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Nov 19th
A Toast to the Favorites of 2016 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Citara, BT Contributor   
December 2016

Red, white, and you: Agreeable wine for $12 or less

TPix_Vino_12-16he holiday season is officially in full swing. Are we full of good cheer yet? Uh....

Don’t worry. Vino is here to help. And with Thanksgiving now in the rear-view mirror and Christmas and New Year’s bearing down on us like the engine of a runaway train, we here at the BT’s wine desk decided to do something a little different this year, going back over the dozens of wines guzzled -- I mean, tasted -- over the past year, plucking out our favorites and presenting them to you in a modest effort to make your holidays a little cheerier.

Before we get to that, though, a word on bubbly. In years past we tasted our way through moderately priced sparklers in preparation for the inevitable New Year’s Eve bashes. Problem is, sparkling wine prices just keep going up, inching past (and way past) our $12 limit. Outside of bulk process swill and mega-industrial sparklers like Freixenet, there no longer are very many choices.

If you don’t want to bump up your budget by a few dollars for the likes of Piper-Sonoma, Domaine Chandon, or Saint-Reine, check out Italian Proseccos or Spanish Cavas or one of the few lower-priced French offerings, the NV Brut Rosé from François Montand. It’s delicate and refreshing, just barely pink and a touch floral. Also a good deal at $10.99.

An underappreciated grape from an underappreciated producer is often the stuff of good value, especially if it’s the 2014 Spier Chenin Blanc from South Africa. Tart green apple aromas with creamy peach and pear fruit and a crisp, citrusy finish make it a wine you’ll want to keep on hand.

I’m normally not a big fan of Pinot Grigio -- generally a wine for people who don’t much care for wine. But I’ll make an exception for the 2013 Zellina Pinot Grigio. An unexpected scent of earth and minerals gives way to citrus, apple, and pear flavors that your most confirmed cork dorks can relate to.

Even industrial winemakers knock one out of the park now and then, which is just what the folks at giant Ruffino have done with their 2014 Orvieto. Like the Zellino and Spier, it balances luscious stone fruit flavors with crisp citrus acidity for welcome complexity in a $10 wine.

You may have noticed that not many California wines have so far made our Faves of 2016 list. Surprisingly, the only one that did was the 2014 Fumé by Ferrari-Carano, one of Cali’s most prestigious producers. Ripe peach and pear flavors, and a hint of toasty oak from barrel aging, give it an upscale flavor profile at a blessedly midscale price.

Chilean wines are often excellent values, like the 2015 Cono Sur Bicicleta Chardonnay. Tangy apple-citrus acidity and a steely mineral undercurrent make it a refreshing option for warm-weather sipping, not to mention a willing partner to all kinds of food.

Another food-friendly wine is the 2014 Campo Viejo Rioja Garnacha. Think fresh cherry-berry aromas and flavors, a bit of spice, dusky notes of black olives, all in a medium-bodied but full-flavored wine that offers unusual complexity and balance.

You could say the same thing about the 2014 Nostrada Campo de Borja Garnacha. With bracing black cherry-plum fruit, unapologetic streaks of oak, spice, and pepper, and 14 percent alcohol, it could be heavy and ponderous. Instead it’s remarkably light on the palate.

Some wines need a little time to reveal their true character. One of those is the 2014 Caparzo Sangiovese. At first whiff, it’s disconcertingly earthy and musty, but give it aeration and it blossoms, showing off tastes of cherries and cloves, black olives and leather. You can’t judge a book by the first whiff of its cover.

You know right off the bat what you’re getting in the 2014 Terrazas de los Andes Altos del Plata Malbec. It’s a flavor blast of succulent black cherry-berry fruit with Malbec’s characteristic notes of olive, leather, and tobacco; 14.5 percent alcohol, but so well-balanced it’s never hot or cloying. A glass or two of this, and you and yours will definitely be full of good cheer, even if the rest of the world is full of something else.

 

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