Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wine Review: the Little Penguin 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

OKAY Folks! It has been far too long. I am back, but treading cautiously. I'm slipping back into the blogosphere with an old review I had on deck. Keep reading, wine people! 

Cabernet Sauvignon is a tasty grape. The Little Penguin is a mass market gem. And ringing in at a whopping $5.99, this 2008 brings it... but the follow through... well what are we really hoping for at six bones? [Note, in 2012 - since I initially began this review, I've been told that the price has increased... So expect to pay $6.49...  Watch that wine budget! Wow.]

The color is deep and clear and a whiff gives off a bit of a kool-aid fake grape sort of nose. Nonetheless, the flavor is okay.

Yeah. I said it's "okay." Look - I usually have a lot more to say, but here... nope.


Despite being nonoffensive to the nose or the palate, this super budget choice has little to offer. It's fine for the second or third bottle but don't break it out to start the party.

3 of 5 glasses.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wine Review: Jacob's Creek 2007 Shiraz

Jacob's Creek is one of the largest exporters of wine in Australia. Since 1847, this well known brand has tended its vines in the Barossa Valley region of south Australia.

Of course, we're concerned about only a handful of things here. Is it easy to find? Is it cheap? Is it good?

Well it's definitely easy to find. I picked up this bottle of Jacob's Creek 2007 Shiraz at my local Wal-Mart. I've seen the brand in pharmacies, wine stores, and grocery stores. You should have no trouble picking it up. And to answer the second question - yes it is cheap. At $7.99, this bottle won't murder your wallet.

This wine entertains the nose with a distinct licorice/anise quality. Plum, cherry and blackberry fruit waft forth along with a whiff of oak.

The taste is a cherry fest, but lacking the fruit overkill of many wines. The structure of this wine doesn't fall apart in the mouth like
yesterday's Alice White. It isn't building a house on the palate - not that kind of strength - but it might be building a tool shed up there. Other than the cherry, it constructs its little shed with a nice peppery oak nicely balanced with delicate acid.

3 of 5 glasses

Wine Review: Alice White 2008 Shiraz

Part four of our trip down under takes a bit of a tumble down the rabbit hole. Sure, Alice White is a successful winery. Sure they mass-produce quality grapes in the sun-rich region of South Eastern Australia. Sure they manage to sell buku-bottles in the United States every year at super budget prices.

But it doesn't mean I have to like it.

It doesn't suck. Don't get me wrong. But this $6.99 Shiraz, vinted in 2008, just doesn't get my juices flowing. And, perhaps ironically, this wine does deliver a high flow of juiciness.

In the nose, this shiraz presents a fair amount of fruit. Cherry, plum and strawberry happily co-exist with a mild dose of black pepper.

The sip brings on a fruit-forward, cherry-strawberry duo. It's also very smooth and effortless. Merlot drinkers might approve of this wine. Tannins are light, so drink this wine young! But it isn't all juice and spice and all that's nice. The mid palate just falls apart, which bores me endlessly. Nothing happens there at all. Moments later, the finish returns a moderately obnoxious tangy, tinny, suck on a penny kind of taste. This wine was about to get a solid 3 of 5 glasses until that stupid finish.

Here is a list of some things named Alice that I prefer to Alice White...
  • Alice (that girl in Wonderland)
  • Alice Cooper (welcome to my nightmare)
  • A.L.I.C.E. (the Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity)
  • Alice's Restaurant (you can get anything you want...)
  • Alice Walker (Pulitizer Prize winning author of The Color Purple)
  • Alice (the town in south Texas)
I won't be taking a trip back down Alice White's rabbit hole any time soon. Sometimes bottles labeled "drink me" should be left alone.

2.5 of 5 glasses

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wine Review: Lucky Duck 2008 Shiraz

"Try Lucky Duck."
"It's a wine... you can get it at Wal-Mart."
"Oh... okay."

Yup. That's pretty much how a recent conversation went down with a good friend of mine. She was extolling the virtues of this relative newcomer to the big-box brands. I had neither heard, nor seen of this wine until I picked some up last week. I'm glad I did. Thanks friend!

Lucky Duck is not going to crush your wallet. This bottle rings in as the cheapskate of the this week's Aussie's at $4.49 a bottle.

This 2008 Shiraz is a dark purple color. The nose is very focused, very one dimensional. It's loaded with fruit. Blackberries and blueberries make it out of the mix. Other than that, it's really fairly closed.

The sip...... fruity fruit fruit fruit... and did I mention fruit? Look it just isn't a complex wine. But you know what, it has nice tannins. It has good structure. It's not too big, but it entertains the palate. It's light and crisp - good balance of acid. And it's not really too sweet.

There is nothing spectacularly impressive other than the fact that Lucky Duck has created a super low cost, very decent wine. I might pick up a case for summer drinking - you know just sitting out on the patio with a few friends... you don't want to spend much, but you don't want to offend their tastebuds.

Watch out Yellow Tail!

3.5 of 5 glasses

Wine Review: Two Yellow Tails for Tuesday!

Yellow Tail is Australia's largest exporter and the number one wine (by volume) imported into the United States. This winery just exploded in the last ten years in the US market. In 2001, 200,000 cases of Yellow Tail were sold in the US. By 2008, that number had reached 8-million. That is a lot of wine!

