Luccarelli Negroamaro Puglia

2012 Luccarelli Negroamaro Puglia, $9.95. LCBO#380972.

Recently someone, a creative sort, asked if I make things, and all I could think of was cooking….and then I thought “Well I do have a blog. I might neglect it but it is creative…right?” And then a conversation ensued on the virtues of drinking good cheap wine and sharing that with the universe. After that I came across a new $10 possibility at the LCBO and knew it was time to stop making excuses about work exhaustion and share a nice bottle with fellow cheapskate wine drinkers.

I am a lover of Luccarelli Primitivo, and am a bit sad to see that it has moved from $9.80 to $10.95. So I picked up its Negroamaro cousin, because it still lives in the $10 zone. I really don’t know much about Negroamaro, but apparently it is a popular grape in southern Italy and is similar to Primitivo. I wasn’t able to compare the 2 bottles side by side as my LCBO was sold out of the Luccarelli Primitivo, but I would say they are both deep in colour, fruit forward, but nicely balanced in flavour.

The Negroamaro has a really smoky nose, and so much berry-cherry quality that it feels like a California wine to me, which is great, because I love big California reds. It is a little bit restrained on the finish, with some nice acidity, and the alcohol is at 13%, which is potent but not overwhelming.

All in all, I would most certainly buy this again, and given that it is hard to say if the Primitivo is better, I might grab the Negroamaro because it is $1 cheaper.

Overall, I give this wine 9/10 for taste and 5/5 for value.

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Luccarelli Primitivo Puglia

Luccarelli Primitivo 2010, $9.80. LCBO#253856.

Luccarelli Primitivo 2011, $9.80. LCBO#253856.

The new year calls for a return to wonderful $10 wines and I have a good one to share. Primitivo is a favourite varietal of mine, and I love that you can get a great Italian bottle for a good deal.

This one does not disappoint and is very typically fruity and ripe, full bodied, dry but not too dry, and just generally fun to drink. We had it with steak but it was delicious solo too. I think it might also be good with chocolate but it didn’t last long enough to find out.

This vintage is sold out in most major Ontario cities but there are still quite a few bottles in rural Ontario areas. Maybe you’ll luck out and find a few bottles (or maybe you live elsewhere and your wine shop has lots of this gem). And trust me, you’ll want more than one.

Overall, I give this wine 9/10 for taste and 5/5 for value.

Summer Wine Picks Wrap Up

On the eve of my official return to work, post-summer break, it seems fitting to weigh in on the last of the CBC “All in a Day” summer wine picks. We managed to try all 6 bottles since we found the list in July, and included a few friends along the way in our taste testing. I got around to formally reviewing 4 of them, which are all linked below. The final 2 were a bit lack lustre, so I’ve just included a few notes on them below.

To Recap: “All in a Day” Wine Panel’s Summer Picks

Rod’s Picks:

Stacey’s Picks:

  • White: Grooner Gruner Veltliner (Austria) $13.30– 8/10 for taste and 3.5/5 for value.
  • Rosé: The Beach House Rosé (South Africa) $9.95- Overly sweet and a bit yeasty. Felt like a cheap bottle of flavoured wine, it was just missing the fake strawberry taste. Would not buy again, although would never have bought it, had it not been on the list.
  • Red: Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere (Chile) $11.95- A dry red, spicy and peppery. Had a high alcohol content that took a long time to dissipate. Not the greatest because the alcohol really overwhelmed the flavour.

Trying these new bottles was a fun experiment, although it was not extremely useful in finding wines I would buy again. I think my wine taste is closer to Rod’s, I would buy both his red and white recommendation again, probably next summer. Stacey’s picks weren’t my favourite, all of them were a bit blah or cheap feeling, which is disappointing, because there are lots of $10 wines out there worth buying.

I think the verdict is, there are lots of wines on my $10 list that I would recommend ahead of these 6.

Thanks to Joe Shlabotnik for the photo.

Masi Modello Rosato Delle Venezie

2010 Masi Modello Rosato Delle Venezie, $10.95. LCBO#587725.

We started our trial of “All in a Day’s” 6 summer wines with a rosé when my friend Eve popped by last week for an impromptu dinner with us. Since she loves wine like I do, and isn’t afraid to give pink wine a chance, it seemed like the right audience for this bottle.

All 3 of us had trouble identifying much on the nose or in the taste, no specific fruit jumped out in this wine. The description says berries and plums, but I couldn’t come up with that. The wine is fairly dry with a slightly tart finish; it’s quite fresh and was enjoyable in the heat. It stood up on its own and with a meal of roast chicken and veggies, and would also be good with fish or a salad.

