Tired after a long workday? Having a late-night snack while watching some videos on YouTube? Playing Final Fantasy XIV? Maybe having a pleasant conversation with your significant other before falling asleep? The commonality between these scenes is the lack of mental and intellectual resources to analyse wine. And that's fine! Sometimes all you need is a simple yet good wine - a background for other activities, a final touch to make the context more voluminous and relaxed. Such wine mustn't steal your focus or drain your resources. And, of course, it must respect your budget!
I enjoy drinking wine. Usually, it's an intellectual activity. But I feel no shame in treating some wines as a regular drink. Because there are cases where sophisticated wine makes no sense. Luckily, we live in wonderful times when it comes to wine consumption. The production quality is rather high, the market is big and wide, and there are plenty of wines for a decent price (aye, that's subjective). So I strive to find wines with a high quality-to-price ratio and with a price as low as possible. That's a challenge, as I taste many mediocre wines along the way. But the quest is rewarding. And today, I want to share some of the wines I buy in considerable quantities. There are many more positions, but this one reflects my drinking mood over the last two months.
Important disclaimer. I specifically omitted wines that are not available in the shops today. Also, I wanted to include stores other than Good Wine, so we have Silpo, OK Wine and Roots.
Francois Montand Méthode Traditionnelle Rosé Brut NV
This wine secured the 🏅 7th place in our wine tasting lineup.
Many people enjoy having a glass of fresh wine while they cook. I am no exception, though I prefer having some bubbles. And yes, rosé. A blend of Grenache and Cinsault sourced from vineyards located in Jura. The vines grow at 300 meters above sea level between the plain of Bressane and the foothills of the Jurassian plateau.
Despite the price, it's made in traditional style (e.g. with second fermentation in bottle) with 9 months spent on lees. Combined with quality, we can talk about value here.
Domaine de La Baume les Mariés Sauvignon Blanc 2021
This wine secured the 🏅 6th place in our wine tasting lineup.
This is the bottle that joined the lineup at the last moment. Initially, I wanted to bring another wine from Silpo, but then I tasted this Sauvignon Blanc and figured that I'll buy at least a case of this wine (already waiting for my delivery). Besides, I think it would be nice for some people to taste Sauvignon Blanc other than from Marlborough for a change.
Not much is known about the technical aspect of Les Mariés. The grapes are sourced from somewhere in Languedoc-Roussillon from vines growing on clay-limestone soils. The fruits are pressed with a pneumatic press, fermented in cold temperatures and aged in tanks/vats.
So what do we have after les Mariés (the wedding)?
Tasca Tenuta Regaleali Nozze d'Oro 2018
This wine secured the 🥉 3rd place in our wine tasting lineup.
This wine has an intriguing name - golden wedding. Count Giuseppe Tasca d'Almerita is a true winemaker. To celebrate his 50th anniversary with his wife Franca, he decided to create a new wine that would tell a story of estate and family. And so, in 1984, he blends Inzolia and Sauvignon Blanc to get a Nozze d'Oro between two grapes cultivated by his family since WW1.
Inzolia comes from the Barbabietole vineyard (8.4 ha) planted in 1972. Sauvignon Blanc - Tramontanata vineyard (6.67 ha) planted in 1998. Both grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks for 15 days, but Sauvignon grapes are cold-macerated for a short period of time. Malolactic fermentation doesn't occur. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks on lees for 5-6 months.
A wine that I like to drink with my wife when we talk in bed before going to sleep.
Frontonio Microcósmico 2017
This wine secured the 🥈 2nd place in our wine tasting lineup.
Not sure if anyone expected it, but we have a skin contact wine today. Most orange wines are rather pricey, and there are not that many good options for a tight budget. Cascina Tavijn Vino Bianca 2021 is not available now (though it will be soon), and Catavela 2021 is already out of budget. But hey, Microcósmico 2017 is on sale!
100% Macabeo from rainfed vineyards (10 ha) in El Sotillo (Castile-La Mancha). The 65+ years old vines grow at 530 meters above sea level in limestone soils. The grapes are hand-picked, destemmed and macerated for 20 hours without any . Only indigenous yeast is used for fermentation that happens for 15 days in underground cement at 17-18ºC. The wine is aged 5-6 months more in the same underground cement on fine lees without battonage.
