I was surprised by the strong reactions to my first 'Boatloads of Cheap Crap' essay, almost universally along the lines of "Oh my god, you poor bastard, to have to endure such torture by grape!"

Well, yes and no.

I suppose by titling the piece "Boatloads of Cheap Crap," I was asking for it, but the point I thought I was making was that there were some surprisingly good values out there to be had for the kind of coinage that your barber would be insulted by if you tried to tip him with it. The strongest of these reactions came from our European friends, to whom I suspect the notion of a cheap drinkable wine costing less than an arm and a leg wasn't an alien one.

Sadly, here in the U.S. wine is still thought of as a luxury item and even your basic industrial wine product is often stupidly expensive. It's a shame when wine lovers like Lisa and I rarely even order wine when we eat out--the markups are often simply nauseating (I'll lead apes in hell before I'll pay $35 for Jadot Beaujolais-Villages), and beer or soda suffice nicely (this is also one of the reasons we rarely eat out except at jeebi).

So: onward and downward.

Much of the remaining feedback from Installment One pointed out rather heatedly that I insisted on reviewing some budget-busting wines that cracked the psychologically-significant fifteen dollar price point. Apparently fifteen is the new ten, as wines above that magic line are perceived as 'expensive,' whereas those below it are not, at least for those of us below the winegeek poverty line. This time I'm winnowing the chaff from the wheat, and only a few cost as much as $12. All the rest, under $10!


Contine Riouolo Prosecco Veneto NV ($9). Lightly sweet and fizzy, rather broad mouthfeel, yellow pear, touch of yeastiness, bit of white grapefruit citricity. Rather clumsy but decently fizzy and friendly-sweet. Nothing subtle here, just a decent little fizz. Very easygoing and amiable, not a challenging bone in its body, all party. [Buy again? Yes.]


Viña Sila 'Las Brisas' Rueda 2003 ($6). Very grassy-herbaceous at first, then white grapefruit, lemon and a touch of peachy softness. For all the sauvignon-like nose I was expecting it to be brighter and crisper; it's actually medium crisp, minerally-citric and has a not exactly weighty but certainly substantial mouthfeel, a bit of heft, can I keep this sentence going if I keep adding commas? No. The grapefruit elements fade into the background as the midpalate runs its course, the finish is all lemon and rocks. Pretty good stuff, a nice match with Lisa's paella. [Buy again? Yes.]

Dominio de Eguren Vino de la Tierra de Castilla 'Protocolo' (White) 2002 ($6). Pale lemon-straw color, greenish highlights. Smells of cement dust and talc minerality over taut lemony yellowfruit, touch of old-wood spiciness. Robust consistency is balanced by vivid acidity, simple lemonstony flavors but good balance and mouthgrab, takes over and lets you know who's boss. Okay, so there's not a lot of complexity, but it's heart is in the right place. [Buy again? Yes.]

Long Beach Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2003 ($8). Bit of matchstick-flintiness hovers over very quiet yellowcitric fruit. Not much nose, almost sterile. Medium-crisp vague yellowfruit, a certain general tanginess, not much going on here. Nothing actively bad-tasting, just a very vague quality, generic inoffensiveness that doesn't do much for me. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? No.]

Fairview/Charles Back Wine of Western Cape (South Africa) 'Goats do Roam' 2003 ($7). Pale straw-gold color. Yet another blend of rouchen blanc, clairette blanc, grenache blanc and muscat frontignac, it comes across like a sort of chenin/muscat mix. Lightly flowery-citric with an undertone of Saran-Wrapped minerals, the nose is quiet and rather shy. In the piehole it's loose and spreads creamily out on my tongue, with more whitefloral and taut lemon-quince over a stony base. No sign of wooding at all, the finish turns pleasantly bittersweet, with a honeysuckle almond-paste hum. I don't like it much at first, it seems limp and aimless, but it rallies in the middle and turns pleasantly eccentric by the time the finish ambles around. Not an entirely successful wine, but okay, so I'm a sucker for odd cepage and goat labels, so sue me. FAKE CORK! GOAT ON THE LABEL! [Buy again? Yes.]

