2013 Santa Julia Malbec

Now that the results are in for this month’s Wine Writing Challenge, I was inspired to actually drink a value wine.  I chose the theme of “values” this month, as you may remember from my previous post, and I wanted a pretty open interpretation on that definition.  I know a lot of my readers are interested in wine but may be just getting into it.  They don’t really want to shell out $30-$50 for a bottle when they still have a hard time seeing why it is better than a $15 bottle.  There is nothing wrong with drinking whatever you are comfortable with but it’s definitely a pet peeve of mine when people try to justify how good, “2 Buck Chuck” is when they bring it to a party.  If you like it, that’s fine, but it isn’t good.  Stop it.  It just isn’t.  Pet peeves aside, I actually did find a budget wine that I can enjoy and I figured I should share that with my readers.  Also, It’s organic, so if that is your thing then you should be excited. Side note: It’s steak night so you will get some pictures of that.


I know Malbecs from South America are pretty hot right now.  Perhaps not as hot as they were a few years ago but it seems like they are still a pretty solid option when it comes to quality per dollar spent.  I don’t actually drink too much South American wine.  I am a California boy through and through and I, unlike many wine snobs, happen to enjoy what my home state does with wine.  I am aware, however, that there are some really fantastic wines that come out of that region.  I don’t really think it’s fair to compare this bottle to those wines.  I think it is more fair to compare this bottle to the myriad of other Malbecs I have had and continue to sell very well to the budget wine shopper.


I had the 2012 vintage of this wine in a restaurant not too long ago.  I was pretty impressed with it for the price and filed it away in my memory to look it up online when I got home.  I was shocked to find that it was listed online for around $9.  This 2013 bottling is not exactly as intense as I remember it, but my memory is probably a little foggy.  It is common that wines at this price point and production volume rarely change too much year to year and more likely I am just not remembering properly.


When I opened the bottle I was really disappointed at first.  It was smooth but had that sweetish taste of cheap wine.  The alcohol was totally overwhelming in both smell and taste and it was not pleasant.  I set the glass down and kept cooking a little bit and this wine, surprisingly changed a lot with a little air.  That overly sweet taste and pungent alcohol flavor went away and it became a wine with a nice, fresh cherry aroma.  It certainly smoothed out a lot on the palate as well.  This wine cleverly ends up being absolutely drinkable, in the truest sense of that word.  It is mellow and quiet but certainly has flavor.  It seems well balanced but it is lacking in almost every category.  Someone simply turned the volume down.  Although it definitely does not have a watered down presentation, it somehow lacks intensity.  It also has almost no complexity.  It’s like listening to tuba music without the rest of the orchestra.  No one has ever listened to a tuba being played without accompaniment and thought, “what beautiful music!”  After 20 seconds you think, “ok, what else you got?”  Same story here.  It’s fine and I get that it is not meant to win awards, but this is a fairly one-dimensional experience.  It has it’s place though.  I am actually quite enjoying this bottle this evening.  I don’t have the commitment I would to a more expensive bottle and have the luxury of drinking what I want and then coming back to the rest tomorrow and if it happens to not be good any longer, oh well.


I still recommend this bottle.  It is pretty hard to beat for the price.  I think I paid $10 for this.  In that price range I generally include things that are up to $15 as well.  Not only do I feel that there is another jump in quality at the $15 mark, but also if there is a bottle for, let’s say, $13-$15 that is orders of magnitude better than this $10 bottle, then it is worth it for me to pay the extra money to get that quality bump.  What the hell am I doing with this precious $3?  Buying wine!  However, it’s certainly a slippery slope of which to be wary.  The quality jumps at various price points are pretty tight on the lower end of that spectrum.  That is to say, I feel like a $10 bottle is a hell of a lot better than a $5 bottle, a $15 bottle I find is generally miles ahead of a $10 bottle, and a $20 bottle is the next big jump in quality.  I have certainly found myself heading in to get a $10-$15 dollar bottle and walking out with a $20-$25 bottle because I always think, “it’s only a few more dollars and I would get a much better bottle.”  I guess the point that I am having a hard time arriving at is that this bottle gets me that cruiserweight quality for a welterweight price.  I think you could easily put this bottle against anything in the $15 category and have a close race.  So here’s to a solid budget wine that you can bring out as bottle number 2 of the night after people are a little looped from the first bottle.  Sometimes I guess you just need to listen to some tuba music…

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