This month's tasting has the potential to be the most bitterly divisive ever, as we pit one cheap, probably mass-produced white wine against another. Can one find genuine quality whites with real character for $7? Will they all taste like low-priced swill?? Will we remain friends afterward???
Any still (non-sparkling) white wine will do, from any country, any vintage, and any grape.
They must be $7 or under. Spending even $1 more will buy you a lot more quality. Tape your receipt showing purchase price to the side of the wine as proof.
Your wine can come in any package. This means that 1.5 liter bottles are fine; jugs, and boxed wine are fine too, as long as the price per regular 750ml bottle is under our limit.
If you have to purchase of 2 bottles to get a discount (and get under $7/bottle), that's within the rules, but case discounts will not be accepted.
Wines from The $7 Or Under Showdown provoked some of the most unusual opinions and descriptions we have yet heard. Descriptions ranged from the innocuous and inoffensive, to appallingly bad, while others were legitimately pleasant. None had much of a finish, and the winner made a 180-degree turn around from a joke of a wine, all the way to the grand champion. Go figure.
First Place: Long Flat Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc 2001 (South Eastern Australia). Initially, this wine was ridiculed for its skunky, "dirty sponge" aromas. Stephen felt that its acidity was "as bright as urine", while another taster criticized that it "tastes like a latrine". As it warmed up, the nose became reminiscent of grass, apples, and melon. On the palate, tasters noted flavors of purple grapes, hints of butter, pears, peach gummies, and green melon. No finish. Kristin correctly guessed half of the blend when she suggested Sauvignon Blanc. Received 29 total points. David's bottle. $5.99.
Second Place: Grazela Vinho Verde. Ali asserted that it "smells like B.O", while others detected hints of citrus. Slightly effervescent, with flavors that Sarah described as "like lemon Pellegrino". Notes of limes and honeydew melon. Very light in texture, with no finish. Most agreed that it was refreshing, and Andy suggested that it would go well with shrimp cocktail. Only 9% alcohol. Received 23 points. Kristin's bottle. This was the "best value" winner at only $3.99.
Third Place: Hogue Gewurztraminer 2004 (Columbia Valley). Slightly effervescent, with tinny, chalky and lime notes. Sweet. Red apple, clove, honey, mango, and cinnamon. Relatively rich in texture. Tasters agreed that the nose matched the taste in this one. David incorrectly guess that this was made of the Muscat grape, while Ali suggested that she would have it with a stir fry. Received 17 points. Andy's bottle. $6.99.
Jardinale Sauvignon Blanc 2003 (Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne). Tasters described a metallic nose, with chalk, grapefruit, melon, lemon, and butter. Soft, light wine. Suggestive of green apple, light oak on the finish, and a soapy quality. Ali believed that it was the most balanced wine of the night, but Kristin thought it was "benign". Virtually everyone was convinced it was a Chardonnay. Received 10 points. Sarah's bottle. $6.
Bouchard Aine & Fils Macon-Villages 2001. Vegetal nose, with tomato, celery and hints of oil. Tart, metallic, with green grapes and grapefruit. David and Kristin didn't mind it, but Ali and Sarah hated the aftertaste, which Ali described as "earwax". Chardonnay. Received 8 points. Stephen's bottle. $5.99.
Francis Coppola Bianco (non-vintage, California). A blend of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, this wine reminded tasters of some pretty nasty things. Sarah said it was "a green apple in an old closet", while Andy noted, "old lady". Another taster suggested, "a log cabin by a lake", and Sarah felt it tasted "like it has solvent in it". Ali noted "glue", and while others detected mustiness, green olives and petroleum. Not a dry wine. Ali declared that it had "the aftertaste of a stinky cheese". Received 3 points. Ali's bottle. $6.99.
And, tasted non-blind:
Newton Cabernet Sauvignon "Le Puzzle" 1997 (Napa Valley). Jumps out of the glass with a welcoming nose of blackberries, vanilla, oak, clove, cedar, cassis, anise and earth. Andy thought it was "aromatically arresting". Kristin described it as a "velvet blanket you want to wrap yourself in", and others felt it was "stunning". Reminiscent of boysenberry jam, chocolate, espresso, licorice, and smoke. Thick. From David's cellar. About $75.