Monday, January 10, 2011

Top Ten $10 Wines

Over the weekend I received a letter in the mail from my bank. They were writing to inform me that I had $10 in an old savings account I had opened when I was a kid. To be quite honest I had forgotten about the $10, so I kind of feel like a kid playing Life or Monopoly who just got handed a card that says "Bank error in your favor. Collect $10." I know I'm rambling over an Alexander Hamilton here, but in today's wine market, that can get me a lot. All of this led to a list of the top ten wines for $10. And since I'm feeling a tad indecisive, I'm employing my readers to help me. Peruse the list and leave a comment telling me which one I should purchase with my ten spot.

1. Cristalino by Jaume Serra - 'Cava' Brut Rose - Spain NV - $10
After a ridiculous legal battle between French luxury brand Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH) and value-packed sparkling Spanish wine producer Cristalino, this wine is now Jaume Serra Cristalino, as opposed to simply Cristalino. LVMH owns Louis Roederer, the Champagne house that produces the Cristal Cuvée De Prestige, and their claim is that "An appreciable number of consumers falsely believe because of the name CRISTALINO that an inexpensive sparkling wine is the low-priced offering of the makers of the premier champagne, CRISTAL." While that's absolutely ridiculous, in August of 2010 a federal court in Minneapolis ruled that Cristalino infringed on the coveted name and therefore must change the name of their product. Enter Jaume Serra Cristalino.

This value-packed Cava is a great alternative to traditional Champagne. Cava, like Champagne, is produced using the traditional method. It's made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Trepat, a grape native to the northeast of Spain. This wine is dry, as Brut on the label indicates. It's fresh and clean, with flavors and aromas of strawberries, raspberries, and cherries, and the traditional production method imparts aromas of fresh bread dough. The Cristalino by Jaume Serra makes a great seafood pairing.

2. Snoqualmie Vineyards - 'Winemaker's Select' Riesling - Columbia Valley, Washington 2009 - $10
The next ten spot wine is a wonderful white from the Pacific Northwest. Snoqualmie is an Eco-friendly producer owned by Washington wine group Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, whose portfolio includes Chateau Ste. Michelle, Erath, Columbia Crest, 14 Hands, along with several others. The 'Winemaker's Select' Riesling by Snoqualmie comes from the Columbia Valley in Washington, one of the largest American Viticultural Areas (AVA) in the US. What I like about this wine is that it's bright and crisp. Many Pacific Northwest Riesling's tend to be fatter, with lush fruit flavors and aromas that equate to presumably higher sugar levels. Instead, this wine is off-dry and refreshing, with characteristics of peach, pear, and apricot. It pairs well with shellfish, soft cheeses, and spicy dishes.

3. Pomelo - Sauvignon Blanc - California 2009 - $10
This next "top tenner" takes its name from the fruit that it showcases. Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc tastes and smells like the Pomelo, a citrus fruit native to southeast Asia. Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc was conceived in 2004 by Randy Mason, owner of Mason Cellars in California who has been producing world-class Sauvignon Blanc since the mid 1990's. This wine is dry, displaying fresh citrus aromas of grapefruit, lemon, lime and of course, Pomelo. It's a great pairing for white meat and fish as well as vegetable dishes, especially salads with a vinaigrette dressing.

4. Fairview - 'Darling' Chenin Blanc - Coastal Region, South Africa 2010 - $10
This next value-packed white comes from South Africa. Fairview, creator of the Goats do Roam wine line, is owned by the mischievous Charles Back II. The winery is home not only to grape vines, but also a goat farm. These goats produce award winning cheese, and provided Back with inspiration when naming his "goat" wines. Chenin Blanc, sometimes called Steen in South Africa, is a staple varietal in the South African wine industry. The 2010 Darling Chenin Blanc by Fairview comes from vineyards just outside of Darling on the west coast of the country. This slightly off-dry white is lush, with flavors and aromas of citrus fruit coupled with green apples and peaches. It makes a great partner to chicken and seafood as well as Chinese dishes.

5. Yalumba - 'Y-Series' Viognier - South Australia, Australia 2010 - $10
Number five on this top ten list is one of this writer's favorite Viogniers in almost any price point. Yalumba, which is aboriginal for "all the land around," is a fifth generation, self-proclaimed oldest family-owned-and-operated winery in Australia. Like Snoqualmie, Yalumba is a good steward of the earth, practicing Eco-friendly winemaking techniques. Under the guidance of winemaker Louisa Rose, Yalumba makes stunning wines at a remarkable price. The 2010 Y-Series Viognier by Yalumba is full of peaches, pears, and honeysuckle. It makes a great pairing to vegetarian dishes as well as cream-based pasta dishes.

