05 Sep 2012
It’s pretty rare that I try a wine under $15 that is a must buy, but the 2010 Graffigna Reserve Malbec is now high on my list to have again. Originally sent to me for Malbec Day #malbecday, this wine sat at an old address until just this past weekend. I’ve never been a huge fan of many lower price Argentine Malbec because of their jammy single dimension character but this wine, but this week’s #wowwine (hashtag on Twitter) is a winner.
2010 Graffigna Centerario Reserve Malbec
Producer: Graffigna Wines
Appellation: San Juan
Cooperage: 12 months in 85% French 15% American
My Suggested Food Pairing: Broiled Lambchops with mint chimichurri
The Graffigna Malbec is very dark and extracted in the glass with hints of ruby red tones around the edges. It’s a pretty, yet ruggedly handsome wine with a thickness of hue. Aromas of plum, tobacco, blueberry and vanilla erupt from the glass. It reminds me of a few Washington Malbec that I’ve had over the years. The palate is definitely fruit forward without being over the top like sucking on a jolly rancher. There is a hint of blueberry preserve action going on like in a jelly filled donut. I like how the palate evolves to include black pepper and the characteristics of strong oak aging. You’ll like this wine if you enjoy full flavored (fruit first) wine. If you’re turned off by full fruit with medium oak characteristics, this wine may leave you feeling a little like a tree hugger. I’m all in at the price point of $13
See other Argentine Malbec reviews
21 Apr 2011
Let’s try a little word association game. I say Malbec you say <fill in the blank>. Let’s continue, I say value $10 and under wine, you say <insert thoughts here>. I would venture to guess that the same words might apply to both for a good majority of wine drinkers. Argentinian Malbec has crushed the “value to quality” category over the last few years becoming the fastest growing wine category.
For years Argentinians consumed 90% of the wine they produced (which was a lot at the tune of 60 bottles per capita). This decade has seen a massive shift in the amount of wine exported. Chances are, if you’ve had Malbec, you’ve had wine from Argentina (to the chagrin of the French folks from Cahors).
When I received a box of eight Malbec under the guise of Malbec Madness, I couldn’t help but pair the wine with the exciting college basketball happening in March and early April. I recognized a few of the labels from purchases at a local market and was excited to put the wines to the test with my own Malbec Madness bracket. At first the wines were tasted without looking at the notes. I didn’t want the price points to sway my initial judgment, so I tasted them semi-blind (maybe blurry is a better term – especially after tasting through all 8). There were a few immediate stand outs, but I set aside my notes, re-corked the wines and decided to re-visit them later…over the Elite 8 games.
I decided to pair the wines in an Elite 8 format with the 1-8 seeds based on price point.
07 Trapiche Icons ($55) vs. 09 Falling Star ($6)
The 1/8 seed match up was a disjointed sloppy mess of a game. The Icons came out ready to dominate. With a bottle twice the weight of the Falling Star it seemed as if the wine didn’t even matter. Once the game began the 07 Trapiche showed its power with 18 months of aging in new French Oak and amazing aromas of perfume, espresso, and spice. The wine was thick in the mouth without being overbearing. “Oh my god, this is good,” was the play of the night. The Falling Star committed too many turnovers to compete but showed a hint of flare with a bright juicy candy and banana aroma followed with a soft and elegant mouth feel. In the end the sharp off putting finish and lack of multi-dimensional game plan kept this wine from making a game of it.
07 Trapiche Icons Malbec (Mendoza) 4/5
09 Falling Star Malbec (Mendoza) 3/5
10 Michael Torino ($13) vs. 08 Trapiche Oak Cask ($10)
On paper this was a pretty even match up (4 seed vs. 5 seed). The high elevation M. Torino was is a young team with very little experience playing well against the extended maceration 08 Trapiche which spent 12 months in French and American oak. In the end the intensity of the Trapiche and its bold blackberry and vanilla smooth texture won out over the shallow and tart play of the M. Tornio (lacked any layers of fruit or flavor).
08 Trapiche Oak Cask (Mendoza) 3+/5
10 Michel Torino Malbec (Cafayate Valley) 3/5
08 M. Torino Don David ($16) vs. 10 Astica ($6)
This 2/7 seed match up was close until half time. At that point the experience and varied flavor of the Michel Torino Don David came through. With a super thick black core producing aromas of plum, raisin, and almonds the depth of flavor was superior to the restrained nose under-ripe fruit and semi-sweet profile of the Astica. Both wines are very fruit forward but lacked the depth of game to compete at the next level. It will be an interesting round two match up for the M. Torino.
08 Michel Torino Don David Malbec (Cafayate Valley) 3/5
10 Astica Malbec (Cuyo) 3-/5
08 Trapiche Broquel ($15) vs. 09 Trapiche Varietals ($7.50)
The 3/6 seed match up was a very well played game. Both wines showcased their Mendoza fruit forward heritage. For over 125 years Trapiche has been making fine Argentinean wine. With a little sibling rivalry the Trapiche Broquel shows more age spending 25 days of extended maceration in concrete and 15 months in French and American oak. The youthful Trapiche Varietals comes out strong with elegant fruit and hints of rosemary, vanilla and evergreen tree. The soft fruit feel is accented by pencil lead, medium tannin and a good finish. The Broquel also scores with chalk and pencil lead but in the end shows its strength by displaying strong characteristics of blueberry, vanilla smoke and a long finish. At $15 this is a very good bargain.
08 Trapiche Broquel Malbec (Mendoza) 3+/5
09 Trapiche Varietals Malbec (Mendoza) 3/5
Round two sees the dominant #1 seed Trapiche Icons advance to play the under $10 Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec. The #2 and #3 seed wines advanced with solid play making for a solid second round match up between 08 Michel Torino Don David and the 08 Trapiche Broquel.
The 1/5 match up between the two Trapiche wines was a well played game sure to go down as a classic. Far outmatched the 08 Oak Cask kept pace for most of the game with the 07 Icons. In the end the depth of flavor and aroma of the Icons proved to be too overwhelming. At just $9.99, the Trapiche Oak Cask is a solid wine worthy of many evening sips. Great work keeping pace with a wine 5x its price.
The 2/3 Match up pitted two well matched teams from different areas but of similar price points ($15). Michel Torino Don David (the favorite) started strong but in the end the subtle tannin and long finish of the Trapiche Broquel won out.
This 1/3 match up was extremely mis-matched in price points ($55 to $15) but very well matched in overall flavor, structure and intensity. While the Broquel fits in to the standard price point for a daily drinker, the Trapiche Icons dominated the boards with a consistent flavor, structure, balance, and finish that showed why it is deserving of the price point.
Overall Winner –07 Trapiche Icons Malbec (4/5)
Best Value – 09 Trapiche Varietals (3/5)
Solid – 08 Trapiche Broquel (3+/5)
19 Jul 2010
Store shelves seem to be lined with large selections of wine at and around $10. The challenge at that price point is getting a wine that provides more interest than grape flavored alcohol, thin fruit taste, poor aroma, or big woody oak to hide inferior quality juice. With beer, it’s pretty safe to assume that most light beers have certain flavors. The majority of main line beer has distinct tastes that register in our memory. With so many wine labels on the shelves, selecting one can be pretty hit and miss.
I believe the $10 price point is pretty status quo for the daily drinking wino on a budget and the occasional wine sipper. Therefore it is important to have a list of trustworthy labels that can be counted on to deliver.
