Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Recessionista Cabernet

Right here in this post, I’m going to wrap the flagging economy around my cheap-assed habits. Friends and acquaintances like John Reeves and Amy Puchot have been chiding my taste for inexpensive wines for years.

Possibly they have used the term, cheap plonk. The tonier sort would refer to Rumpole’s Chateau Thames Embankment, from the eponymous BBC television series. I prefer you consider it a quest.

That’s it – a quest. Not for the Holy Grail but what might be sipped out of it. I seek nothing less than a great wine for as little lolly as possible. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Especially in these parlous times.

Now it just so happens that Burton Tansky is the president and CEO of Neiman Marcus. This knowledgeable expert was quoted in a recent AP article, saying: “The fashionista is now a recessionista.” (If you’re going to cite a retail source, you can hardly do better than that.) That same article mentions a number of well- or very-well-off people who are…downsizing…their displays of wealth.

Of course that’s not Richard – not wealthy, me. Hardly. I simply feel that drinkable wines don’t have to cost an arm and a leg (like, say, a gallon of gas). Believe me, I’ve done that and been there. Spent the bucks. Traveled to wine tastings in Minneapolis, Chicago, Houston, Austin, Dallas. Had the cellar though that was back in Minnesota days when our house actually had a cellar. No more, no more.

Today I can truthfully announce I have not only achieved Tansky’s “recessionista” label. I have found the wine. For $6.50 you can buy a bottle of 2007 Estación Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Colchagua Valley of Chile, at Phoenicia on Westheimer. It is good, good wine – deeply luscious, deeply red and – at 14.3% alcohol – potent enough to make you feel quite excellent after a couple of glasses. $6.50 not including tax.

Along with this high-octane grape juice comes a fine website. You might enjoy visiting it because few of us really keep our eyes on what’s happening Web-wise in the Mercosur, of which Chile is an associate member. (Though in fact, the website is so polished – especially the English version – I wonder where it was created and programmed.) Nevertheless, Vina y Bodega Estampa SA spins a fine yarn.

The Estación brand identity is based Colchagua Station on the Ferrocarril de Palmilla train route, which was built in several segments over more than 50 years. It seems that the 1890 estación (¿Spanish for “station,” si?) borders the vineyards, although it looks abandoned in the website photo.

Every great brand benefits from a great story and Chilean wines have had a strong, inexpensive US market presence for years. Maybe it’s no big surprise that this Recessionista Cab has come along just in time for our slump.


S. Reeves said...

In a down market, folks seek even more slurps of joy.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Thanks, Susan - sometimes there are benefits to down markets after all.

John Reeves said...

Amusing blog. No ratings have been proffered that I found. Their whites look much better than the reds. Inexpensive or cheap is good, plonk is bad. The bad wine is the reason for chiding, not cheap. ;-)

Good cheap wine can be had…about $12 will get you Roogle or Montes Alpha Syrah. I'd call $12 cheap, even if it isn't 6.50.

Wine Spectator, among others, has a long value list recently published:

The 2005 Bordeaux under $20 or $30 qualify for value, but usually have to be on sale under $20 for "cheap". It will be hard to match those lower-priced 2005 Bordeaux for great value and longevity, IMO. The recession and the stronger US dollar have been helping on prices, so don't give up.

Shop for prices: http://www.wine-searcher.com

Richard Laurence Baron said...

This is excellent, John. Thank you. I accept chiding with grace and welcome Web resources. E.g., I used wine-searcher.com to look up “Roogle” - another brand I never heard of.

Now that I know a roogle is a chimera (a combination of kangaroo and eagle) concocted in Southeast Australia, I’ll look for that as well. I’ll shop hard; I saw some of the brand’s varietals for $8-9.

On the Money said...

I seem to remember Rumpole describing Chateau Thames Embankment as being "grown on some far-flung north-facing slope ..."

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Thanks for dropping that hint, Money! I had to go searching and have not found the description itself.

For sure, Rumpole also nominated "Very Ordinary" and "Pommeroy's Plonk" - though Prism Design's John Reeves (above) says I shouldn't use "plonk" myself. See you at Pommeroy's!

On the Money said...

From "Rumpole and the Blind Tasting" ... although I paraphrased very slightly (memory gone after too many vin ordinaires ...)
Sounds good. Would like to see you there for a bottle or two!

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Let me report - we just picked up a case of the 2008 Estación Cabernet Sauvignon, at Phoenicia on Westheimer. Excellent after tasting the first bottle, and with a hint of cherries, too. Just fine, especially since the wine continues to fulfill its role as a "Recessionista" beverage. Go, Chile!