Cheap Wine


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It’s a gorgeous Spring day here in the Mid-South, and pretty mild elsewhere in our nation, except for California, now enduring a Weather Apocalypse, and we hope all our friends out there stay safe. And if you wonder about the origin of the term “Mid-South,” it was coined in the 1920s — so I heard at a lecture once — by an editor at The Commercial Appeal to define the newspaper’s circulation area: West Tennessee, northern Mississippi, eastern Arkansas and the Missouri Bootheel. Now you know. Anyway, if you’re planning to enjoy this great day by kicking back after work and sitting out on the porch or patio or high on an apartment balcony, or if your plans for the weekend include a picnic or some other bucolic expedition to the bosky groves or warm sands, here’s the wine for you. The Pratsch Grüner Veltliner 2015, made by Stefan Pratsch in Austria’s Niederösterreich wine region, is certified organic and produced all in stainless steel tanks at low temperatures to retain freshness and immediate appeal. The color is very pale straw-gold; the wine features what I think of as the primary characteristics of this grape, a kind of white pepper-hay-and-heather highlighting of spiced pear and roasted lemon elements with a dim back-note of quince and ginger, all abetted by crisp acidity and a fledgling flinty-limestone edge. Readers, that’s it, and what more do you need when you’re chilling with family and friends being all familial and friendly and what not? Oh, this would be tasty with seafood-based appetizers and tapas or just as a very pleasant quaff. 12 percent alcohol. Very Good+. And the price? About $14, for a one-liter bottle, representing Good Value.

Imported by Winesellers Ltd, Niles, Ill. A sample for review.

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Here’s a bargain in a Bordeaux blanc, a category in which sauvignon blanc grapes are usually blended with semillon and muscadelle and in whatever degree the terroir, the vintage and the winemaker decide, though muscadelle is often omitted. The winemaker in this case is Véronique Barthe, whose family has owned the property in Entre-Deux-Mers since 1789, that fateful year in French history. Chateau La Freynelle 2015, Bordeaux, is a blend of 60 percent sauvignon blanc, 30 percent semillon and 10 percent muscadelle. The wine displays a pale straw-gold hue and offers pert aromas of lime peel, grapefruit, pea shoot and gooseberry, with notes of lilac and violets gradually and genially emerging; hints of lemon balm and a slight waxy quality increase the attractive powers. It’s very clean, bright and fresh on the palate, and the combination of stone-fruit and citrus flavors — think delicate peach and tangerine — are heightened by a leafy-figgy aspect and a lovely talc-like texture, the whole package enlivened by brisk acidity. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through the end of 2017 with oysters just shucked from the shell, grilled mussels, shrimp or chicken salad; it would serve as a terrific picnic wine when the weather permits. Very Good+. About $13, though prices around the country range from about $11 to $15.

Imported by Aquitaine Wines USA, Berkeley, Calif. A sample for review.

If it is authenticity you’re looking for, if it is an attachment to the land and simplicity that hoist your flag, then you need to purchase tire-pea case of the Chateau Tire Pé “Diem” 2012, from a property that occupies a hillside in the south of Entre-Deux-Mers, overlooking the Gironde River. The wine carries a Bordeaux designation. The estate is owned by David and Hélène Barrault, who bought the chateau, built in the 1750s, in 1997, knowing not a whit about vineyards, grape-growing or winemaking. They skated that learning curve with ease, now turning out some 3,500 to 4,200 cases of certified organic red wine annually. One wing of the chateau, really a farmhouse, has been converted into a model of the most charming, modest bed-and-breakfast establishments you can imagine. I stayed one night there in October 2011 and would go back in a flash.

Today’s wine, the Chateau Tire Pé “Diem” 2012 is made from 100 percent merlot grapes that touch no oak at all; the wine ages eight to 10 diemmonths in concrete tanks and is bottled unfiltered. The color is dark ruby with a softer magenta rim; it’s a robust country wine, bursting with ripe black currants, mulberries and blueberries etched with briery, foresty elements bolstered on the palate by dusty, graphite-drenched tannins and lip-smacking acidity, gradually opening to floral qualities and dried fruit and spices and notes of some cedary, dried herbs nature. So, you’re saying, is that all there is to it? No, friends, because within that laconic description lies an unadorned wine of tremendous vibrancy, resonance and intensity, a wine that feels alive in the glass and the embodiment of the rows of vines and soil that gave it birth. So, there’s that. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018 with hearty winter fare. Excellent. About — are you ready — $12 a bottle, marking Terrific Value.

