Wine on a budget! Let’s do it.
The more I learn about viticulture and enology, the more I understand what drives prices. There are justifiable causes for exorbitant pricing: rarity, certain labor-intensive practices (some Grand Cru vintners select individual grapes during harvest, for instance), the vagaries of weather and climate. Other times, the justification is harder to come by: some chateaux are riding on name and legacy, Robert Parker Jr. (whose thoughts are enjoyable, but I won’t rely on his taste buds to be surrogates for mine) gives a high score and creates industry buzz, or worst of all, one of the Real Housewives orders something by name.
We’ve all been burned by a bottle of inexpensive wine that over promised and under delivered. So where does that leave the wine lover who can’t routinely shell out $30 and up?
This week, I’m taking you thrifty oenophiles to Sicily, more specifically to the bustling hills of the Planeta operation. They’re a huge producer (2 million bottles a year last time I looked) which keeps their costs reasonable. This bottle of La Segreta 2013 was $15.
La Segreta is named for the woods that surround the vineyard, and is a blend of 50% Nero D’avola (Sicily’s most famous grape), 25% Merlot, 20% Syrah, and 5% Cab Franc. It’s a wine that tastes older than it is— meaning the fruit flavors have started to become more diffuse and the tannins soften a bit. I smell rich wood, dark berries, and pepper, and the taste delivers on the aroma. Funny, it just smells like…wine—perhaps because the flavors have started to mesh and the individual esters aren’t as pronounced.
This is a great wine for sipping on its own, and it pairs with all kinds of stuff- although I’d be cautious with very tomato-y dishes unless you want to challenge your salivary glands. I used the last quarter of a bottle to deglaze the pan when I made shepherd’s pie, and it really added backbone to the dish.
As with most reds, I drink this just a little cooler than room temperature- although it’s lovely as it warms up in the glass, too.
Thirsty Cellist score: 7.5/10
Pros: lively, medium to full bodied, tastes more expensive than it is
Cons: less fruity than maybe you’d expect
Recommendation: buy multiples, drink now.