Mirassou Sauvignon Blanc California 2003 ($8). Sort of a creamier take on the kiwi style--green chiles, white grapefruit, light grassiness and a light cantaloupe streak. Crisp, light but a little squishy around the edges, not hard-edged. A bit unfocused, but pleasant lemony-flavored sauvignon with a bit of character and some zip to it. Bit of a chemical/solvent? note on the finish (astringent?), but still rather likeable. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Tossup.]

Selbach Riesling Mosel Saar Ruwer Qualitatswein DRY 2002 ($11). Hmm. Says "DRY" in big letters, but it tastes like there's a touch of sugar to me. Soft, flavorful, but rather limp. Where's the acidity? This is like starter riesling for fearful Americans, with a bright, overdesigned label and a Bordeaux-shaped bottle, all traces of Teutonic quirkiness erased. Actually, though it's soft and squishy, the wine is decent enough, appley-pineappley, with a touch of vinyl, but utterly in the end bland and inoffensive. Better than cheap chardonnay, but that's about as far as I'll go. [Buy again? Nuh-uh.]

Rudolf Müller Riesling Spätlese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer 2002 ($9). Light vinyl, light lemon, light yellow apple. Light-tasting and lightly sweet, actually rather plain and pleasant kabinett-style riesling. Simple not very crisp, not very much of anything, but oddly drinkable. Who know vagueness could be an asset? [Buy again? Yes.]

Weinkellerei Leonard Kreusch Johannisberg Riesling Bereich Rheingau 2002 ($6). Light straw-gold color. Touch of vinyl in the nose, yellow apple, hint of pine needles. Crisp green-apple acidity, tart lemon-mineral flavors, just a hint of sweetness, a sense of vagueness in the middle, watery finish. Less than the sum of its parts, this is a boring, decently-built riesling that hits a few good notes but has no cohesion or sense of purpose. I like the balance, but there's not much else there to hang your hat on. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? No.]

Clos du Pape Graves 2003 ($8). Pale lemon-straw color. Quiet aromatics, shy hints of white grapefruit, lemon and a whiteflowery-gardenia streak. Slightly jarring Vitamin C-tablet acidity, a bit spiky. I'm of two minds on this--it seems composed and balanced, calm and unmarred by wooding, but there's that odd tartness again, lingering medicinally on the finish just a bit too long. Otherwise it's a very nice wine, lightly whitefloral and citric, touch of waxiness, calm and smooth and flavorful. Enough good qualities for me to give it another chance, I think. [Buy again? Yes.]

Domaine Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc Alsace 2002 ($10). Medium-light gold color. Effusive nose, whiteflowers and quince jam, touches of mandarin orange and honey. Very ripe for a pinot blanc, verging on overripe, with a Schoffitian late-harvest quality to it that is interesting but a bit much for a wine that I'd hoped would be crisp and refreshing. Instead, this is a bit topheavy, too bosomy for its frame, the pillowy yellowfruit-spice flavors overwhelm the wine's small-boned nature. Still, there's some good material here. Medicinal-herb notes on the finish. Pull back the reins, M. Blanck. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Yes.]

Pindar Vineyards Winter White NV. Long Island's biggest selling wine! (I actually don't know how much this costs, as it was a gift, but the white-zin resemblance has me assuming it's fairly cheap.) Guest TN--Lisa speaks: "Smells of cloying canned honeysuckle-fresia. Touch of sugar, limp and low-acid, grapefruit-lemon citric, touch of plastic. Not terrible, pleasant lemony-fruitiness, but broad and bland, with hybrid plasticity. Finishes with an odd and slightly unpleasant metallic twang. Three melted plastic Prongs stuck in a Barbie-issue pink glittery base." The bottle, I might add, is utterly puntless. [Buy? No.]

Babich Chardonnay Hawke's Bay (NZ) 'Unwooded' 2004 ($9). Pale lemon color. Touch of yeastiness, yellow Bartlett-pear aromatics underneath, hints of white grape juice. Fresh tasting and juicy-fruity, mediumweight chardonnay with some substance but clean and crisp and bright. Tastes crisp and apple-pineappley, zippy acidity, a bit simple but friendly and unmarred by winemaking antics. No Brun, but actually quite decent, if you're not looking for complexity. [Buy again? Sure.]

