Plonk Patrol – Autumn Reds

At some point after the equinox, I tire of crisp, racy whites and mineral-laden roses. The time comes for the warmth of reds.

After my mishap at Trader Joe’s, I went around the corner to the River St. Whole Foods. It seemed as if I’d never left TJ’s, since upon entering, I was confronted by a huge floor display of extreme plonk – a WF proprietary label being offered for, as one sign said, $3. And if you couldn’t do the math, another sign read “4 for $12”. A third sign carried the theme – that of extreme plonk and mathematical ineptitude – even further, “6 for $18″. I hurried to the wine section only to be confronted with again a large floor diplay, this time of bottled sangria or as the bottle explained ” red wine and fruit flavors”. I suffered a flashback – I began my wine adveture many years ago drinking Bali Hai which definitely was red wine with fruit flavors. After a moment, though, I was back on track and began my shopping. As the new economic normal of quasi-recession leads to continued austerity, Whole Foods has devoted more space to value wines. There are now sections of wines under $7.99, wines under $8.99 and wines under $9.99. I just don’t know what these price points mean and steered clear of these areas. The main body of the wines offer a somewhat haphazard selection – the wine buyer, whether local or regional or national –  doesn’t appear to be on the job. For example, in the Loire section are twelve wines – all white, no red, no rose; in the Beaujolais section, just four wines. But I was out for good plonk and not to critique the lack of thoughfulness in the wine offering and was able to come away with a decent selection of autumn reds for a good price.

The results –

  • Huber Zweigelt 2007 Austria $14.99. Zweigelt, the most widely planted grape in Austria, typically yields a simple easy-drinking wine. This bottle is no exception – flavorful fruit with some earthiness and enough acidity to provide a decent quaff, though a bit pricey for the quality.
  • Jargon Pinot Noir 2009 CA $12.99. After my mishap at TJ’s and the disappointing Caretaker Pinot Noir, I was hesitant to try another California Pinot. However, this wine was fine. Jargon is a label of Trinchero Family Estates, best known for the supermarket brand Sutter Family Home. Beginning with ripe cherries and chocolate in the nose and finishing with mild tannins and  medium acidity, the wine has enough structure to be a  good value. 
  • Tarima Monastrell 2009 Jumilla $9.99. Tarima, the first vintage of this label, is another collaboration between the importer Jorge Ordonez and the Gil family winemakers of Wrongo Dongo fame and also another bright sunny very drinkable Spanish red, a type now abundant on wine shelves. The details – dark jammy fruit, a bit of animal and earth with the requisite tannins and acidity to provide an enjoyable experience.
  • Elicio Grenache and Merlot 2009 VDP de Mediterrane $9.99. If you see this wine on the shelf, leave it there! As the folks at Ravenswood say “No wimpy wines” and this wine is certainly wimpy – indistinguishable fruit and a weak finish.
  • Chateau Coupe Roses La Bastide 2008 Minervois $11.99. This wine comes from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, a region now known for good value. A blend of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah, there is warm spicy fruit, a bit of smokiness, all balanced by enough tannins and acidity to make this pleasant and very drinkable.
  • Domaine de la Guicharde 2009 Cote du Rhone $10.99. This, a blend of sunny Grenache – that’s how I think of the grape – and Syrah, is a good plonk choice. Berries and brambles with some olive and animal, the fruit on the palate followed by good acidity and mild tannins. 

The tally – five decent plonk choices and one dud. And the $$$? Since Whole Foods offers a discount on six bottles, I kept well within my budget – $67.82. Time to ‘ply the fire with kindling’ and pour a glass of warming red.

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