Friday, January 22, 2010

I was at a grocery store on Saturday, and a product demonstrator was offering little sips of the Little Penquin Pinot Noir... I liked this one..

But... I did a short google search and found someone online that in 2007, did not like this wine all that much. So, why post it?

Because, you need to develop a nose for what YOU LIKE.

You also need to find some reviewer that likes what you like or at least can give you a consistant base line for judgement - someone that has a developed nose.

For that purpose, I think you will find Cheap Wine Reviews (see below) a useful website.

I like Tim Lemke's writing style and his tasting note for this wine, even if I did not have the same problem with the NOSE of this wine... it might just be MY NOSE is no longer any good for writing wine reviews or notes.

In any case , I still like this Little Red Wine from Down Under, the country of Australia, where they do have Little Penguins.


NOTE about Vinetage Date on the Label : When the bottle does not have a vinetage or year date on the label, you have no way of knowing what year(s) of grape crops were blended to make the wine. In the case of a Varietal like Pinot Noir, you have no way of knowing how much Pinot Noir is in the wine itself --- No date tells you that the wine in the bottle is LESS of the Pinot Noir grape that you might expect... it can drop off to 51% in some countries and some states in the USA if there is NO DATE on the label.

The date might tell you what year's crop was used and how much of a specific varietal grape is used in the blending, but it will not tell you how it tastes.
That comes when you open it.

Notice that in Tim Lemke 's review below that Wine, unlike Coke, varies from year to year, even for the same Brand/Wineyard offering. That's both the joy and disappointment of drinking wine, folks!

Freddallas.... now on to Little Penquin Pinot Noir!

How to get the most out of drinking the Little Penguin wines.

The Basics:
1.Open a bottle of wine.
2.Pour it in a glass.
3.Open your mouth.
4.Tip wine into your mouth.
5.Swallow. (preferably before reaching full capacity)
6.Enjoy. (In moderation, of course.)
This may sound simple to you, but to a penguin this is no small task. There are some more advanced steps that can make you look like an experienced wine drinker. (If that kind of thing is important to you.)

1.Look at the wine.
Hold the glass by the stem (It's called stemware, get it?) and tip it away from you, preferably against a white background. Examine it carefully for color and clarity. (A furrowed brow or inquisitive gaze may enhance the authoritarian effect here.) Is it bright or dull? Intense or muted? Clear or cloudy?

2.Smell the wine.
Swirl the wine in the glass, paying special attention to avoid wearing it on your shirt or blouse. Then smell the wine. Unlike penguins (for obvious reasons when you consider their diet) our sense of smell is incredibly important in how our sense of taste works. Swirling enhances the smell of the wine by releasing any exciting fruit aromas and allowing it to react with air. You will want to take one big sniff. Go ahead stick your schnoz all the way in there. Then describe what you smell.

3.Sip the wine.
Finally, take a generous sip and let the wine rest in your mouth. It may help to aspirate, or draw a little air into your mouth, but gargling is considered inappropriate. Consider the wine. What does it taste like? How does it feel? At this point, you can either choose to spit or to swallow the wine. Either way, you will get the full effect of the taste. If spitting, try to avoid the general direction of other people and restrain from making loogy sounds.

4.Take note.
So, what did you think? Write it down - what it smelled like, your first impressions, the aftertaste. More importantly, did you like it? If you did, go ahead and have another sip, no one will blame you.

Do it all over again, just with a different wine. You might want to have a drink of water and a bite of bread to "cleanse your palate" before moving to the next wine.


Little Penguin Pinot Noir – Waddle On…My Quest for Good Cheap Pinot Noir continues with a cheapy from South Eastern Australia produced by the Little Penguin. This Penguin has a nice fruity center, but a little bit of funk at both ends.

OK… should I explain that, or let your imagination do the work?

I’ll explain.

The Good

the Little Penguin Pinot Noir 2006 has a nice, fruity palate. Strawberry, blueberry and currant make it almost a fruit bomb. There is also a hint of spice, but it falls short. I would have liked a bit more spice. It also has a nice velvety mouth feel.

The Funk

The nose is a bit of a turn off. I can only describe it as a combination of sweaty socks and strawberries. I was almost afraid to taste it after my first wiff. (This is the point where if I were Gary Vaynerchuk I would stuff a sweaty sock into my mouth to prove that I know understand sweaty socks… but trust me, I know this smell.)

That is part of the funk, but I did say “funk at both ends.” One being the nose, the other end being the finish where the Little Penguin left me with a touch of a metallic aftertaste.


While there were some funk-a-delics to this Pinot Noir, it only cost about $6. Not bad. And if you expect a $6 Pinot to totally kick ass you’re going to be disappointed. I didn’t dump this bottle, but it wasn’t awesome either. I gave it an 80. Give it a few minutes to open up and you’ll enjoy it a lot more. But, I would recommend you waddle past this one, and try something else.