The Under $10 Wine Team
In early 2010 I began the mission of fielding a team of wine players that could score at parties, hit it out of the park for value, and be trusted to step to the plate in most any situation. The rules were that each wine had to be purchased for $10 or less (sales, club discounts, bulk discounts were considered). Wines showed up to spring training and specially scheduled tryouts to show their stuff for the coaches. Each was vying for a coveted spot on the 12 man roster of 9 starters and 3 reserves. While legal issues (state distribution) kept us from trying out every player referred to us, we made every effort to select players who are widely available. After reviewing the scouting reports and film, I am pleased to reveal the 2010 “Under $10 Wine Team.” I’ve included the coach’s summary, roster position, and stats for each player. Links to the full scouting report are included for your reference. Many of these players’ tryouts were filmed. Enjoy the footage and make a note of the jersey (label) so you can get an autograph next time you are in the store.
|2008 Chateau St. Michelle Riesling (WA)
|2008 J.Lohr Syrah (CA)
|2008 Caterina Chardonnay ($10-$12)
|2008 Dancing Bull Zinfandel (CA)
|2008 Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc (Chile) $10-13
|2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon (WA)
|NV Segura Viudas Cava Brut (Spain)
|2007 Velvet Devil Merlot (WA)
|2006 Kiona Lemberger (WA)
|The Bench Players and Reserves2008 Gozzo Malbec (Argentina)
2007 Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir (CA) **$11
2007 Bogle Petite Sirah (CA)
16 Jul 2010
Why tryouts? Why under $10? In my opinion, this is the most volatile price range for quality. It is also a common price range that non wine snobs shop in. The need for quality trusted wines under $10 is there. While 40+ wines have tried out for the team, most have struck out and been sent back to the minor leagues. Soon, you’ll have a team of nine starters and three alternates that you can bring to the table without fear!
Prior to opening day, I made my pre-season predictions regarding the MLB season.
AL Predictions / Current Standings
- East: Prediction Red Sox / Actual: Yankees (but there is still hope)
- Central: Prediction Twins / Actual White Sox (Twins 3.5 games out)
- West: Prediction Texas / Actual Texas
- Wild Card: Prediction Mariners / Actual Tampa Bay (sadly Mariners have cashed in their chips)
NL Predictions / Current Standings
- East: Prediction Florida Marlins / Actual: Braves (Marlins 10 games out)
- Central: Prediction St Louis / Actual: Cincinnati (Cardinals in the hunt)
- West: Prediction Arizona Diamondbacks / Actual: San Diego Padres (Diamondbacks one of the worst teams in baseball)
- Wildcard: Prediction Phillies / Actual: Dodgers (but Phillies are in the hunt)
The Final Tryouts
2008 Waterbrook Melange Blanc
- The Stuff: 30% Riesling, 20% Gewürztraminer, 15% Viognier, 10% Sauv Blanc, 10% Chardonnay, 10$ Pinot Gris, 5% Muscat; 4000 cases made; 12.2%ABV; 1.4% residual sugar
- The Swirl: Very light pale, nearly clear with a hint of beautiful honey highlights
- The Sniff: Taken by surprise with the abundant perfume, sweet honey, peach and lychee fruit. A fantastic aroma that keeps you coming back for one more sniff before you sip.
- The Sip: Not knowing the blend, I would have pegged this for a Riesling. The distinctive Riesling / Gewurz flavors come through but are contrasted with a nice mouth coating of the Chardonnay and the floral components to the Viognier. The wine is amazingly complex for the price point and delivers great off dry sweetness balanced by medium acidity.
- The Score: At only $15 retail, this is an amazing value. I love the nice subtle honey flavors that balance well with the wet stone minerality. I score this wine a solid 3+/5
Sadly the Waterbrook Melange was disqualified from the Under $10 Team for being overpriced. At the time of tryouts, it was assumed that this wine could be purchased for $10. Upon further investigation the officials have declared Melange Blanc intelligible for consideration.
- The Stuff: 100% Malbec from Mendozza Argentina; 6 months in new French oak, 14.2%ABV
- The Swirl: Beautiful rich purple with hints of bright amethyst around the edges. Light seems to dance off the glass.
- The Sniff: Hints of woody evergreen that make way for bright red fruits and subtle spice. Slightly under-ripe red fruit comes out as well.
- The Sip: Great big gobs of red berry wash across your tongue and give way to subtle blueberry undertones. The mid-palate is a little fleeting but the back end structure is no push over. Medium body and good finish make this a very pleasant value.
