Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Low-Budget Livin'

If you’re anything like me (for your sake, I hope you’re not), the old checking account looks pretty empty this time of year.

After that money-sucking vacuum known as the Holiday Season, post-holiday bills and Valentine’s Day, I find myself hopefully scanning the floor of my car for loose change. Factor in those unexpected bills that life throws at you, and what you have is a recipe for Ramen noodles and Gallo Hearty Burgundy.

Even Wine Bogging Wednesday #31 is themed around box wines. Although they broadened it slightly to include “non-traditional packaging,” it’s clear that I’m not the only one pondering how to reduce their wine budget.

However, I would sell a kidney before I would resort to drinking swill. It’s not that I’m a snob; it’s just that once your taste buds get acclimated to drinking good wines, there’s no going back.

So in the spirit of thrift, here is a short list of some my favorite bargain wines:

Hardys Nottage Hill Cabernet Sauvignon - Shiraz 2003$5.99
This is my current undisputed champ of good and cheap. Balanced and stylish, this rises way above most inexpensive Aussie red. Perfect for when you want something to drink and enjoy, without feeling the need to contemplate or savor every sip.

Trapiche Malbec Oak Cask Mendoza 2004 - $7.99
The last three vintages of this wine have been so consistently good that it’s earned a permanent place in my pantheon of everyday reds. The go-to wine for pizza, burgers and unexpected guests.

Columbia Crest Two Vines Shiraz 2003 - $4.79
Perhaps a little a too fruity for some people’s taste, but this is an amazing value for the money. It’s displays great varietal character, and the fruitiness goes great with spicy foods. The wines of Columbia Crest are some of the best values around.

Domaine de Pouy Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne 2005$5.99
Crisp and zingy, this a perennial favorite for summertime quaffing, but it also make a perfect match for shellfish, white fish or light chicken dishes in the winter. It’s a blend of ugni blanc (trebbiano) and colombard.

Smoking Loon Viognier California 2005$6.79
Think Sunday brunch and spicy crab cakes. Fat, juicy and delicious – this is the most reliable inexpensive viognier out there. Smoking Loon is part of the Sebastiani wine family.

If you want to spend a couple more dollars, here are two reds that will make you forget you’re drinking under $10 wine:

Terre Nero d’Avola Sicilia 2003$8.99
Lots of people have never even tasted a Sicilian wine. This one is complex without being over-powering – raspberry, cherry, spice and earth. And at $9 a bottle, you won’t feel bad about having it with take-out pizza and Sopranos re-runs.

Di Majo Norante Sangiovese Terre degli Osci 2005$8.99
Licorice and violets for $9 a bottle? Count me in. Inexpensive sangiovese can be really good or really bad; this is the former – deep, complex and wonderful. I will even go so far as to say that it gives one a glimpse of the amazing heights that sangiovese can achieve.

On a side note, both the Terre and the Di Majo Norante are Leonardo Locassio Selections from Winebow. I’ve had some excellent wines from this group lately, which I’ll write more about soon. Keep your eye out for that name on the back label.

These are obviously prices from my local retailers, but hopefully some of these are bargains where you live also. They all are widely distributed nationwide.


Dr. Debs said...

Di Majo Norante is a great favorite of mine. I've been drinking their last few vintages--and you're absolutely right, it's amazingly complex for such an inexpensive wine.

cookingchat said...

I've enjoyed the Trapiche. I've been meaning to do a bargain wine post too, this will motivate me to get my list together. Borsao was my big bargain find of 2006, at $6/bottle it is quite drinkable (Spanish red).

John said...

Funny that you mentioned the Borsao, David. I had my hand on a bottle the other day and decided I'd pick it up on my next shopping trip.