A Mess O'Cheapies

We're always on the lookout for good cheapies to ease the continuing vinous tariff on our savings rate. Some of the potential QPR wines that have passed through our household in the past few weeks, some new, some relics, all under $10...

A Few Whites

Hugel "Gentil" Alsace 1997 ($7), which is a blend of unspecified grapes (sylvaner?) but came off lightly Riesling-esque, with a minerally/rainwater nose, a clear, pale color (almost no color at all), with a note of apples at first taste, resolving into more flinty, wet-stone kind of flavors, not one bit floral or citrusy, not an ounce of fat on it. Consumed with tetrazinni, its crispness cut through the cream sauce nicely and I will look for more of it, especially at this price.

Jean-Marc Brocard Bourgogne "Chardonnay Sur Kimmeridgien" 1996 ($9.99): A pleasant quaff. Light, banana-candy nose, kind of closed, doesn't give much. Crisp, medium-bodied, Lemon-Pledge notes, very tart, passing flavors of apple juice also creep in. A nice drink, but not the knockout deal that the '96 Brocard "Vielles Vignes" Chablis is (even though it is half again as expensive). Not well integrated--it seems a little disjointed, but it does have some nice zing, and it's certainly a good deal for the price. Could be a good house white; I'll stash a few away.

E. Guigal Côtes-du-Rhone Blanc 1997 ($9.99): Very pale gingerale color, almost clear. Very little on the nose, slight lemony notes, slight minerality. Low acidity, light flavors, slightly tart, bit of smooth glycerine. Kind of like lemon water--pleasant enough, just not a whole lot there.

Leon Beyer Riesling Alsace 1996 ($9.99): Light, grassy, limey nose, hint of aluminum. Crisp & tart & light. Not a lot of character, but zingy & pleasant. Unripe green apple taste lingers awhile on the finish.

Neither Fish nor Fowl...

Mas de Gourgonnier Rosé Les Baux de Provence 1998 ($9.99): Looks like half-strength strawberry Kool-Aid in the glass; soft, light cherry/strawberry/rainwater nose, light bready notes; in the mouth it's medium-weight, slightly round, light cherry/berry tastes, bit of a citric tang & some stony minerality. Pleasant, soft little wine, lightly tangy and smooth, a very decent light quaff for a summer night, but without nearly as much character as the regular Mas de G. red, which is another of our QPR faves.

...a few Reds

Bogle Petite Sirah California(?) 1997 ($9.99) started off with a distinct lack of nose. Swirl and swirl though I may, nothing would emerge. On the tongue it was nicely fruity and fairly dense, with grape/plummy notes, but not much of the darker, earthier qualities I'd expected from PS. Nice burst of strong tannins--bit of a "hairy-tongue"--and a surprisingly long finish made up for the somewhat one-dimensional quality of the fruit flavors. The general mouthfeel was silky and integrated--the tannins, though strong, didn't overwhelm the fruit, but it was fairly simple and not too exciting. Certainly good value for the money, but I'm not sure it was interesting enough to warrant buying more. Well, maybe a couple...

Due to an inexplicable retailing error, I ended up with a bottle of Monterey Vineyards Pinot Noir 1996 ($8.99). Light cola aromas. Cherry red, translucent, bit of a mushroomy smell--earthy, acidic, light-bodied, with a bit of a metallic tang. Watery finish. Light tannins. Not much fruit. Blah. Ick. Ptooey. DTD it goes.

Cline Zinfandel California 1996 ($9.99): Dig the poem on the back of the bottle ("...I AM ZINFANDEL"); light but very ripe nose of dark raspberry & light oak with a slightly acrid, gunpowdery note. Brownish purply-red in the glass. Light, tart & darkly fruity, with a cherry juice quality to the light zinberry flavors. Very lightly tannic, but very tart, almost sour quality to the fruit in the midpalate. Not bad for the money, but I like my zins a little riper and more luscious. Heard a lot of good things about this one, but it just ain't my style...

La Carraia Sangiovese Umbria 1997 ($9.99): One of my favorite QPR wines again doesn't disappoint. Grapey, slighty pruney nose, medium-bodied, pleasantly fruity, fairly crisp and lightly tannic, nice feel in the mouth, with light notes of licorice & prune on the midpalate. Nice little package, slides down well. Short finish, but whaddaya want for ten bucks? Good little wine, trotted out as a nice complement to some stuffed manicotti.

Rosemount Estate Shiraz South Eastern Australia 1997 ($9.99): Grapey, jammy nose with notes of pepper and violets. Very purple in the glass, almost neon. Sweet aromas of grape juice hit you smack in the nose. Fairly robust in the mouth, very forward flavors of plum & grape with a little alcohol heat, decent crispness can't quite keep up with the lush forward fruit, meaty texture melts away into a licorice tang with firm tannins. Whew. Kind of a fruit swamp.

Nando Nebbiolo d'Alba 1988 ($6.99): Lisa found this gathering dust in a neighborhood liquor store... Medium to light reddish-brown. Sharp, slightly nutty nose of dried-out cherry, leather & faded Robitussin. Crisp, but acidity is more balanced than in the '91, which was an out-and-out goner. Not much at all in the way of tannins. Fairly light-bodied, slight nutty taste in the midpalate. Old & faded, but showed better than the younger '91, which was in fact fairly nasty. Oddly, this was nicer than either of us expected.

Falesco 'Vitiano' Umbria 1998 (Merlot/Cab/Sangiovese)($8.99): Rich, medium-dark garnet; soft, matte nose of black cherry & grape, along with some light yeasty/malt funkiness that slowly blows off. In the mouth crisp and tangy; dark, simple red & purplefruit flavors over some smoky undertones & some tangy licoriceness. Some fairly agressive gritty tannins kick in on the finish, trumping the grapey fruit. Not complex, but balanced (apart from the overly happy tannins), flavorful & fairly rich for the $$$.

Penfolds Semillon/Chardonnay South Eastern Australia Koonunga Hills 1998 ($6.99): Clear pale lemony-yellow; light but bright nose, with some soft pear/peach/butterscotchy notes. In the mouth a bit less interesting, though nicely crisp, but fruit is a bit flat & thin and there's a citric tang that kind of dominates the midpalate. Closes up on a buttery note. Not unpleasant, but not a lot of character either, and not up to the KH cab/shiraz, which I find to be a tasty cheap red.

And lastly, to finish off on the under-$10 theme, Peter Lehman Semillon 'Sauternes' Barossa 1996 ($9.99/375 ml.)--nose of honeyed candy, interesting vanilla & spice notes, cloves/orange rind. Anyway, viscous and very sweet in the mouth--a little of this goes a long way. Kind of interesting, but too sweet & syrupy for me, with no real acidity to provide backbone. Where's the zing?!

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