Looking for Low Alcohol Wines

Now, in general, I don’t rant one way or another on high alcohol wines. In my mind, as long as the alcohol is in balance with everything else, it’s a-ok with me.  However, there are times when I specifically seek out lower alcohol wines.  Among those times is the summer…I often want to enjoy a glass or two with friends in the backyard in the middle of the afternoon and I don’t want to be drinking something at 16%+ at say 4pm. Also, if I’m going to be physically exerting myself but still want some wine, I’d prefer something with lower alcohol.  As you may or may not know, since I’m not sure I mentioned it here, Matt and I went off to the Smoly Mountains this week for a summer vacation.  We hiked, tubed, horseback rode, swam, basically just found outselves being much more active than we usually are.  But we were on vacation and still wanted wine, so I sought out low alcohol wines to take with us.  The first? A 2008 Sincerely Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa. It had a screw cap, clocked in at 12.5% alcohol by volume, and I paid $10.99 for it at a shop in DC whose name escapes me at the moment.

On the nose I found lime, green pepper, grapefruit, tropical notes, gooseberries, lemon, and white pepper.  In the mouth I got lime, pepper, lemon, kiwi, gooseberry, and grapefruit.  This wine worked perfectly for my purposes: relatively low alcohol, crisp, refreshing, and really good after a day of hiking in 94 degree weather!  I give the wine two thumbs up as an after-hiking wine!

Run Cheetah Run

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Gallo Winery.

Not too long ago, a giant box of wines arrived at my doorstep.  Among them was the 2007 Sebeka Sauvignon Blanc. Now, I’ve seen it on shelves in the grocery store many times.  It’s hard to miss with the bright yellow label and the cheetah on the front. Not to mention it’s often accompanied by quite the cheetah display. I don’t tend to go for the wines with critters on the front nor do I often (if ever) buy wine at the grocery store.  Anyway.  The 2007 Sebeka Sauvignon Blanc had a plastic (yellow with black spots) cork, it clocked in at 13% alcohol by volume, and can be found on the internet for as little as $5.54.  It hails from the Western Cape of South Africa.

I’m not sure what kind of treatment this was given, but it smelled like vanilla, cream, lemon, S’mores, grass, sweet melon, and lime on the nose.  I almost would have leaned toward Chardonnay if given this blind.  In the mouth it had melon, lime, lemon, citrus, and grass.  The wine displayed a full mouthfeel with just a tiny hint of the crispness I look for in Sauvignon Blanc.  For $5, this beats a lot of other $5 wines I’ve had.

Bargain Shiraz

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from the Terlato Wine Group.

I’m feeling very non-committal about my wine selections these days.  One day I’m craving the crisp whites I love, the net I want a huge red wine. Must be the weather which will not make up its mind as to weather we are still in winter or have moved onto spring.  My poor bulbs that are popping up, I hope they survive this cold snap. With that in mind, I chose the 2006 Guardian Peak Shiraz from South Africa to drink the other night.  It had a screw cap closure, clocked in at 14.5% alcohol by volume, and retails for around $11.  I know you can get the Wallaby wine for around $7 a bottle, but seriously, do yourself a favor and spend the extra $4 and get this instead.

I loved the nose on this wine.  It smelled of smoke, anise, cedar, earth, chocolate, funk in a good way, and the slightest hint of dark berries.  It reminded me just a bit of some kind of pipe tobacco.  I found the wine to be very smoky in the mouth as well.  I also got flavors of blackberries, black cherries, some  strawberry, earth, and plums.  The fruit showed as quite tart, the wine had nice tannins, and good acidity.  Serve with your favorite BBQ.

Wines of South Africa

At the DC Food and Wine Festival, I tried to quickly hit tables with wines I don’t get a lot of exposure to normally.  I’ve had a few wines from South Africa, but not very many, so I made a beeline for the Wines of South Africa table. I felt bad for the woman pouring the wines. She didn’t speak much English, and the person really running the table had left her there without even opening the bottles for her…she didn’t seem to know how to work a corkscrew, so I offered my considerable skills (hehehe) and popped the corks for her.  Sadly, she didn’t really know anything about the wines, so I just tasted through and left quickly.

2008 Cederberg Bukettraube-This was a new grape for me…normally I’d add it to my Century Club application, but Matt and I are trying to finish our applications together, so we’re only counting grapes we both tried. Lemon, citrus, grapefruit, light, crisp, tastes like Sauvignon Blanc.