Castelvero Cortese Piemonte 2003 ($7). Pale straw-greenish color. Yellow pear, touch of honeydew melon in the nose. Tastes lightly waxy, lemon-paraffin with an underlying stoniness and some bright acidity. Crisp center, slight creaminess around it. Maybe a little watery, but simple, crisp and pleasant. [Buy again? I guess.]

Palazone Orvieto Classico 2002 ($7). Pale straw-gold. Quiet honey and minerals, touch of tangerine spiciness. Medium acidity, smooth and lightly honeyed going down. Plain and easygoing, rather loose and unaffected, very decent. [Buy again? Yes, I think so.]



Clos Roche Blanche Cabernet Touraine 2003 ($12). Medium purpley-garnet. Smells classically ripely francisch--tobacco and cassis and maybe a touch of eucalyptus and a light plaster-of-Paris minerality. Warm, low-acid and flavorful, a softer, gentler cabernet for the Kane crowd. Velvety tobacco-laced fruit turns blackberried in the middle, then softens again and gets all juicy on the finish, where some fuzzy-tongue tannins emerge. Medium-light bodied, leaner and more spiney than the gamay, but definitely an early drinker, not a thirty-year wine. Drink this while waiting for your '96s and '98s to come around. [Buy again? Yes.]

Domaine Michel Lafarge Bourgogne Passetoutgrain 2000 ($12). Medium-light garnet. Light and soothing soft cherry fruit. The mingling of pinot and gamay has always struck me as a nice idea, remind to to carry a flask of '03 Clos Roche Blanche gamay to add to my glass at the next Drouhin tasting. Not deep, exactly, but not shallow either--a midrange wine with good composure. Just a hint of earthy complexity, a touch of friendly cherry-juiciness, I like this a lot for twelve bucks. Okay, not much of a finish, the midpalate kind of glides away shyly, but I can live with that. Silky, cherried, very pleasant, with fine balance and enough complexity to hold my interest. 'Charming' suits it well. [Buy again? Yes, I think so.]

Château Notre Dame du Salagou Coteaux du Languedoc 2000 ($9). Medium garnet color. Slight sweaty-sock funkiness at fist sniffage, then... oh. No, wait. Whoops, it's corked. [Buy again? Back to the return shelf with you.]

Georges Duboeuf Julienas 2003 ($10). Hey, this doesn't smell like banana candy. More like raspberry-strawberry candy, which is a distinct improvement from the way I remember it a while back. Actually, this is quite decent as a squishy, easygoing wine, with some oddly aggressive tannins on the finish. There's a kind of a wrung-out quality to the fruit, but it's very amiable and less candyfakey than I expected. Not much follow-through, and there's better out there, but this is something I'd drink and not bitch about. Straightforward, ripe and simple, if a bit disjointed. [Buy again? Nah.]

Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais Cuvée Traditionelle Vieilles Vignes 2003 ($12). Pleasant, warmfruity strawberry-plum aromatics. Soft, lush and easygoing, plummy finish, strawberry-jam with blackfruit mixed in. Understructured, Beaujolais for the goblover. Pleasant enough, but not the equal of past vintages (or, for that matter, CRB) for more money. [Buy again? Nah.]

Château Saumade Corbières 2001 ($8). Bit of reductive funkiness blows off after a few hours. A tight, leathery wine, hard and minerally, cassis-berried at the core and sternly tannic. There's a gravelly undercurrent, traces of dirt and maybe a hint of oregano. Medium bodied and compact, abrasive finish, relatively short, but not alarmingly so. Taut, quiet wine with rough edges, not giving a whole lot but certainly worth eight bucks. [Buy again? Tossup, which means probably not.]

Famille Iché Vin de Pays de l'Herault 'Les Hérétiques 2003 ($7). Medium purply-garnet color. Smells like leathery plum-berry jam, with a quiet rockiness underneath and a hint of lavender. Soft, jammy red raspberry-strawberry fruit, juicy and jellied. Fleshy, ripe and loosely-wrapped, fun and happy to drink, lacking the zip of more normal years but a sure buy nonetheless. [Buy again? Yes yes yes I said yes.]

