Skank Wine of the Month | Wine Reviews

Respectable budget wines and loveable stank-ass swill that belongs in a brown paper bag. It’ll be our little secret.


Cost: Average price $6.99

Where buy now: Everywhere, if you hit a great sale, this baby can get as low as $5!

Grapes: 100% Tempranillo

Region: La Mancha, Spain

Vintage: 2009


So, I was in a conundrum last Friday night. A friend, we’ll call him “Matt” (because that’s his name) was coming over and insisted he pick up some wine en route. Yes! Unexpected wine donation! Predictably, though, I was then asked, “Well, what should I get?”.

Ugh, that all-important question. Where do I even start? “What store are you hitting?” “What’s your price range?” “Are you going for quality, quantity, or both?” “What other wines are we going to follow up with?” I hemmed and hawed. I sighed and stammered. [Awkward!] Decisive wine selection is a crucial skill, as trying to come up with _the_ perfect_wine_ inevitably leads to disappointment.  If only there was a simple, inexpensive, yet gratifying wine, ideal for most any situation.

Well, I’ve found it.

Let me introduce you to one of THE best inexpensive red wines out there: Protocolo Red. An unassuming Spanish table wine, this is a quintessential “Skank” (but only in good ways- not in a “you need me to stick a Q-tip _where_?!?!” kind of way), and often my ace in the hole. [Oooh, poor choice of wording, there.]

I first bought Protocolo Red from Solo Vino years ago. Short on cash, and with 3 other bottles already in tow, I saw this baby for $6 and swiped it up. My expectations were low, but after one sip, I knew I’d found a winner. Was this just the mystique of low expectations at work? I saw it again and again at different stores and bought it, again and again. This wasn’t just a fleeting fancy, nor a coincidence. This is typically one of the bottles I grab when money is tight, or if I just want “one more bottle”.

This wine is very easy to drink, a solid table wine that can be paired with many types of foods. Like so many of my favorite reds, this one sports a dark cherry fruit redolence, a little earth, a bit of oak. With it’s mild-medium finish and pleasant amount of dryness, it isn’t trying to be anything other than what it is, which is key.

What makes this wine so inexpensive? I did some digging (well, I went to my human wine encyclopedia, Jason). Check out what he and his compadres are doing: Wine Co He informed me that a major reason we are seeing consistently delicious Spanish wines with an affordable price tag is because they have more vineyard acreage than any other country. Protocolo hails from the dry highlands of Central Spain, known as La Mancha. Surprisingly, this small region produces more wine than the entire country of Australia! However, Spain isn’t number one in wine production, or even number two- those top spots go to France, then Italy. This is because the old vines in Spain produce less fruit, and therefore, lend themselves to higher quality wine. This page explains it well: Anorak

Are you seeing a pattern here? I am: Win/Win!

“He likes it! Hey Mikey!” By gosh, the kid dug it and that made me grin. (Perhaps I shouldn’t call him a kid, as he’s only slightly younger, and recently referred to himself as a “grown-ass man”.) I’m tickled he is digging on wine right now, and knew Protocolo would serve as a proper gateway vino.

Cycles Gladiator

Cost: Average price $5-6

Where buy now: Around town

Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: California

Vintage: 2010

Cycles Gladiator Cabernet Sauvignon

“Never judge a book by its cover,” they always say. Ain’t that the truth? I’m sure we’ve all seen some gorgeous beauty across the room, only to have it ruined when you hear him or her speak, leaving you recoiling in horror. The same holds true for just about everything in life, wine included. Exhibit A: Cycles Gladiator wine. Beautiful Art Nouveau label, flowery copy- surely, if they’ve invested time in creating such beautiful artwork to house their wine, it must be worth the $5 gamble.


My husband stopped at the municipal liquor store [aka “The Muni”] near us and picked this bottle out. When he came home with it, he was so excited for us to try it. Did he find the next great cheap-o red?

I should mention that I love my husband, but I do not love this wine. The biggest disappointment was seeing his zealous face slowly slump in disappointment. I wanted to lie, but alas, that wouldn’t be true to him, myself, nor to all of you.

