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The Best Red of the Arbitrary Best Red

posted 28 Sep 2015, 09:50 by Markus Helander

A while back, like two years ago, I started to list up and rate (read here) most of the red wines I bought. As the numbers
started to pile up, I found myself closing on sixty wines with almost half a dozen with the best arbitrary rating: Five; "When in doubt, get this wine".

Could it be that exactly ten per cent were of the best grade? Sure enough, we were told of a great red and decided to go for it - for obvious reasons: rating, alcohol.. company, good times. We gave it a five and then there were six; six of sixty.

Now, what would be better than to list those six up again and rate them once more? Lots of things, but here you go! A capture of the original list is on the bottom. Oh, and again, both the original list and the new revision of the best is totally arbitrary and should be treated as one. These wines are not enjoyed with lamb, veal, let alone responsibly, but rated with pleasure.

The contenders are Kaiken Malbec, Moltalto Nero d'Avola Passivento, Villalta Valpolicella Ripasso, Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin and Torres Gran Coronas Reserva. All wines have been enjoyed by the bottle; first everything on the side, after which with something suitable and at hand and the moment. So, keep this in mind; this is very arbitrary.


First up was the Villalta Valpolicella Ripasso

Unfortunately 2011 had gone so I had to settle with the 2012 - also the price had went up for whatever reason. The 2011 edition was 10,99 eur and the second cheapest of the five-rated lot.
I found that either I had made a mistake when rating the Ripasso at five since the taste was, albeit very deep and heavy which is to my liking, rather sour. I would have guessed (remembered) it was more lighter than this but I really did not like this anymore. Even with some cheese tasting it didn't stand up to its expectations; it was better, so something is needed along with this wine, but still no cigar.

It shall have a mere TWO as its rating. Now, when I say two at this point, it isn't the two-rated crap than in the earlier list (here). This is more in comparison with what I hoped and wished the wine would have been - so, still, a very good wine, but not in this race.


Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin 

Was also two years less vintage at 2013 but the price was the same. I liked it again from the get-go; the taste was very pleasantly fruity and fresh and the bottle could have been easily emptied as is.

However, it was mostly enjoyed with milk chocolate (at hand), and went very well with it!

So, overall no surprise there. This Gnarly was evidently the same Gnarly as before and still surely worth the five it was rated before. But since this is arbitrary, I shall give it FOUR to leave room for improvement and other contestants.


Kaiken Malbec

I have to say, of all the wines that were rated five in the original Arbitrary list, the Kaiken was the one I was sure to remain my favorite. Maybe it was just that expectation that brought the red down.

I've enjoyed many Kaikens over the.. months and every time I've emptied the bottle with the feeling that this is a sure favorite to tell friends about. But now it really left me empty - apart from the quick and efficient intoxication, obviously.

Even with the familiar favorites of mine like Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, it just left a very bitter taste accompanied with a huge disappointment. So, it is a TWO, maybe a THREE. But out of the final games, nevertheless.


Then on to the Nero d'Avola Passivento next. 

Had high hopes for this since I remembered it having something different to it.

This will be one of those wines that are good but you can't have the whole bottle of it (we did, obviously). The taste is almost like some dessert wine due to its sweetness. And I mean this is really really sweet. I like the taste, but since you can't enjoy it by the bottle, it will miss the high points.

The initial sip is more like FOUR, but really, it has to be a mere THREE.


But how about the Tommasi Ripasso Valpolicella!

I'm already declaring it as the winner since it worked all the way. Its taste started semi-sweet but then turned to deep and dark, just the way I like it!

And you can't blame the environment either since the bottle (again, obviously) was emptied first with ham & burger, then with an assortment of cheese and some candy. It went well with absolutely everything - and just by itself, too.

Is it coincidence that it's the only bottle so far that has a real natural cork? Probably! But still good to know that sometimes taste and feel goes hand in hand. This one gets a solid FIVE just to make the last competitor feel weak!


So, the last of the lot: Torres Gran Coronas.

What a wine! It kind of gave me the feeling of some after-work evening with a cheap house wine that just worked. Not that sweet than the previous Ripasso but sweet nonetheless. Slightly more bitter that gave me the familiar feeling described.

I'm not quite sure whether it is on par with the one rated five above and then again, this was tested with mere meat and chocolate.

But in the name of continuity, I am going to rate the equal so I can return to the once more in the Arbitrary Red Duel! So, it's also a FIVE!


A draw between Tommasi Ripasso Valpolicella and Torres Gran Coronas. How would have thunk? Also a surprise defeat to Kaiken Malbec, which was the clear favorite in the beginning. Luckily no disasters with the wines and even the Kaiken and Villalta were very good wines indeed! Surprisingly, tho, the top three with better grades were all slightly pricier than the others. Although is should be noted that the prices of all the wines had gone up since the last tasting. Here's the new and improved table with the finalists:

 Wine  Price  Grape  Country  Rating
 Tommasi Ripasso Valpolicella   19,99 €  Corvina, Rondinella, Carvinone  Italy  5
 Torres Gran Coronas Reserva  14,44 €  Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo  Spain  5
 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin    11,99 €  Zinfandel  USA  4
 Montalto Nero d'Avola Passivento     9,99 €  Nero d'Avola  Italy  3
 Kaiken Malbec     10,50 €  Malbec, Caberned Sauvignon  Argentina  2
 Villalta Valpolicella Ripasso    12,99 €  Corvina, Rondinella, Carvinone  Italy  2

The top 6 of the original Arbitrary Red Wine Comparison,
cheapest on top, all rated 5 "When in doubt, get this wine".