Thursday, December 26, 2013

Everyday Wines For $10 Or Less!

The Porch Party Wine Panel Picks Wines That Won’t Kill Your Budget & They're Also Great For Parties!!

Several years ago I read a story that said if you went into a wine shop and asked for an everyday wine they’d almost always recommend a wine in the $15.00 range. Well I tried that out and sure enough that’s what happened. Unfortunately if you drank a $15 wine everyday you’d spend $5,475 a year for wine.   

Now I know a lot of us spend a more than that…ok some of us spend a great deal more, but usually we’re drinking wines that are better than your average “everyday” wine!

So I asked the Porch Party Wine Panel to bring a bottle of wine that cost $10 or less to a recent tasting. Some were favorite wines of the panel member, some were chosen because a member had tasted them while buying wine and some were chosen randomly.  

All the wines were covered so we wouldn’t know what we were drinking or what wineries made the wines. There were seven wines tasted, two whites and five reds.

And Surprisingly they were all good wines that would be great as every day or party wines.

The White Wines

Los Vascos 2011 Chardonnay was a great find and the Wine Panel's favorite wine. Los Vascos is one of Chile’s oldest estates and is being managed by Domaines Barons De Rothschild (Lafite). They’ve modernized the winery and are now producing some excellent wines. 

The Chardonnay we tried was in the classic style using 100% varietals. It's a well-balanced, medium bodied wine that was off dry. It had a nice nose and was very flavorful with melons, pears and apples coming through as well as a hint of apricot. 
The wine panel also thought the Los Vascos Chardonnay would stand up well with food.

You can find the Los Vascos Chardonnay at Specs and at the cash price of $9.67, it’s a real find.

The wine panel also thought the Cupcake 2012 Sauvignon Blanc was a nice, easy to drink wine. While Cupcake may be a well-known wine, this one from the Malborough Valley of New Zealand is worth a second and third try. It is an off dry, medium bodied wine with an inviting nose and the flavors of lemons, grapefruit and pears.

The Cupcake 2012 Sauvignon Blanc was $8.99 at Target, but can be found everywhere and should be added to your party and everyday wine list.

Our Red Wines

Now red wines under $10 that are good enough to drink are harder to find. But our wine panel found five that were not only very drinkable but also nice wines. 

So here, in no particular order, are five wines that will easily meet your everyday wine fix and not break your budget.

Bogle Essential Red is a deep dark juicy blend of Old Vine Zin, Syrah, Cabernet and Petite Sirah. Bogle says that its Essential Red is “unlike anything we’ve made before.” Well Bogle makes some really nice wines that are very reasonably priced and their Essential Red is a nice blend, a real crowd pleaser and a definite go to wine.

And at World Market’s $9.99 member price it’s a hard wine to beat.

Alamos 2012 Red Blend is a blend of grapes from vineyards in Mendoza Argentina. It includes Malbec, Argentina’s main grape and the Bonarda which is its second most planted grape. Throw in some Tempranillo and you have a really nice dry wine with flavors of blackberry, plum and spice.

Alamos is easily found in stores everywhere, ours came from Target and cost $9.99.

BV (Beaulieu Vineyards) 2012 Coastal Estate Merlot seemed to have more alcohol than our other wines. And as one of our wine panel members stated, it would “wash down a hamburger.” For an inexpensive red wine that says a lot! The BV Merlot is a fruit forward dry wine with flavors of black cherry, plum and mocha.

BV is found everywhere and ours had a Trader Joe’s price of $8.99.

HandCraft 2011 Pinot Noir from their Artisan Collection was a surprise. I’m not a big Pinot fan and I’ve found to get a good Pinot you need to be willing to pay more. Well the HandCraft Pinot proved that you can get one that’s both inexpensive and worth drinking. Maybe it’s the Sangiovese that the winemaker blended in that makes the difference. The wine had flavors of cherry, strawberry, vanilla, spice and dark berry.

HandCraft 2011 Pinot Noir is at Specs and with a cash price of $9.99 you should try it out!

Planeta 2010 La Segreta Rosso is from Sicily and it’s a blend of Nero D' Avola, Merlot, Syrah and Cab Franc. It has notes of raspberry, plum, cherry and cocoa. It was also a light to medium dry wine that is a little peppery and earthy. This really is a nice Italian wine however the Planeta La Segreta was somewhat of a ringer because it retails for $14.99 at Jimmy’s but was on sale for $7.99.

This just proves that you should watch wine sales to pick up some great everyday wines, especially at Jimmy's! 

So the wine panel has spoken and gave us some really good wines for our everyday enjoyment. But these wines are also good party wines. Your guests will really like them and so will your wallet. I know because our neighborhood Christmas party served them and by the end of the party the bottles were all empty. But then, thinking about that, I’m not sure that counts as a true test.

You’re just going to have to trust me on this one; you’ll like the wines and be much richer for it!   


Friday, July 26, 2013

What is a Texas Wine? Part 1

That Wine You're Buying Is It Really A Texas Wine…Maybe Not!

Unfortunately a lot of consumers don’t know what determines if a wine is truly a Texas wine, which often leads to confusion in buying one. The universal definition of a wine's origin is that the wine follows the grape; it does not follow the winery. So here’s my most important Texas Wine Rule.

Just because a wine is made in Texas does not make it a Texas wine. 

If a wine is a Texas wine, 75% of the juice must come from Texas grapes. If they do then the wine will say Texas on the label. If the fruit comes from a particular county, wineries may put the county of origin instead of Texas on the label. Much like California wineries put the county where the grape is grown if the fruit comes from a particular county, such as Napa or Sonoma. 

The label may also say something like Texas Hill Country AVA (American Viticulture Area.) which means 85% of the grapes came from that AVA. A Texas winery may also put Estate Bottled on the label if 100% of the grapes come from vineyards they own and control. The winery and the vineyard must be in the same AVA and the winery must crush, ferment, finish, age and bottle the wine in a continuous process.

So if the label from a Texas winery doesn't have Texas or the name of a Texas County or the name of a designated Texas AVA on it or have Estate Bottled then it’s not a Texas wine! Got that? I know it’s confusing and that’s what some wineries are counting on.

In Texas the reason so many wineries use out of state grapes is that we have a shortage of Texas grapes. 

That’s right the great State of Texas has a shortage of wine grapes which means our grapes sell at a premium. While states like California often have a glut of grapes that they need to sell cheaply and in bulk. Unfortunately some Texas wineries hope that people don’t notice that their wines are not Texas wines and they often go out of their way to avoid the question.

Which brings me to the term “For Sale In Texas Only” that appears on the label of a lot of wines sold by Texas wineries.

The term really makes some Texas wine lovers mad! They’re often very explicit in their belief that it should not be on the bottles. But what does the term “For Sale In Texas Only” really mean. Well first of all, it does not mean the wine is special and can only be sold in Texas. In reality it’s just the opposite. Federal Regulations require wine labels to list the place of origin for the grapes used in the wine. 

But here’s the loophole, wineries can ask for an exemption from that labeling requirement if the wine is only for sale in their state. So when a winery puts “For Sale In Texas Only” they're trying to hide the fact that they're using out of state grapes. And often that statement is in small letters to make it difficult to find.

A wine made in Texas could technically have 74.9% of the grapes from Texas and not qualify as a Texas wine.

But in reality that’s not happening. Most wineries would rather have Texas on their label than “For Sale In Texas Only.” If they’re even close to having 75%  Texas juice they’d manage to get to 75% so the wine would qualify as a Texas wine. In fact most wines with “For Sale In Texas Only” on the label aren't even close to having 75% Texas grapes.        
So trust me on this, if the label has “For Sale In Texas Only” it’s basically not made from Texas grapes and it’s NOT A TEXAS WINE!  

Now that you know what the term means then use it to your advantage. Let the term “For sale In Texas Only’ be your Texas wine guide.  Look for it before you buy that bottle of “Texas” wine. And if it’s on the label, then move on if you truly want a Texas wine.

Luckily not all Texas wineries are trying to fool the consumer. The ones getting their fruit from respected California growers in regions like Paso Robles will often put those AVA on their bottles. And why not? Texas wineries could easily make California wines and clearly label them as California wine. They could even have a “California Collection” under a different label from their true Texas wines and it would be a win for both the winery and the Consumer.  

Hopefully as more wine grapes are grown in Texas more wineries will be able to move away from imported grapes, especially the cheaper bulk grapes that really don’t make great wines and hurt the industry.

But in the meantime smart consumers will know that the “For Sale In Texas Only” means it’s not a Texas wine.


The Neighborhood Wine Porch Party!