Is there a varietal that offers as good a value as Malbec? Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec 2010 is yet another very inexpensive but totally drinkable red wine from Argentina. It's very juicy and jammy with blueberry and raspberry notes, and offers a tart, peppery finish.
The Bodega Elena de Mendoza website doesn't tell us much about the brand (reportedly, it is an E. J. Gallo brand), though it does say:
Maker: Banrock Station, Kingston on Murray, South Australia, Australia
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 3-liter box
Our Rating: 8.7 out of 10
Banrock Station Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is a very pleasant wine, one of the nicer boxed Cabs in mass distribution in the U.S. It's a fruit-forward Cab, with blueberry and plum flavoers, along with some chocolate, spice, and oak. The finish is reasonably long with medium tannins.
Sommeliers don't need to worry about their jobs yet, but researchers at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona have developed a device that is capable of identifying types of cava, a sparkling wine from Spain. The device "combines chemical measurement systems and advanced mathematical procedures, including an "artificial neural network," that mimics the human tongue and brain to parse levels of sweetness."
Maker: Bodegas Osborne, Malpica de Tajo, Spain
Varietal: Red Blend
Packaging: 3-liter box
Our Rating: 8.6 out of 10
Seven Red Table Wine is one of the newer boxes available in mass distribution. It's from Spain, it's in a cool octagonal bag-in-box package, and it's surprisingly good. Seven is so named because it's a blend of seven red grapes, with Tempranillo being the largest component. It's not too complex, but offers a pleasant mix of chocolate cherries and a little black pepper. The tannins are soft, and the finish reasonably long.
Winery: Mendoza Vineyards, Mendoza, Argentina
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Our Rating: 8.7 out of 10
Malbecs tend to offer some of the better red wine values, but for a mere seven bucks Zarpado Malbec 2009 is an even better value than most. It has an aroma of leather and red berries, and is surprisingly complex on the palate for such an inexpensive wine. The overall impression is of juicy blackberries and raspberries, but there's a hint of tobacco and the finish offers tannins that are pleasantly robust.
It's not often that one gets a really nice Cab for a mere ten bucks, but Grayson Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Lot 10) is one such wine. This Cab is a dark ruby color with licorice and cherry aromas. The flavor is rich and balanced, starting with ripe cherries and vanilla notes, and finishing with black pepper, robust tannins, and a little oak. The impression is of a more costly wine.
What's one advantage of inexpensive wines? Well, if a forklift driver drops a load, you won't be out a million bucks. That's exactly what happened in Australia. 462 cases of 2010 Mollydooker Velvet Glove shiraz — worth about $200 for each and every bottle — were smashed while being loaded onto a ship in Adelaide. The bottles fell about 20 feet, which was enough to ensure total destruction.
The lost wine was about a third of the year's production for that winery. (More.) It's hard to imagine one forklift load of wine being worth $1 million, but those $200 bottles add up quickly. And, one assumes, it must have been a big forklift to lift 462 cases at once. Or perhaps not big enough.
Lately, I've been avoiding Chardonnays, mostly because I've been in the mood for lighter, fruitier white wines that aren't strongly oaked. I'm glad I tried Rosso & Bianco Francis Coppola Chardonnay 2009, as it's unoaked and its fruit flavors come through nicely. This chard has a prominent, aroma of tropical fruit & pineapple. These fruits appear on the palate, too. The finish is a little acidic and lingers nicely. It's not as creamy as some Chardonnays, but the lack of oak gives it an uncommon character.
I usually try to provide a sampling of other opinions, but for this Chardonnay there hasn't been much activity. Perhaps it's too new?
Rosso & Bianco Francis Coppola Chardonnay 2009 is a nice summer wine, refreshing, affordable, and not too heavy. Try it on the patio with grilled shrimp and veggies.
The idea behind Boxxle is simple enough - here's a video from Kickstarter, where Boxxle founder Tripp Middleton is seeking enough orders to fund their production:
Zinfandels are perhaps my favorite reds - particularly the big, bold, not overly sweet Zins that combine rich complexity with plenty of fruit. I enjoy Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Chianti, Bordeaux, and many other red wines, but somehow Zins are special. I was delighted to run across a wonderful chronicle of Zinfandel history at the Times & Transcript. I was surprised to learn that its American origins trace to New England before being transported to California in the 1850s. Although its origins seem to trace to Italy's Primotivo grapes, it is considered an American varietal.