To clarify, it’s not that I hated this wine- it just didn’t have much personality. I felt a bit duped. When I went to write this review, I initially referred to it as “table wine” (which was a stretch), because I completely forgot that this is technically a Cabernet Sauvignon! You should know when you are drinking a Cab: big, bold flavors of currant, spice and oak with great tannic structure- just begging you to go primal on a rare piece of steak. This Cab is like when you shake a person’s hand and their wrist goes limp, fingers hardly squeezing back. Lackluster. Boring. Meh.

Sad to say, Cycles Gladiator was all show and no go for this Lush. At around $5, I’m deeming this wine as the Skank bottle of the month. Buy it when you’re pert near hammered, and just need something more to take you that next level. Or better yet, just spend a dollar or two more and get something you’ll respect in the morning.

Altovinum Evodia Garnacha

Cost: Average $9.99

Where buy now: Costco – $6.99

Grapes: 100% Garnacha

Region: Spain

Vintage: 2010

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Altovinum Evodia
Altovinum Evodia

I’m going to preface this review by saying I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love this wine. I could probably stop there, right?

Grenache or Garnacha? WTF? In short, “Garnacha” (Gar-nah-cha) is Spanish, “Grenache” (pronounce it gren-awsh so you don’t sound like a boob] is both English and French. Spanish Garnacha contains 100% Garnacha/Grenache grapes. The French blend Grenache grapes with other grapes to give you varietals such as Cote de Rhone or the ever so popular AND expensive Chateauneuf-du-Pape (shat-en-uhf-doo-pahp). I’ve also seen blends from Australia, commonly seen as “GSM” which is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (moo-veh-dray).

I’ve been enjoying Garnacha for a couple of years now. Garnacha seems to be both palatable and in my price range. I came across Altovinum Evodia at my local Muni [remember Muni=St. Anthony Village Wines & Spirits] on sale for $8.99! Zang! I’m not going to lie, I was drawn to the blue label gleaming in the florescent store lights, it definitely sticks out on the shelf. Perhaps I’m just drawn to pretty shiny things, attribute that to undiagnosed A.D.D. if you want. Beyond the esthetic of the label, let’s pop that cork and get down to business, shall we?

Mmm. . .Oooh. . ., Oh. . .Uh-huh, that’s the stuff. This, my friends, is damn good wine. It is deep red in color and silky; soft and round yet bold with peppery raspberry, blackberry and cherry flavors. It has a nice finish (yes, I swallowed) that lingers long enough to make you want to go back for more. From the Calatayud region of Spain. Read up, it’s the new sexy place to go.

If you like Garnacha but can’t get to Costco nor want to pay $9.99, pick this Castillo de Monseran Garnacha up instead. All you need is a $5 spot and some loose sofa change. You’ll typically find this toward the bottom of wine shelves but this one is almost as good! (I’ve bought it by the case.)

Castillo de Monseran Garnacha
Castillo de Monseran Garnacha

Here’s a kick-ass tapas recipe to pair with it. All I ask is that at least ONE of you try this and let me know, nay, thank me profusely for turning you on to a great wine/recipe one-two punch!

Catalan Pizza w/ Red Pepper Marmalade

●3 cups of drained roasted red peppers [3 – 14 to 16oz jars] thinly sliced

●3 Tbsp oil [I use coconut oil]

●1 large onion, thinly sliced

●¼ cup of granulated sugar

●1 ½ Tbsp. red wine vinegar

●Salt to taste

●Goat cheese [optional]

●Pizza dough [make your own if you are an over-achiever- I’ve used Trader Joe’s dough and Pillsbury’s thin crust dough]

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion in oil until soft but not browned (about 10 minutes), stirring often. Add peppers, and cook for about 5 more minutes. Stir in the sugar, vinegar and 2 Tbsp of water until the sugar has dissolved. Cover and cook on low heat for about 10 min. Then, uncover and increase heat to medium. Stir occasionally until peppers are soft, onions are glossy and the liquid has reduced. Season with a little salt and transfer to a bowl to cool.

Follow pizza crust instructions. I typically bake the pizza dough for about 5 min. Then, I take it out of the oven, top with the maramalade mixture and drop goat cheese on top. Pop back in the oven for 5 minutes, then slide it off the pizza pan to cook directly on the rack for another 5 minutes.

Que bueno!