Domaine de la Petite Cassagne Costières de Nimes 2001 ($9). Medium to medium-dark garnet. Cheerfully berry-plummy-smoky aromatics, light hints of lavender, black pepper and tree bark. A pleasant medium-bodied wine with some moderately ripe fruit and decent structure. Quite tannic, actually, mouth-dryingly so. But pleasantly composed and balanced, if a bit overgrabby. Quite pleasant, a lot of richness and precision for the wine dollar. [Buy again? Yes.]

Domaine de l'Aigueliere Vin de Pays du Mont Baudile 'Grenat' 1998 ($9). Medium-dark ruby, browning lightly at the rim. Smells of root beer, tea and a bit of earthy funk over quietly muted redfruit. Rather loose and blowsy, noticeable heat and a bitter boozy finish. This seems older than it ought, I wonder if there's some heat damage here. Anyway, it's loose, disjointed and large, with a spiritous finish and not much to recommend it. [Buy again? No, no, no.]

Gallo Syrah Vin de Pays d'Oc 'Red Bicyclette' 2003 ($9). Medium to medium-dark garnet, hint of purple at the rim. Peppery purplefruit aromatics, plums and red grapes. Tastes pretty much like it smells, pepper and plum and grapeyness, medium acidity and loosely-wrapped purplefleshy fruit. Decent weight and medium-plain acidity, bland but correct and enjoyable if you aren't looking for much more than a cheap, decent quaffer with a Velveetized edge to it. [Buy again? No.]

Clos Roche Blanche Gamay Touraine 2002 ($10). This has shut down hard. Hold. [Buy again? No, but only because I won't pay secondary-market prices.]

Paul Jaboulet Aîné Côtes du Rhône Parell¸le "45" 2001 ($8). I'm not sure why the "45" is in quotes. Hm. Anyhoo, I don't think I've had this since the '96, and it's pretty much just like I remember, except maybe simpler: cherry and earth, simple, relatively pleasant aromatics. Tastes tart, slightly candied fruit right upfront, crisp in the middle but oddly zippy, like some of those Australian wines, just a bit suspiciously spiky-crisp amidst the flaccid fruit. There's nothing really wrong, it's quite correct, but it just seems kind of wrong. Heck, let it be fleshy and spineless if that's what it wants to be. [Buy again? No.]


Vinicola del Priorat 'Ònix' Priorat 2001 ($9). Medium-dark to dark garnet, purpling at the rim. Balsamic hints, sandalwood, blackberry-earthy and ripe. Matte-textured and meaty-chewy, a bruiser of a wine, big and dark and blackberry-plummy and toothstaining, with a touch of bay leaf herbiness on the finish. Firm acidity, solid core of dark fruit, big and blocky, a chunky large-scaled wine. Well-stuffed and broad-beamed, outsized but fun stuff. [Buy again? Yeah, I think so.]

Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha Calatayud 2002 ($8). Camblor brought this to some event or other, I remember it seemed vapid, soft and Froot-Loopy. It still seems soft and Froot-Loopy, but this bottle is less wan, more aggressively generic. A slight astringency on the finish is the only real flaw apart from general characterlessness; it's friendly and juicy in a squishy-ripe kind of way. No finish, but certainly drinkable if you don't mind simple fruitcrackers. [Buy again? No.]

Technicas Agricolas de Vinification Vino de la Tierra de Castilla Viñas Viejas 'Equis' 2003 ($??). Medium to medium-dark garnet color. Quiet aromatics, hints of black cherry-cassis, touch of... of... nothing much else, search though I might. Fleshy and low-acid, but watery and lifeless, with no discernable spine. Ripe, boring. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? No.]

Bodegas Francisco Casas Tempranillo-Garnacha Vinos de Madrid 'Los Caminillos' 2003 ($6) (30% tempranillo). They grow grapes in Madrid? Wow. Medium to medium-light garnet color. Quiet, wan aromatics, dull red berry, tree bark and a hint of smoke. Ripe but watery and vague, there's fruit here, and almost enough acidity to get by, but the wine is decidedly hollow, utterly lacking in mouthgrab. Wan red berry-black cherry fruit just fades quietly away in my mouth. A nebbish of a wine, without interest. [Buy again? No.]

