When we cook dinner at home, we almost always crack open a bottle of wine. Now for a casual dinner at home several times a week, you would be reluctant to use the blockbuster wines kept in your cellar for special occasions or for dinners with valued friends who know their wines. (Having said that, I do not slavishly adhere to that rule and from time to time I will break out a decent white or red Burgundy or Bordeaux to accompany our evening repast). Well, thanks to the Fort Orange Wine Society’s last tasting, I have expanded the list of wines I can enjoy at dinner, without breaking the bank or being ravaged by guilt for my improvidence. Just so there is no misunderstanding here, I am not talking about wines that are cheap for the sake of being cheap (Two Buck Chuck and Yellow Tale come to mind immediately), but wines under $20 that are really worth enjoying. I have mentioned the Fort Orange Wine Society (FOWS) in prior postings at our Vinoteca site, but for new readers, let me just say that it is an informal group that meets once a month at the Wolf Road Holiday Inn to taste seven or eight wines which are either from the same region, produced from the same grape or share some other common trait. It is not affiliated with the club in downtown Albany, so we do not have a dress code and have always welcomed women.
Our October tasting featured wines from South America. By now everyone is familiar with Malbecs, a Bordeaux grape that put Argentinean wine making on the map. We did sample two Malbec blends. The first was the 2010 Tikal Patriota that was 60% Malbec and 40% Bonarda. Bonarda is a grape that originated in Savoie region of France and like Malbec was primarily a blending grape. It does very well in Argentina and is now the second most planted varietal there. This wine retails for under $20 and is lush and accessible, although it could age for another three or more years. Parker gave it a 91 and I have to agree with him on this one. The other Malbec is not bargain priced, but I will mention it only because it was my favorite wine of the tasting. This was the 2002 Pasual Toso Magdelena. It contained 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and spent 24 months in new French oak barrels which is a big factor in its $50 price tag. This was a nicely aged wine with depth, complexity and velvety tannins. Yum. Now back to reality. The 2008 Maycas del Limari Reserva Especial Syrah from the Yarra Valley in Chile sells for about $18 and was a juicy mouthful with spice on the finish. You would not confuse this Syrah with the overly extracted Australian examples, but I rated it very good and Robert Parker gave it a 91 as well. Back to Bonarda, we sampled a 2008 Burigutti Bonarda that had lots of new world fruit tempered by 10 months of ageing in American oak. This was a delicious wine, which can be yours for south of $13. I found the 2010 Vina Peralillo Arenal Carmenere to be quite pleasant, although not overly complex, but with a price of around $13, I have no problem recommending it. Carmenere is another French transplant that has now taken root in Chile. The final red was the 2008 Concha y Toro Terrunyo Cabernet Sauvignon from Maipo in Chile. This is a terrific wine that garnered a Parker 92, but its $27 price takes it out of the inexpensive category.
We started the tasting with two whites: A 2011 Jelu Estate Torrontes from the Zonda Valley in Argentina that sells for $13 (which seems to be the number of the day) and a 2008 Santa Ema Amplus Sauvignon Blanc from the Leyda Valley in Chile that retails for $17. I preferred the Torrontes, which was fairly light with some peach notes and nice mouthfeel. While the Sauvignon Blanc had a nice nose and some complexity, I am coming to the conclusion that I just do not like that grape (unless it is from the Loire Valley or Bordeaux), although in all honesty, this one had less of a grapefruit flavor than most of the new world examples. If any of you out there in blogland have tasted any of these wines or if you purchase a bottle or two as a result of this posting, please let me know your thoughts. And if you have some inexpensive wines that you absolutely love, feel free to share, because everybody likes a bargain.