Around the table, a beverage director, a wine bar owner, and a chef were sniffing five reds. They swirled, buried their noses in each glass, tasted, and spit. The wine bar owner smelled a glass and pushed it away. “This one is corked,” she announced, which refers to a contaminated cork, which results in unpleasant aromas and flavors in the wine. Fellow tasters agreed that it smelled like a wet basement. A backup bottle (a completely different wine) was opened and this beguiling, light-bodied red turned out to be a hands-down favorite of the day.
Every fall, we find some surprises at our annual Plonkapalooza tasting of 50 wines $15 and under. Now in its ninth year, the tasting includes three experts (usually sommeliers, and this year, a chef) who tell us what bottles they would be happy to serve with a weeknight meal or a Sunday supper. Joining me this year were Josh Cole, beverage director at Puritan & Co. in Cambridge; Felisha “Flea” Foster, owner of Spoke Wine Bar in Somerville; and Jason Bond, chef-owner of Bondir in Cambridge (and soon another Bondir in Concord).