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September 2, 2012

Grape Sense enters fifth year: Time to recommend a few wines

As Grape Sense nears the start of its fifth year, it’s time to return to the staple of any good wine column and recommend a few wines.

People always ask, “What are you drinking lately?” So, here is a column on five easy-to-find wines that are all priced under $16. All five are light-bodied wines perfect for late summer evening dinners.

Burgan’s 2010 Albarino

A great summer wine is a bit of an understatement with this $12.99 bottle from Spain. Albarino is a summer white wine with hints of lemon, nice minerality, floral characteristics and a beautiful freshness missing from way too many white wines. This wine has consistently scored around 90 points from the major wine critics. This wine is widely available at or near the price above. Serve this by itself, with appetizers or white fish and it will be a hit!

Graffigna 2010 Malbec Reserve

Even though many gravitate to white and Rosé wines in the summer, meat off the grill deserves good red wine. An outstanding choice — even for those grilled steaks is Argentinian Malbec. The Graffigna really delivers bang for the buck for around $11 to $12. The Graffigna is frankly lighter than most Malbecs making it a perfect summer wine with steak or even pork. You’ll get the typical beautiful dark berry flavors with a hint of vanilla. This is about as good as a $12 bottle of wine can ever get.

Gerard Bertrand 2008 Minervois Syrah/Carignan

Here is another light bodied wine with a world-class pedigree. Bertrand is a much heralded Southern France winemaker who turns out several different wines under $15. But you will have to make it to a wine shop to find his wines. The Minervois region seems to always produce well-rounded and smooth-bodied wines. This is delightfully light-drinking wine that can use 10 minutes in the fridge — a very light chill — before serving. If you can’t find this one, pick up any of the Bertrand wines and give one a try. This Minervois region wine is probably the lightest but the winery consistently delivers very balanced and drinkable red wine.

Clayhouse Adobe Pink

No summer wine column can go without a Rosé wine recommendation. It’s a Grape Sense mission to spread the word on the delightful dry Rosé wines. French Provence Rosé and Pinot Noir Rose from California and Oregon fill the wine rack. But the Paso Robles Clayhouse label delivers consistently good red and whites. The Rosé has done well with wine critics scoring around 90 points. This wine has a little bigger flavor than the French wines but it’s a nice blend of Rhone varietals Mourvedre, Grenache Noir, and Syrah. You get really drinkable wine with Clayhouse Adobe for $14. Be crazy, live dangerously and try this with bold flavored fish or a salad.

Ravenswood 2010 Napa Valley Zinfandel

Ravenswood is a name many will have seen in wine shops and grocery stores. They’ve been around a long time because they consistently deliver good wine. The Napa Zin has big fruit with a balance and finish any red wine drinker will appreciate for the $15.99 price point. Ravenswood has a basic bottling that turns up in many grocery stores that’s also quite palatable for even less. Give that wine an hour or two in a decanter and it delivers for the cost.

All five wines are widely distributed in the U.S. For more wine news, stories, features and wine recommendations — check out the Grape Sense wine blog at www.redforme.blogspot.com.

Howard W. Hewitt of Crawfordsville, Ind., writes Grape Sense every other week for 18 Midwestern newspapers. Contact him at hewitthoward@gmail.com.

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