The news is not good for those of us who love cheap wine. There was a lot less of it worth drinking in 2007, and the ranks of the $10 Wine Hall of Fame have been reduced as we celebrate the sixth annual Cheap Wine extravaganza. (The 2007 Hall is here.)
Gone from the Hall are the Big House red, white and pink. The brand was sold last year, and the new owner makes decent enough wine, but it’s standard grocery store stuff. It lacks the style that distinguished the old Big House labels. Two red wines that I wanted to add -– Beaulieu’s Beauzeaux and Altano’s Douro -– didn’t make it. The former didn’t release a new vintage locally, while the latter was flat and flabby compared to previous years.
The weak dollar didn’t help the cause, either, so I added a room on the Hall for imported wine whose price was pushed up currency woes: “If you can find them for $10, buy them.”
The Hall did add three Gascon white wines -– Domaine Duffour, Domaine des Cassagnoles, and Domaine D’Uby. These are made with less well-known grapes from a very less well-known part of France, which is why they’re less expensive. With that in mind, here’s the rest of this year’s Hall of Fame:
• The $10 wines from California’s Bogle Vineyards, and especially the petite sirah.
• Osborne Solaz, Spanish reds and a white. Look for the cabernet-tempranillo and shiraz-tempranillo reds (though the cab was a bit below its usual standard this year), a white made with a grape called viura. There is also a rose, but I have yet to find it in the Dallas area.
• Benziger Fume Blanc, the California winery’s version of sauvignon blanc. One caveat: Look for a recent vintage. If it's more than two years old, it doesn't taste fresh.
• Italy’s Falesco Vitiano, which produces a solid rose, an even more solid white blend, and a stunning red blend made of sangiovese, cabernet and merlot.
• Cristalino, the Spanish sparkling wine, which comes in brut (dry), extra dry (sweeter than brut) and rose.
• California’s Toad Hollow pinot noir rose.
• The unoaked chardonnay and the petite sirah from California’s Jewel Collection.
If you can find them for $10, buy them:
• Chateau Ducla and Chateau Bonnet, white blends from Bordeaux.
• Domaine Pichot Vouvray, a French chenin blanc.
• Lindauer Brut , a sparkling wine from New Zealand.
• McPherson Cellars Rose, one of the best wines, dollar for dollar, to come out of Texas.
Wines to consider for next year:
• The dry riesling and chenin blanc from Pacific Rim, a Bonny Doon offshoot. I like these wines a lot, but neither was quite there in 2007.
• I'll keep an eye on the Beauzeaux and Douro reds over the next 12 months, but I'm not optimistic.
• Los Vascos chardonnay. This Chilean is unoaked, which is why it's inexpensive. Again, though, it has had problems with consistency.
• Two French wines from huge negociants -- the Jadot Macon-Villages and the DuBoeuf Beaujolais-Villages. Sometimes, these are terrific, and sometimes they're far from it -- and this can happen in the same vintage.
• Hugh Hamilton Jim Jim Shiraz. Inexpensive Australian shirazes usually taste like it, but this is on the cusp of being something special.
• The Chalone line from Monterey in California. This is grocery store wine that seems better than it should be. Call me cynical, but I need to taste it one more time.
• Cycle Gladiator, a line of $10 wines from the same California producer who started Rex Goliath (which turned into ordinary grocery store wine under its new owners).