Following is a selection of 11 inexpensive wines, which were purchased at $3.99 each. We did a search of comparative pricing and found that some can sell for as much as $7-10 and one was even found online on a business auction site with an entry bid of $15. Three other wines tasted were priced slightly higher, ranging from $5-8. All the wines tasted are nice, everyday quaffers, mostly designed for drinking now, although a couple could benefit from a little aging. All represent very good value for the price and are ranked as Best Buys. I tasted these wines with Ron Brown, one of our contributing editors.
The 2009 La Finca Malbec Mendoza Argentina is purple-colored, with a nice fruity perfume, displaying black fruit, spice, coffee, licorice, toasty oak and vanilla. It is soft, with ripe fruit, fine tannins and a medium finish. Drink now.
The 2009 La Finca Chardonnay Mendoza Argentina, a lemon-yellow color, has a tropical fruit bouquet that carries through to the palate, with added notes of peach, hazelnut, flowers and vanilla. It is rounded, balanced, with good acidity and a light body. Drink now.
The 2009 La Finca Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Argentina, dark color, has a subdued perfume and soft flavors of berries, cherries, spice and oak, with some richness and a medium body. Drink now.
The 2008 LaGranja 360 Tempranillo Carinena Spain, dark in color, offers aromas and flavors of rich, ripe raspberry, spice, red currant and herbal nuances. It is slightly tannic, with soft, rounded fruit, medium-light body and a nice, fruity finish. Drink now.
(LaGranja means “the farm.” The pig on the label is flying because it expresses a song Spanish children sing when someone asks for something impossible, has a dream or says something absurd.)
The 2007 D’Aquino Nero d’Avola IGT Sicilia, deep ruby color, has a soft berry perfume and spicy berry and chocolate palate. It has some richness and is velvety, with mild tannins, a slightly sweet edge and a dry finish.
(The Nero d’Avola grape has generally been compared to the Syrah grape.)
The 2009 Panilonco Chief of Lions Merlot/Malbec Reserve Colchagua Valley, purple color, is bright, revealing blackberries, cedar, chocolate, blueberries and leather, with soft tannins. It is full-flavored, round and soft, with a fruity finish. Since the wine is a bit sweet, it is best served slightly chilled. A mild stemminess on the nose blows off with air. This wine could improve with a year of cellaring.
The 2008 Panilonco Chief of Lions Chardonnay/Viognier Reserve Colchagua Valley Chile (a blend of 80%/20%), light yellow color, is crisp and fresh, with mild grass on the nose. Aromas and flavors offer citrus, apricot, honeysuckle and tropical fruit, with a slightly sweet edge. Drink now.
The 2009 Panilonco Chief of Lions Carmenere Reserve Colchagua Valley Chile, deep ruby in color, has a nose of black fruit and mint and flavors of blackberries, mint, spice, toast, smoke, herbs, roasted meat, black pepper and vanilla. It is round, balanced, concentrated, and medium-bodied, with silky tannins, some complexity and a moderately long finish. A slight funky note on the nose dissipates with some air. A year of cellaring could enhance.
(The Carmenere grape, which was big in Bordeaux until being largely eradicated by disease, has done very well in Chile, especially in the last 10-20 years and now accounts for about 10% of Chile’s wine production.)
The 2009 Terrenal Malbec Mendoza Argentina (Kosher), dark ruby in color, subtly aromatic, hints of blackberry, black cherry, black currant, plum, spice, chocolate and mineral. It is balanced, with good acidity, medium body and soft tannins. An appealing, everyday quaffer, drink now.
The 2009 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Argentina (Kosher), dark ruby in color, has a very subtle nose, and a medium body, with soft berry fruit, notes of spice, tar and oak. Drink now.
The 2009 Zarafa Pinotage Paarl South Africa, dark ruby color, has a perfume of red plums and is fruity and plummy, with soft tannins, balance, some richness and a plum and tannin finish. A friendly, tasty wine – drink now or over the next few months.
The 2009 red wines, despite their youth, are already tasty because the wine regions of Chile, Argentina and South Africa are in the southern hemisphere where the growing season is six months ahead of ours. While our wines are harvested in October, theirs are harvested in the preceding March or April. One reason the wines reviewed here sell for so little is that they are released very young, without going into wood, so there is no cost for aging.
The following three wines were purchased for $5-8 respectively.
The 2007 Jacob’s Creek Shiraz South Australia, purplish-ruby in color, is perfumed with cherry and berry fruit and dried herbs. The palate offers ripe, sweet blackberry and plum fruit, pepper and anise, medium body, with soft tannins and a toasty oak finish.
The 2007 Torrevieja Malbec Mendoza Argentina, dark cherry color, has a subdued nose of red cherry and plum. In the mouth, sweet red fruit is a bit jammy, velvety textured, balanced, with good depth, smooth tannins and a tasty finish.
The 2008 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Reserve Carmenere Rapel Valley Chile, purplish-ruby color, has aromas and flavors of red and black fruit, chocolate, coffee, vanilla and spice. It is balanced, medium-bodied, ending in a dried herb, toasty oak finish.
All of these wines will partner well with food. Drink the Chardonnays with seafood, fish, poultry, creamy pasta and Asian spiced dishes. The Malbec, Merlot, Tempranillo, Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero d’Avola, Pinotage and Shiraz will complement barbecue pork, roast beef and lamb, spicy food, pot roast and stew, tomato-based pasta, sausages, grilled vegetables, grilled pork chops and cheese.