line — a requisite amount of grapefruit, a hint of something tropical, and not much of a finish. This wine is the just the opposite. It shouts of the grassy aroma and flavor that defines California sauvignon blanc, and those are followed by some lemon fruit and a stony finish. Plus, it’s fresh and crisp, two of the qualities that make sauvignon blanc so attractive.

Highly recommended — wine from a producer that cares about quality, its customers, and charging a fair price for its products. Drink this chilled on its own, or with grilled or roasted chicken.

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