Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Drinks Part 3 - Red Wine

Sorry for the delay, but really you should be used to disappointment from this blog by now. I got absolutely buried by a Christmas cold/flu starting on Friday of last week and just now showing signs of abating five days later.

I do want to get Red wine recommendations out before the holidays so I'll go light on the rhetoric and heavy on the listings. Overall it was a mediocre year for me for red wine discoveries, my notes show lots of "pretty good", "reasonable value" but not a lot of knockout punches . The best red wine I drank all year was the 2005 Artist's Series Cabernet Sauvignon from Kenwood, but at $74 a bottle and impossible to find it's not something I can recommend .

Looking back over my notes I have lots of praise for the wines of South America, South Africa and Australia . The traditional European heavyweights of France, Spain and Italy still make my table on a regular basis, as do wines from Washington State. What is not on my table, with the exception of the occasional Zinfandel, are wines from California, I find little value from the Golden State in the sub $20 range.

Still enough editorializing, on to the list. In no particular order here are some red wines I can easily recommend at everyday pricing .


The home to full throttle, fruity Malbecs and some more refined examples as well.

At the bottom of the price spectrum is an easy drinking blend of Malbec and Shiraz Fuzion Shiraz-Malbec, #65177 at the ludicrous price of $8.99, no acidity to speak of but easy drinking and pleasantly fruity. For a few dollars more at $12.99 is Malbec Finca Flichman Misterio, #757245 which keeps the fruit full throttle but adds enough acidity to match with food, also out of Argentina and in our regular rotation is Bonarda - Colonia las Liebres, #369066 at $12.99 a delightfully balanced red that is great with red meats or pasta.

Basically I can state that if you want to spend $13-$16 in the Argentine section you'll probably come away satisfied .


The first South American country to make its' presence felt in the world market is now well established and accepted, top to bottom Chile makes great wines. The emphasis is still a little more fruit forward than I would like but I know I'm in the minority so I'll just drink and enjoy. Some notable Chilean wines available with wide distribution are:

Carmenere Anakena, #72157 $12.97, Carmenere Cremaschi Furlotti Reserva, #104596 $16.96. Carmenere is a "lost grape" in Europe but planted heavily in Chile where it was often mistaken for Merlot but it's fuller and less "green" in its' flavour than Merlot - try it .

Cabernet Sauvignon - Santa Rita, #218644 regularly $11.99 but on sale for $9.99 in December, it's soft and fruity but definitely Cabernet and at $10 it's a stupidly good deal. Pinot Noir Undarraga Sibaris Reservs, #761205 $14.99, anytime I can get Pinot Noir that tastes like Pinot Noir for $15 I'll recommend it.


For many years the bastion of good affordable red wine the Aussies slipped a bit when they fell in love with fruit and oak but they seem to be on the way back. The best wine under $20 I drank this year was Australian, Cabernet Sauvignon Xanadu "Next of Kin" a Margaret River Cab bursting with flavour but with a riveting backbone of acidity, a real "lead in your pencil" wine and great value at $15.99, #181610. There is also a nice Australian Pinot available at $14.99 Little Yering Pinot Noir, #616110.

A couple of old faves deserve mention here the Gamekeeper's Reserve from St. Hallet which blends Shiraz and Grenache with Touriga Nacional to come up with a full bodied beauty and the Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz, #556696 $18.99 which used to retail over $20 but the New World economic order4 has seen fir to give us a value here.

South Africa

The sleeping giant of the wine world still doesn't get much respect but there's lots to drink out there from South Africa. At their best the wines of the Cape combine New World fruit with Old World acidity and make for solid food companions, some South African reds I recommend are Shiraz-Viognier - Graham Beck #656629, $14.99 a nice use of the acidity of the white Viognier here, Roodeberg - KWV Paarl #7187 $13.99, this classic red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz has been a flagship wine for KWV/Paarl since 1949 and is still a great bottle at a great price and Nederburg Shiraz $12.99 #56457, a solid Shiraz at a reasonable price.

Old World

The quality is there but the prices have crept back up, especially from Italy and Spain, still from Spain I regularly drink the Rioja Crianza - Campo Viejo, #190629 $14.99 and the venerable Tempranillo from Penedes Penescal - Barcelo Estate #343434 $12.99.

From Italy there is Montepulciano D'Abruzzo - Dino Illumati at $16.99, #328997 or the delicious Carpinetto Dogajolo for $18.99 #141721 but under $15 it's a "Buyer beware" scenario .

France brings us a reasonble Corbieres Chateau de Cabriac for $14.99 #315119 and the always dependable Perrin Reserve from the Rhone for $15.99, #363457 but little else.

The Portuguese are making wines much like the Spanish these days, with an emphasis on fruit and not so much on tradition, but the full flavoured Porca de Murca from the Douro is good value at $11.99, #114322.

Well I had hoped to get more in depth with the reds but this will have to do, enjoy the Holidays, I might find time to write about Christmas Day.

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