Johnson Estate Pinot Noir 2018
This wine secured the 🥇 1st place in our wine tasting lineup.
Pinot Noir from New Zealand is my go-to choice when I need something simple and easy. They pair well with my favourite dishes and activities that can't stand complex or heavy wines. And this is what many New Zealand Pinot Noir wines are for me. But of course, the price is always a question. That's why I am so happy to see them as part of the 5+1 offer.
Johnson Estate is one of Marlborough's few remaining 100% family-owned wine companies, owned and operated by Bryan and Jan Johnson since 1990. And it's a rather huge estate. In 1993 the couple established 180 hectares of vineyards. Only in 2000, once the vineyards became mature enough, the Johnson Estate label was released to the market.
Interestingly, this Pinot Noir comes from Johnson and Outpost vineyards from Waihopai and Omaka valleys (respectively). Different selected estate vineyard blocks were kept separately until final blending. The grapes were mostly destemmed and all fermented in open vats. After gentle plunging, the wine is drained into barrels for 11 months before blending.
Bodegas la Eralta Hacienda El Olmo Crianza 2018
This wine secured the 🏅 4th place in our wine tasting lineup.
Wines made of Pinot Noir are great, but there are occasions when you want something juicier, more concentrated and with less forest floor. And when it comes to the quality-price ratio, Spain is a country to keep in mind. And to be honest, when I want something simple and fruit-forward but well-made, I often look for Crianza. Crianza?
Rioja (and many other Spanish regions) uses a convenient system to describe wine ageing. Joven (young) refers to wines not destined for ageing (no specific rules about oak, though), so drink them within a year or two after release. Roble (oak) refers to wines that spend some unspecified amount of time in oak, but usually not very long. Crianza (bringing up) wines must have been aged for at least two years, with one of those spent in oak casks. Reserva wines must have been aged for a minimum of three years, with at least one in oak. Gran Reserva wines must have been aged for at least 5 years with 18 months in oak! The longer the ageing, the more expensive wine gets.
So why do I like Crianza? Because it has some oak, but usually not too much, and due to shorter ageing, it costs less. Of course, this is not the rule. It's always better to taste the whole range from a given winery and make your own decision. And it's also fascinating. I did it with Hacienda El Olmo, and my favourite wine from this range is Crianza. Why? Because it's (arguably) elegant, fresh and juicy. Macerated for three weeks in a temperature-controlled environment, aged for 14 months in new and old oak, mainly French. And sold for a fixed price.
Fattoria San Lorenzo Marche Rosso di Gino 2020
This wine secured the 🥈 2nd place in our wine tasting lineup.
We continue to climb the heavy mountain, and the time has come to taste a Montepulciano and Sangiovese blend from Marche. Fattoria San Lorenzo is a biodynamic winery famous for their white Verdicchio. And here we are, drinking red wine. Why? Because it's soo good! And despite the 'natural wine' label, it has a decent price.
The grapes are sourced from 35-years old vines growing at 250-300 meters above sea level. Fermentation is spontaneous and takes place in steel at a temperature of 35°C for the first 3 days, then no more than 25°C. The maceration lasts at least 15 days. Unfiltered wine. The refinement includes a 12-month rest period on lees in concrete.
Els Vinyerons Pregadéu 2020
This wine secured the 🏅 5th place in our wine tasting lineup.
After so many wines, we need a hard reset. And in my opinion, a glass of Cava serves this purpose well. Els Vinyerons is a young project committed to expressing local terroir. Pregadéu (praying mantis) is made of 100% Xarel-lo. The grapes are hand-harvested and softly pressed. The must is fermented with indigenous yeasts. The second fermentation occurs in bottles with grape juice from the same vineyard. The wine spends 18 months before disgorgement.
There is nothing scary in wines below $20. There are plenty of gems in this price range, though expect some gold-digging. Of course, you might run into some shit, but at least it's cheap.
Keep an eye on different discounts. Roots regularly puts a 15% sale on some bottles (meaning almost 24% for orders with 6+ bottles). Good Wine has this wonderful 5+1 system (you can combine effort with your friends to buy only several bottles). OK Wine sometimes puts ridiculously low prices on some interesting wines (see Vouvray Brut). Silpo has plenty of discounts.
And most importantly, enjoy your wine regardless of its price and status. Wine is for drinking and enjoyment.