Looking for jug wines that are widely available in the USA?
At the end of the day, these were the five we’d recommend to friends. In each case, the price is generally representative, but prices, as always, vary widely.
Concha y Toro “Frontera” Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Chile). $9. This wine is a steal. It’s fresh, fruity and fun, with lively Sauvignon Blanc green-pepper character. If you have a floating chair in the pool that holds a little plastic cup, this is the wine to pour into that cup. Lusty and easy to like, it would also make cold summertime dishes like cold poached fish sparkle. In our tasting, we found that too many whites lacked character. They tasted so much like lemon-lime water that we’d rather have Perrier with lime. This is a white with character, but oh-so-easy to gulp, too. In general, if you are looking for a crowd-pleasing, inexpensive white this summer, the new vintage of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is one good place to start.
Barefoot Cellars Pinot Grigio Nonvintage (California). $11. We are generally not big fans of Italian Pinot Grigio, which is often watery and charmless. U.S. wines called Pinot Grigio can have the same problem, though we have better luck with U.S. wines called Pinot Gris, which is the same grape. We had a terrific Pinot Gris from J Vineyards & Winery at Disney World recently (2007 Russian River Valley; $60 at Wolfgang Puck Café at Downtown Disney) that had hints of earthy honeydew melon, with some weight. It had a certain clarity of fruit and some richness and it was really pleasing and satisfying. In a tasting of American Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris last year, Barefoot Cellars was one of our favorites. We tried it again for this tasting in magnum size and, once again, thought it was a real winner, especially for the price. It’s fleshy and peachy, with some weight and true white-grape tastes. We’d pair it with more-flavorful, more-complex summer dishes, like salads with all sorts of toppings, and pastas.
Folonari Soave 2007 (Italy). $12. In a broad blind tasting of Soave earlier this year, good old Folonari was among our favorites. Soave is such a classic name for so many of us that we were delighted to find some we liked, including this old friend. Soave can be fairly neutral, and this wine is quite clean, but we like its weight and hint of minerals. There’s also a little touch of white peaches that is quite summery. It’s important for a white wine to taste like just-picked, perfectly ripe grapes and too many jug wines don’t. This one does and that makes it an easy pair with all kinds of summery foods, especially grilled fish and grilled vegetables.
Bolla Bardolino 2007 (Italy). $14. As we were trying to pin down what we liked so much about this red wine, Dottie finally used the perfect word: “It’s gentle,” she said. Perfect. When you think about the kind of wine you want in that tub (or, since this is red, perhaps on the picnic table after a good dousing in the tub), isn’t “gentle” a good idea? We love the color of this—lively, with fiery highlights. It looks a little like a dark Beaujolais, which is a good sign of its vibrant fruitiness. John took one sip and wanted to order pizza with anchovies. Our daughters stopped him—anchovies, yuck!—but his craving is an indication that this wine would enhance a variety of foods, including cold roast chicken; Italian subs with Genoa salami and provolone cheese; and vitello tonnato, veal with a tuna and anchovy sauce, served cold (a serious summertime treat).
Citra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2007 (Italy). $10. We really enjoy this wine, which was a favorite in a tasting of jug reds several years ago and also in a broad, blind tasting of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (which is a great bet in general, by the way). It has a dark color that looks rich and serious, with some minerals on the nose. The taste is blackberries and blueberries, with good tannins and some body. Too many jug reds seem heavy to us, with unidentifiable tastes and plenty of creamy, vanilla wood stuff. Summer is an uncomplicated time and we like uncomplicated wines that taste like fresh fruit—and this one does. But its extra depth means it’s perfect with a rare burger off the grill or a big, thick steak.
It’s a funny thing about that big tub of ice on the Fourth of July, the one filled with the beer that everyone is enjoying so effortlessly. Put a regular bottle of wine into that tub—no matter how delicious, inexpensive or unintimidating—and it will sit there, unloved, as though it’s just too formal and stuffy for the occasion. But take the same wine and put it in a big, happy 1.5-liter bottle and suddenly everybody is yumming it up. CHECK OUT THE ARTICLE: