All summer I’ve been talking about the miserable weather and the worse economy and about how everyone always talks about these things but no one ever does anything about them. Then with our “Wines that Can’t be Beat to Beat the Heat” we tried to help with the weather. Now, I’ll show you how Wine & Words helps with the economy by Featuring a selection of very good wines at nicely economical prices.
It’s no secret that we’re all being very careful with our money in these perilous economic times. When we shop, we watch every dime, but we’re not necessarily looking for the very cheapest of anything (except maybe trash bags). No, what we want is a good price/quality ratio. One of my favorite things to say about a wine is, “That’s a lot of winemaking for the money.” Now, if you have to go the very cheapest and if wine is simply an alcohol delivery vehicle that gives you a cheap buzz, there are some great deals at your local Food Lion. But if you enjoy drinking wine with your meals or your friends and you want wines that have interest and integration and a clean, flavorful finish, have I got a deal for you. Several deals, actually. All selected from our “$12.00 and Under” section.
The prices on these wines are already as low as I can make them. I’ve even squashed my usual margin on some, so that they can fit into “$12 and Under,” so I’m not giving a Feature discount. But I am giving you the opportunity to come in and try these wines. You’ll find that they’re way more enjoyable than Franzia in a box.
Front Porch Chardonnay and Front Porch Merlot (California) $9.50
These were introduced a couple of years ago by one of our regular distributors as a “house pour” for restaurants. Well, they’ve made a pretty good house pour for your house, as well. People are attracted to the Front Porch label that shows three dark green Adirondack chairs overlooking an island-studded body of deep blue water. It suggests vacation, relaxation and the good life. I’ll drink to that.
The wines are made by River View Vineyards in Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley), but the appellation is simply “California.” That means the River View folks buy grapes from all over the state and blend them into a wine that’s consistent and inexpensive...just what you want on your front porch.
Santa Julia [+] Torrontes (Maipu, Mendoza, Argentina) $10.95
Mendoza, Argentina, in the foothills of the Andes near the border with Chile produces some of the finest wines in the world. We’re very proud to carry the Cabs and Malbecs of Catena, Crios, Ben Marco, Finca Sophenia and others. But the great winemakers of Mendoza can make wonderful inexpensive wines, as well. The Santa Julia [+] project of Familia Zuccardi (who have been making wine in Mendoza since the 1950’s) has several laudable goals:
And the wine is delicious!
If you haven’t met the Torrontes grape, Mendoza’s signature white, you’ll have to try it before the summer is over. It starts with a delicious floral nose and finishes with soft, ripe fruit. It pairs well with seafood (especially our local crab and shrimp) and it just tastes so clean and good. As I said, that’s a lot of winemaking for the money.
Indaba Shiraz (Western Cape, South Africa) $10.95
Another winemaking project that’s doing well by doing good is Indaba, a part of the Cape Classics South African portfolio. “Indaba” is the Zulu word for “a meeting of the minds,” or a traditional gathering of tribal leaders for sharing ideas. The brand was created as a celebration of the democratization process in South Africa, and from its inception part of the proceeds from the sale of Indaba wines goes to a scholarship fund to send young South Africans to wine school. Mzokhona Mvemve is currently the head winemaker at Indaba. He was the first ever black South African winemaker to graduate from Stellenbosch University (in 2002) and he was the first recipient of the Indaba Scholarship.
I’ll give you the winemaking part straight from their website:
VINEYARDS: Grapes were sourced from select vineyard sites in Robertson, Paarl, Swartland and Stellenbosch, with soils of predominantly calcareous clay and Malmesbury shale.
VINTAGE:The challenging 2010 vintage was characterized by very low yields (due to heavy rains and strong winds early in the growing season) but high quality. It was a very short harvest for reds, with grapes being picked over half the normal harvest period. The vintage produced elegant yet concentrated wines.
VINIFICATION AND MATURATION: The grapes were hand harvested and destemmed, then fermented on the skins in closed stainless steel tanks, with pumpovers of one hour performed twice daily. The wine was pressed after six days, then aged for five months in a combination of French and American oak.
This is clearly not some slickly made industrial product. It’s high quality winemaking that yields a very enjoyable, rich red wine (96% Shiraz, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and 14% alcohol). It’s good for pairing with hearty foods like a bacon blue cheese hamburger or a sausage stew. All this at a most amazing price, while offering scholarships for the next generation of South African winemakers. Add to that the fact that you can get it at your locally-owned wine shop, and you can drink up with the satisfaction that you’ve helped the economy at large while getting a lot of personal satisfaction from your spending. Now that’s a lot of winemaking for the money!
Excelsior Chardonnay and Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon (Robertson, South Africa) $10.95
These South Africans have been two of our best sellers, ever since we introduced them a couple of years ago. They are consistent award winners that deliver first rate quality at economy-healing prices.
The 100% Chardonnay was picked in the cool morning hours, then the grapes were fermented 75% in stainless steel and 25% in oak. Then the wine was aged on the lees for 3 months before bottling.
The Cab is 85.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, 7.5% Merlot, 3% Shiraz...talk about careful blending! Like the Chard, this one was fermented in stainless steel, then 40% was aged in French oak for 9 months.
A Wine Enthusiast “Best Buy”...and no wonder! It’s a lot of winemaking for the money.
Emperador de Barros Macabeo (Ribera del Guadiana, Spain) $11.95
Spain is another one of those premium winemaking regions that is still providing us with great buys (like our Finca Luzon, Protocolo, Viña Borgia and Borsao). We introduced this one a year ago in Wines of Spain II:Southern and Mediterranean. This is one of those that I dropped from $12.15 so it would fit in our popular everyday wines section. It’s also one that Chef Yvonne and I have been drinking all summer. If you haven’t discovered the crisp delight of this great Spanish white, treat yourself (and your pocketbook) while the hot days and light foods of summer can transport you to a fountain-splashed patio in Spain...at less than the cost of a bottle of water on a trans-Atlantic flight.
Ironberry Cab/Shiraz/Merlot and Ironberry Chardonnay/Viognier (Western Australia) $11.95
Finally, two great values from the land down under, the land of both the cheap (and to my taste barely drinkable) Yellowtail, as well as the extraordinary collectible Grange wines. I often turn to the Ironberry for people who are just beginning to drink wine. That’s because these are such accessible wines. The red Cab/Shiraz/Merlot blend is smooth and well-integrated, with a lot of jammy fruit and lip-licking yummy finish. The white Chardonnay/Viognier blend has fruit galore, plus that little Viognier zinger that wets your whistle.
So what are you waiting for? Life is too short to worry about the economy...or drink bad wine. We can’t fix the former, but at Wine & Words there’s no excuse for the latter.