Given the volume of wine sold under this label, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to explode the content level here and give you all a Two-for-Tuesday! Here they go, the 2009 Shiraz and the auspicious 2008 Reserve Shiraz.

Yellow Tail's Shiraz is up first. This is the exporter's flagship and I would guess the number-one selling red wine in America. Why? Volume, price and marketing. The shiraz/syrah grape makes up 25% of the red harvest in Australia. The brand is able to sell it at a very accessible price of $6.99. Lastly, the non-pretentious, fun, eye-catching yellow label just jumps off the shelf. Not to mention the fact that this label is plastered all over billboards, delivery trucks, and media of all sizes.

But does it live up to all the hype? Well, yes... and no.

The nose gives up a cherry vanilla aroma right away, but holds back on the rest. Maybe I'm just not smelling good tonight because I'm getting more out of this in the sip. There is a strong, perhaps over-oaked quality to the taste. However, other notes do sing through. A bit of black-tea comes in - or maybe I'm just confusing that with the tannins - but I really get a slight tea flavor as well as some fruit. There is strawberry, a bit of blackberry... a pinch or two of prune juice. It has that somewhat oily quality like i just licked a prune. Very interesting. Still, this really is by far NOT the sweetest of the week here in our trip down under. In fact, this wine really has a very bitter mid palate.

There is a little bit of clove in the mix as well. The finish is moderate and departs with a somewhat unsettling green pepper aftertaste.

3 of 5 glasses

Next up, Yellow Tail's Reserve Shiraz...

The reserve, from 2008, rings in a a somewhat heftier $10.99. It has a super dark cherry red color, and exceeds the '09 Shiraz in depth of color and viscosity. This wine has got some legs for a budget bottle.

The nose is a bit like a chocolate cherry - the candy kind. Not fresh out of the box, mind you! Not that somewhat cardboard-like, mass-produced chocolate... okay - maybe the mass produced kind. Imagine someone just bit into a cheap chocolate cherry from a box they picked up at the drug store... then they held it under your nose... that's the smell. That, and a bit of blueberry... a touch of oak... a twist of cracked pepper.

The flavors are interesting. Chocolate comes through quickly, but the blueberry steals the show. There is also a good sampling of blackberry and other dark fruit coming through in the mid palate. This is all accompanied by a bit of vanilla. The tannins are smooth and rounded. It dissipates in a bit of a green apple finish.

I can't say this is more interesting than the '09 Shiraz - but it is certainly better in its execution. The flavors work together. The structure is more coherent. The flavors are less bitter. On the other hand, it's about $4 more... but at $11.99 it's still quite a nice price.

3.5 of 5 glasses

Wine Review: Little Penguin 2008 Shiraz

"I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover."

Yep. We're going to Australia this week, that strange and eerie land from south of the Equator. Rockin' some Men at Work... Throwin' another shrimp on the barbie... Keeping our babies safe from dingos. Okay I'm done with the cliches.

Australia is the fourth largest exporter of wine in the world, behind France, Italy and the USA. Each year, Australia produces 25% more Shiraz grapes than it does of it's second largest crop, Cabernet Sauvignon. I chose the Shiraz (known as Syrah to the rest of the world) varietal as my yardstick for this week for that and one other reason - I've never met a Shiraz that made me chunder. In fact, it seems like just about anyone can make a decent bottle of wine from Shiraz grapes.

On top of that, I really want to focus on the kind of bottle you can find in just about ANY store. The wines I'm reviewing this week should be in any Wal-Mart, Kroger, you name it. They are available in drive-thrus... in gas stations. You won't have too much trouble finding them.

And with these wines so readily available, at such low prices - I want to equip you with a bit of knowledge for the next time you're picking up an emergency bottle at the local CVS.

Let's start with the Little Penguin 2008 Shiraz.

This bargain find is available EVERYWHERE for about $5.99. Little Penguin is a great high-production winery and has really grown to challenge Yellow Tail's market share in the past few years. NOTE: I swiped today's picture from someone else. Usually I take my own. Meh...

This Shiraz is a dark rose, almost ruby color. The nose is fairly closed, but does impart a lot of fruit - primarily strawberry. We're not talking Boone's Farm strawberry here people - but it's definitely in there. There's a little oak coming through and a whiff of smoke.

The sip is jammy - bursting with that strawberry flavor. It really feels like drinking a spiked juice box - you know, the kind... stick it in the the crumb crucher's My Little Pony lunch box with a bologna sandwich and a gogurt... send her off to school... receive a call from the principal around 1 to talk about your darling daughter. By 2 you're meeting with someone from the state about your fitness as a parent... worried you'll never see her again.

Nope? Never happened to me either. But this stuff DOES taste pretty much like that. It kinda falls apart on the mid palate and the finish is a little hot.


Though it's too fruity for my palate, this is a very drinkable wine for a very affordable price.

3 of 5 glasses

Friday, April 23, 2010

Next Week

I'm going to try something big next week - a bargain basement big-box bountiful Shiraz tour of Australia. Come back each day for another review from down under. Some of the biggest selling wines in America are represented: Yellow Tail, Little Penguin, Lucky Duck and Alice White.

Pick up a Shiraz by each house if you want to follow along! I think you can get all of this stuff at Walmart... all priced between $4.49 and $10.

Have a great weekend!