Jenny & François Selections, New York. A sample for review.

So, My Readers, here is my annual list of the Great Wine Bargains from the previous year, except that, instead of offering you 25 examples, as I usually do, I provide 30, because there are so many excellent inexpensive wines available. The prices here range from $11 to $20. and while I realize that for some people even $18 to $20 stretches what they want to pay for a bottle of wine, I believe that you will find something on this roster fit for most every taste and pocket book. This is a gratifyingly diverse group of wines, and for the first time I welcome products from Brazil, Greece and Hungary to the line-up. Many of these examples are wines to buy by the case and keep around for a year for drinking daily, though, honestly, the point of most of these wines is not to make old bones. The primary theme is: Drink Up and Enjoy. Sensibly, of course, and in moderation.
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aia
Aia Vecchia Vermentino 2015, Toscana Maremma, Italy. Very Good+. About $12.

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Alpha Estate Turtles Vineyard Malagouzia 2015, Florina, Macedonia, Greece. 100 percent malagouzia grapes. Excellent. About $18.

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Ascevi Luwa Ronco Superiore Ceròu 2014, Friuli Isonza, Italy. 100% tocai friulano grapes. Production was 500 cases. Excellent. About $18.
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furmint
Béres Tokaji Furmint 2014, Szaraz, Hungary. 100 percent furmint grapes. Excellent. About $19.

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Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris de Cigare 2015, Central Coast. 44 percent grenache grapes, 20 percent grenache blanc, 13 carignane, 10 mourvèdre, 7 cinsaut and 6 roussanne. Excellent. About $18.

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Colomé Torrontés 2015, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina. Excellent. About $15.
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Garofoli Serra del Conte 2014, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, Italy. Excellent. About $11.

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duret
Domaine Pierre Duret Quincy 2014, Loire Valley, France. 100 percent sauvignon blanc. Excellent. About $14.

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duas
Esporão Duas Castas 2014, Alentejano, Portugal. 60 percent arinto grapes and 40 percent gouveio, Excellent. About $14.

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Marco Felluga “Mongris” Pinot Grigio 2015, Collio, Italy. Excellent. About $18.
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Illahe Viognier 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $17.

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Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2014. Excellent. About $14.
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Lee Family Farm Temprnillo 2014, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 53 cases produced. Excellent. About $20.

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lidio
Lidio Carraro Agnus Tannat 2014, Serra Guacha, Brazil. Very Good+. About $12.
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Masi Rosa dei Masi 2015, Rosato della Venezia, Italy. 100 percent refosco grapes. Excellent. About $15.

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gemma-rose
Masciarelle Villa Gemma 2015, Cerasuola d’Abruzzo Rose, Italy. 100 percent montepulciano d’Aruzzo grapes. Excellent. About $15.

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Francois Montand Brut Blanc de Blancs nv, Jura, France. Very Good+. About $14.
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Morgan Albarino 2015, Monterey County. 375 cases. Excellent. About $18.
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M de Mulonnière Chenin Blanc 2015, Anjou, Loire Valley, France. Excellent. About $15.
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forster
Weingut Eugen Müller Forster Mariengarten Riesling Kabinett 2013, Pfalz, Germany. Excellent. About $19.

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Odfjell Vineyards Armador Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Casablanca Valley, Chile. Excellent. About $14.

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Pedroncelli Winery Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2015, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $12,

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Chateau Puyanché 2014, Francs Cote de Bordeaux Blanc. 75% sauvignon blanc, 25% semillon. Excellent. About $15.

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Real Compania de Vinos Tempranillo 2012, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain. Very Good+. About $12.
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selvapiana
Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 2013, Toscana, Italy. 95 percent sangiovese grapes with five percent canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nera. Excellent. About $17.
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schneider
Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Paterberg Riesling Kabinett 2013, Rheinhessen, Germany. Excellent. About $15.

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Carlos Serres Crianza 1012, Rioja, Spain. 85 percent tempranillo, 15 percent garnacha. Very Good+. About $12.
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Cantina Tramin Pinot Grigio 2015, Sudtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $16.

