Chateau Los Boldos Cuvée Tradition Chardonnay 2014

Oh Chile, how you are rekindling my urge to travel again.

Firstly, this wine was $10.99.

Secondly, it is a cuvee, which I am taking to mean a blend from several vineyards.

Thirdly, here’s the website.

Up front the wine is straw yellow with green reflections. The nose is restrained with just-ripe fruit and mild acacia honey in evidence…and once she warms up, a vanilla-ish oak strand. Wow, not bad. Not bad at all.

Those elements follow through to the palate, shortly giving way to clear oak flavors and crisp acids. Some sharp green apple comes into view around the bend if you look hard enough.

The finish was surprisingly long and nicely decrescendo.

Next Day: Melon on the nose now, vanilla, and a little oak. The complexity on the palate remains, as does that calm finish. Yet and again Chile has given us a fascinating wine.

$10.99 and a bargain at that.

Chateau Palene Blanc 2015

The difficulty of a wine like that is that the “Bordeaux” name creates expectations. That’s silly because a wine is only as good as the fruit and care given to it, no matter where it comes from. Even Bordeaux must have lesser wines.

That said, this isn’t a bad wine. The key here is refinement and understanding that such indulgence costs money.

On  the nose this wine is generous with citrus and white peach, fulsome in that heady way of sauvignon blanc. That density follows through to the palate, where I noted unripe peach, unripe nectarine and some tart under-ripe pineapple. The surprisingly long finish was mildly grapefruit pith-y and nicely acidic.

I can see why some might call this “flabby”. Insult as that may be, the character if this wine is of a rounded mouthful, which is, I suppose, another way of saying it could lose a few pounds.

Tart, unripe stone fruits, some hints of unripe tropical fruits, a round mouthfeel and long-ish citrus-y finish. Call me crazy, but for $9.99 that doesn’t sound half bad.

Next day: Yep, calmer and rounder with those lime notes nicely muted.

$9.99

Dr Heidemanns-Bergweiler QbA 2015

Again, after many years, the riesling grape beguiled me.

This time in a bottle of Dr Heidmanns Bergweiler QbA 2015.

First the technical part, thanks Wikipedia.

Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA), or quality wine from a specific region.
This is wine from one of the 13 wine-growing regions (Anbaugebiete), and the region must be shown on the label. It is a basic level of everyday, mostly inexpensive quaffing wines. The grapes are at a fairly low level of ripeness, with must weights of 51°Oe to 72°Oe. The alcohol content of the wine must be at least 7% by volume, and chaptalization (adding sugar to the unfermented grape juice to boost the final alcohol level, which in no way alters the sweetness) is often used. QbA range from dry to semi-sweet, and the style is often indicated on the label, along with the designation Qualitätswein and the region. Some top-level dry wines are officially QbA although they would qualify as Prädikatswein.[5]

Viscous, strong, spicy, full of fruity nuances, the wonder of the riesling grape continues. Grown about as far north as possible on this planet, the steep shale-y ground in which the vines live gives rise to the most interesting wines.

This one is no exception, especially for the price. The nose is of white peach with some honey and other stone fruits. That changes on the palate to ripe peach, ripe juicy nectarine, nectarine stone, ripe tangerine juice and a fraction of honeycomb as the wine warms. The acids taste of (as the winemaker states) some orange zest, but it all works beautifully together.

Any slate-y minerality is minimal, at best, but that’s fine.

As you’d imagine for a wine that barely sneaks into the medium dry category, it has plenty of sweet notes, but never feels sugary. That taste is the difference between fruit sweet and refined sugar sweet; everyone can tell one from the other without necessarily being able to articulate just why.

In any case, fructose is different from sucrose, but now we’re splitting hairs.

The wine finishes relatively slowly and completely, with no bum notes.

I’m unreservedly enjoying this thing.

$10.99

Falerio

Pop quiz: Pick the odd one out from the following four grape types.

Trebbiano, pecarino, passerina and chardonnay.

If you said chardonnay you might be right. I’d say trebbiano.

The reason I propose trebbiano as the interloper is that the other three have distinctive aromas. The most grown grape in Italy (if we can believe any official stats from there) is really the all-purpose flour of the Italian wine world. Trebbiano’s a solid base from which to boost more aromatic and worldly grapes. It’s a role she’s come to accept.

