Oreana Winery Red Table Wine

A wine with a front label consisting of nothing more than a big, orange question mark does not seem promising. The back label tells a somewhat doubtful story of the wine’s origin: tanks of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, originally intended to be bottled as single varietals, were accidentally blended. The question mark refers not to an unknown blend, but to the winemaker’s uncertainty whether this blend was the result of error or fate. Frankly, we don’t care. The nose is full of ripe, dark fruit, nutmeg, and vanilla. On the tongue, it’s almost jammy, with surprisingly assertive tannins. Fans of big, bold, super-ripe California Cabs will find this one a great value. (more…)

Nerelo del Bastardo

Another mystery wine, this time from Italy. According to the back label, this is a truly great wine that must instead be labeled as merely a table wine, due to Italian law limiting sales volume. Sounds arbitrary and unreasonable, doesn’t it? Well, after tasting this wine, we have nothing but respect for the Italian legal system. This is not a great wine. The nose offers some cherry and raspberry notes, but they’re in the background. Vegetable notes are stronger, though difficult to pinpoint. The taste is evocative of canned tomato soup, with a chewable vitamin finish. We’re afraid this one deserves its bastard designation.

Epicuro Riserva

This $5 red from the Salice Salentino region of southern Italy is a blend of Negroamaro (80%) and Malvasia Nera (20%) grapes. We really hoped this would be one of those off-the-beaten-path wine regions that grows generally-unheard-of varietals that can turn out really interesting wine at a reasonable price. It might be, but the Epicuro Riserva isn’t such a wine. The smell of this one is absolutely awful, and almost certainly the result of a very bad Brettanomyces infestation.