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cava
Vilarnau Brut Reserve Cava, nv. Traditional blend of 50 percent macabeo grapes, 35 percent parellada and 15 percent xarel-lo. Very Good+. About $13.
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Vina Robles Red4 2013, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. 41 percent petite sirah, 40 percent syrah, 10 percent mourvedre, 9 percent grenache. Excellent. About $17.
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Yes, the 200th Wine of the Day! I launched this series in May 2015 when, after breaking my right (and primary) arm, I couldn’t type as much as usual. Long healed, though, I continue the sequence of posts on featured individual wines because it’s fun and it gives me the chance to highlight favorite wines from my tastings. I also like the element of surprise; at least I hope that some of these selections have been as unexpected as they are gratifying. Anyway, here’s to 200 more Wines of the Day.

So, today’s feature is the Cousiño-Macul Isidora Sauvignon Gris 2015, from Chile’s Valle del EISAG3USA-EURMaule, a cool-climate region way south of Santiago. (The label illustration here, from the winery’s website, says Maipo Valley, but the label on my sample indicates Maule.) The grape is a pink-skinned clonal variation of sauvignon blanc that was almost exterminated by the phylloxera scourge of the 1880s in Europe but has seen something of a minor revival, mainly in Bordeaux and Chile, though in Napa Valley, for example, Chimney Rock Winery grows it for its Elevage white wine blend. The Cousiño-Macul Isidora 2015 is made all in stainless steel, retaining beguiling freshness and immediacy. The color is very pale gold; aromas of straw and heather, jasmine and almond blossom, roasted lemons and yellow plums carry a grassy-herbal top note with a slightly astringent element. On the palate, lip-smacking acidity keeps the wine pulsing through to a finish bracing with crystallized grapefruit, a hint of saline sea-breeze and a burgeoning limestone and flint character. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2017. The winery, by the way, was established in 1856 and is the only 19th Century winery in Chile still owned and operated by its founding family. Winemaker is Gabriel Mustakis. Very Good+. About $15, representing Excellent Value.

Imported by Winebow Inc, New York. A sample for review.