Wine: the Little Penguin
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Alcohol: 13.5%
Rating: 80

A Quest for Good Cheap Pinot Noir

I was almost ready to write up this summary on my Quest for a Good, Cheap Pinot Noir when I noticed that more recent vintages of my top two picks were on the shelves. To be relevant to those shopping now, I had to pick them up to ensure they are worthy of top picks.

And wouldn’t you know it… the newer vintages didn’t hold up.

So what does that mean?
There is no clear winner.
Yep, the naysayers won (those bastards). There is not a great, cheap pinot noir that I could find. That said, there are some decent mediocre ones.

One of the frustrations of a cheap wine aficionado is that sometimes your picks just don’t work out. The good news is, when that happens it’s only a few bucks and not a $40+ bottle of disappointing wine.

So what were the top picks that didn’t work out with more recent vintages?

•Rosemount Estate Pinot Noir 2004 was my original top pick with a rating of 89.
•Mark West Vin de Corse Pinot Noir 2005 was my second pick with an 88.
The 2006 vintage of Rosemount Estate Pinot Noir dropped to an 84 rating. It’s still an OK bottle of wine, but it’s nothing exceptional. It offers cherry, apple and vanilla on the nose. It has a somewhat fruity palate with strawberry, plum and apple, but all are subtle. The tannins are soft and it has a medium length finish that lacks complexity. It also cost a dollar more than the 2004 vintage cost me… damn inflation!

The 2006 vintage of Mark West Pinot Noir fared a little better. Now I should note that Mark West puts out Pinot Noir from different regions and the only 2006 release that I’ve found is from California versus the 2005 I tasted with French grapes. The 2006 Mark West has a smoke, vanilla, red raspberry and cherry on the nose. I did enjoy the nice, warm mouth feel. Plum, cherry, raspberry and earth make up the palate. It has dry tannins and a medium length finish. I gave it an 86.

Others Worth Mentioning

I gave a reluctant 88 to 47 Pound Rooster Pinot Noir from HRM Rex-Goliath! Wines. The reason it’s a reluctant 88 is that it has no vintage. As you can see with the Rosemount Estate example above, there can be quite a difference from one vintage to the next. I don’t like wines that keep vintage a mystery as I just don’t know what I’m getting.

Another worth mentioning is the Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir 2005. I gave it an 87 and I can still remember the crisp spiciness of this wine. It was enjoyable. I’m sure the 2006 is on the shelves by now and I haven’t tried it yet… that will be up to you.

The Ratings Chart

As a part of my summaries I like to include a chart of all my wine ratings for that category so that you can get a quick glance at what I tasted and how it rated.


Rosemount Estate

Mark West – Vin de Corse

47 Pound Rooster

Pepperwood Grove

Mark West – Appelation California


Castle Rock

Rosemount Estate

Beringer Founder’s Estate

Robert Mondavi – Woodbridge

Three Thieves

The Little Penguin



About Cheap Wine Ratings

Cheap Wine Ratings is all about finding good wine at affordable prices.

For years we’ve been searching for the best value wines. It’s a quest to identify good wines for everyday drinking and hidden gems that you may have to hunt a little bit to find. Wading through all the choices and finding the best picks is no easy task, so we wanted to share our findings with other wine lovers like you. And thus, was born.

The process for rating wines on this site is systematic, with numerous qualitative characteristics evaluated to determine a wine’s rating. That rating is coupled with a descriptive review to give you a sense of how good a wine is and why you’ll enjoy it—or not. We provide ratings based on a 100 point system, but don’t just go by the numbers… there are a lot nuances and personal preferences that will determine your personal favorites and we hope that our tasting notes help you pick those out.

While we use a 100 point system, most wines we review end up somewhere between the mid-70’s to the low-90’s. If you go by the numbers, here’s a good way to think about them:

•80 and below: Don’t bother
•81-83: Drinkable wine
•84-86: Good
•87-89: Very good
•90+: Exceptional
The general rule of thumb on is that wines featured will be $20 or less. We may go over that price occasionally, but that will be rare and noted. In our opinion, you don’t need to spend a lot to get great wine, you just need to make informed choices.

Who’s Behind Cheap Wine Ratings?

This site was founded by Tim Lemke in Cincinnati, Ohio. He’s not a sommelier or anything fancy like that. But he is an avid wine consumer with a knowledgeable palate and a diligent approach to evaluating wines. Tim does most of the reviews on the site, with a little help from wife, Robyn.

Feedback and suggestions are encouraged.
You can contact Tim by sending an e-mail to

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