Chardonnay is the regional outlier here. It’s French and so could be seen as the stranger in the bottle, however her small but noticeable contribution to body and mouth feel makes it seem at home.

This wine is straw yellow and elegant. The nose is of mild lemon oil, unripe peach and some small minerality. After airing for a while a hint of rose petal arrives on the scene, but the overall impression remains of zesty, lively fruit.

On the palate the aromas precisely follow through. The wine is full-bodied with delicious acids matching the citrus-y floral-y notes. Chardonnay arrives late to the party, imparting that roundness of fully ripe fruit without the sugar.

The finish is strong, clean, structured and crisp.

This is the kind of drink that one could – as I did – sip over the course of an evening, contemplating the history, climate and life of the people who made it. Key is the blend of the pecorino and passerina, relatively unknown grapes which create what the winemaker wanted (according the the bumpf): perfume with integrity.

$9.99. Seriously? This makes fifteen buck pinot grigios look positively crooked.

Vistamar Brisa Carmenère 2015

The nexus between price and quality is the unstated tension in the wine-selling business. The prize is the discovery of a ten-dollar bottle that looks, smells, tastes and finishes like one that sells for more; possibly even a lot more.

Variables in this equation are impossible to nail down, namely personal preference and expectation. If I buy a bottle of Californian Central Coast cabernet, the chances of it being worth more are small to insignificant. That’s mostly because of the enormous number of people looking. The odds of beating the odds aren’t great.

Casting one’s gaze in another direction might be an answer. Looking at different grape types, or regions or both could be the adventure we’re looking for, and in that spirit I bought a bottle of this, the Brisa carmenere 2015 version. Wine Folly says this:

Carménère (“car-men-nair”) is a medium-bodied red wine that originated in Bordeaux, France and now grows almost only in Chile. The wine is treasured for its supple red-and-black berry flavors (in a similar style to Merlot) and herbaceous notes of green peppercorn. Originally, Carménère was thought to be Merlot when it was first transplanted into Chile. This case of mistaken identity is perhaps what saved Carménère from extinction when Phylloxera devastated the vineyards of Bordeaux in the late 1800’s.

Yep, that sounds about right. This one had a dark garnet color, tasted (as noted) of green peppers, red fruits and green peppercorns, but all in harmony; no bum notes here.

As she opened up, I noticed more complex flavors of fresh rhubarb and dark fruit skins. There was a certain hotness that reflected the high-ish alcohol, but in any case, apart from the pleasant flavor, the distinguishing characteristic here was the lack of tannins. The finish was quick and precise, and just, well, terrific.

I reckon this would be a great choice for someone who likes red wine but not the associated tannins. Frankly, I’d choose this over any Columbia Valley merlot for reasons of interest and drinkability. Oh, and cost.

Medium to high fruit, medium body, tannins, acidity and high alcohol.

$7.29.

Santa Ana Torrontes 2016 Argentina

For fun drinking under ten dollars I am discovering the curious beauty of South American wines.

Last night I opened a bottle of Santa Ana Torrontes 2016, a grape variety I’d not previously tasted. Being a dopey employee of Total Bait and Switch has some advantages: I paid less than $5.50 for this 750ml bottle with my 30% discount from the retail of $7.49.

I’m drinking the second half of the bottle now, 24 hours after opening, and time in the company of some oxygen has improved a wine that didn’t have any faults beforehand. Light lemon in colour, I expected something along the lines of a sauvignon blanc, perhaps less citrus and apple-y, perhaps less bold.

Wine Folly says this:

Torrontés is an ideal wine to match with Asian and Indian cuisine due to its sweet floral aromas of rose petals and flavors of white peach and lemon zest. The wine smells sweet, but is usually made in a dry style and the best Torrontés wines come from the high elevation vineyards in Salta, Argentina.

Yep. I don’t know that that she smells sweet, but I note richly floral notes. There are hints of unripe white peach and lily, with the merest shadow of a penumbra of geranium…so all is as it should be. As she warmed up, rose petals showed up, a wonder of complexity in such an inexpensive bottle.

A sip continued the theme, with a medium alcohol and acidity mouthful tasting of peach fuzz and the white fruits. A short finish, clean and crisp. As a someone else wrote, it has the mouthfeel of an unoaked chardonnay.

Dry, interesting, great with food, delicious alone. All for less than ten bucks.