Archive for the ‘Budget vino’ Category

Bonarda, the other Red Wine from Argentina

March 26, 2010

With the ever increasing popularity of the wines of Argentina in Vancouver, Malbec seems to be on everybody’s mind, not to say everybody’s palate. The grape’s name is as recognizably Argentinian as the Tango itself. Torrontes, Argentina’s white signature grape is slowly carving a space for itself on the city’s wine store shelves. Vancouverites are also becoming more familiar with other grapes –both black and white- coming alongside Malbec: Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, Chardonnay and Viognier. But there is another new arrival, a black grape that is received with curiosity. That is Bonarda, an Italian variety that is planted extensively in Argentina. In fact, until not long ago, it was the most planted vine variety.

As such, Bonarda has always been blended to make the table reds that the southamerican nation demanded to quench their thirst for wine. Never considered a “noble” blend, Bonarda was limited to the passenger seat due to its character as a wine and its wild vigor in the vineyard. Bonarda grows and produces fruit like it is nobody’s business. That was precisely the reason for its ubiquitous presence in Argentina’s vineyards: lots of grapes were needed to make lots of wine. Let’s not forget that until the 70’s consumption in Argentina reached a mind –guzzle- boggling 90 liters per head per year.

With the arrival of the nineties, the innovative approach of familias like Catena, technology and investment, winemakers quickly realized that Bonarda would not satisfy the demand for quality export wine. Malbec took that honor. The rest is history. For Malbec, that is. The curious Vancouver wine drinker may have noticed Bonarda on the back labels of their favorite Malbec, with which is blended to add  perfume, inky purple red color, moderate acidity and to lighten up the tannic load.  They get along so well that it is considered a signature Argentinian corte (blend). Some say that they tango with each other. Bonarda is also blended with Sangiovese to make agreeable table reds for early consumption and it also has an interesting synergy with Syrah.

In conversations with different Argentinian winemakers it seems that there are two bands: one claims that Bonarda will become the next Malbec phenomenon; the other –idea I share- think that the grape will have a less exalted role, given that keeping yields low will always be a viticultural challenge. A little bit like what we see today with vigorous grapes like Carignan in Languedoc. In blends it does really well; alone it makes a few good wines. The rest of the varietals are just….Carignan.

To sum up, Bonarda on its own is intense in color, frequently rich, inky. The nose is perfumed, with easily identifiable aromas like red fruit and mulberry. Spice in the background is not unusual, and when oaked it can exhibit pleasant tones of vanilla and tobacco. In the mouth it shows vinous intensity, ripe, sweet fruit and velvety tannins. It can also show –testament to its ferocious vegetal vigor- a “green” background, a bit like biting into a fresh arrugula leaf.

 There are several bottlings that are available in Vancouver. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Colonia Las Liebres $12.99

Maipe $14-16

Dante Robino $19-22

Don Domenico El Escondido $28-32

All of the above are quite nice sips. Without doubt the best of the lot is the Finca El Escondido (San Juan region), by Don Domenico, perhaps reflecting the increasing viticultural costs of keeping the vine’s growth in check. Dante Robino is also very competent although it lacks the ripe, sweet fruit of the former.

Maipe and Las Liebres are also pleasing varietals; the second one is great value. Anecdotically, I once tasted the Las Liebres aerated through a Vinturi. The gizmo really enhanced the texture and flavor of this baby, suggesting that other Bonarda may benefit from aeration. 

Blends

Among the blends to be found in Vancouver we have:

Los Crios Syrah Bonarda (50%-50%), Vina Antigua Sangiovese Bonarda and Benmarco Malbec (blended with 10% Bonarda). This latter one speaks for itself, with its plump texture and sweet tannins.  Vina Antigua is a simple pleasing table red like the ones Argentinians put on the table any week night; follow suit and wash down your daily dinner with a sip or two.

Pour Bonarda to accompany grilled meats and vegetables; roast beef, pasta and hard cheese.

Salud

 

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Fiano MandraRossa my New Favorite Budget White

October 29, 2009

Produced and bottled in Sicily, the 2008 MandraRossa Fiano is a delicious white mandrarossa_fiano_lab_smwine, with a nose reminiscent of the lemon tree orchards that grow on the legendary island. The aromatic nose is decidedly lemony, as is the palate, slightly oily, of a very nice texture indeed. The flavor spectrum includes ripe white peach and a brushstroke of fine herbs.

This wine was a perfect company for a plate of Pasta Vongole. (Click on link for recipe). I have checked out several online recipes but I find that my favorite is the very basic one with just a few ingredients.spaghetti-alle-vongole11

At 15.99, this is wine to pay attention to. The 2007 version won a ‘Great Value White Wine’ gold medal at the International Wine Challenge, considered the world’s largest wine competition.

