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Wine Review: Tasting doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby

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You don’t judge a book by its cover, and you also shouldn’t judge a wine by its price.

In over 30 years of writing about wine, I have sampled some monumental stinkers that sold for over $100 and some absolutely wonderful wines that were under $20. Just as an example, I once tasted an Edna Valley Vineyard pinot noir that sold for under $15 that could only be described as ethereal and a cabernet sauvignon with a price tag of $128 that I poured down the drain.

Keeping that in mind, I approach all wines by tasting them before paying attention to the price or the name of the producer. I recently had the pleasure of tasting some South American wines that, in my opinion, are well above the average.

Trivento 2019 Argentinian Reserve Malbec ($11)
Please do not let this wine's very affordable price tag scare you off. This is a showcase malbec that radiates all of the flavors and aromas that have made the variety so popular. This bold wine is dark in color and displays the aromas of strawberry, plum and red cherries, with a hint of spice in the background. Cherries, plums, cinnamon and coffee are the dominant flavors, along with added complexity provided by a hint of oak. This is truly a regal wine with the charm and bearing of a modern classic. It is ready to drink now or can be set down for as long as five years to soften, mellow and take on the glow of a great classical wine. This wine will prove why malbec is becoming a favorite among many red wine drinkers.

Frontera Cabernet Sauvignon ($7)
In the quality for your dollar category, this cabernet sauvignon from the Central Valley of Chile achieves the impossible; it is a very nice wine at an even nicer price. This deep ruby, medium bodied wine presents a clean and open aroma of spice, black currants, vanilla and soft oak. There are no harsh tannins in this wine so it is ready to be enjoyed right now without any further aging. Another quality point is the finish, which is moderately long and very fruity. While the raised pinky connoisseur might scoff at this wine, my suggestion is “don’t knock it until you have tried it” and when you have tried it you will be very glad you did.

Frontera Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot ($7)
This classical French Bordeaux blend of 85% cabernet sauvignon and 15% merlot is presented in its Chilean incarnation. This is not an attempt to pass off Chilean wine as a Bordeaux, but rather an homage to the blend. This is a wine to have with dinner and because it is so affordable, as often as you like. The color of this wine is dark and the aroma reflects plum, cherry, red berries and chocolate, which carry over to the flavor and then on to a delightful finish. I found this wine to be enjoyable and easy to drink.

Frontera 2020 Sauvignon Blanc ($13)
Hey, wait, a sauvignon blanc that sells for more than a cabernet sauvignon? Something here is topsy turvy or very special. It appears the sauvignon blanc grapes were at a premium in Chile, which resulted in a higher cost per bottle. Is it worth it? I must answer with a resounding “yes.” Most sauvignon blanc wines are flimsy little things that smell more of grass than the aroma of fruit. The full fruit of this wine is presented right up front, exhibiting an aroma of pear, peach and citrus. These carry over to the flavor and then to the finish. Do not let this one slip past you, either; it is, to say it in one word, gigantic.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at


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