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Cheap Wine of the Year 2023 shortlist
One of these six wines will be named the Mack Turner 2023 Cheap Wine of the Year
The blog’s Cheap Wine of the Year has been named the Mack Turner Cheap Wine of the Year, to honor one of the WC’s dearest friends and a terrific cheap wine advocate. Mack (known on the blog as The Big Guy) died at the end of the year, and he will be much missed.
Mack and I have been drinking wine together for some 20 years, and I will miss not only his friendship and terrific palate, but that he would sometimes bring wine to the house that he knew I wouldn’t like. Because, of course, he wanted to see the WC launch into a rant. And then he would smile – maybe even giggle a little – and we’d drink some more.
The award’s selection process and eligibility rules are here. I considered wines that cost as much as $15 to take into account price creep and regional pricing differences.
The six wines on the Turner shortlist include three from California, which speaks to the change that may be coming in California as smart producers understand the need to make affordable wine. The list is in no particular order.
The winner will be announced Jan. 12:
• Matchbook Cabernet Sauvingon 2020 ($12, purchased, 13.9%): This tastes like California cabernet and not a red wine called cabernet that has been blended with who knows what to take out all the cabernet characteristics. Hence, dark berry fruit that opens up and becomes less brambly, fine-grained tannins, and a bit of cedar.
• McManis Petite Sirah 2020 ($10, purchased, 13.5%): McManis has long demonstrated that it’s still possible to make quality, cheap, and varietally correct wine in California. This is oh so petite sirah — plummy and rich with sweet dark fruit, dark and interesting, but also fresh and vibrant.
• Rickshaw Sauvignon Blanc 202 ($15, purchased, 13.5%): Easily the best affordable California sauvignon blanc I’ve tasted in years. And yes, it tastes like California sauvignon blanc -- no shortcuts to lower quality and increase margins, no dumbing down to bamboozle the consumer, and no sweetness.
• Moulin de Gassac Guilhem 2020 ($12, purchased, 12%): This French white blend is always Hall of Fame quality; the 2021 is even better, with some spice, some stone fruit, and a bit of tartness. Plus, it’s made with terret.
• Santa Julia Reserva Mountain Blend 2019 ($12, purchased, 13.9%): The highest praise for this Argentine red? It made the shortlist even though I don’t like this style of wine. It’s that well made – with lovely, rich, and ripe dark fruit.