6. Vina Cono Sur - Pinot Noir - Central Valley, Chile 2009 - $10
This next Hamilton-friendly wine is owned by the incredibly young and innovative Cono Sur winery. As I highlighted in Top Ten "New" Wines To Ring In The New Year, Cono Sur is owned by Chilean wine giant Concha Y Toro. They are producing some absolutely stunning wines for the price, and this particular bottle is a great example of that, especially since it's rare to see a good-quality Pinot Noir for under $20. This delicious red comes from the Central Valley, a large region in Chile that stretches 120 miles from Santiago in the north to Concepcion in the south. The Pinot Noir by Cono Sur displays red fruit flavors and aromas of raspberry, cherry, and strawberry, pairing well with grilled white meat and fish.

7. MandraRossa - Nero d'Avola - Sicily, Italy 2008 - $10
As I noted in Top Ten Value Packed Wine Regions, southern Italy is home to an ocean of value-packed wines. In Sicily the Nero d'Avola grape in particular is making some approachable, well-priced wines. Many describe the wines of this grape as a juicy, Syrah-like red. MandraRossa bottles carry the "Traceability of Production Line" sticker which indicates that each wine carries information relating to each step of production and distribution. The MadraRossa Nero d'Avola displays bright red fruit flavors and aromas of cherry and raspberry, with just a hint of vanilla courtesy of the six months it spent in oak barrels. It's a great partner to red meat and pasta dishes with red sauce.

8. La Vieille Ferme - Ventoux - Rhone, France 2009 - $10
Number eight on this top ten list is an old favorite of mine. La Vieille Ferme, translated "The Old Farm", is owned by French wine giant Perrin & Fils, whose portfolio includes the world-famous Chateau de Beaucastel of Chateauneuf du Pape in France. According to importer Vineyard Brands, "Jean Pierre Perrin established La Vieille Ferme over 35 years ago, when he chose to produce an inexpensive, straightfor­ward Rhône wine to sell by direct mail to French wine lov­ers. He used the same grape varieties in similar proportions to those planted at the family’s Château de Beaucastel, in a similar vinification process. The result was an immediate success in France, a wine of character and style in keeping with its Beaucastel heritage." The La Vieille Ferm Ventoux is loaded with rich red fruit and spice. It pairs well with a variety of red meat dishes, along with lamb and duck.

9. Quinta da Garrida by Caves Aliança - Red - Dão, Portugal 2007 - $10
According to Portuguese wine group Aliança's website, "Aliança was founded in 1927, over 80 years ago, by 11 associates leaded by Domingos Silva e Ângelo Neves, in Sangalhos (Anadia’s county), Bairrada region. Present in the main wine regions of the country, Aliança believes in quality, and to accomplish the goal, the company purchased several Estates, in regions as Alentejo, Douro, Dão, Bairradas and Beiras, exploring around 600 ha of winery." The investment group's portfolio includes labels like the Quinta da Garrida from the Dão region of Portugal. Garrida's 2007 red blend was given an 88-point rating by the Wine Spectator. The Quinta da Garrida Dão red is a blend of Jaen, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Nacional, three red varietals native to Spain. The wine is loaded with dark fruit flavors and aromas of blackberry, black cherry, and plum. Its smoky characteristics make it a great partner for grilled meat.

10. Paringa - Shiraz - South Australia 2008 - $10
Paringa Vineyards is owned and operated by Australian wine god David Hickinbotham, whose family has been instrumental in the progress of Australian wine. The Paringa line was designed to provide the world with good-quality, value-packed wines. According to the about us page on their website, "Wine from the Paringa vineyard under the Paringa label was first produced in 1999. The 2000 Paringa Cabernet was one of the first $10 retail per bottle wines to receive 90 points from the Wine Spectator magazine. The 2001 Pariga Shiraz also received 90 points and the wine also appeared on the front cover of Wine Spectator and was a Top 100 wine. The latest vintage, the 2008 Paringa Shiraz recently received a score of 89 points from Wine Spectator magazine and was a best value as well as the best buy of the week on the Wine Spectator website." This wine is big, with dark fruit aromas of blackberry and black cherry. It's loaded with Shiraz's stereotypical spice. This wine will pair wonderfully hamburgers, mushrooms...maybe hamburgers with mushrooms.

Now I ask for your feedback. How should I spend my new-found wealth? Read the list and make a suggestion by leaving a comment, a message on facebook, or by emailing me directly.

For more information about me, more incredible wine picks and delicious food and wine pairings, check us out online at Cru Wine Online. You'll find daily Wine and Recipe pairings just for our users. We pair our chefs' recipes with delicious wines, and bring them to you in an entertaining video short, complete with a brief explanation of the wine, the dish, and the pairing.

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Nicholas Barth
Wine Director
Certified Sommelier

1 comment:

Chris said...

Hi Nick,
Thanks for including our Darling Chenin Blanc in your list - and great to hear that you enjoyed it! There are some great Chenin Blancs coming out of South Africa at the moment in a range of styles and many offer excellent value too. It's pretty warm in South Africa at the moment and the Chenin Blanc is flowing!
Check out our La Capra range of wines too, if you are looking for value selections!