Story and photos by Linda Kissam
The March Mens Wine Council tasted wines in the $13-$25 range. This seems timely as retail customers are spending less for a bottle of wine than they did two years ago. In 2009 the $25 – $35 range was selling well. New research tells us $15 to $20 is the new sales sweet spot – often producing a quality experience the wine lover will gladly shell out for.
This is great news for consumers everywhere. The new focus on wines in the $15-$20 has resulted in a kind of renaissance in the category, with more — and better — bottling’s available than ever before. Take a stroll down your favorite wine shop; you’ll see what I mean. A local Long Beach, CA wine owner said he recently brought a few better-known, less-expensive “supermarket” brands into his store as an experiment, they went largely untouched. His customers preferred the experience and lifestyle tastes in the $15-$20 range, even if they had to spend a few more bucks to enjoy them.
You might also be interested in knowing that hundreds of people were recently given blind taste tests and asked to identify whether wines were cheap or expensive. Participants were right about half the time—the same odds as if flipping a coin. The cheaper wines do the trick just fine for most of us; the flip side is that few people even seem able to tell apart the cheap from the expensive stuff. And, as my Council members say every time we meet, “If you can’t tell a difference, why in the world would you pay extra for one wine over another? “
In this tasting of five wines, two really were stars, right in that $15-$20 sweet spot, and are worthy of your cellar. Below are the groups rankings, first to last, food pairing winners, and my reviews of the wines.
Graffigna Reserve Malbec – Deep red with violet highlights. Expect aromas of very ripe dark berries, a touch of black pepper, and spice. On the palate delicate ripe tannins and complex finish with hints of coffee, vanilla and toast. Suggested food matching: Lamb ossobuco, salami, Stuffed Anaheim Chiles (*recipe on CityRoom Gourmet), garlic mushrooms, and bacon lettuce tomato appetizers. An outstanding wine to serve with any brunch: Spicy and sassy. $16
Brancott Estate Pinot Noir, ’09 – Deep garnet, exhibits cherry, plum and blackberry fruits. It has a jammy mid-palate displaying ripe cherry, subtle spice and rich tannins, with fruit weight carrying the full length of the palate to its finish. Let it sit 10 minutes before you taste it, or better yet, use a Soiree aerator. Tastes best in a Riedel Vinum XL Pinot Noir glass ($59). Pair with tamales, pork, lamb, and dishes that incorporate mushrooms. $13
Robaliño Albariño - This wine is very food friendly and lends itself to a smooth mouthfeel experience. I loved the citrus, grapefruit, lemon peel and white peach flavors, with pronounced floral and almond notes. Light, elegant, fresh and mouthwatering. This Albariño goes well with Tortilla Espanola, and Stuffed Anaheim Chiles. $17
’09 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Cabernet. This wine is deep crimson red with purple hues showcasing fresh blackcurrant and dark berry fruit which are typical Coonawarra characteristics. We thought we could detect hints of black olive with nuances of cedar and vanilla from French oak. Generous ripe cassis flavors with tobacco lead to a rich, smooth finish. An ideal accompaniment to bacon based dishes, salami, garlic mushrooms, ossobuco, beef rib roast or mature cheeses. $16
‘09 Dry Creek DCV3 Sauvignon Blanc – 100% Sav Blanc. Pineapple fills the glass with pear, kiwi, and a hint of subtle ginger notes. On the palate, the wine is smooth, yet fat with more tropical fruit displaying a crushed minerality and refreshing acidity. Matches well with seafood. Could be aged 3-5 years. $25