Bodegas Castaño Monatrell Yecla 2003 ($7). Medium-dark purply-garnet. Smells ripe, dark and shoe-polishey, darkly raspberry-grapey. Just crisp enough, fleshy-poofy dark redfruit, loose and plush, another simple fruitcracker, but decent enough. Actually, a hint of minerality develops with air, but only just a hint. No finish, all forward blowsy jammy fruitiness, but there's some restraint. Unsubtle, dopeyfriendly wine, simple and just fine for late-night sloshing. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Maybe in a pinch.]

Artazuri Navarra 2001 ($9). Medium-dark garnet. Red cherry-raspberry, more red cherry-raspberry, touch of cinnamon (Big Red chewing gum), maybe a touch of, oh I don't know, maybe cherry-raspberry? Blowsy and ripe in the style of all the Spanish fruitbombs that seem to be flooding the market these days, but with decent composure and a bit of restraint. The acidity is medium-low instead of low low, there's a pleasant tart black-cherry tang to the midpalate fruit, some fine tannins on the brief finish. Rather generic, but pleasant enough for the style, and probably a better buy than most at nine bucks. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Yeah, why not.]

Bodegas San Martin Navarra Tinto 'Isolda' 2003 ($6). Pleasantly simple cassis-blueberry aromatic, mineral undertones. Surprisingly focused entry for a 2003, it loosens somewhat in the middle, with some aggressive tannins choking off the finish. A bit abrasive and rustic, but pleasantly simple and balanced, with firm acidity and good cohesion. Short and simple, but decent upfront fruit and a sense of composure carry the day. Not bad. [Buy again? I guess.]


Ramos-Pinto 'Duas Quintas' Douro 1999 ($9). Blackberry and grapey-plum purplefruit, hints of pinecone and dustiness. Interestingly earthy-purple aromatics, but the wine tastes hollow and short and abrasive on the finish. Seems to have potential, folds up under pressure. [Buy again? No.]


Villa Puccini Twelve Months Oak Aged Tuscan Red Wine 2000 ($8). Well, that's quite a promising name, hm? Seems to be a sangiovese-merlot blend. Comes off as a sort of soft, watery merlot, tangy initial cherry-berry flavors, then quiet generic redfruit that quickly turns diffuse and wan in the middle and dissipates more than finishes. Uninteresting but relatively inoffensive. [Buy again? No.]

Aldegheri Rosso Veronese Santambrogio 'Le Pietre' 1999 ($8) (a corvina, rondinella, cabernet blend--doesn't say which cabernet). Strawberry-cassis aromatics. Tastes soft, leatherfruity and amiable, some interesting bay leaf/brown herbiness, touch of licorice mingles with cassis on the finish. Medium-lightweight and easygoing, a simple, fleshy little wine, just enough acidity, the merest hint of tannin, just straightforward honest wine, something you'd find in a carafe in an out-of-the-way cafˇ and really like. Pretty good. [Buy again? Yes.]

Coltibuono Cetamura Chianti 2002 ($6). Medium to medium-dark garnet. Calm leatherberry nose, touch of licorice, hint of cedar. Tastes cherry-plummy, soft, squishy and undefined, with some unintegrated poky acidity amidst light muu-muu fruit. Finishes with dark licorice-tar notes and a quiet plum-blackberry hum. Simple and rather vapid, very little in the way of focus or cohesion or character, not terrible but nothing of interest either. [Buy again? No.]

Maretima Primitivo Puglia 2001 ($10). Medium-dark garnet color. Slightly horsey-barney sweaty-saddle funk overlays some dark black cherry-raspberry fruit. Dark and smokey-funky tasting, more like a Rh™ne than a zin, sharp berryfruit and taut acidity, earthy-barney funk, rough and rustic with an abrasive, stuttery-licorice finish that leaves you a bit unsettled. There's a hostility to this wine that I find interesting, a fuck-you quality to the rough dry-tannic streak and the shrill acidity amidst the ripe fruit. A rough-and-tumble Paul B. kind of wine, hard to like but ballsy enough to win my admiration. [Buy again? Yes.]