- The Score: At $10, I would buy this wine again. Perfect burger or pizza wine. The wine presents enough layers of flavor to be mistaken for twice the price. Easily score this wine a 3/5
2008 J.Lohr Estate Syrah $10
- The Stuff: 93% Syrah, 3% Petite Sirah, 3% Grenache, 1% other red; Paso Robles AVA; 14 months in 25% new French and American oak; 13.4%ABV
- The Swirl: Cloudy deep purple color that presents about 80% opaque.
- The Sniff: Aromas of boysenberry, toasted almonds, and dark red fruit on the nose. Very aromatic and full with subtle notes of campfire.
- The Sip: Medium bodied Syrah that is slightly thin on the front but opens up nicely to dark red fruit, hints of smoke and a beautiful long velvet finish. An easy sipping Syrah that will have you wanting more.
- The Score: Retail is $15 but I scored this wine for only $10. At that price this well balanced, nicely flavored Syrah scores a 3+/5 and will be a definite re-buy.
21 Feb 2010
What is the carbon footprint of your wine? At first glance, Y+B Wines may cause a double take. The 1L box wine is a departure from the glass wine bottle. If you’re of the mindset that there is something romantic about popping the cork on a wine, then you may have a difficult time adjusting. If you have greater concern for our planet and are interested in what’s inside the container, then Y+B Wines may be a perfect combination. While Y+B may have stereotypes and hundreds of years of tradition to overcome, they are certainly making a strong case for quality, sustainable, eco-friendly packaging.
Wine Blogger Dr. Vino used a carbon footprint calculator he created for the wine business to determine that Y+B Wines have a carbon footprint about 54% less than traditional packaging.
“Consider: A case of wine in glass weighs 40 pounds and holds 9 liters of wine — close to 50% wine and 50% packaging. A case of Yellow+Blue weighs 26 pounds and holds 12 liters of certified organic wine. That’s 93% wine and 7% packaging.” – From the Y+B Web Site
As you continue your review of the Y+B company (not even thinking about wine), you notice a company committed to doing right by people and the planet. Grapes are grown 100% organic and sustainable, the company offsets it’s carbon footprint by purchasing carbon offsets, and 1% of proceeds go to www.kiva.org (a person to person micro-lending web site)
So, how’s the wine? Yellow plus blue may equal green for the planet, but can they make purple (and gold…oh, and Rose too)?
Y+B’s current line-up includes a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, Rose from Spain, Malbec and Torrontes from Argentina. Below are reviews for Sauvignon Blanc and Malbec.
2009 Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from Central Valley of Chile farmed organically and sustainably
- The Swirl: Very pale, not even qualify as yellow or gold, maybe wheat almost ready for harvest
- The Sniff: Bright citric fruit with emphasis on lemon and mandarin orange
- The Sip: Again very bright citric of lemon, lime and a little tart. Throw slightly off balance with a little steeliness. The acidity is mild and the finish trails off quickly
- The Score: At only $12 for 1L this is a fantastic value for every day drinking Sauv Blanc – I score it a 3 (lowered slightly due to the off balance steeliness)
- The Stuff: 100% Malbec from San Juan Argentina farmed organically and sustainably
- The Swirl: Very dark purple borderline plum and black
- The Sniff: A woody earthy berry that seems not quite ripe
- The Sip: Nice red berry (maybe cherry) with some tree components. The finish was moderately tart
- The Score: At only $12 for 1L, I score this a 3 (out of 5). This is not a smooth drinking wine but more a food hearty drinker with decent characteristics
The overall impression is that these are not your typical box wines (think cube). They offer good quality as well as portability that bottles may not offer (camping, picnics, etc). One note about the Tetra-Pak spout – on both bottles the spout came slightly disconnected from the box upon opening causing a party foul dribble pour. Creative pouring ensued.
The Verdict: Look beyond the packaging and examine the product inside. If you like the wine, the earth friendly packaging and socially conscience business model adds to the value!
*These wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review