2008 Springfield Estate Sauvignon Blanc-Peppers, grapefruit, lemon, crisp, good acidity.

2003 Springfield Estate Wild West Chardonnay-Pear, apple, tropical, pineapple, crisp.

2008 Indaba Shiraz-Strawberry, plum, dry, not very fruity, reserved.

2007 Graham Beck Pinotage-Earthy, animal, strawberry, cherry.

2007 Koopmanskloof Pinotage-Dark chocolate, pepper, rose, meat, cedar, smoke. Really liked this one.

2007 Koopmanskloof Shiraz- Very woody, fruity, raisins, port like, finish falls off.

An interesting selection. I would have liked to see more Sauvignon Blancs as I have tried some really nicely done ones from South Africa in the past.

Winemaker, Winemaker, Make Me a Blend!

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from the Terlato Wine Group

Matt actually had a request for wine the other evening. Usually he pretty much leaves the wine selection up to me even though I bug him every night as to what he’d like to drink. He requested a Cabernet Sauvignon, seeing as how it was freezing out, a big red seemed like an excellent idea to me.  I picked the 2006 Guardian Peak Frontier.  This is a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Shiraz, and 17% Merlot from the Western Cape of South Africa.  The wine clocked in at 14.5% alcohol by volume, had a screw cap closure, and retails for between $10-$14.  The Terlato folks sent me 4 wines in that price range, and so far, they are batting two for two in wines that I would recommend as great to drink and easy on your wallet in this economy.  I’m also excited to try more wine from South Africa. Most of my experience with South African wines is with Sauvignon Blanc.

On the nose I found leather, like a horse saddle, a bit of barnyard, mint, eucalyptus, vanilla, sugar plum, slight dark fruit, campfire smoke, and pencil shavings.  A great expressive nose, though it didn’t give up much fruit.  The mouth, on the other hand, had plenty of fruit to spare! I got red fruit, blackberries, plums, black cherry jello, currants, and tart cherries.  Overall, the wine had some tannins on the back palate but also showed excellent acidity which would make it stand up to food really well.  For the price point, this is an excellent value.  Serve with your favorite steak!

I Spier with My Little Eye

The wine for the dreadfully hot afternoon was a 2007 Spier Sauvignon Blanc. I picked this bottle up at Total Wine and More in Alexandria as part of a mixed case of under $10 Sauvignon Blancs. I was hoping that would get us through a bit of the summer, but alas, it’s only June 19 and the case is gone. Another Total Wine trip may have to work its way into my weekend plans.

The wine hails from South Africa and is made by Spier Stellenbosch. More specifically it is from the Western Cape, had a plastic cork closure, and clocked in at 13% alcohol by volume.

Figs, tropical fruit, tart grass (yes, I realize that sounds strange and it would probably be me aptly described as freshly mowed grass, but tart was the first adjective that popped into my head), asparagus, and citrus. In the mouth, I got a fruit salad. Peach, fig, pineapple, citrus, melon, it was the drinkable equivalent of a refreshing hot afternoon snack.

The wine was crisp, but not mouth puckeringly so like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and exceedingly refreshing. Matt gave this one some high praise, proclaiming it “very drinkable.” For an inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc, this is definitely a great value.

Ooh, Raisins!

That was my first thought on opening tonight’s wine. The wine was a Burger Family 2006 Rietvallei Red Muscadel. It hails from South Africa, cost me $16.99 at Tinderbox in Atlanta, and clocked in at a hefty 16% alcohol by volume. It had one of those half cork with a plastic top closures. Sorry no pictures, I’m traveling and don’t have my camera.

The color was that of a very dark rose. I’ve never had a Red Muscadel, or a white one for that matter. The nose was sweet, very sweet, like candied raisins. Honey also dominated, which I thought strange for a red wine. The taste and smell were almost port-like. I realize this is a dessert wine, but the high alcohol, raisin scent and flavor all scream port to me. As did the firey way it went down my throat.

I really do think someone who enjoys Port would love this wine. It doesn’t quite have the nuances of a Port, but I could see if being very good with dessert, particularly a vanilla ice cream with this drizzled over it, or a chocolate tort.

We’ve broken 80 degrees here

Which to me means we have shifted almost entirely away from the heavy reds I love so much for the winter and into the Sauvignon Blancs, Roses, Gruner Veltliners, Albarinos, and, oh, who are we kidding, any crisp white wine that will beat the heat and humidity that comes from living in a swamp.

