The Burning Cavalier Merlot Cabernet 2017 is a rather morbidly named $5.99 Trader Joe’s import wine, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in the Languedoc region of France, just north of the border with Spain and along the Mediterranean Sea. The Languedoc is the largest grape growing region in France and while there are well-known and pricey areas inside the Languedoc this is the region that produces everyday wine for regular Frenchman and woman. This was made by a French custom wine company, most of Trader Joe’s exclusive wines are made by custom wine companies, both in the US and abroad (the Trader Joe’s Reserve and Grand Reserve, etc. tend to be, but not always, negociant wines meaning they are leftovers from a more expensive bottling that Trader Joe’s bought for a good price). And for $5.99 they did a good job with this blend, there is a real cork, the bottle has some weight to it, and the label (a man in a riding jacket riding a chicken while a French Chateau burns) has a cut-out where the burning Chateau looks to have caused the upper label to singe. A nice and unexpected touch from a sub $6 Red wine. This is an IGP designated wine which is one step below an AOC wine in the French system, it means the grapes had all the characteristics of the Languedoc, but the grapes were grown and the wine was produced under less stringent rules. In sub-ten buck wines IGP is expected and AOC wines are rare. The alcohol content is 13.0%.
The color is dark, opaque raspberry red with very black highlights. The nose is bright and fresh with lively dark berries, cinnamon stick, toasted vanilla, plum, a ripe blueberry. This is a French wine, a 6 buck French wine will show way more structure than a 6 buck California, tannins are in the mix as well a some ripe fruit flavors. It tastes of ripe, extracted blackberry, tea, a solid slap of spice, and raisin. The mid-palate brings some subdued orange zest, a touch of creamy vanilla, and raspberry. The tannins are in the mix, but don’t bite and the acidity lets the flavors unfold. The finish mirrors the mid-palate and refuses to go away.
We have been doing the CheapWineFinder.com website for 10 years and when we started sub $10 wine was a crap shoot, it was sort of like “I don’t want to drink it, but somebody has to do it”, but now I routinely drink very solid, very inexpensive wine. The Burning Cavalier Merlot Cabernet 2017 drinks like a $10-$12 Red would have 10 years ago. I’m not saying it’s my favorite Red blend, but it is highly drinkable and has a bit of personality. As it opens up and softens the flavors develop and it starts to become very tasty. It is amazing what $5.99 can get you into days wine world.