Apparently, blogging about wine is all the rage in the blogosphere. Rather than risk getting left behind, OTB is getting aboard this trend before it’s too late. Unfortunately, I really don’t know anything about wine, other than it’s made from rotten grapes and can give you a buzz if consumed in excess. But, as regular OTB readers can attest, having little or no knowledge about a subject has never stopped me before.

My criteria:

  • Only fancy-schmancy wines will be reviewed. By “fancy-schmancy,” I mean not only that the wine comes encased in glass rather than a plastic bladder surrounded by a cardboard box but that the top doesn’t screw off, instead requiring removal of a cork.
  • The wine will not have cost more than $10 for a standard .750 liter bottle. More likely, it will have cost under $7.
  • The wine will never have been featured on an episode of Sanford & Son.
  • I will have purchased and consumed the wine in question quite recently. Indeed, I’ll likely be doing so during the review.

I’ll rate wines conforming to those rigorous standards on a 5-point scale:

    1- I’d rather be in a pine box on a slow train to Georgia than drink this ever again.

    2-The wine equivalent of BlogSpot.

    3-Something I’d drink any day–but I wouldn’t shoot a man in Reno just for another bottle.

    4-Dang, this is good! I might be willing to pay $11 a bottle for this.

    5-Better than an InstaLanche.

Also, to the extent wine reviewing is a matter of personal taste rather than scientific training, I tend not to enjoy particularly dry wines, so keep that in mind.

The first entrant:

Robert’s Rock Shiraz/Malbec (South Africa, Western Cape) 2001

The first South African wine I can recall purchasing and the first Malbec, so I don’t have a baseline against which to judge this aside from other Shiraz and Shiraz blends I’ve had (mostly Australian–Yellow Tail and Alice White, most notably).

Rating: 3.5 Certainly something I’ll buy again in the future. Less dry than a typical Shiraz and with a distinctive spicy flavor.

For those who prefer technical information, the following is from the vintner’s web site,

Grapes selected from the Stellenbosch and Paarl regions. The must was fermented on the skins until dry. After malolactic fermentation, the wine was matured in oak for 8 months before it was blended, fined, stabilised and bottled.

Medium bodied wine that shows good colour. Exciting aroma profile shows cherry and raspberry flavours with undertones of sweet smoky spices. The wine portrays good fruit and juicy flavours on the palate with a sweet soft finish.

Serve with barbecued chicken, moussaka, cottage pie, pasta and country pates.

I’ve never had moussaka or cottage pie in my life, but will give this one a go next time I have barbecued chicken or pasta. had this review of the 1999: “A great, medium bodied red with polished flavors of sweet plum and vanilla and a touch of white pepper on the finish. Drink now. Definitely a good house red that won’t break the budget!”

What more could one ask for?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. How much did it go for on the East Coast? Enquiring minds, you know . . .

  2. Sam says:

    You know that two buck Chuck (Charles Shaw) is available at local (northern VA) Trader Joe’s, right? Only it costs $3 instead of the $2 in California.

  3. James Joyner says:

    LMA: I’d have to dig out the receipt, but I found it on sale at the local Giant supermarket for under $7–maybe even under $6.

    Sam: Never tried the Chuck. I’m a bit leery of wines famous for being $2 but will look for it if I’m ever at Trader Joe’s.

  4. > 2-The wine equivalent of BlogSpot.

    Come on. BlogSpot isn’t THAT bad. It should be at least a “3”

    Also, 2 Buck Chuck doesn’t do anything for me, so just buy a single bottle and try before anything more.

  5. Sam says:

    A lot of wines I can’t stand to drink, Charles Shaw is at least (and perhaps at most) acceptable for drinking. However, it is a very good value for use as cooking wines.

  6. I’m found some pretty drinkable reds at Trader Joe’s for $2. But then, I’m in California, where most of the high-end varietals are grown.

    I didn’t realize Trader Joe’s had spread to the East Coast–last I knew, they’d only got as far East as Arizona.

    Basically, a bottle of wine should cost $5-$7, unless it’s for a special occasion. And a glass of wine should be $4 (but they are often $6, even for a house Merlot at an unpretentious little Italian place).

  7. Todd says:


    Give this wonderful Shiraz/Cabernet mix a swig:

    Jacob’s Creek – 2001; from SE Austrailia

    My brother-in-law and I have had a hard time finding anything under $10 to beat this wonderful wine. Here in Michigan I have found this wine as low as $7 a bottle.

    Happy New Year all!