Cline Cellars California 'Red Truck' 2002 ($8). Medium-dark purpley-garnet, purpling at the rim. Smells blueberry-plummy and ripe, warm wash of dark berry fruit, low acid and fatty-friendly, turns grapey in the middle, lightly tarry finish. A simple and warm quaffer, sturdy and fleshy-loose. Pretty good, for what it is, a fat little grapey thing, unmarred by overt winemaking tricks. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Yes.]

Firesteed Cellars Pinot Noir Oregon 2001 ($10). Okay, for ten bucks I thought I might find a simple, baseline pinot that wasn't some California portlike freak but could actually be had with food. I'll keep looking, as this ain't it kid, this ain't it. Medium-light garnet color, ambering lightly at the rim. Shy aromatics, cherry laced with tree bark and cola. Tastes okay at first, cherried, but then turns weird in the middle, with odd burnt-plastic flavors welling up and dominating the finish. Soft and small-bodied, unpleasant enough that I wonder if this is a cooked or otherwise damaged bottle. [Buy again? No.]

Gallo of Sonoma Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Reserve 2002 ($10). Ooh, it's a Reserve, get out the good glasses! Medium garnet-purple color. Light cherry-cola aromatics mingles with a lighter rhubarbish streak, maybe a touch of clove. Light bodied and medium-low acidity, a spreading, fleshy quality that isn't displeasing. Simple and easygoing, recognizable as squishy little pinot, pleasant enough in a simple soft-cola kind of way; needs structure. [Buy again? No.]

Mirassou Pinot Noir Central Coast 2002 ($9). Medium garnet. Smells of cinnamon-cola, plumskin and enamel paint. Not sure what's going on here, but there's a chemical aroma to this wine, complemented by a chemical-latex flavor that surfaces in the prefinish and dawdles disagreeably. Plummy calm fruit, medium acidity, altogether unexceptional except for that odd plastic flavor, like wine that's been in a clorox jug for a week or so. Stick with the sauvignon. [Buy again? No.]

Rosenblum Zinfandel California 'Vintner's Cuvée XXV NV ($8). Calm black cherry with a whiff of acetone. Crisp and balanced, if a bit loosey-goosey, it's got some nice black cherry-raspberry zinfandello fruitiness, touch of licorice on the finish. Kind of a throwback to when zin was a fun cheap quaffer, pretty decent and flavorful, really. Not at all complex, but balanced and smooth. Not bad at all. [Buy again? I guess.]

Francis Coppola Rosso California 2003 ($8). A zinfandel/cabernet sauvignon/syrah blend. Medium garnet. Black cherry-cassis aromatics, touch of smokiness. Tastes soft, darkly redfruity and simple, low-acid and gluggable. Nothing complex here, but plenty of juicy-dark fruit in a blowsy frame, decent barbeque/burger-type wine, relatively unspoofulated and straightforwardly California juicy-simple. [Buy again? Sure, why not.]

Buena Vista Zinfandel California 2001 ($7). Medium-dark garnet color. Simple raspberry-black cherry nose. Plain black- and redfruit flavors, odd bitter note on the finish. Seems a simple pleasant quaffer up until the streaky sourness emerges. Very unpleasant at first, I wait a few hours for it to fade, and it does, a bit. Odd and disjointed at first, comes together a bit, but still not the easy quaffer I'd expected. Rallies, but still a problem child; odd, may not be a representative bottle, given that I've had some decent simple varietal wines from these guys. Judgment theoretically withheld. [Buy again? No.]

Kempton Clark Zinfandel California Multiple Appellation Designate (Mad Zin) 2000 ($7). Medium dead red color. Warm black cherry and coconut husk notes predominate, then toasted coconut, geez I'm getting homesick here. Friendly spicy black cherry fruit up front, then turns wan and fruitless in the middle and bitter-charcoal-woody on the finish, with abrasive tannins. Was ˇlevage in hollowed-out coconuts? Strange wine, pleasant at first then quickly not, turning squinchy-face sour at the end. Whatever the opposite of 'sustain' is, this wine has it in spades. [Buy again? No.]


