Wallet-Friendly Wine: New Tendu Red from Matthiasson

Wallet-Friendly Wine

Our hunt for great-tasting affordable wine.


[Photo: Maggie Hoffman]

Game day doesn't tend to really be much of a wine-drinking kind of affair, but in any crowd, there are bound to be those people who'd prefer a glass of white or red instead of a bottle of IPA. And sometimes those folks can put away more than just a glass or two. Enter the recently released wines by the liter from the San Francisco Chronicle's winemaker of the year.

The Tendu liter lineup includes a white and a red, sealed with a beer cap, selling for around $19 to $21 for 1000 mL. The white, which is in its second vintage, is 100% Vermentino, zingy and chuggable, and remarkably refreshing with buffalo wings. The grapes are grown in pink gravelly soil in the Windmill Vineyard in Yolo County, California. (Yes, that's a real place. And it means you should have another one of those awesome wings.)

The red wine is a blend of Aglianico, Montepulciano, and Barbera, harvested last August in the same vineyard as the white. It's fermented in stainless steel, aged in neutral barrels, and bottled without filtration or sulfur. The alcohol level is just 12.5 % ABV, and the wine ends up fruity and fresh, like tart cranberries with a touch of star anise, just the thing to accompany sliders, 7-layer dip, and potato skins. It's nice with a chill if you have space in your fridge.

I asked Steve Matthiasson, who is known for crafting red wines that cost around $80 (plus a small selection of rare and super-delicious white wines made from unusual grapes), what inspired these more affordable bottles. He said, "We envisioned making a hand-crafted wine that anyone could afford, that was refreshing, that complemented food, and that was exciting yet not the least bit pretentious."

What's up with the ballet-inspired name? "Tendu," says Matthiasson, "refers to tension, or poise, and we wanted that character to define the wine. It is racy, zingy, alive. It is the wine to drink on a picnic blanket in Dolores Park, to take up to Lake Tahoe, or to toast friends while waiting for the grill to heat up."

It's delicious stuff, the perfect house wine for those times when your crowd is more than a little thirsty. The extra third of a bottle? That's so you can pour yourself another glass.

Wine: Tendu Red and Tendu White
Producer: Matthaisson Family Vineyards, made in collaboration with Matthew Plympton of Revel Wines
Price: Around $21 / Liter (prices vary by region)

About the Author: Maggie Hoffman is a Senior Editor at Serious Eats, based in San Francisco. She founded Serious Eats: Drinks in 2011. You can follow her on Twitter @maggiejane.

Tasting sample provided for review consideration.