Question – What are some good but inexpensive (value) wines?
We all look for great tasting wines at low prices — value wines. Enough wine tasting studies have been completed showing that there is a very weak correlation between the price of a wine and whether we are going to like it. Most wine lovers have had the experience of paying a high price for a wine that was just “so so”.
Many determinants factor into the price of a wine and uality is not necessarily one of them. Even so, I think this is just the right time to make a list of some of those “unloved” wines that can really be sensational for their price and worth hunting down to expand your wine horizons on a tight budget.
Carménère from Chile – Similar to a Merlot, it tastes of blackberry, plum, tobacco and has soft tannins but with just a hint of spice. This grape was thought to be a Merlot variety in Chile until DNA studies showed it was a French Bordeaux grape used more in the past for red Bordeaux blends. Chile is doing an excellent job with this grape. Many Carménère wines are priced under $15 and those that are slightly above that are even better with oak aging and great balance. Some of the good producers include Casa Lapastole, Concha y Toro, Casa Silva, MontGras Santa Rita, Veramonte, and Vinos Ventisquero
Dolcetto from Italy – Dolcetto is one of my favorite northern Italian grapes because it is lower in acid than many and goes so well with savory (low acid) food dishes. It usually has flavors of cherry, black cherry, and blueberry with undertones of chocolate. In the store you will find it as Dolcetto d’ Alba, Dolcetto d’Acqui, or Dolcetto d’ Dogliani. The wine from the Dogliani area is usually the best but it also will be higher priced in the $20-30 range. Good producers include: Altare, Abbona , Chionetti, Domenico Clerico, Aldo Conterno, Luigi Einaudi , Bruno Giacosa, Massolino, Renato Ratti, La Spinetta, and Vietti.
Petite Sirah from California – Petite Sirah is almost exclusively a California grape although originally it was from France. It produces deep purple, tannic wines that have a savory almost meaty character. It goes great with almost any smoked, grilled or roasted meat. Traditionally it has been used as a blending grape for Zinfandel but it can be made as a varietal as well. The better producers are: Robert Biale, Bogle, Chiarello Family, Concannon, Coppola, Greg Norman, and J Rickard.
Cabernet Franc from France – This is not what you would call a “big red” like a Bordeaux or a Cabernet Sauvignon. It is however, a very pleasant smooth dry red wine that can be enjoyed by all. It is a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon and is often used as a blending grape in Bordeaux-type wines or Meritage blends. However on its own it tastes of raspberries and minerals and is soft with less tannins and more perfumey than its offspring. It is about the same medium to low acidity as Cabernet Sauvignon but it is not as full-bodied. The best two areas from France for this wine are in the Loire Valley, Chinon and Bourgueil. Well rated producers are: Bernard Baudry, Domaine Gouron, Château de la Bonneliére, Clos de la Niverdiére, Yannick Amirault, and Cave de Bourgue. If you can’t find a French Cabernet Franc, try a California, Virginia or Long Island Cab Franc; you’ll still like it.
Albariño from Spain – Albariño is currently one of Spain’s most fashionable white grape varietals. It produces a light aromatic wine with apricot and white peach scents, similar to a lighter version of a Viognier. The Rias Baixas region of northwestern Spain is the best known producer. Brands to look for in the wine store are: Agro de Bezán, Burgans, Bodegas Fillaboa Martin Codax, and Quinta da Aveleda, but truthfully, any Albariño is likely to be good.
Viura from Spain – Also known as Macabeo, this grape is widely grown in the Rioja region of Spain as well as the Cava producing areas south of Barcelona. It is often used for blending but many Spanish white food wines are mostly Viura. It is low acid and goes with savory dishes. Look for Bodegas Maximo, Vega Sindoa and many others.
Be sure to seek out some of these wines if you haven’t tried them recently. They can be great values.