So, today I offer 10 red wines worthy of your attention and use with the hearty fare we prepare during cooler weather, if this country ever gets cooler weather. We’re running 10 to 15 degrees above normal in this neck o’ the woods. Anyway, these wines represent California; Italy’s Piedmont region; Australia’s McLaren Vale; and three sections of Spain, all featuring the tempranillo grape. The grapes and blends of grapes involved are equally diverse. As usual in these Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew the technical, geographical and historical I tend to dote upon for the sake of quick and incisive reviews designed to pique your interest and whet your palate. Enjoy, in moderation, of course. These wines were samples for review.
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Angeline Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir 2015, Mendocino County 80%, Sonoma County 20%.13.9% alc. Transparent angelinemedium ruby shading to an ethereal rim; rose petals and sandalwood, pomegranate and cranberry, a hint of loam that expands to form a foundation for the whole enterprise; satiny and supple but nicely sanded and burnished by mild graphite-tinged tannins; a few minutes in the glass being in notes of wood smoke, red cherry and raspberry; grows quite dense and chewy, almost succulent but riven by straight-arrow acidity that cuts a swath on the palate; builds in power and structure. Now through 2018 or ’19. You could sell the hell out of this pinot noir in restaurant and bar wine-by-the-glass programs. Excellent. About $18, representing Great Value.
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Bonny Doon A Proper Claret 2014, California. 13.2% alc. 36% cabernet sauvignon, 22% petit verdot, 22% tannat, 9% syrah, 7% merlot, 3% cabernet franc, 1% petite sirah. The point of Bonny Doon’s A Proper Claret is that it is not a proper claret at all, not with the inclusion of tannat, syrah and petite sirah. Ho-ho. Medium ruby with a transparent magenta rim; untamed and exotic, with notes of dried berries, baking spices and flowers; opens to black fruit scents and flavors with a tinge of red fruit; firm, moderately dense, supported by plenty of dusty graphite-laden tannins and bright acidity; needs a steak or leg of lamb. Very Good+. About $16.
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Chronic Cellars Purple Paradise 2014, Paso Robles. 14.5% alc. 77% zinfandel, 14% syrah, 8% petite sirah, 1% grenache. Medium ruby hue; a feral and flinty flurry of black currants, mulberries and plums; a hint of blueberry, with cedar and mint; warm and spicy with notes of cloves and sandalwood; a high, wild baked berry tone; very dry, quite dense and chewy, firm sinewy structure packed with dusty tannins and lively acidity. Now through 2018. Very Good+. About $15.
As you can see, the label is appropriate for Halloween parties.
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Viña Eguía Tempranillo 2013, Rioja, Spain. 13.5% alc. 100% tempranillo. Medium ruby hue shading to a delicate mulberry rim; violets and rose petals, blueberries and red currants, leather and smoke; an exotic dusting of cloves, sandalwood and allspice, with a hint of the latter’s woody, slightly astringent quality; though moderate in tannins, this gains weight and heft as the minutes pass, picking up a fleshy, meaty character to the macerated and baked dark fruit flavors; animated by brisk acidity. Terrific character for the price. Now through 2018. Very Good+. About $14, marking Excellent Value.
Imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, Calif.
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Bodegas Fariña Dama de Toro Tempranillo 2014, Toro, Spain. 13.5% alc. With 5% garnacha. Medium ruby-mulberry color; loam, dust, graphite, mint, iodine; hints of red and black currants and blueberries, permeated by dried spices and flowers; very dense, dry, smoky, chewy; smacky tannins coat the palate. What it lacks in charm it makes by for in inchoate power and dynamism. Try 2018 to ’20 with pork shoulder roast slathered in salsa verde or grilled pork chops with a cumin-chili powder rub. Very Good+. About $15.
Imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, Calif.
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Marchesi di Gresy Barbera d’Asti 2014, Piedmont, Italy. 13% alc. 100% barbera grapes. Medium ruby-violet hue; an attractive bouquet of potpourri, dried baking spices and dried currants; hints of cedar, tobacco and lead pencil; clean and spare with plenty of acid cut for liveliness and lip-smacking tannins; pulls up elements of black cherries, mulberries and plums, all slightly spiced and macerated, and touches of cherry pit and skin; the finish is packed with earthy tannins and graphite minerality. Now through 2019 to ’22 with salumi, red meat pizzas and pasta dishes — especially pappardelle with rabbit — or aged hard cheeses. Excellent. About $18.
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Peachy Canyon Incredible Red Zinfandel 2014, California. 14.5% alc. With 2% petite sirah. Dark ruby shading lighter to an invisible rim; notes of spicy and slightly roasted black currants, cherries and plums, a strain of wild berry and white pepper and hints of wood smoke, ground cardamom and cumin; rich on the palate but tempered by loamy and velvety tannins and clean acidity; an element of dusty graphite minerality dominates the finish. A well-made zinfandel for everyday drinking. Very Good+. About $14.
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Real Compañía de Vinos Tempranillo 2012, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain. 13.5% alc. 100% tempranillo. Vibrant inky purple; a very deep, dark, warm, spicy loamy tempranillo with staggering, mineral and graphite-laced tannins that don’t prevent a hint of floral-inflected black currant and plum fruit and touches of heather, cedar and black olive from emerging from the ebon depths; there is, in fact, surprising elegance and finesse at play in the balance between structure, acid, fruit and oak elements. Drink now through 2018 or ’19. Very Good+. About — I’m not kidding — $12, a Remarkable Value.
Imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, Calif.
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Robert Oatley GSM 2014, McLaren Vale, Australia. 13.5% alc. 48% grenache, 47% syrah, 5% oatleymourvèdre. Dark ruby with a lighter magenta rim; ripe and spicy notes of roasted plums and currants, with traces of red licorice and leather, briers and brambles; a few moments in the glass bring in alluring touches of allspice and sandalwood, dried sage and rosemary; dry, dusty and slightly austere tannins serve as foundation for lithe, supple black and red fruit flavors boosted by fleet acidity and graphite minerality. For all its structure, the wine is juicy, seductive and tasty. Drink now through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $20.
Imported by Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits, Greensboro, N.C.
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Vina Robles Vineyards & Winery Red4 2013, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. 14.9% alc. 41% petite sirah, 40% syrah, 10% mourvèdre, 9% grenache. Dark ruby-magenta color; redolent of macerated and slightly baked mixed berries, cloves and iodine, espresso, wood smoke and roasted fennel — heady stuff indeed; a lightly resistant dusty, velvety texture bolstered by persistent tannins packed with graphite and loam; a long expressive finish. A lot going on here for the price. Drink now through 2018. Excellent. About $17.
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Let’s face it, when you sit down to a pepperoni pizza or a plateful of spaghetti and meatballs, bastardoyou don’t want to drink a fine red wine that sings of the earth and the sky, of rain and sun, soil and bedrock, a wine that embodies a vineyard, place, a life, a wine that is both typical and individual. No, friends, when you sit down to a pepperoni pizza or a plateful of spaghetti and meatballs what you want is a well-made, decent quaff that sits well with the food and doesn’t get in the way. Such a one is today’s selection, Il Bastardo Sangiovese 2015, Rosso di Toscana. The wine is 100 percent varietal, made in stainless steel and serves as a sort of cadet version of Chianti. In fact the maker of Il Bastardo is Renzo Masi, a third-generation Chianti producer in the Rufina district east of Florence. The color is dark ruby-garnet shading to lighter ruby; aromas of dried fruit and flowers mixed with dusty graphite segue to sweet black currants and red cherries touched with hints of oolong tea and orange rind. The wine is quite dry, animated by clean acidity, and it finishes not with a bang but a whisper of cherry pit and exotic spices. 13 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2017 and just enjoy it. Very Good. About $9, a Great Value.

