Tag Archives: Stemmari

2024 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: Stemmari Grillo 2022

Stemmari grillo bottle
Stemmari Grillo 2022

Sicily’s Stemmari Grillo 2022 is the blog’s seventh annual Turner Cheap Wine of the Year

Usually, one of the wines on the shortlist for the blog’s Turner Cheap Wine of the Year award is just enough better than the others so that I don’t have much trouble choosing the winner.

Not so this year. All six of the wines were award worthy, and each would have been a fine choice. So how did I settle on the Stemmari Grillo ($8, purchased, 13%)?

Call it a shout out to the late Mack Turner, who the award is named after. He and I  spent more than a few Sunday afternoons drinking this wine, and we were rarely disappointed. And, without fail, he wold always ask,”Where did you get it?” and then we would wax poetic about Jimmy’s, the Dallas Italian grocer that sells this.

What to know about the wine? Nutty. Spicy. Green apple and stone fruit. Fresh. Clean. Drink chilled, on its own or with almost anything except big red meat.

The award’s shortlist is here. Selection criteria are here; I considered wines that cost as much as $15 to take into account price creep and regional pricing differences.

More Turner Cheap Wine of the Year:
2023 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: Matchbook Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
2022 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: Scaia Rosato 2020
2021 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: MAN Chenin Blanc 2019

Wine of the week: Stemmari Grillo 2022

Stemmari grillo bottle
Stemmari Grillo 2022/$8-$15

This Italian white is a great cheap wine from a great cheap wine producer

Those of you paying attention will remember this Italian white made the shortlist for the 2024 Turner award for cheap wine of the year, which will be announced next week.

Which is why I’m using it as this wine of the week. It’s that good.

Sicilian wines have long been a staple of the blog, even after premiumization took terrific $8 and $10 wines and boosted their prices to $12 and $15 without increasing quality (and, yes, I’m looking at you).

But Stemmari, along with a couple of other producers, continued to fight the good fight. The Grillo ($8, purchased, 13%) shows its commitment to the quality wines that most of us can afford to drink. Even Wine-searcher, despite its focus on the most expensive wines in the world, says nice things about grillo like this: “It has become a viable contender for the quintessential Italian table white: light, easy-drinking and often associated with very good value.”

In this, the Stemmari is classic: Nutty. Spicy. Green apple and stone fruit. Fresh. Clean. Which is why, when I go to Jimmy’s in Dallas (which has a Stemmari display), I buy a couple or three bottles. You should, too, when you get a chance.

Imported by Prestige Wine Imports

Wine of the week: Stemmari Grillo 2021

Stemmari grillo bottle
Stemmari Grillo 2021/$8-$11

Ah, to be drinking Sicily when the cheap wine is on the shelf

Bear with the Wine Curmudgeon, as I wax poetic about the old days.

Ah, Sicily.

Once, Sicily was going to be the world’s next great cheap wine region. And then it wasn’t, for any number of reasons that we’re all too familiar with on the blog. So when I run across one of the wines that never abandoned that quest, I am that much less curmudgeonly.

The Stemmari Grillo 2021 ($8, purchased, 13%) is made with a white grape, grillo, that deserves to be more than an answer in a wine geek quiz. When it’s handled properly, as it is here, it’s neither chardonnay not sauvignon blanc and certainly not pinot grigio. Rather, it is a fresh, every day kind of wine with its own particular character.

In the Stemmari, that means simple but not stupid, with some tell-tale nuttiness (almonds?), some pear fruit, and a clean, almost stony finish. And please ignore the back label hype about “jasmine and white flowers,” which is mostly marketing.

Put a bottle of this in the refrigerator and drink it when you want a glass, or serve it with something like chicken thighs marinated in olilve oil and lemon juice.

Imported by Prestige Wine Imports

Update: Porch wine for the long, hot summer

porch wine
“I found the porch — you bring the wine. What does the WC suggest?”

With record temperatures in much of the country this summer, it’s time to update the blog’s porch wine post

Over the years, I’ve gotten less than favorable comments about the idea of porch wine — because, of course, wine is entirely too serious for porch sipping. Sigh. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

Which is just more wine snobbery. Why should the pleasure of a shaded porch and the hint of a cool breeze be reserved for iced tea, beer, and whatever else is currently popular? I find the idea of porch wine especially relevant this summer, what with the record-breaking heat in much of the country, the pandemic, and all of the other foolishness we have had to endure. So, this porch wine update.

So know this about porch wine: It’s about lighter wines, red and white (and of course, rose), that are lower in alcohol and that offer relief from the heat. The idea with a porch wine is to drink something that won’t make the sweat bead on your forehead. The blog’s original porch post is here, and there is even a porch wine terms post.

And it’s OK to add an ice cube. Honest.

The Beachhouse Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($10, purchased, 13%): This white is a simple, not too grapefruit-y South African sauvignon blanc, which has an almost pleasant bitterness in the back. The minute I tasted it, I knew it was perfect for this post. Imported by Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits

Moillard Chablis Coquillage 2018 ($25, purchased, 13%): Yes, this is expensive (though without the Trump tariff, the price may come down). But it’s also a perfect porch wine — well-made chardonnay from the Chablis region of France that is flinty, lemony, crisp. Imported by Advantage International

Stemmari Sicilia Rose 2019 ($8, purchased, 12%): There’s nothing especially Italian about this pink; it’s just well-made rose in the international style — think Washington state. That means fresh, fruity (strawberry), and clean, but not much esle. Still, it is more than enjoyable. Imported by Prestige Wine Imports

Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet 2019 ($16, purchased, 12%): Well-executed French white (made with the underrated melon de bourgogne grape) that is round in the mouth, but not soft. There’s a bit of structure and apple and pear fruit. Imported by LDM Wines

Photo: “Porch” by sonjalovas is licensed under CC BY 2.0

More about porch wine:
Memorial Day and rose 2021
Wine when the air conditioning is replaced
Wine of the week: Vinho verde 2021
Wine of the week: Vision Gruner Veltliner 2019

Mini-reviews 99: Stemmari, Mulderbosch, Capezzana, Main & Vine

stemmariReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

Stemmari Nero d’Avola 2014 ($8, purchased, 13%): This Italian red is soft, almost too ripe, and barely recognizable as wine made with the classic Sicilian nero d’avola grape. Not offensive, but this used to be a quality cheap wine. Now it’s just something to drink.

Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($16, sample, 13.5%): The problem with a $16 South African sauvignon blanc like this is that it has to offer more than almost any other sauvignon blanc at the same price. Which, frankly, is difficult to do, as the Mulderbosch shows. It’s well made enough, with lime fruit, but also thin in the middle and back and just not up to something like New Zealand’s Spy Valley or Dry Creek from California.

Capezzana Monna Nera 2014 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): This Italian red blend is too soft for my taste, without enough Italian-ness or tart cherry fruit. In this, it’s not poorly made, but too international in style (the blend contains almost 50 percent French grapes), and especially with the almost ashy finish.

Main & Vine Dry Rose NV ($6, sample, 11.1%): This is a fascinating pink effort (a five-grape California blend) from Big Wine, in this case Treasury Wine Estates. It’s not dry, but about as sweet as most sweet reds. Having said that, it’s rose-like and worth the $6 if you want something with a little sugar, but not nearly as sweet as white zinfandel.