Budget Fall Wines

October 20, 2009

In good and bad times it is always nice to find good quality, inexpensive vino. Customers are always looking for a bargain, aka “bang for your buck” and I have tasted innumerable cheapies to separate the grain from the chaff. Prices vary greatly in Metro Vancouver, so be sure to buy your wines in stores where you will get the lower tags.

Starting with whites, I recently found two wonderful Chardonnays. The first one hails from Southern France louislatour_chardand is produced by world known winehouseLouis LaTour. The 2007 Ardeche Chardonnay is a delightful unoaked version, which has been allowed to go through malolactic fermentation. Light, slightly creamy, with touches of tropical fruit, I enjoyed this one a lot and since I posted a shelf talker many a customer has become a fan. It sells for 13.99 at Everything Wine (North Vancouver) and LDB stores (check website for branches that carry it. Some cold beer and wine stores sell this product for up to 23.99 so beware.

From Southern Italy, in the Puglia region, we have the Tormaresca Chardonnay (2006, 2007). Light and 3348-tormaresca-chardonnay-500minerally this wine offers great value. I think this one to be unoaked or only slightly oaked. At 15.99, it has become one of my favorite whites.

Puglia also brings us an excellent red, perhaps on the top ten under ten dollars. The Paiara blend of paiara Cabernet Sauvignon and Negroamaro grapes is round, balanced and persistent, surprisingly so for a wine so inexpensive. LDB stores and Everything Wine sell the product for 9.99 and once you taste it you will probably make it a staple for weekdays. My woman recently made a delicious Tortilla de Patatas (potato omelette, Spanish style. Click link for recipe) for brunch and this medium-light red was the perfect companion.

From the land of Kangaroos, Koalas, venomous critters and man-eating sharks, the 2006 Rock Art Cabernet Merlot is sensational for the price. Everything wine carries the product for 12.99 but it had it as special during the Thanksgiving long weekend, selling scores of cases at 8.99, an absolute steal. Even at 12.99 this little wine is serious and convincing, with a solid fruit front, balance and a bit of structure that suggests that the 3 years spent in bottle added a little quality.

To finish this ripasso, let’s go to Patagonia, Argentina, and taste the 2007 Diego Murillo Merlot. Organic, diegomurillovelvety and full flavored, this wine is perfect for the nostalgic, sweet emotions that only the season of falling leaves can arouse. Dark and deep, this little jewel by Humberto Canale winery is well worth the 10.99 you pay for it at LDB and Everything Wine.

Enjoy the rest of the season and brace yourselves for overwhelming, rainy, grey November.

Wine 101: Value Wines

April 28, 2009

There is a lot of talk these days about stretching your wine buying dollars. Magazines and specialized publications -both printed and online- offer lists of “great value”, giving high points to wines that in different circumstances wouldn’t merit a comment. The practice is suspicious. True, you can find adsc08118 reasonable wine for little money, let’s say 9.99. But that is about it, and making the leap to saying that such wine deserves 89, 90 or 91 points is a huge stretch. In general, wines under 15 dollars offer little finesse, and even when they can be good sips all on their own, that is as far as they go. Some are just non-descript products, that even when they carry a varietal label, well, they could actually pass for any grape. Not to say that these wines are bad; many are of acceptable, or good quality, given the price.
There is a noticeable increase in quality when you hit the 18-25 dollar segment. Wines included in this group will show more complexity and better quality, which can be evinced from the nose itself. Past the 25 dollar mark, and particularly between 30-35 dollars, there is an exponential gain in quality and you can have wines that will leave truly satisfied. Nothing wrong with buying value wines and great bargains, but no need to fool ourselves.

French Bargain

April 21, 2009

For those who scour shelves in cold beer and wine stores in search of the ultimate recession-proof wine, here a priceless tip. Gotta try this  Chardonnay from the Pays d’Oc which brings a tag of 18.99 Cdn in some private wine shops. But rejoice, oh wine lovers, you canfrench_chard buy it for 12.99 at Everything Wine in North Vancouver (www.everythingwine.ca).

What do you get for your buck? Besides a pretty, classic looking French label, you will drink a creamy, tongue coating Chardonnay. Those who think “nothing with oak” must try it for the management of oak in this Chard is very skillful, adding to the wine but not choking it.  Oak flavors are present but not overpowering the pineapple and lemony flavors in this tasty broth. The finish is long and sticky, almost like the sensation one has after eating almond ice cream.

The trip to North Van is worth and make sure you get a minimum of two bottles. You will come back for more.

Product: French Tom Chardonnay

Winery: Barton & Guestier

Origin: Pays d’Oc, France

Alcohol: 13.5%

Recommended?  Of course!

Price: 12.99-18.99 depending on where you buy it.