There’s not much to say about this one…it’s perfectly acceptable, but didn’t excite me. I wish I had something more glowing to say about the first of the summer wines. The price is right and it is well suited to a hot summer night, but will I buy it again? Most likely not.

Overall, I give this wine 7.5/10 for taste and 3.5/5 for value.

Summer Wine Picks

I had the good fortune this afternoon of tuning in to “All in a Day” on CBC Radio One. I’m a big fan of the program, and the host, Alan Neal. Today, he had a wine panel on to discuss summer wines. Unfortunately, I came in half way through the program, so I can’t tell you much about the sommeliers that were on to share their opinions. However, after visiting the All in a Day website, I see that this is an ongoing feature, and that the recommended wines tend to be $13 or under, which definitely piqued my interest.

We have recently amassed almost $100 in gift cards to the LCBO (what can I say, our friends know exactly what to buy us), and have decided to put some of that to good use and try out these wines. Hopefully there will still be all 6 of these available at the LCBO after the region heard about these picks today!

Here is what the panel recommended:

The “All in a Day” Wine Panel’s Summer Picks

Rod’s Picks:

  • White: Cono Sur Viognier (Chile) $9.95
  • Rosé: MASI Modello Rosato (Italy) $10.95
  • Red: Antonin Rodet Cotes du Rhone (France) $12.95

Stacey’s Picks:

  • White: Grooner Gruner Veltliner (Austria) $13.30
  • Rosé: The Beach House Rosé (South Africa) $9.95
  • Red: Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere (Chile) $11.95

The plan is to buy all 6 and report back over the course of the summer. I’m headed to the LCBO tomorrow in an attempt to beat other CBC Radio fans to the punch. Stay tuned for some summer wine reviews!

Ruffino Chianti

Ruffino Chianti, 2009. $14.95. LCBO#1743.

I love presents. Especially when they are drinkable. And even more when they aren’t actually for me, but I still get to drink them. Kevin just had a birthday, and our lovely friend Jenn gifted him a bottle of her favourite red.

Naturally, a few days later, I suggested that this bottle of hearty Italian Chianti would pair well with beef stew. And, of course, it did; I think it would be even more marvelous with roast beef or steak.

The wine is a bit of a sneak attack in your mouth. It starts out mellow and light-medium bodied, but then explodes on your palate with cherry fruit, and finishes with a zip. I really enjoyed it, there’s a good sweet-tart balance, and it is very drinkable alone or with food.

We had a smidge left over and I’m drinking it now, with some very dark chocolate. It’s still tasty, even a few days on, and is a marvelous match for the chocolate. It adds an almost cherry cola quality to the wine.

This bottle was a wonderful treat, and one I will definitely buy again. Maybe to go with some pot roast or spaghetti and meatballs. Yum.

Overall, I give this bottle 9/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Pizza Sandwiches

Checking the toastiness level. We're almost there.

Attention: everyone who has a George Foreman grill (or a knock off of said famous appliance) languishing in a cupboard somewhere, go dust it off. I have news. You actually own a very useful pressed sandwich (or panini) maker. Just as I was contemplating sending Kevin’s gigantic and useless grill, which I’m sure got a lot of use in his university days, to the good will bin, he reminded me of this appliance’s one virtue: it makes pizza sandwiches. I have since allowed it to continue to hog 1/3 of the space in one of my cupboards, because these sandwiches are amazing.

It’s not rocket science, you just need a crusty Italian roll of some sort, tomato sauce, mozzarella, spicy salami and a sprinkle of pizza seasoning (Italian seasoning will also do). Spread the tomato sauce generously on both sides of the bun, add a layer of salami, a layer of sliced mozzarella, a sprinkle of seasoning, another layer of salami and you’re ready to grill. About 10 minutes on a pre-heated grill is good, but keep an eye on things and when the bread is toasty and the cheese is melted, you’re done. You could try different filling combos, but I really love the simplicity of these. Kevin gets all the credit for coming up with these beauties many years ago. I imagine him inhaling these with his university roommate, also named Kevin, and probably watching some Star Wars.

These make a great weekend treat. This time we paired them with chips in order to make sure we ingested the least amount of fiber and most amount of fat possible, obviously. That’s what weekend lunches are for, right?

You realise this blog is about la gourmandise, and not healthy eating, of course.