Trileka Carménère Lontué Valley (Chile) 2003 ($6). Medium to medium-dark garnet color. Doesn't have much aroma, raspberry and cement hints, smells... clean. Clean and berried. Tastes ripe but sterile, pillowy redfruit, medium acidity, seems stripped. Nothing wrong, really, but no character at all, just loose ripe redfruit with a touch of tarriness that turns towards a medicinal flavor on the finish. Competently generic new world quaffer, poster child for overfiltration, all character gone. [Buy again? No.]

Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec Mendoza 'Alamos' (Argentina) 2004 ($8). Medium-dark garnet color. Big whiff of smoky oakfruit, red candyberry laced with a light horsiness. Ripe, smooth and rather monolithic, like a horsey petite sirah, with a hint of iodine emerging in the middle and coming out more in the finish. I don't know, nothing special, but an okay pizza wine. [Buy again? No.]

Finca Simonassi Malbec Andes Mountains (Argentina) 2002 ($7). Generic red wine, ripe loose red- and blackfruit, watery middle, touch of woodiness, lightly persistent swimming-pool note. That's it, nothing more, no personality. Again, I have no real idea, but it comes across as being filtered to death. Whoops, no, wait, it's corked. [Buy again? Back into the return rack it goes, it'll have to wait for Boatloads III: The Revenge.]


Indaba Shiraz Wine of Western Cape (South Africa) 2003 ($9). Plum-blackberry and shoe polish on the nose, touch of menthol. Smooth, bland and plummy-toasted, loose and decently structured, with some sandy aggressive tannins on the finish. Slightly confected-tasting but not bad, it's drinkable in a picnicky sense. On a personal note, repeatedly seeing 'Wine of Western Cape' on a wine label makes me itch. Where's the article, Kenneth?! FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Maybe.]

Madfish Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc Western Australia 2000 ($10). Mint and tobacco laced plum-cassis aromatics, hints of cedar and smokiness. Jammish but not quite jammy, loosely wrapped and smoothly fruited. Actually has some pleasant semi-complex smellies, although it's a like a menthol cigarette, mint and tobacco. Medium, slightly spiky acidity that isn't quite gelling with the pillowy fruit. Watery finely-tannic finish--better in the middle, where the warmth of the ripe fruit is soothing and decent. I don't know, this is okay for a glass or two, has a bit more character and restraint than some cheap Aussies, but it gets boring fast, and after the ninth glass I'm up for something different. [Buy again? Maybe.]


Ironstone Vineyards Cabernet Franc 'Port' California 1995 ($9). Muddy medium garnet, browning at the rim. Strangely muted berry-tobacco nose. Medium-plus sweet, bricky berry and cigar, decent acidity. Pleasant at first, then becomes annoyingly tobaccoey, finishing abbreviated and cigar-stubby, falling off a cliff at the end. Unpleasant finish, bitter and sour, betrays a more promising beginning. Too old? Just bad? [Buy again? No.]

Peter Lehman Semillon Barossa 'Botrytis' 2001 ($10/.375). Medium gold color. Yeah, there's botrytis all right, honey, wax and lemon rind too, as well as a light cantaloupe streak, interesting nose. Tastes big and quite sweet, rather broad and clumsy, with some spiky SweeTart acidity. [Buy again? No.]

Château Lafon Sauternes 2001 ($10/.375). Yes, I just posted on this, but I'm having another tonight. I don't feel like taking notes, so let me quote myself: "Spicy, botrytis-laced pineapple-vanilla-butterscotch nose. Quite sweet and viscous, with enough lemony acidity to keep the mouthfeel bright and crisp. Broad and simple and sweet--far from profound, but a decent everyday Sauternes is worth far more to me than endless processions of overpriced gobfests." Monsieur Touton is my Sauternes hero. A tour de force of cheap Sauternes! [Buy again? Yes, lots.]

Always nice to end on a positive note. So, out of fiftysomething bottles, just under half were wines I'd buy again. Not bad, not bad, probably a sign that I'm spending too much on these wines. Can I go cheaper still? Stay tuned.


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