With that in mind, the wine for the evening was a 2007 Ken Forrester Sauvignon Blanc. The wine had a screw cap closure, hailed from Stellenbosch, South Africa, clocked in at 13.5% alcohol by volume, and cost me $14.99 at The Winery in Old Town Alexandria.

Dominate on the nose of this one was asparagus. There was no mistaking that one!. Other aromas were grass, gooseberries, lime, and a touch of pepper, the vegetable kind! In the mouth I found lime, gooseberries, citrus, grass, and more of the green pepper.

This was a very tasty and spicy (because of the pepper) Sauvignon Blanc. Perfect for the weather and great with all the lighter cold pasta salads and white fish we’ll be eating all summer long!

Homage to Pinotage


*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Bottlenotes.

Or rather, to a Pinotage/Shiraz blend. I received this wine quite a while ago as a part of a blogger trial of Bottlenotes. For the trial, I was given a credit at Bottlenotes which I could use to try out any of their wineclubs. I chose the Dinner Party club, and received this Pinotage/Shiraz in a shipment along with a bottle of Petite Sirah Port that I have yet to try.

The wine was a 2006 Seven Sisters “Dawn” Pinotage/Shiraz from South Africa. It can be purchased from Bottlenotes for $14.99. It had a real cork closure, clocked in at 14.5% alcohol by volume, and was a blend of 60% Pinotage/40% Shiraz.

This wine was honestly fabulous. It’s been a few months since I drank it, but I can still remember what it tasted like, and what an incredible value it was. I’d never had a Pinotage before and I was happy to try one and was delighted to find a new grape to love. I will certainly seek out Pinotage again.

The nose of the wine was plummy and spicy. Dark black fruit shone through, with pepper and earth. Vanilla cream emerged after some time in the glass. The wine was very fruity on the nose, while being dark with smoke and earth at the same time. In the mouth I found plums, dark fruit, blackberries, and earth. The wine was tannic, it needed some time to air, but after an hour was completely smoothed out and kept evolving.

An excellent value for the price.

A Different Kind of Wine

*Disclaimer: I received this bottle of wine from Bottlenotes as part of a sample pack.

Several months ago (okay, perhaps more like 6 months ago) a PR firm for the wine club and online wine store Bottlenotes contacted me and asked if I would like to participate in a blogger trial of their online wine club. They gave me a credit which I could use to join any of their many clubs for a few months. After perusing the options, I chose the Dinner Party Club for 3 months, 2 bottles at a time. Though I must admit, I was sorely tempted by the Little Black Dress Club, I was curious about a wine club geared toward women and touted by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow!

The concept behind the Dinner Party Club is just that, a dinner party worth of wines in a box. Though I would guess to get the full experience you would have to go for a larger shipment than the 2 bottle one, since that would give you the whole meal!

I had to ship the club to my parents’ house, since at the time (not sure if that’s changed) Bottlenotes could not ship to Virginia. The shipments arrived like clockwork on my parents’ doorstep and I was eager to collect them over Christmas as I had been reading the emails with what the shipments contained for months.

My second shipment brought a bottle of white and a bottle of red. The white, which I will review here, was a 2006 Amehlo, which can be purchased for $14.50 and the red a Cabernet Sauvignon that I have yet to taste.

The Amehlo comes from Alain Moueix in Stellenbosch, South Africa. It clocked in at 14.5% alcohol by volume and was a blend of 63% Sauvignon Blanc and 37% Semillon grapes. Because I was curious, and the label told me, Amehlo means “the eye” and represents the leopards that live by the vineyard.

On the nose of the wine I found pineapple butter. It was neither pineapple or butter, but what I would imagine a spread made in apple butter style but with pineapple instead would smell like. I also got pear, pastry cream (the kind of custard like stuff in eclairs) and an almost minty/herbal aroma. The nose was dominated by tropical flavors. The nose was unlike any other wine I’ve smelled. In the mouth I found lemon cream, tropical fruit, and a bit of a grassy flavor. The wine was crisp with a really light mouth feel that I didn’t expect after the nose. The flavors were clean.

The wine was very different overall. I’ve never had a blend of these two grapes before, so I like that it got me to try something I likely would never have picked up in the store. We drank this on it’s own, which was great, but I think it would do well with a light white fish dish or with cheese and crackers!

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