Assiduous Vinapediacs will recall how, prior to the world ending, we’d gone and discussed bargains in Bordeaux wines. Basically, these were wines from 3rd growth chateaux that drank like those from Premier growth wineries. But that was then, and this is now. So, we need to look a bit afield and adjust our perspectives somewhat. Not — not yet, rather — wines that fit comfortably in a small paper bag and complement a freegan diet, but wines for the civilized person in straitened times.
Since even a 3rd growth Bordeaux wine is looking like less of a solution and more of a splurge, the lack of liquidity (I slay myself, really) must be compensated with more research, digging, investigation and cogitation. My mind leaps to Bordeaux blends. These are sometimes called “meritage,” so as to avoid an airborne division of attorneys descending upon you, brandishing writs. And then my mind further leapt tpo New World wines. Not just New World Wines, but Newest World Wines. California, to be utterly blunt, is not really New World any more. Australia won’t be much longer. So the Oenoshlepping leads to places such as Chile, Argentina or South Africa.
A great many of these places have made their splash by using a simple but generally undiscussed approach: “What Bordeaux grape hasn’t been done to death?” They ascertain which one, and then go vinify that one and next thing you know they are the Hot New Varietal. But that’s not what I’m after. I want — there’s no getting away from it — a cheap bottle of Bordeaux elegance. I don’t want a bargain, I want a steal. Which isn’t something that leaps at your eye right away. This is why I’ve been away. I’ve been undercover.
I am delighted to say that after only several months and a few slit throats and poisoned umbrellæ jabs later, I have found an excellent candidate. An $18 bottle (I’ve seen it at the better warehouse-type places for $14-$15) that drinks like the $40 bottle that drinks like the $200 bottle. I emphasize the word “like.” This wine might not be a direct replacement, in the sense of letting it age several decades, but an ideal substitute for current consumption.
I came across this pearl among potables when planning a dinner gathering for people who were relatively wine-savvy but for whom, frankly, my fondness was limited. Seeing as how I wouldn’t be caught dead dragging some of the better bottles from my cellar for their consumption, nor was I in the mood to indulge in vinuous largesse, I was forced to put my Newest World Bordeaux Blend Theory into operation.
2006 Veramonte Primus Colchagua Valley ($15)
Rating: ♠ ♠ ♠ 1/2 This wine is a blend of 51 percent Merlot (duh) and 32 percent Cabernet Sauvignon (duh) and 17 percent Carmènere. The latter is one of those famous “lost grapes” of Bordeaux and it’s on the backs of Newest World Wines that it’s making a comeback, just as Malbec has. It’s a dark garnet in the glass with clear notes of fresh (not jammy) raspberries and blackberries on the nose. The raspberry notes carry over from the realm of scent to that of flavors, augmented by zippy, currant-y flavors and supported by a pleasantly bracing minerality and bittersweet chocolate. On the swirl, you will find delicate tannins, meaning this wine will have some aging potential; I’m thinking 5-7 years. This blend is pretty classical and refreshingly so, with an excellent and lasting finish. This is the sort of wine for the more elegant roasts of beef or lamb… not quite grilled stuff, as there aren’t quite the tannins to align with the char of a grilled steak, but slow-roasted leg of lamb or a prime rib roast… that’s the ticket.