Offcuts: cheap reds

I’ve been slowly accumulating cheap red wines — mostly samples — so thought I’d sit down to a few this evening. In a sense, I enjoy the challenge of tasting inexpensive wines, as they prompt an adjustment not only of one’s expectations, but one’s understanding of the role of wine. I like to think the intent behind such wines is to add a bit of luxury to a weeknight meal, something that is too often a purely functional ritual of nourishment.

What annoys me, though, are wines that seem cynically made, either to a price point or a certain stylistic formula (generically sweet fruit, obvious oak, confected flavours) that shows an intolerable degree of contempt for the consumer’s tastes. Luckily, I found a couple of good’uns this time around.
Kirrihill Clare Valley Shiraz 2008 ($A14.99, sample)
A pretty good effort. At first, quite reticent, with little expressiveness on either nose or palate. It ends up being quite flavoursome, though, with a fair dose of regionality to boot. The nose shows sweet and savoury berries, some pepper and rather lumpy, coffeed oak. There’s a nice vegetal lift too, which seems to me quite regional. The palate shows robust, unrefined flavours and just a touch of generically sweet fruit, along with rough, toasty oak. Quite outrageously tannic and textured for a wine at this price point. The whole is pretty rough and ready, but undeniably generous. It doesn’t fall headlong into an incredibly depressing confectionary fruit flavour, nor into or a dumbing down of the wine’s regional character. Honest and fun.
Mike Press Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2008 ($A10, gift)
A very generous aroma, with plenty of blackberry fruit and lashings of vanillan oak; just what the doctor ordered, really. There’s a slight lift to the aroma too, perhaps from the oak character and a little volatility? In any case, it works well. There’s a nice brambly edge to the fruit too, which adds some welcome complexity and character. The palate is easygoing, and very much in line with the nose. There’s plenty of berries and plums, a hint of pepper, and an oak volume that seems better judged than in previous vintages. The whole seems a bit formless, but I’m not going to complain too much at this price point. Good fruit and exceptionally well-judged styling. 

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