Frescobaldi Remole Toscana

2009 Frescobaldi Remole Toscana, $12.30. LCBO#105429.

One of the several wine people I follow on Twitter mentioned a great, affordable red wine that would go with any holiday meal, and I had to check it out. The $12 price tag was too good to be true.

At this point, I can’t actually remember the specifics of the review I read, other than it gushed about this wine’s greatness. The LCBO reports it as fruity yet dry, with medium body.  I have to agree with the LCBO on the dry factor. I found this wine to be so dry that it is unbalanced. I couldn’t detect much of the reported cherry-berry flavours because of this, which was a huge disappointment. I opened it before dinner to go with some bread and cheese and olives, and it really didn’t work. The finish is tart and tannic, and just left my mouth feeling dry and puckery.

I forgot about my glass of wine until dinner, which was a roasted lemon and garlic chicken with roasted potatoes, squash and mushrooms. I took a few sips with this hearty fare, and it was a whole new wine. Deep, smooth and balanced, a real complement to the meal.  But later, I finished up my glass with a few pieces of chocolate and I was right back to finding it far too dry.

I’m not sure if I expect too much out of a wine, but I really want it to be great to drink before the meal, during and after. And this bottle let me down. Perhaps you could break it out just to go with the Christmas turkey at a big family meal, but for a regular day with only 2 people drinking, it’s not a fit.

Overall, I give this wine 7/10 for taste and 3/5 for value.

Cusumano Nero D’Avola

2009 CUSUMANO NERO D'AVOLA, $10. LCBO#143164.

Italian table wine is always welcome in my house. Some of my $10 or less favourites are produced by Farnese, Ogio and Mezzomondo, who all make reds that don’t disappoint. The Italian section of my wine journal is definitely the fullest, which means two things: First, Italian wine is very affordable and I try a lot of bottles, and second, that not every bottle can be a winner.

I had high hopes for this one. I’ll admit to watching Rachael Ray very occasionally, and she mentioned that this winery is a staple in her house. Although she is sometimes a bit much to take, she does make tasty food and I’m guessing has decent taste in wine- or at least what goes well with pasta. I’m not sure if she recommended the Nero D’Avola, but this was what the LCBO had and also one that Wine Align recommended in their top 50 value wines list. The bottle has a lovely label, and also a nice seal that handily hides the fact that it is a twist cap. Very smart.

We paired it with a simple but delicious bowl of spaghetti. The wine went okay with food, but I have to say it was far too rough to drink alone. It was no good for after dinner sipping, and didn’t even mellow out after an hour or two. It has a lot of flavour, I will give it that. Lots of cherry fruitiness and toasty oak. But the problem with cherries is that sometimes they are tart, and this bottle was just unbalanced. The finish was sour-bitter and not smooth at all. We planned to stretch it from dinner into movie night, and I actually still have half the bottle left, that’s how much we did not like it.

It’s interesting, because this wine has lots of great reviews. It’s just too rough of a wine for me. The three red table wines I previously mentioned are just as flavourful, but considerably smoother, and $2 cheaper. It’s a definite no for me on this wine.

Overall, I give this bottle 7/10 for taste and 3/5 for value.

Ogio Pinot Grigio

2009 Ogio Pinot Grigio, $8.85. LCBO#86199.

I am a huge fan of Ogio’s Primitivo. It is a wine I always have in my cellar (cupboard beside the sink), and love to pull out for pasta nights. The under $9 price point makes me happy.

I was looking at my $10 wine list recently, and realized that I’m really lacking on the white wine side of things. I suppose this is because I prefer red wine, and also find that cheap white wine tends to be just that, whereas an affordable red can often be quite good.

So, I am on a good white wine quest, and thought since I like Ogio as a wine maker, perhaps I would enjoy their pinot grigio. The label was promising, calling it crisp and dry with citrus notes. Those are my favourite things in a white wine, and are usually things I would expect in a sauvignon blanc, not a pinot grigio.

We were having pork for dinner, and I always think of pork as a meat that could go either way with wine. I have to say I was let down by this bottle. While I find their prmitivo is full of flavour, the pinot grigio was almost watered down. It is only 12% alcohol, which maybe is part of the problem. While it is crisp and dry, I found myself really having to search for the citrus notes.

The flavour is nice, and the finish is easy, it’s not overly acidic or sweet. However, it is just far too light bodied. I think that even people who prefer a light white wine would find this bottle watery. So, the verdict is: keep stocking up on the primitivo, but take a pass on the white.

Overall, I give this bottle 7/10 for taste and 3/5 for value.