R. Shack Selection, imported by HB Wine Merchants, New York. A sample for review.

Buy the Carlos Serres Crianza Rioja 2012 by the case, for drinking over the next year or two. A serres-riojablend of 85 percent tempranillo grapes and 15 percent garnacha, it embodies what seems to me are the primary characteristics of the tempranillo grape, a combination of slightly dried black and blue fruit, new leather, dried herbs and iodine-washed minerality; the garanacha lends a lift of red cherries and currants and bright acidity. The wine aged 14 months in French and American oak barrels, followed by six months of bottle aging. The color is medium ruby shading to a delicate transparent rim; black cherries, currants and a touch of blueberry are permeated by notes of smoke, ground cumin and sandalwood. The wine is fresh and lively, briery and peppery, dry and mildly tannic, and it goes down with lithe ease and suppleness. 13 percent alcohol. I consumed a glass or two of this wine with an egg scrambled with bits of diced red onion, yellow bell pepper, tomato and borsellino salami. Very Good+. About $12, a Terrific Bargain.

Imported by Winesellers, Ltd., Niles, Illinois. A sample for review.

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So, something important is happening in Brazil now, right? Ha ha, I’m kidding of course! The Olympics are happening in Rio, and I have to say that Aly Raisman’s floor exercise last night looked flawless to me, what were the deductions for? Still, she got the silver medal, or, as the commentators say, she “silvered.” Anyway, to show that we can be timely here on BTYH, I offer as Wine of the Day a robust and inexpensive Brazilian red wine that would be terrific with hearty fare like barbecue ribs, grilled steaks and pork chops, braised meats and goat (or “goat-like creatures”) roasted over an open fire. The Lidio Carraro Agnus Tannat 2014, Serra Guacha, displays a glossy deep ruby-black hue shading to a glowing magenta rim; it’s a big-hearted, two-fisted red, whose fervent aromas and flavors of black currants, cherries and plums are shot through with notes of tar and leather, lavender and violets, all propelled across the palate by vibrant acidity, glittering graphite and moderate but dusty, chewy tannins. What more could you ask for at the price, at least in terms of personality? 13.5 percent alcohol. Production was about 1,000 cases. Winemaker was Monica Rossetti. Very Good+. About — hold your breath! — $12.

Imported by Winebow, Inc., New York. A sample for review.

At first sniff and sip, you might think of the Aia Vecchia Vermentino 2015, Toscana Maremma, scheda_tecnica-vermentino2“Well, that’s a decent quaff, pleasant, tasty, as untroubled as still waters.” Give it a few minutes, though, and the wine increases its effects and powers. Made all in stainless steel tanks, the wine contains 5 percent viognier to the 95 percent vermentino. The hue is very pale gold, almost colorless; it opens with delicate notes of peach and pear, with hints of flint and acacia, dried thyme and almond blossom. Give this wine a chance, and it unfurls its savory and saline character, as lively and bracing as a sea-breeze and buoyed by bright acidity. Lithe and sinewy on the tongue yet dense with slightly roasted stone-fruit flavors just touched by a wisp of honeyed lushness, the wine devolves to a spice and limestone-packed finished rounded by nuances of grapefruit peel and almond skin bitterness. 13 percent alcohol. We drank this with a white bean, yellow pepper and sage soup, and it was great. It would also be terrific with grilled shrimp and just about any roasted or grilled fish and seafood risotto. Very Good+, and at a remarkable $12 a bottle, Buy It by the Case.

Imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

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