Reg’s Wine Blog – Cheap Red Wines for the Holidays, Post # 37, December 21, 2016.

Three weeks ago we held a simple red wine tasting event for about 25 people, the idea being to taste about 12 different red wines priced $25.00 or less from various countries, and hopefully for everyone to find something new in the lineup that they enjoyed enough and would buy for the holidays. So a big part of the night’s theme was to find wines that most people had never tasted before, and therefore to expand their wine tasting experience.

In selecting the wine list I went with wines priced between $17.50 and $28.00. I selected two wines from Argentina, two from Chile, one from Bordeaux, two from California, and five from Australia. There was no special reason for concentrating on Australia, just that the selection of wines in that price range from Australia was much better, and most people have very little tasting experience with Australian wines beyond Wolf Blass and Penfolds.

I have listed below the wines we tasted, in the order we tasted them, along with the Quebec Liquor Board product number, year, price, my score on 20, and my tasting comments. I will then summarize with additional comments on my own favorite wines and why I liked them best. I will also make some general observations about the performance of our expanded Reg’s Wine Blog tasting panel, all 25 of us at this tasting event.

  • 1) Nieto Sentiner Gran Reserva / Mendoza Argentina / 12176249 / 2013 / $19.35
    • Score: 15.5/20
    • Comments: Malbec, Petit Verdot blend –still young, will soften with age, attractive mint
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-11
  • 2) Matias Riccitelli The Apple Malbec / Mendoza Argentina / 12882549 / 2012 / $24.95
    • Score: 16.5/20
    • Comments: a big Malbec wine full of fruit, needs 2 years to age, huge dry tannins, rich and fat
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-4
  • 3) Michel Rolland Boredeaux / Bordeaux France / 12825894 / 2010 / $21.65
    • Score: 15/20
    • Comments: woody, watery, light, will not improve with age, disappointing for the year and winemaker
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-6
  • 4) Mayu Reserva Syrah / Chile / 12568998 / 2011 / $21.70
    • Score: 14/20
    • Comments: harsh and out of balance, fruit and tannins are at war with your palate and you lost
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-7
  • 5) De Martino Legado Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon / Chile / 642868 / 2013 / $18.15
    • Score: 16/20
    • Comments: young, lots of fruit, quite pleasant, let it age 2 years
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-12
  • 6) Vina Robles Red 4 / California / 11882336 / 2012 / $23.00
    • Score: 16/20
    • Comments: good body, spicy and well balanced, a Rhone blend, solid effort
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-5
  • 7) Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon / California / 12257014 / 2014 / $25.10
    • Score: 17/20
    • Comments: a fruit bomb, fat, fruity, thick and chewy, full throttle California Cab.
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-9
  • 8) The Stump Jump Shiraz d’Arenberg / Australia / 12505815 / 2012 / $17.50
    • Score: 17/20
    • Comments: nicely balanced fruit and tannins, easy to drink now, best value for price
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-10
  • 9) Tahbilk The Tower Shiraz / Australia / 12512450 / 2013 / $18.95
    • Score: 15.5/20
    • Comments: light, not a good Shiraz, dull fruit, not robust, nothing to get excited about
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-1
  • 10) Brother In Arms # 6 / Australia / 10866730 / 2012 / $22.35
    • Score: 17/20
    • Comments: very well balanced fruit and tannins, a Shiraz Cab Sauv blend, lovely
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-8
  • 11) Tait The Ball Buster / Australia / 10768451 / 2013 / $23.50
    • Score: 18/20
    • Comments: the full monty, great fruit (Shiraz Cab Sauv Merlot blend), spice, balance, tannins and will age nicely, a top performer
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-3
  • 12) The Laughing Magpie d’Arenberg / Australia / 10250855 / 2011 / $27.95
    • Score: 18.5/20
    • Comments: Shiraz Viognier blend, good spicy fruit, balanced and refined, smooth aftertaste, will age very well, worth the higher price
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-2

My top wines in order for the evening were as follows:

  • 1) The Stump Jump, 17/20, $17.50
  • 2) The Laughing Magpie, 18.5/20, $27.95
  • 3) Tait The Ball Buster, 18/20, $23.50
  • 4) Brother in Arms # 6, 17/20, $22.35
  • 5) Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon, 17/20, $25.10

My favorite wine was The Stump Jump as it represented the best value by far, it did not get the highest score but it did score well. This was the cheapest wine by far, ranging anywhere from 30% to 60% cheaper than the other 4 top performing wines above. If you want to bring a solid wine with you to visit over the holidays, this wine will perform very well, and it will appeal to the majority of people you serve it to. It is also fully developed and ready to drink now.

Also of interest is the fact that both The Stump Jump Shiraz and The Laughing Magpie are produced by the Osborn/d’Arenberg family of Australia. D’Arenberg produces a wide range of wines, including D’Arry’s Original (which was previously reviewed by Reg’s Wine Blog in post # 7 earlier this year). The Stump Jump is d’Arenberg’s bottom of the line product, The Laughing Magpie is a mid-priced, mid-range product, and wines like The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon and The Dead Bolt Shiraz, both priced in the $55.00 range, are their top of the line products. D’Arenberg wines will be the topic of a future Reg’s Wine Blog post in 2017.

Tait The Ball Buster is produced by the Tait family, it is a blend of 78% Shiraz, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot. The Ball Buster has the distinction of being rated 90 points plus by Parker every year for the last 11 years, so they are obviously doing something right, and at $23.50 per bottle this wine is reasonably priced given its consistently high Parker ratings for so long.

Both the Brother in Arms # 6 and the Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon are so full of fruit with nice balance, spice and acidity for longer term aging that these wines can be consumed over the holidays, or given as gifts and laid down in the cellar for further development, making them very versatile.

I would buy all these top 5 wines, they can all be consumed over the holidays. The only one of the group I would not bother to cellar is The Stump Jump, that wine is clearly made to consume now.

I was really impressed with my expanded tasting panel of 25 friends and family. I have been encouraging them to be open and forthright with their comments at tastings. At this tasting I found it very interesting to hear the varied opinions from different panel members, it was clear that different palates have vastly different preferences in wines. For example, when we tasted the two Argentinian wines back to back, half our tasters preferred the first wine while the other half preferred the second wine, and there was nobody who said they liked them both. The most important lesson to learn from this is that there is no right or wrong choice – to each his own, meaning all that really matters is that YOU like the wine, not what other people think of the wine.

The purpose of tastings like this one is to give you 12 more wines that you have tasted, and if there are 2 or 3 within that group that you really like, then mission accomplished, you have discovered something new. Conversely, there were 3 or 4 wines in this tasting that nobody liked (#’s 3, 4, and 9), so we now have good information on those that are worth avoiding.

As for my tasting panel, they have by now lost all their inhibitions. They are self confident, vocal, in fact by the 4th wine even boisterous (usually that level of jocularity was reserved for the 8th bottle and after – so they have evolved, or degenerated, depending on your point of view). This bodes well for 2017, because we will be able to set them free on their own tasting journeys where they too, as master of ceremonies for the evening, will be confronted with their own boisterous, and of course, highly opinionated tasters.

Tastings are fun, educational, and entertaining. Try this yourself over the holidays, maybe search out one or more of our panel’s top 5 wines, and see for yourself if you like our recommendations.