Hunting for White Wine Bargains at Trader Joe’s

The Back Story:

A couple weeks ago, I offered up a couple red wine bargains from Trader Joe’s (the results of which you can see here) for all of you spending-conscious people out there. During the process, I realized that the single greatest bargain I had found so far (not hyperbole) had as of yet not been committed to writing (or whatever literary verb best describes typing on a keyboard and placing your thoughts in cyberspace (RIP Gutenberg) ).

First, this inspired a flood of parentheticals (as good wines are wont to do), but once I had surmounted my obsession with these wonderful (and addictive) punctuation marks (temporarily, obviously), I opened up another bottle of said wine (for timely research, of course) along with a recommended wine from Catherine Mears (@catmears if you’re a Twitter kind of person).

The two wines we’re going to be profiling today are the 2008 Honey Moon Viognier, my personal vote for the greatest bargain wine out there, and the 2009 Vinas Chilenas Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, my personal vote for… a pretty good wine in its own right.

You don’t have to take my word on the Honey Moon, either. When I first got into the online wine world, I happened upon the Cheap Wine Challenge being hosted by Raelinn at Wine Ophelia. I seconded Dezel’s Honey Moon nomination, which you can see at My Vine Spot. Definitely check it out, as he describes in detail when he entered the Honey Moon into several blind tastings. Of course, the Honey Moon, at $4, dominated the competition. Jason also throws his support behind this gem at Jason’s Wine Blog and gives a little more background for it as well.

Need my word on it still? Fine, let’s go to the board.

The Results:

honey moon label2008 Honey Moon Viognier, from California

The appearance of the wine is a light gold. It displays a fairly high viscosity and appears to have a smooth, full texture.

The nose of the wine is almost entirely tropical. With notes of mango, apricot, and honey, it smells just like mango nectar. At 13.5% alcohol, you can barely tell it’s there. This is a wonderfully aromatic wine.

The mouth feel of the wine is very crisp, full-bodied but not syrupy. It has an active acidity that stands up to the considerable sweetness very well.

The flavor of the wine is also largely tropical. The attack is a wonderful blend of peach and honey with a tropical fruit and minerality blend on the mid-palate.  The medium-long finish consists of mango and grapefruit. The acidity and alcohol match the considerable flavors and sweetness extremely well. This wine has every opportunity to become a syrupy mess, but it exhibits an incredible harmony.

Price ranges from $4 to $6, and it’s worth more than twice that. 9/10

2009 Vinas Chilenas Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, from Chile

Vinas Chilenas Sauvignon Blanc LabelThe appearance of the wine is very pale greenish-gold. The swirl suggests a medium viscosity and a lean texture.

The nose of the wine has a very strong citrus. I’m getting pineapple, peach, and a light, sweet floral scent like honeysuckle.

The mouth feel of the wine is rather light-bodied, a little bit oily, with a firm tanginess.

The flavor of the wine is, like the nose, a heavy citrus. Main fruit flavors are lime and pineapple, followed by a tart apple. There’s a slight hint of tropical fruit and a medium finish of peach. The wine has a crisp acidity, making it off-dry with a noticeable but not heavy sweetness. The alcohol flavor is subdued at 13.5% and props up the flavor well.

This one didn’t wow me like the Honey Moon, but it’s an above average wine at an inches-from-the-floor price of $4 to $6. 7/10

For the Casual Drinker:

The Honey Moon is an aggressive, sweet, acidic, fruity monster. I love to uncork this wine and just relax, letting the potent flavors and sensations wash over me. The Vinas Chilenas is a more subdued specimen, still fantastic in its own right but one that really shines when its paired with a deserving food. Try a chicken or seafood, maybe a creole chicken pasta or shrimp scampi. There’s enough sweetness there to handle a little heat, and the flavors are well suited to either a cream-sauce or a simpler pasta offering.

The Conclusion:

As I’ve generally found with bargain wines, the bargain whites have outperformed the reds. I’ve still got plenty of bargains to choose from, though, so I’m sure I’ll be revisiting this experiment in the near future (sometime when I’m a little cash strapped).

