Let Them Drink Yellow Tail
French winemakers court international cheapskates.
Arrogant Frog Ribet White 2005 (chardonnay, viognier blend), $8.99
A heady nose of lemons, peaches, and flowers, along with some chalk. Ripe, zesty fruit on the palate, with a nice note of pineapple on the finish. Simple, enjoyable wine.
Emilio Merlot 2005, $9.99
A promisingly dark color and a funky, interesting nose, with a whiff of charcuterie, red currants, spicy oak, and a slight medicinal note. Soft red fruit that gets buried under a wall of tannins as it makes its way across the tongue. An unfortunate clash of Muzak and heavy metal.
Chamarré 2003 Bordeaux, $ 11.99
A Bordeaux blend (cabernet sauvignon and merlot, along with some cabernet franc and petit verdot). Deceptively wan color—the wine actually has some heft and depth to it. Vanilla-inflected black fruit, along with a peppery note. Another tannin juggernaut across the palate, but the fruit at least manages to keep its feet.
Chamarré Cabernet Sauvignon-Grenache 2004, $9.99
A high-toned cherry perfume on the nose (the grenache talking), along with some pepper and toasty oak. Full-bodied wine with sweet black fruit and a hint of licorice. A little too much structure, not quite enough fruit, but an interesting, satisfying blend.
Le Freak Shiraz Viognier 2003, $14
A decent bouquet of tart blackberries and white flowers (courtesy the viognier, presumably). A chewy, dense texture to the wine, but there is a washed-out quality to the fruit. It's a northern Rhone tradition to cut syrah with a bit of white wine; in this case, it seems only to have cut the heart out of the syrah.
Illustration by Mark Alan Stamaty.