Saturday, May 17, 2008

A New King Is Crowned (Best Red Wine In Prague For $5)

A (plastic) bottle of red. A (plastic) bottle of white. Whatever kind of mood you're in tonight.

As someone pointed out in a comment on one of my earlier blog posts, one of the best ways to find drinkable, but inexpensive, wines in Prague is to seek out wine bars and shops that offers wines from the barrel.

I live in the village of Černý Vůl, west of Prague, and the nearest place I know of to buy wines from the barrel is in Suchdol. It's a little kiosk along Route 241 called, wonderfully, Relax Vine. The proprietor is very friendly and offers small tastings of all of his offerings.

The wines on offer from the barrel on my most recent visit were from Argentina and Macedonia. I decided to sample both a red and a white -- a flowery, crisp Torrontes (65 CZK, or $4, per liter) and a chewy, dark Cabernet Sauvignon (60 CZK, or $3.75, per liter), both from Argentina.

I have no idea from which vintner the wines originate. Unfortunately, my Czech is pretty awful, and certainly not good enough to engage in a wine discussion.

In the end, though, I liked them so much I bought 1.5 liters of each. The wines are poured from the barrel by spigots into plastic soda bottles. The packaging, and the price, is conducive to drinking all of the contents in one sitting.

On the Wino-Meter, I'd give both of them a solid 7 out of 10. (They'd normally get an 8, but I'm taking a point off since they're not widely available.)

The Relax Vine kiosk in the village of Suchdol.

In other tastings of late, I tried two more budget wines from Tesco -- a California Cabernet Sauvignon, described on the bottle as a "medium-bodied smooth red wine with rich black currant flavors," and an Italy Sicilian Red Wine, described only as a "dry red wine."

The Sicilian Red was drinkable, but entirely forgettable. There is simply nothing to recommend it, except the price, which, if memory serves me correctly (I've misplaced my notes), was around 55 CZK, or about $3.50 per bottle. I'll give it a 5 on the old Wino-Meter.

I have to admit, though, to being pretty impressed by the Cabernet Sauvignon, especially considering its price, which was also around 55 CZK, or about $3.50 per bottle, I believe.

The wine is remarkably meaty, and eminently quaffable. I'd say that, especially considering the price, it's as good, or even slightly better, than my previous favorite $5 bottle -- the Cabernet or Merlot from Brise de France (which usually retails for around 75 CZK, or $4.75 a bottle).

As with the Brise de France, it's not going to blow your socks off, but it's entirely respectable, and you won't be embarrassed to serve it to guests. If only the bottle had a different label. That whole "Selected By Tesco" text is pretty cheesy looking. The Brise de France has the upper hand in the label department.

In the end, I'll give the California Cabernet Sauvignon by Tesco a score of 8.5 on the Wino-Meter, which makes it the new Best Ride Wine (Widely Available) In Prague For $5 Or Less.

A new champion has been crowned, but the quest, as ever, continues.

Your thoughts welcomed.

A new king is crowned.


  1. Tarapaca (Chilean) Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon currently Kc99 in Hypernova Chodov would have to be in the running although I guess that blows the $5 limit these days (ouch!).

  2. Oh, man! The Tarapaca is awesome when it's on sale. I have 12 bottles in my basement that I bought at the Hypernova at Sestka. But you're right, it busts the $5 limit. But that's definitely the best all-around wine bargain going these days (when you can find it on sale)!

  3. I love Torrontés, it's my favourite white grape perhaps. Funny is that it is originally from Spain, but it is used only as and addition to other "more noble" grapes.
    In Argentina, though, specially in Salta (NW) it produces lovely white wines, ideal for summer.
    I was the other day at Vin & Destilaty and bought a bottle of organic Torrontés from Mendoza that tasted simply delicious.

  4. There are 2 South African wines just like this Italian you mention. I tried them, the Pinotage was ok but the other one was surprisingly good, fruity even. Makes a damn good monday wine...

  5. You're right, Pivni Filosof, the Torrontés would be a perfect summer grape. When I drank my 1.5 liter bottle, it had been chilling for quite some time and was really delicious. That would go down nicely on a hot summer's day. I'll have to go back for another!

  6. Hey, Stewart, I'll have to try that other South African you mention. But I shant wait for a Monday. I hope it's drinkable on a Thursday, too.

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  8. Jacobs Creek, grenache and shiraz 2005 179kc in albert. Decanter it an hour before drinking. An absolute "Tyson". You won't know what hit you. Surprisingly close to a good pomerol or margeaux, although missing that "garlic-horse-farm-salami" undertones of the french grand crus. Worth every kc. A freaking treasure.

  9. That wine bar is near Café Girafe (across the road, I think). They do a mean hot chocolate :)

  10. Hi, Nicolas. Thanks for the tip. I will have to try that one out. Sounds fantastic. I'm a big Jacob's Creek fan, but haven't had that particular wine, and certainly not decanted. I usually can't keep the wine around that long. Jacob's Creek used to be on sale for 99kc just like Tarapaca, but no longer, sadly.

  11. Agreed..perfect for summer! Red favorite!