What Wine Pairs with Filing Your Taxes?

I don’t know about all of you, but I was in no hurry to get my taxes done. It’s a combination of future knowledge of my lack of willpower (that return would probably end up being invested in a ridiculous wine shopping spree if I got it today) and the overwhelming prospect of filing not one, not two, not three, but FOUR W-2s this year, one of which was from a company that went defunct last summer. As such, I put it off. For a long time. I finally got all my W-2s together around the end of February and… just did not want to take the next daunting step.

Last night, I finally took the plunge and began the arduous task of allowing an electronic program to compile all my information for me. Since I was essentially punching in numbers over… and over… and over… and over, I had a hand free for a glass of wine. Which wine would go well with swallowing the bitter pill of last-minute taxation, but with a long reward in the making? The 2009 ranga.ranga Sauvignon Blanc, of course.

ranga.ranga, like all of the Barker’s Marque line-up, is a New Zealand wine from the Marlborough wine region. Marlborough is inherently suited to growing dry white wine, what with the cooler growing season and unusually dry, sunny weather. Though the weather is incredibly dry, the soil is almost entirely clay, allowing it to hold just enough water to keep the vines healthy without an overabundance. A hefty sea breeze perpetually blows through the valley, keeping temperatures down. The 2009 ranga.ranga is somewhat of an anomaly in that, while their Sauvignon Blancs are usually a blend of different vineyard grapes, this vintage is entirely comprised of fruit from the Muritai vineyard in the Awatere Valley, which means the acidic, aggressive wine qualities the above conditions would create are  increased even further.

From here on out, I’ll let the wine speak for itself.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is almost entirely colorless. It has a very slight yellow tint, and its viscosity seems fairly low. I would expect this wine to have a lighter body and a thinner, but not weak, texture.

The nose of the wine is very interesting. It’s tropical and citrusy with a very distinct lime and passion fruit, and a slight, cool alcohol scent makes an appearance. There’s an unusual herbaceous quality to it and an effervescence that contributes to an overall smell of a lime-flavored tonic water. It smells wonderful.

The mouth feel of the wine is extremely vibrant. It’s hard to describe. Theres a puckering bite to it, and you can tell it’s got a ton of acidity, but it’s not overwhelming or uncomfortable. It’s somehow quite smooth.

The flavor of the wine is incredibly complex. It’s actually more medium-bodied, the alcohol holding up the aggressive flavors extremely well (13% alc). The attack is very citrusy, a lemon-lime, grapefruit, and tropical fruit mash-up that matches the high acidity very well. There’s a distinct array of green flavors, with grass clippings, green bell pepper, and a hint of green chili. The acidity comes forward even more so on the finish, which provides the flavors and sensations you would get from biting into a slice of fresh, ripe lemon. I would typically say the acidity is a little high in a wine as light as this, but I really think it works here. Every flavor in this wine benefits from the vibrancy the acid provides. You want dry? This wine gives you dry. The acidity comes in at a  3.27 pH, and the residual sugar barely tops 2 g/l.

For the Casual Drinker:

Don’t be fooled by the light color and the relaxed-looking label; this wine is an aggressive specimen. The sugar is low, the acidity is high, and the flavors are active and complex. It’s perfectly suitable to drinking on its own, but it would match really well with a spicy chicken or seafood meal. Believe me, it could hold its own against the spice. The acidity is dangerous for heartburn, so be prepared for that. This is a fantastic outdoorsy sort of wine. It just smells and tastes like a summer party after a hard day of gardening and yardwork. It’s the wine equivalent of a productive day.

The Conclusion:

Great wine, great price. $12 gets you a fantastic, aggressive, and complex wine. An anecdotal testament to this wine: after I did my tasting, I poured it out to share, and the immediate reaction was a loud, “Wow! I LOVE this wine.” 7/10

It’s available online from several retailers, but Raleigh-Durham-area readers can pick this wine up at Weaver Street Market. Buy local!


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